Bogrolls & Barley Wines
Columbus AleFest 2008
Lords Shigley, McGinnis and Roberts at the 2008 Alefest.
Not bad considering Lord McGinnis wasn't able to attend!
The overhanging grey clouds and misty rain were not a good omen for the 2008 Columbus AleFest, held once again at the Aladdin Shrine temple. True to
my suspicions, the grey clouds persisted inside the building. Gone was the principal sponsor from the previous two years, Bell’s Brewery – Gone was
DogFish Head with their wet-hopping device which made for a magnificent 60-Minute IPA – and Hello to a generic tasting glass missing the words “Columbus
AleFest”; AND it should be noted, with a "pour" line that was lower down the glass, compared to the glasses used for the 2006 and 2007 AleFests.
So, not the brightest start. But what of the beers? With Bell’s and Dogfish Head missing, it meant that casks ales were practically non-existent, thus it was left
to tasting from bottles. There was also possibly the loudest band in the history of the world playing on the vast stage. It really comes to something when you
find yourself shouting at the person sitting next to you.
But, to the reason Lord Shigley of Gelsenkirchen and I were at the AleFest: the tasting and reviewing of beers we might not ordinarily have in our cellars. As
usual, we were given 20 tasting tickets, and for the first time ever, I used all my tickets!
Let us begin…
1) Victory Hop Devil (6.7%)
A bit of a safe start, this one. Victory hail from Pennsylvania and their Hop Devil was a delicious start to the proceedings. Not overly bitter like most of its
peers, it was syrupy and warming with a pleasant clean finish. Rather good. 8/10
2) Jolly Pumpkin E.S.Bam (4.7%)
Fizzy, malty and strange, the Esbam had a domineering flavour of stale raspberries mixed with an antiseptic mouthwash. Not the best introduction to an
American-style Belgian lambic - back to the drawing board for Jolly Pumpkin . Rubbish name too. Ghastly! 0/10
3) Southampton Double White (6.8%)
Now, myself and Lady Roberts have great memories of Southampton, one of the famous Hamptons on Long Island. We stayed there when celebrating the
50th Wedding Anniversary of her uncle and aunt (they were actually remarried during our visit, with the original best man and maid of honour from 50 years
ago). We visited the brewery tap at the Southampton brewery and had a jolly good time there.
Their Double White began with a beautiful orangey aroma with loads and loads of cloves and oranges in the taste. Very nicely balanced. Not quite in the
same class as Celis White or Allagash Wit, but a rather fine contender nonetheless. 8/10
4) Southampton Altbier (5.1%)
Nice, mild, pleasant session beer with a good malt and hop balance. Not overly distinctive though. 6/10
5) Victory Storm King Imperial Stout (9.1%)
With the storm clouds hovering overhead, it seemed like a good time for a stout and the Storm King Imperial Stout did not disappoint. It had the classic, rich,
roasted barley taste with a distinctive crispness to it. Not bitter at all, it finished with a delicious taste of black cherries. 9/10
6) Dogfish Head Festina Peche (4.5%)
Served in bottle form, this fizzy curiosity was a mix between sherbet lemons and peach lemons with extra peach thrown in for good measure. Cloudy to look
at, the finish was of peach champagne. Sweet and ghastly. 1/10
7) Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (13%)
The latest sensation to send American brewers into convulsions is using bourbon barrels to age their beers and here was Goose Island’s contribution to the
cause. The nose was totally of whisky, which you’d might expect, but the taste was something rather special. It was rich, intense with the bourbon creating a
sweetness that overshadowed the dark roasts of the stout. This beer was out of stock by early afternoon and no wonder. Clearly a force to be reckoned with
– and oh, that bourbon. A paragon of its kind. 12/10
8) Goose Island Matilda (7%)
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that I’ve never had a particularly rewarding relationship with Goose Island beers. Most of them I’ve tried over the
years have been total shite with Honkers Ale being the supreme King of Shite. Still, at the 2007 Columbus AleFest I tried Goose Island Urban 312 Wheat Ale,
which was one of the stars of the festival for me. Clearly, when they brew specialty beers they know what they’re doing. Thus, following the Bourbon County
Stout we had the Matilda. Once again, they hit the nail on the head. A beautiful aroma of farmhouse cloves was followed by the taste of refreshing fruits.
The Matilda was clean, crisp and very summery. Perfect for enjoying while sitting on top of a hay bale in the middle of summer in the French countryside.
