|Columbus AleFest 2013
So, deep into winter we had our second beer festival of the year. And once again, we couldn't bloody wait! I mean the winter of 2013 was wearing us down
big time. It was affecting all of us at The Manor and Barney Shrubbery - one of our livestock tenders - swore that our Blueface Leicester sheep were going
through Seasonal Affective Disorder as they were definitely in a lethargic state.
Anyway, as usual, we were met with another 4" of snow on the day of the fest, but this didn't deter the serious beer fans who were looking for something more
organised and less chaotic than the recent Columbus Winter Beer Fest.
Two highlights for me:
1) Sharing a long conversation with Jay & Lori Wince from Weasel Boy Brewing Co, whose Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout won the Gold Medal at The
2012 Great American Beer Festival.
2) Winning Garrett Oliver's most excellent The Oxford Companion To Beer at one of the silent auctions at the festival.
And so to the beer...over 250 on offer, with several on cask. I did try all 6 beers from Colorado based Oskar Blues Brewing Co, as they're new to Ohio.
Twenty-two tastings in all...and in time honoured fashion, let us begin...
1) Brooklyn Brewing Co, Brooklyn, New York.
Blast Imperial IPA (9%).
Having just bidded on The Oxford Companion to Beer, I felt obligated to begin my tastings with one of Garrett Oliver's creations. I should also let it be known
that I hate it when I write out notes and opinions of beers, then can't read my own handwriting later on - that's worse than cable! Anyway, having deciphered
my notes, I can tell you that the Blast Imperial IPA was full-bodied, citrusy in that grapefruit/tangerine fashion with piney, resin notes. With a mild grapefruit
bitter finish, the Blast Imperial IPA did a good job of hiding its 9% abv strength. A commendable beginning to the Columbus AleFest. 8/10.
2) Brooklyn Brewing Co, Brooklyn, New York.
There Will Be Black - Brewmaster's Reserve (7.5%).
A Brewmaster's Reserve release for 2012, here are the details that count: Hops: American Willamette and Sorachi Ace, New Zealand Pacific Gem and
Motueka. Malts: British pale, lager, crystal and chocolate malt, American black barley, German black malt.
Taste wise, it was a bit off-kilter for my Royal palate. You had citrusy hops on one side and dark roasty malts, chocolate, coffee and walnuts that had been
soaked in treacle on the other and never the twain did they meet. A sort of Black IPA that had gone horribly wrong, although I rather liked the warmth and
silkiness of it. 2/10.
3) Thirsty Dog Brewing Co, Akron, Ohio.
Citra Dog IPA - cask (7%).
I was looking forward to this one as Citra hops seem to work for me and it didn't disappoint. This was actually a beautiful, mellow cask beer with smooth
orange marmalade flavours combined with piney, tangy grapefruit. Lots of citrus flavours all round - a calming delight. 8/10.
4) Morland (Greene King), Bury St. Edmunds, England.
Old Crafty Hen (6.5%).
A mix of 10-14% Old 5X and Old Speckled Hen . Well, fancy that - the first time I've seen these two Greene King beers in the US and still using those horrible
clear bottles. Like all Greene King "Morland" beers, the Old Crafty Hen was soaked in malt. Add to that, beetroot, Malted Milk biscuits, Shreddies and a
surprising citrus passion fruit finish and you have a very interesting beer indeed. Quite tasty. 8/10.
I later had a bottle of this at The Manor and it seemed like it had been aged in oak barrels with some raisins, dark fruit and a LOT of sugar thrown in for good
measure. Waaaay too sweet for my young taste buds. A bloke must know his limitations when it comes to malty beers - not too sure why the two bottles
seemed so different, unless, of course, my taste buds were already on their way to being jacked!
5) Morland (Greene King), Bury St. Edmunds, England.
Old Golden Hen (4.1%).
The second of the two Greene King beers, Old Golden Hen was very flowery with flavours of pears, nectarines with just a touch of pepper. Challenger hops
gave it a solid hop presence. This was very pleasant, if not overwhelming. 7/10.
