And the Casks and Crowds Came
All About Beer Magazine - Volume , IssueMarch 23, 2010
What an event. A tent in the SweetWater Brewery parking lot full of more than 80 casks. Now, lest you think they were a bunch of English ales served cool but not cold and under-carbonated but not flat, each one represented the vision and aspirations of a person or a business with few ties, if any, to a commercial brewery. Leave it to SweetWater to dream up a beer festival, Brew Your Casks Off, where their friends—lots of retailers, some charities, a few homebrewers, several beer scribes, many beer publications (including yours truly)—knocked themselves out to each make a cask ale. Amateur hour! Then SweetWater goes and sells tickets to the event. The top four judged brews and the People’s Choice winner will be recreated and served at the upcoming SweetWater 420 Fest this April 17th and 18th in Candler Park! Given that the beers were made by amateurs, the range in quality was surprisingly tame. I found few if any were awful, a bit more weren’t too interesting, but a very large majority were fun and enjoyable to drink. I judged the “worst of show” and, while about half of the bad beers were not pleasant, the winner of the worst got the title not so much because the beer was bad, but because it had so much chili pepper in it you couldn’t drink it. It was smoking, for real. As for my beer, Paradise Porter—well, it was interesting. True to plan, it did end up tasting just like a Christmas ginger snap cookie and, to be honest, the first few sips were a lot of fun. However, the fun faded faster than a teenager’s crush and then it just hung around in the mouth as the drinker hunted desperately for the splash bucket. As a veteran festival producer, I enjoyed the crowd scene most of all. Everyone was talking about the casks, like this was the ultimate scavenger hunt. They were holding up their programs, going over the numbers, chasing down cool sounding beers and passing on recommendations. The customers were all over this concept, and with good reason. It was different. It was fun. And the beers were pretty cool. I’ve already got some ideas on how to break into the winner’s circle next time. 2010 JUDGES PANEL AWARDS 1st: Fontaines | Hop n’ Spicy (#32) 2nd: Gibneys | ELT Ale (#49) 3rd: Taco Mac | PNS Reserve (#11) 4th: Locos | Moose Brew (#79) PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD Cypress Street | Knobzilla Vanilla Oatmeal Stout (#50) BIGGEST LOSER Raging Burrito | Raging Xocolate (#37) The Atlanta Humane Society was voted best charity and took home a check of $1,876 from Brew Your Cask Off.