The next day I returned to the Cyclorama for round two of the Alstrom Three Throw a Party! However, this time I brought a bug. Somehow, during the previous evening with my nose stuck in all those different barrel-aged beers, I’d managed to catch some version of a cold or flu. (Little did I know it was going to plague me for the next month!)
Here I ran into an interesting problem. For the better part of the past 30 years, I’ve run festivals as a way to have fun and make a living. I’ve always viewed my job as an adjunct to the marketing arm of breweries and as a teacher for beer lovers. Events and magazines are my stock in trade, both have huge behind-the-scenes elements.
However, except for the gigantic GABF, I haven’t really spent much time at other beer festivals. I work festivals, not attend! Within minutes, I realized I was having trouble with the crowds. It wasn’t just waiting in line for a good beer. I’m not that prickily. No, it was just the crowds, the press of people. Fortunately, the Alstrom Three had graciously provided a badge that allowed me to slip behind the booths and take notes and photographs from behind the brewers.
From this vantage point I roamed the fringes of the hall, sampling and shooting. (My notes suck again. That’s going to be the major work in progress, keeping good records. The photos are pretty cool though. Flikr account. )
The Brothers generously included me on a panel moderated by the irrepressible Andy Crouch. The title was something about extreme beer and its impact. I joined Sam Calagione, president, Dogfish Head Brewing Co.; Jeremy Kosmicki, head brewer, Founders Brewing Co.; Richard Norgrove, brewmaster, Bear Republic Brewing Co.; and Paul Sayler, brewmaster, American Flatbread.
Was there anything earth shattering that came of this august group? Aside from come cocky, derisive remarks about session beers, one thing particularly stood out for me: extreme beers require extreme beer-ists. That sharp end of the craft beer spear, the barrel-aged and the extreme beers, may be leading the category or they maybe trying to catch-up to the consumers. It’s a real toss-up.
Looking out over this gathering of beer lovers, I could only see their passion, their love of the work that the people around me were doing. Sure there were some of those “wellies” I think they call them in England or tickers was another word I heard at this event: beer geeks who are more into the geekdom and snobbery than into the beer.
But the Alstrom Three had filled a room to the brim with eager beer lovers and stupendous beers and you could see the chemistry between these enthusiastic palate pushers on both sides of the table. What a rare alignment in the American beer constellation. No wonder the brewers go away from this event pumped.
Here are some of the rescued notes, which don’t reflect the breadth or quality of the beers I enjoyed that night.
Dark Horse Brewing: Double Crooked Tree IPA. Simply huge at 13%, but not overwhelming. Pleasant, accessible, and enjoyable. Hibiscus Trip. Sucrose in the fermentation. Flaked oats and barly for earthy ground to bounce the hibiscus off of.
Ithaca Beer Co.: Brut. Lactic as all hell. James Brown “It’s so funky!” Use oak spirals to get some balance. Alphalpha. New York state hops and honey, with more earthy than spicy or floral notes.
The Bruery: Hottenroth Berliner Weisse. At 3.1% abv, a real treat, sour notes unlike those of the previous night, again, that dusty nose. Odd. Wheat Wine. A lot of alcohol burn, very hazy with some strong candy notes, but a big burn.
Southern Tier Brewing Co.: Choklat. A mocha shake, creamy chocolate from beginning to end, flavor, aroma and finish. Belgian bittersweet. Imperial IPA. Beautiful color, grassy, herbal nose; grandmother’s ginger cookie flavor.
And those were just a few of the great beers tasted during the dual sessions.