6) Weasel Boy Brewing Co, Zanesville, Ohio.
War Dance Wheat IPA (5.2%).
Another under performing beer on the night, Weasel Boy's War Dance was very similar to their Mango Wheat with citrus peel flavours, honey wheat, mangoes
and grassy hops. I have a bit of a problem with the term "Wheat IPA" - it's an odd mix that doesn't seem to work. 4/10.
7) Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
Mama's Little Yella Pils (5.3%).
Right then, with Colorado's Oskar Blues being a new addition to the Ohio market - and only selling their beers in cans - I thought it might be a good idea to
taste all six beers they were offering at AleFest. That way, I could work out pretty quickly if Oskar Blues was a brewing company worth pursuing. It also
helped that the server recognised me from previous AleFests, so he kept count of what I was tasting and always had the next beer waiting for me. It pays to
So, Mama's Little Yellow Pils...hopped four times with Saaz hops, this was on the refreshing side, lemon-like, a tad peppery with a floral lemon-grass finish.
Pleasant enough, although it wasn't exactly packed with taste. A far cry from the superlative European pilsners. 4/10.
Oskar Blues also produces other expressions of Mama's Little Yella Pils: there's several versions aged in various wine barrels and one aged in a whiskey
barrel. That's a bit unusual for a pilsner.
8) Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
Dale's Pale Ale (6.5%).
Hello, there's some hops here...namely Northern Brewer for bittering, Cascade and Columbus for flavour, and a post-boil addition of Centennial for aroma.
This was a beautiful Pale Ale. You couldn't hide from it's massive hop character (not that you would want to), but with the grassy, citrusy hop flavours, there
was a strong malt presence which balanced this beer quite nicely. Very, VERY tasty! 9/10.
Once again, Oskar Blues produces alternative versions of Dale's Pale Ale: Dale's Belgian Pale Ale; Dale's Pale Ale (Apple whiskey barrel); Dale's
Pale Ale (Mango Habanero); Dale's Pale Ale (Whiskey barrel); Dale's Pale Ale Quad Hopped; Dale's Sour Pale Ale; Dale's Pale Ale Spanish
9) Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
Old Chub Scottish Ale (8%).
And now, back by popular request, is the commercial blurb...and a rather lengthy one: "Old Chub is a Scottish style ale brewed with copious amounts of
crystal and chocolate malts, and a dash of beechwood-smoked malts. While Dale's Pale Ale ("the best-tasting canned beer I've ever had," according to many
brewers and beer experts) is a showcase of both hops and pale malts, Old Chub is a celebration of malts. The cola-colored beer features a dense, tawny
head, a creamy mouthful and flavors of caramel, chocolate and lightly roasted malt. Complex and rich, it finishes with a whisper of smokiness that calls to
mind a fine single malt scotch. Old Chub weighs in at 8% alcohol by volume".
I thought it was more red wine-ish than a "fine single malt scotch" and anyway, what's wrong with a fine blended scotch? Yes, answer me that! Anyway, it was
indeed malty and biscuit-like, with toffee, brown sugar and caramel, and a clean, sweet finish. I'm just starting to appreciate the maltier side of beer and I
actually really enjoyed Old Chub. 8/10.
There's a recurring pattern here as there are six other versions of Old Chub in an assortment of different bourbon barrels .
10) Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
Deviant Dale's IPA (8%).
This is actually a pretty crazy brewing company. You have to love their enthusiasm and they have no problems with tweaking any recipes. Deviant Dale's IPA
featured four hop additions during the brew process, with Columbus dry-hopping at the finish. So, what you get is HOPS! There was definitely a malt
presence which managed to fight its way to the taste buds, but this was all about the hops, with grapefruit, pine, a dash of orange, grapefruit, some resiny
grapefruit and grapefruit. You probably get the point by now. Simply delicious! 9/10.
Believe it or not, there's just one other version of Deviant Dale's IPA and that expression is brewed with tonic syrup (which sounds pretty ghastly!).
11) Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
G'Knight Imperial Red Ale (8.7%).
I generally don't include two commercial blurbs from the same brewing company, but this one is rather important..."Our “Velvet M-80” is a hefty, dry hopped
double-red ale with a nose full of aroma, a sticky mouth feel, a malty middle and unctuous hop flavors. G’Knight sports a surprisingly sensuous finish for a
beer of its size (8.7% ABV, 60 IBUs). It’s brewed in tribute to a fellow Colorado craft beer pioneer and Vietnam vet who died fighting a 2002 wild fire outside of
our Lyons hometown. For all the details behind this tribute follow this link to www.N3978Y.com. G’Mornin’. G’Day. G’Knight".
This was actually a perfect blend of malt and hops. Yes-sir-ree, there were lots of malt in the flavours, with a selection of Chex-Mix, Sainsbury's Malted Milk
biscuits and caramel combined with grapefruit, piney resin, gooseberry jam, pineapple, a light hop bitterness. Very, very interesting. 8/10.
And yes, there are six other versions of G'Knight, in a variety of whiskey and port wine barrels.
12) Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
Sour Cherry Ten Fidy (10.5%).
I'd like to say I left the best till last, but Sour Cherry Ten Fidy was a disaster! I'm on a roll with commercial blurbs and lets face it, Oskar Blues is very
descriptive with their blurbs, so one last time..."Imperial Stout aged in oak barrel with tart pie cherries. The infamous Ten FIDY imperial stout aged for 10
months in an oak barrel with 36 pounds of tart pie cherries added after 7 months. A slightly lactic character carouses with big alcohol, cherries and roasty-
chocolate flavors The cherry cordial in liquid form".
My notes were a bit sketchy on this one, but it looks like I wrote "fag-ash" (in that Mackeson fashion), "beef gravy - Oxo", "bastard malts" (that can't be right),
"tart chocolate cherry sauce" and "soy sauce". No, definitely not my cup of Darjeeling. 2/10.
For anyone interested in bastard malts and soy sauce, there are five other variations of Ten Fidy.
13) St. Feuillien Brewery, Le Roeulx, Belgium.
The St. Feuillien Saison was what CAMRA calls a "Real Ale in a Bottle" (i.e.with secondary fermentation) and only exported to the US. A traditional farmhouse
ale from southern Belgium, the Saison imparted tangy flavours of lemons, spices, Golden Delicious apples and a touch of pepper with a spritzy carbonation.
A fruity and refreshing ale from the low-countries. 9/10
14) Coors Brewing Co, Golden, Colorado.
Specialty Impulse - brewed with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (8.5%).
I avoid Coors beers like the plague, but I have to say I was intrigued by their Impulse and Proximity beers. I mean, these two didn't look like the usual Coors
commercial shite, in their 750ml sized bottles. No, I was ready to give these two a go. The Impulse was smooth, definitely wine-like with some Ribena
character mixed with a bottle of Rose. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes dominated throughout.
Almost everyone I spoke to didn't like this at all and it was clearly on the odd side, was it a wine or a beer? I, however, being in a good mood, thought this was
an interesting move for Coors. They described it as a wheat beer, but that description was miles off target - more like a fruit beer with overwhelming wine
15) Coors Brewing Co, Golden, Colorado.
Specialty Proximity - brewed with Sauvignon Blanc grapes (8.5%)
Also billed as a "wheat beer", Proximity was on the light side, crisp, fruity and like its cousin above, completely dominated by the Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It
also featured champagne characteristics with a fruity, dry finish. An interesting venture from Coors that needs some serious tweaking as both beers are
going through a crisis of identities. 7/10.
16) Flying Dog Brewing Co, Frederick, Maryland.
Underdog Atlantic Lager (4.8%).
I need to write a review on the Flying Dog beers as it's ages since I tasted a set of their beers. In the meantime, we have their Underdog Atlantic Lager. I
can't remember what made me head to a lager, but the Underdog was fresh, alive, with distinctive lemon & lime flavours with a solid hop character. It was
actually more hoppy than I would expect from a lager and with a buttery finish, this was a pretty well-smart beer. 8/10.