Think Monet, think Matilda. 10/10
9) Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Imperial Stout (9.7%)
In eight words: Rich, velvety, slightly chocolaty, smooth, robust bitter finish. 10/10
10) Southern Tier Big Red (9%)
Southern Tier Brewery from New York state is responsible for one of the very finest winter ales on this entire planet, the Old Man Winter Ale. Sadly, The Big
Red starts drifting off track at an early stage. It began with a rather nauseating taste of bitter cherries that had been picked too early and descended into a
twisted, malty, rough nightmare. Simply horrible. 1/10
11) Celis Raspberry Ale (3.9%)
Let’s consider for a moment that Celis White alongside Allagash Wit represent quite possibly the finest two Belgian-style wheat ales in the world. So, you’d
think the Celis Raspberry Ale could therefore be something quite special. It isn’t. It is, in fact, a load of shite. The aroma of raspberries is enough to knock
you down, while the fizziness tells me I’m tasting a raspberry flavoured Alka-Seltzer. Ghastly! 1/10
12) Founder’s Dirty Bastard Scottish Ale (8.3%)
The name alone was not promising, and the taste lived up to it. The Dirty Bastard Scottish Ale was a malt nightmare of no distinct character. Shame,
because Founder’s Brewing Co of Michigan is one of the most innovative breweries around. They were way off the mark with this one. 2/10
13) N’ice Chouffe 2007 (10%)
It was time to hit the European circuit and where better to start than with the 2007 Chouffe. This little ripper was a herbal classic. Some lovely Curacao and
fresh Thyme flavours finishing with aniseed and gorgeous Marzipan. 9/10
14) Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel (9%)
Euro #2 was a sublime Belgian tripel offering the classic flavours of oranges and sweet lemons. Delicious! 9/10
15) La Chouffe (8%)
Euro #3 presented a smooth, mildly citrusy gem, with some bananas in the mix before a warming finish. 8/10
16) Unibroue Trois Pistoles (9%)
Now, when you want to talk innovative, then Unibroue, from Quebec are one of the masters. All their ales are bottle fermented (the bottles say “Ale on Lees”),
while the names are taken from memorable moments of French-Canadian history. I take my bowler hat off to any brewery like Unibroue, because even
though there are times when a particular brew of theirs might not be my cup of Darjeeling, the fact remains they are still pushing the limits of brewing. Anyway,
their Trois Pistoles was on the malty side underscored by sweet cherries. Quite pleasant. A sort of Quebecois mini-Tripel, if you will. 7/10
17) Sam Smith’s Organic Cider
For the uninitiated, Sam Smith’s is an old and proud brewery from Yorkshire. Famous for its superb ales, it has recently taken the “green” road and produced
a series of organic ales. Here then, is their Organic Cider. I’m glad the bottle stated “organic” because I would have never known the difference. But, as
ciders go, this was really an organic version of Bulmer’s Woodpecker Cider – fizzy, sweet, with no distinctive character. Call me biased, but if you’re going to
drink cider, then go with an independent cider maker such as Minchew’s Cyder in glorious Gloucestershire. On this performance, Sam Smith’s need to
concentrate on their strengths – beer making. 0/10
18) Wychwood Wychcraft (4.5%)
Wychwood Brewery, in Oxfordshire has a strong reputation across the pond, which is growing in leaps and bounds in the US, mainly through their malt
monster Hobgoblin Ale. The Wychcraft was quite tasty. Fresh, sprightly, crisp, with a pleasant mild hop taste. An IPA-wannabee of sorts . 7/10
19) Duvel (8.5%)
You know, the funny thing about Duvel is I’ve never actually bought a bottle although I taste it at every Columbus AleFest. It’s like an old faithful Labrador,
something you can always rely on and something that will always stand by you. Duval always looks like gnats pee in the glass – barely any colour at all, but
that taste; a stunning tripel-ish style of sweet, slightly bitter tangerines with a fair amount of effervescence. A mouth-watering Belgian classic. 14/10
20) Thunderhead IPA (6.7%)
Here’s what my notes say (by this time it was almost unreadable scribble) "Tastes like an IPA, but at this stage I don’t remember too much".
And on that note, it was time to call it a day for the 2008 Columbus AleFest. Outside, there were overhanging grey clouds and misty rain. So, no change
there. The question is will these conditions carry over to the 2009 Columbus AleFest? We shall see.
"Now, this is what I call a tasting glass - just 19 beers to go!"