|Columbus AleFest 2011
Considering the busy life of a Lord of the Realm, I’m always amazed that I actually find the time to attend beer festivals, especially when running an estate
the size of Roberts Manor. Still, the Manor has been represented at all five previous Columbus AleFests, so a certain obligation had been set.
Like the 2010 AleFest , the 2011 edition was set in February, in the dead of a bitter Ohio winter. As it turned out, the 2011 Columbus AleFest ended up
being the best attended out of all the AleFests – proof that bitter cold temperatures and beer DO mix!
My valet and chauffeur had made quick time in getting me to the festival, thus I was 6th in the VIP line. As I took my glass and 20 tasting tickets, I wondered
where I should start – a quick look over at Weasel Boy Brewing Company gave me the answer. Here, children, is where we begin….
1) Weasel Boy Brewing Co. Zanesville, Ohio.
Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout aged in Woodford Reserve whiskey barrels (10%)
I have a rule that I never return to the same beer during a beer festival. I broke that rule with the Anastasia and lest we forget, I am most definitely NOT a
fan of Russian Imperial Stouts.
Having said that, with it being aged in Woodford Reserve whiskey barrels presented a whole new set of flavours. The Anastasia was incredibly smooth,
deceptively creamy with subtle whiskey notes. The roasty, bitter, flavours of the stout blended perfect with the alcoholic sweetness of the bourbon. It was a
perfect match, like tea & biscuits or Laurel & Hardy or Prince Charles & Greatness or Brentford & Relegation.
When I found out this was the only barrel available and there was nothing at their brewpub in Zanesville, I HAD to go back for a second sample. Easily, the
best beer of the festival and it was only my first one! 15/10
2) Weasel Boy Brewing Co. Zanesville, Ohio.
Bitter Sable Imperial Black IPA (8.2%)
With 100 IBUs and roasted barley thrown in the mix to darken things up, the Bitter Sable was another revelation. It was my first ever “black” IPA and the
dominant flavours right off the cricket bat were of bitter grapefruit and black walnuts. In that true imperial IPA manner, there was an intensely bitter finish
which rounded off another superb beer from Jay Wince and his Weasel Boy brewery.
I mentioned during last year’s reviews of Weasel Boy that I thought Jay’s beers had really come of age – now, they are going from strength to strength.
Surely, he is one of the finest brewers in the American mid-west. 12/10
3) Indigo Imp Brewing Co. Cleveland, Ohio.
Winter Solstice (abv unknown) – served on cask.
Matt Chappel is the Brewmaster at Indigo Imp and what a fine gentleman he is. We had a great conversation about Cask Ale and the fact he thinks they
have no idea how to serve Cask Ale at The Pub. I shall be investigating.
Anyway, the Winter Solstice: Dry-hopped for extra effect, the Winter Solstice was peppery spicy, quite malty, with fruity plum flavours. There was a sweetish
cola taste in the finish and I noted it was less effervescent than the bottle-conditioned version. I get the impressive that Indigo Imp are always going to be
pushing the boat out in the name of Real Ale and Winter Solstice will float well on those choppy waters. 7/10
4) Ommegang Brewing Co.Cooperstown, New York.
Ommegang BPA (6.2%) – draught.
Belgian beers have a love / hate relationship with Roberts Manor - mainly hate. But, Ommegang have always held a fascination for this Royal one; perhaps
it’s because Cooperstown isn’t THAT far from Ohio (thinking Royal bike trip here) or maybe because they are owned by Belgian supremo, Duval. Anyway,
Ommegang BPA (Belgian Pale Ale)was being poured from the barrel and I was in the mood for a golden beer.
Made with Columbus and Celeia hops AND dry-hopped with the wonderful Cascade hops, the BPA was a total delight. It had loads of flowery hops in the
flavours followed by sweet orange zest and a dry grassy finish. Absolutely delicious and just what I’d expect from a beer in the Duval family. 14/10
5) Rockmill Brewery, Lancaster, Ohio.
Rockmill Witbier (6%)
Now we were getting earthy – Rockmill beers are organic and indeed, this was a wheat ale brewed with spices. There were quite a few people hovering
around the Rockmill table, including Angelo, the Head Brewer for Barley’s, the finest pair of brewpubs this side of Ann Arbor.
The Witbier is produced with New Zealand Cascade whole cone hops. The aroma of coriander, orange and lemon peel was excellent, but it fell off the rails
when it came to the taste, which was more malty than expected with a hint of lemon effervescence. I picked up an unappealing vinegar taste in the finish
which over-rided any hop flavours. Extremely odd. 4/10
6) North Peak Brewing Co, Traverse City, Michigan.