17) Brewkettle Brewing Co, Strongsville, Ohio.
4 Cs Pale Ale - cask (6%).
The 4 Cs being Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus hops. Although described as a Pale Ale and despite the clear presence of malt, the 4 Cs was
all about the hops with a bitter grapefruit finish. Being a cask ale gave it a more mellow, softer approach with spruce and citrusy flavours. Very commendable
18) Columbus Brewing Co, Columbus, Ohio.
Double Dry-hopped IPA - cask (6.5%).
Here we go - Round 2 of the cask ales. The Double Dry-hopped IPA was again soft and mellow without being overly citrusy or grapefruity. There was some
nice orange peel flavours with a touch of resin. For being "Double Dry-hopped", this was very well balanced indeed. 9/10.
19) Jolly Pumpkin Brewing Co, Dexter, Michigan.
Luciernaga (aka Firefly) (6.5%).
I was just thinking how consistent the 2013 AleFest had been with most of my reviews being around 7, 8 or 9 out of 10. That was before Jolly Pumpkin's
Luciernaga took the stage. Apparently, this is brewed in the Belgian Grand Cru style with Coriander and Grains of Paradise (which works so well in Sam
Adams Summer Ale), but those ingredients had taken a wrong turn somewhere.
Perhaps the Brettanomyces yeast had had a bad hair day. Whatever the reasons, the Luciernaga was a total fizzy disaster with face-cringing flavours of TCP
antiseptic and Hydrogen Pyroxide followed by a sour baking soda and hair spray - from Boots the Chemist - finish. Hideous! 0/10.
20) North Coast Brewing Co, Fort Bragg, California.
Le Merle Flanders Ale (7.9%).
A glutton for punishment, it seemed appropriate in my distorted mind to go for another Belgian style beer, in this case, the reliable North Coast Brewing
Company's Le Merle Ale. And this was also strange. The Le Merle had a fixation on all things lemon: thus, it had flavours of lemon & lime, followed by lemon
creme pie and a sugary lemon curd finish.
In days gone by, it was previously known as Whole Foods Market Silver Jubilee - can't think why it's not longer part of the Whole Foods portfolio. Very,
very strange. 2/10.
21) La Trappe Brewery, Berkel-Enschot, Netherlands.
Right then, a glutton for punishment (again), it seemed appropriate in my distorted mind to go for another beer from the low-countries in the desperate hope
for third time lucky...In this case, La Trappe's Quad. And I have to say, Quad was well and truly f****d up. In the absence of malt and hops in the flavours, we
had an oily concoction of aniseed, marshmellows, bubblegum yeast, treacle, dates, prunes and raisins. A total calamity. The Manor beer tour of Belgium and
Holland is looking very dicey following the last three tastings! 1/10.
There are 13 different barrel-aged versions of La Trappe Quad, plus two versions known as Quercus Eikenvat gelagerd Batch #1 and #2. Work those two
out for yourselves.
22) New Holland Brewing Co, New Holland, Michigan.
Dragon's Milk Stout mixed with The Poet Oatmeal Stout (7.5%).
Hooray!!! The last tasting of the afternoon and at this point, I was gagging for a nice cup of tea! So, for the finale we had two of New Holland's best known
stouts specially blended together for AleFest 2013. Dragon's Milk is aged in oak for 120 days, so we had the woody, bourbon and vanilla flavours of
Dragon's Milk combined with the nutty, smoky and coffee flavours of The Poet. And...it was a particularly fine combination, full of rich, dark flavours. I was a
bit worried to begin with, but you can rarely go wrong with New Holland's beers. 8/10.
And that, folks, was the 2013 Columbus AleFest. Twenty-two tastings was a lot for The Manor team, but that demonstrates the quality of the beers on offer.
Now, what have those Blueface Leicester sheep been up to in our absence??!!