The Boston Center for the Arts’ Cyclorama (best venue name ever) in the South End neighborhood of the city wasn’t filled with a hot post-modern art exhibit or packed for a comedy about the life of Andrew Jackson, “who kicked British butt, shafted the Indians and smacked down the Spaniards.” That comes next month. Instead, the circular historic space brimmed with beer—Belgian beer, to be exact—and a few thousand of its biggest fans.
This past weekend, BeerAdvocate (the magazine and the website) held its annual Night of the Funk and Belgian Beer Fest that featured “Belgian styles inspired by American brewers and American styles inspired by Belgian brewers.” You were as likely to find a “super hoppy” Belgian pale ale (Cambridge Brewing Co.’s Will’s Not Here) as you were an export stout made with Belgian yeast (Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project’s Babayaga).
As evidenced from these two examples, the festival was not only a showcase of Belgian-inspired beers but also a wonderful gathering of some of the Boston area’s finest beer makers such as Backlash Beer Co., Boston Beer Co., Mystic Brewery, Night Shift Brewing Co. and Watch City Brewing Co. in nearby Waltham. Idle Hands Craft Ales, which opened last summer in Everett, MA, had a particularly popular booth, with most attendees asking for samples of its Triplication. A nine percent ABV tripel, the beer used the brewery’s house yeast and, like its description states, imparted delicate notes of banana and pear.
Greater New England, in general, was well-represented around the indoor arena. White Birch Brewing Co. in Hooksett, NH, poured its Mabon, a rough and roasty black saison that could have passed for a black IPA. Its dark and bitter hop, rather than pepper, finish was lovely regardless of the beer’s categorization. Similarly slinging saisons, Shaun Hill and his crew from Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro Bend, VT, brought his Vera Mae and Clara. Fortunately, I also got a small taste of Flora, a wheat saison aged for eight months in French Oak Pinot Noir barrels, from Todd Alström shortly after the keg kicked. And they all emptied fast–approximately an hour into each session.
But ne’er a complaint was heard as BeerAdvocate, along with sponsor Allagash Brewing Co., produced an efficient, exciting and highly enjoyable beer festival with wonderful beers and an appreciative crowd. BeerAdvocate tweeted that the day session crowd poured inside the festival within eighteen minutes and the night session attendees within eleven minutes. Though not all 1,000 ticket holders per session queued up before the doors opened, this was quite the feat for the vast majority of them that were waiting in line.
Other than sweet, estery and warming beers inspired from our Belgian brothers, things didn’t change once inside the Cyclorama. It wasn’t a hassle in the least bit to receive pours and chat with the importers at the Shelton Brothers‘ booth, which was perhaps the most crowded station of the festival due to their pouring of beers that tend to bring all the boys to the yard—Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus and Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend.
And instead of the typical scene of festival organizers running around with multiple things on strings around their necks, scissors in hands and generally too stressed to interact with beer lovers, Jason and Todd Alström swapped stories with brewers, sampled the beverage of their passion and lent an ear to any fan that stopped them, all without showing a hint of worry or concern that their festival was anything but an outstanding display of Belgian beer education.
The brothers know a life enriched by beer, and their contributions to the beer community deserve a place in your ever-growing library of beer culture. And why wouldn’t you want to enjoy some of the world’s best beers with a thousand of your closest friends in something called the Cyclorama?