Diabolical IPA (6.7%)
Being a Royal member of the Michigan Brewers Guild, I thought it would be only appropriate to visit a Michigan brewery. I know North Peak from the
Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Festival and I also know that their beers are well smart.
Thus, the Diabolical IPA – Well, this was incredible. Made with Cascade, Perle and Willamette hops, this surprisingly smooth IPA gave flavours of earthy
hops and grapefruit with a balance being provided by a bold citrus and piney character. With a nice powerful bitter hoppy finish, this classic had a lot more
bite than its 6.7% abv would suggest. Well smart indeed. 10/10
7) Brewdog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Paradox Isle of Arran Stout aged in Isle of Arran whisky barrels (10%)
This, believe it or not, was the first of four Brewdog ales tasted at this year’s Columbus AleFest. I must have been making up for lost time. Brewdog is an
odd operation: two young Scots who decided to brew beer with a punk attitude. Several times they’ve laid claim to the strongest beer in the world and they
seem to be loved and loathed by the beer community in the same sentence.
Anyway, the Isle of Arran Stout was a very drinkable almost session style stout (not bad when you consider the 10% abv). Being aged in whisky barrels
gave it a bittersweet character with roasted malt and fruity flavours. The dreaded peat came in the finish, but it played a supporting role to more roasted
malt and treacle. The alcohol hit you about 10-minutes later. Very interesting. 9/10
8) Ommegang Brewing Co. Cooperstown, New York.
Three Philosophers (9.8%)
Another brewery I returned to – Perish the thought, I must be becoming a creature of habit! The Three Philosphers is based on a Belgian Kriek, so right at
the outset you had flavours of bitter cherries. In fact, quite sweet and tart bitter cherries. Roasted malt also made its presence known, as did dark
chocolate. And to cap it off, more bitter cherries came in at the finish. This style is not always my cup of tea, but I rather enjoyed the Three Philosophers
and on this evidence, Ommegang is clearly worth a motorcycle trip out to New York state. 8/10
9) Brewdog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Bashah Belgian Style Black Double IPA (8.6%)
Round 2 of Brewdog gave me my second BLACK IPA of the night although as much as I wanted to sing its praises, it wasn’t as good or classy as Weasel Boy’
s Bitter Sable Black IPA.
The Bashah was black and rich with an initial nice interplay between the malt and hops. Bready flavours made themselves known in the middle with a
strange taste of soap suds. A distinct taste of minerals came in at the finish with strong notes of charcoal. This was very much a mixed bag. 7/10
10) Brewdog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Hardcore IPA (9.2%)
This had the kitchen sink thrown in it – 6 whole hop cones were thrown in the brew kettle with Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe hops being used. THEN,
the same three hops were used for dryhopping. This would suggest a rather mighty IPA.
Yes-sir-ree, it was! With a massive IBU of 150, bold hops and bitter ruby red grapefruit came jumping out of the gate. What made the Hardcore IPA
particularly interesting was that there was enough malt presence to tone down the hop bitterness, regardless of the IBU’s.
So, we really had mild bitterness, which made this very easy to drink. With a grassy, piney finish, the Hardcore IPA was a total masterpiece. 15/10
11) Brewdog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
I was on a roll by this time and true to their quirky personalities, Dogma was an IPA made with Scottish heather honey, Kola nuts, Californian poppy seeds
and Gurana (a herb from the Amazon with twice as much caffeine as coffee beans – I looked it up in the Royal dictionary in The Manor library).
Once again, bitter ruby red grapefruit and lots of hops made themselves known in the taste but this time they were counterbalanced with spices, dried fruit,
honey and thyme with a fascinating herbal hoppy finish. Very well balanced indeed considering all the ingredients. 10/10
12) Indigo Imp Brewing Co. Cleveland, Ohio.
Jester (5.8%) – served on cask.
The final beer of the day (I can’t believe I only tasted 12 beers – am I getting old??!!) led me back to Indigo Imp and their Jester. And what a great finale to
the festival – this lovely German-style ale gave lots of effervescence with tons of bananas, cloves and spices in the flavours. Very,very refreshing. 10/10
And that was it for the 2011 Columbus AleFest. As the Moody Blues would point out, this year was A Question of Balance. Instead of trying to taste as
many as possible I kept the tastings down and at a more leisurely pace. Plus, I limited the breweries I was tasting from. And for the second year running, we
at The Manor gave Weasel Boy, our Royal Beer of the Festival award, with their wicked Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout! Hurrah!