|Columbus Winter Beer Festival 2011
Bah Humbug! Those were my words as I headed off down an icy road to the 2011 Columbus Winter Beer Fest in 10-degrees F temperatures. What is going
on with all these festivals – well, TWO festivals – being held in the middle of bloody winter? Driving to the Columbus Convention Center in the freezing cold
on a Saturday night was most definitely not my cup of Assam Tea.
Perhaps there would be no-one there. There was some big American throwball play-off game on the telly, which may have kept the fans at home. Alas, not
quite – the Convention Center was absolutely packed. And worse still, the big American throwball game was projected on a giant screen in the beer hall! But
I digress - once I fought my way through the crowds, I was given my plastic 5oz tasting glass and pointed in the direction of the beer stands.
All the maps had already been given out, so I was wandering around blind. What looked like a good prospect? I spotted Founder’s – a perfect place to start
and as we tend to say in these festival reviews - here, children, is where we start….
1) Founder’s Brewing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Endurance Ale (4.7%)
Right, no secrets here – I’m a big fan of Founder’s and their mighty beers. Their Centennial IPA is a classic of its type; an Olympic Gold medal IPA, if you will.
Having said that, the Endurance Ale was bloody excellent. It was a light bodied IPA which started off hoppy with some light grapefruit before some glorious
lemony citrus flavours kicked in, with a grassy, piney finish. A totally delicious and drinkable session IPA. 12/10
2) Maumee Bay Brewing Co, Maumee Bay, Ohio.
Dry Irish Stout (6%)
Well, here was an Ohio brewery that I’d never heard of. I wasn’t quite sure where Maumee Bay was either (near Toledo apparently), but the notion of a Dry
Irish Stout at a winter festival sounded pretty good to me, so pour my glass with your finest stout, garcon.
So, what we had here was a pretty rough Irish Stout. The roasted malts were there, but it was also oddly sweet and syrupy with a distinct oatmeal presence.
With a bizarre finish of cough drops, this was a contender for the 2011 Liquid Plumber “Flush down the bog award”. Nasty! 2/10
3) Great Divide Brewing Co, Denver, Colorado.
First, the commercial blurb: “Hades is brewed with a rare Belgian yeast strain that gives a complex spicy flavor and aroma. Noticeable hops and medium malt
character make it an extremely well-balanced, crisp ale. Hades goes great with a bowl of fresh mussels, crusty bread, and virtually any artesian cheese”
Strangely, there were no mussels or artesian cheese on hand, although Lady Roberts did pack me some rather tasty ham sandwiches. Hades was a golden
Belgian Strong Ale with some notably tangy lemon & lime flavours with a spicy and herbal background. However, I thought it was lacking in finesse and found
it to be quite heavy and somewhat bludgeoning. Not the most refreshing beer I’ve ever tasted either. 5/10
4) Left HandBrewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
Milk Stout (5.3%)
Commercial blurb part 2 (and your history lesson for the day): “This English style of beer, also known as Sweet Stout or Cream Stout, first appeared in
London in the late 1800’s. The early brewers touted the health benefits of the milk sugar in this beer which today relates mainly to the increased amount of
calories (no real health benefits…sorry). The milk sugar adds a well rounded sweetness to this dark beer and makes it an outstanding, year ‘round stout.”
A few years ago, I had Mackeson, the quintessential milk stout. At that time I thought it was the most rank beer I had ever tasted. It tasted as if an ash tray
filled with the remains of old cigarettes had been tipped into it and with its lactose sweetness, it was truly hideous.
Soooooo, the Left Hand Milk Stout at least had none of that old cigarette taste. It did, however, have a bizarre aroma of a soiled baby’s nappy. Taste-wise, it
was smooth, roasty – with its caramel malt – but hideously milk-sugary sweet with a vanilla finish. It was actually totally rank, BUT not quite as rank as
Mackeson, if that helps. 0/10
5) North Peak Brewing Co, Traverse City, Michigan.
Vicious American Wheat IPA (6.7%)
Bloody delicious! With three malts (Pale, Crystal and wheat malts) and four types of hops (Cascade, Perle, Willamette and Amarillo), this combo gave us lots
of zesty oranges throughout the taste with some nice floral hop bitterness and a flourish of grapefruit at the finish. The Vicious American Wheat IPA was an
absolute beauty and a much needed refresher after that ghastly milk stout. 15/10
6) Barley’s Brewing Co, Columbus, Ohio.
Four Seas Imperial IPA (10%)
I’d noticed that a lot of the beers brewed especially for the festival were running dry – indeed, all of Founder’s special beers were dry by 7.30pm – so I was
determined to catch at least one of them. Four Seas Imperial IPA was it. With a nice play on words, the “Four Seas” (read C’s) were Columbus, Cascade,
Centennial and Chinook hops.
It was everything you’d expect from an Imperial IPA: Intensely bitter, rich, syrupy, lots of bitter grapefruit with a long bitter finish. A staggering and mighty beer
and an absolute beauty from Barley’s. 10/10
7) New Holland Brewing Co, Holland, Michigan.
Full Circle Kolsch (5.25%)
We are big fans of New Holland beers at The Manor. Myself and Lady Roberts have made at least three Royal trips to Holland, which is a very pretty little
town on what is known as the “Art Coast” of Michigan, right on the shores of the bright blue Lake Michigan. Their Mad Hatter IPA is easily one of the top
three IPA’s on this planet, as is, for that matter, their Black Tulip Belgian Tripel.
I’m not really a Kolsch bloke, mainly because it’s a bit on the light side - however, Lady Roberts is very keen on this style, which originates from Cologne
(Koln) in Germany. Having just had an intense Imperial IPA, the Full Circle made perfect sense for the next tasting. And very refreshing this pale golden
beer was too, with a light, minty, floral taste and a grassy finish. Just one hop is used (Saaz) and one malt (pilsner). Simple and delicious. 9/10
8) Rivertown Brewing Co, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Hop Bomber Pale Ale (5.5%)
Hello, another Ohio brewery I wasn’t familiar with. Anyway, for some reason my taste buds were totally up the creek after seven beers and I have no
recollection whatsoever of this beer. My tasting notes say the following: “Couldn’t taste it – some bitterness – unremarkable”. And that is it in a nutshell. No
sense in grading it. Whatever/10
9) Barley’s Brewing Co, Columbus, Ohio.
Barley's Ivan Porter (6%)
If I couldn’t taste the Hop Bomber, I could certainly taste the Ivan Porter! Surprisingly smooth, with chocolate malt, the Ivan Porter was a little sweet, roasty, a
little bit creamy with a slightly bitter finish. Reasonably drinkable and not as harsh as Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. 7/10
With an hour to go, I was ready to call it a day. The breweries had stopped taking tickets and it was about to turn into one almighty piss-up. So, I went back
out into the freezing temperatures and drove back to The Manor, just in time for a hot totty and a plate of biscuits. The organizers of the Winter Festival are
threatening a Columbus Summer Beer Festival in May 2011 – THAT should be interesting. Humbug!