|Columbus AleFest 2010
What on earth is going on with the Columbus AleFest? When it first appeared in Columbus in 2006 it was an autumn festival, a way for us to taste a ton of
different beers before winter set in. Every year since then it has assembled earlier in the year – the summer and then the spring. In the throes of a hideous
winter at the start of 2010 – and by hideous we mean freezing temperatures and several feet of snow, it was announced that the Columbus AleFest would be
taking place in February 2010.
We held an emergency conference at The Manor involving our house staff, grounds men and peasants and the general comment was “WTF – a beer
festival during a blizzard?” The next question was, was my Royal presence going to attend this festival? The Manor reindeer were having their hoofs reshod
so it would be down to The Manor E-Type Jag.
In the end it came down to a traffic light. As I approached the light I decided that if it turned red, I was returning back to The Manor to enjoy a quiet G & T in
the billiard room. If it stayed green, I would continue on the festival. And so it came to pass that the light stayed green, so off I went into Santa’s winter
wonderland. And as we tend to say on these pages – here children, is where we begin….
1) Weasel Boy Brewing Co. Zanesville, Ohio.
River Mink Mild Ale (3.8%)
The first person I noticed at the festival was Jay Wince, Head Brewer and top bloke guru at Weasel Boy, so I headed for familiarity. All three Weasel Boy
beers at the Fest were from the barrel, so as a matter of course, all three beers were tasted.
River Mink Mild was an absolute chuffing revelation. I’m not a big fan of mild ales, but this was absolutely bloody delicious. Jay based River Mink on the
Milds of the English Midlands (think Wolverhampton), so it was neither too sweet or bitter. Some nice caramel and mild chocolatey malt in the flavours really
rounded this delicious session beer. 10/10 I wondered if I had already tasted the best beer of the festival.
2) Weasel Boy Brewing Co. Zanesville, Ohio.
Dancing Ferret IPA (6.5%)
The point about Jay’s beers is they are never extreme – he leaves that to other brewers. Jay simply takes original styles and makes brilliant versions of them.
Anyway, the Dancing Ferret IPA crept up on me. It began with mild, smooth favours of fruit with a strong hop presence, which lead into a bitter grapefruit
finish. A nice malt balance made for a most enjoyable IPA. Did I say smooth? Very smooth. 9/10
3) Weasel Boy Brewing Co. Zanesville, Ohio.
Brown Stoat Stout (6.2%)
I like stouts, me – and some nice chocolate and oatmeal set this stout rolling with some not too – overbearing notes of roasted coffee with strong accents of
malt. Mild toffee and caramel finished off this cracker of a stout. 9/10
Jay's beers have really come of age in the last three years and as far as Roberts Manor is concerned, he is a MAJOR brewer. He needs to be brewing in the
UK, where he’d really be appreciated for his skills.
4) Boston Beer Company, Boston, Massachusetts.
Samuel Adams Noble Pils (5.24%)
Another served on draught and some uncharted waters for my Royal self. Made with 5 Noble hops and Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt, this was
extremely bitter with a lemon wheat beer feel to it. Later on, some floral honey sweetness, then spicy notes came in, but this was really a confused beer.
Sam Adams always tends to be hit or miss – this was a miss. 4/10
5) Smuttynose Brewing Co, Smuttynose Island, New Hampshire.
Pale Ale (abv unknown)
Lord Kemp of Powell is a huge fan of Smuttynose beers, thus on his recommendation I gave their Pale Ale a tasting. Most Pale Ales feature lightly roasted
malts – this one was a little heavier on the malt presence, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Some pleasant hop flavours made a breakthrough before the end,
which rounded off this quite delicious Pale Ale with a crisp, dry finish. 8/10
6) Rogue Brewing Co, Portland, Oregon.
Chocolate Stout (6.3%)
Horrible! This was in actual fact nothing more than a porter, doused in raspberry juice with a faint hint of chocolate. It had a finish of Hall’s Cherry cough
drops. Chocolate Stout? Chocolate Stout MY ARSE! 1/10
7) Napa Smith Brewing Co, Napa, California.
Pale Ale (5.25%)
With a blend of European and American hops, this cloudy yellow offering was virtually tasteless with a mild flavour of orange appearing out of nowhere. It
was faint on the malt and faint on the hops and was actually what I’d imagine a urine sample to taste like. Very sad. 1/10
8) Founders Brewing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Double Trouble IPA (9.4%)
Now this was more like it. After a succession of dodgy beers, it was back to the real thing. Served on draught, Double Trouble began with a beautiful aroma
of sweet grapefruit – taste wise, there were hops bouncing all over the place with very smooth caramel, malty and piney notes lurking in the underbelly. A
fantastic bitter grapefruit finish rounded off this fabulous Double IPA. 15/10
9) Dubuisson, Pipaix, Belgium.
Bush de Noel (Scaldis Noel in the US) (12%)
The Columbus AleFest is a great opportunity to taste beers from Belgium, although for the most part, I’ve always found them to be quite hideous. Still, the
purpose of a beer festival is to taste beers that one might not ordinarily taste, thus it was now the turn of the Scaldis Noel.
Following a sickly sweet nose, the Scaldis Noel gave us rich flavours of sweet malt, mild spices and rotting beetroot. It was really heavy on the syrupy malt
with a worrying finish of dried prunes and Christmas pudding. You could really taste the alcohol in this one. Ghastly! 0/10
10) Bell’s Brewing Co, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Best Brown Ale - served on cask - (5.8%)
I jotted down just six words for my tasting review: “Too cold, tastes like malt vinegar”. ‘Nuff said, methinks, although it’s worth pointing out that cask ale
should NEVER be served freezing cold. I’ll have one of The Manor servants send a new thermometer to Bell’s. Total rubbish 0/10
11) Magic Hat Brewing Co, South Burlington, Vermont.
Lucky Kat IPA (5.8%)
As everyone on the planet knows, the people at Magic Hat are rather strange. They brew beers that are way off kilter and their marketing is outrageous and
quite bizarre. Little wonder then that we take our lives into our own hands when we taste any of their brews.
The Lucky Kat IPA looked like an unfiltered wheat ale and was really light on the palate. In fact, it was all about light – light hops, light sweet malt, light
caramel and no hop bitterness to the finish. Completely undemanding, but also refreshing in an obscure sort of way. However, as far as IPA’s go, it was
12) Magic Hat Brewing Co, South Burlington, Vermont.
Odd Notion American Wheat IPA (6%)
The Odd Notion series is seasonal and is totally varied in styles. The Spring 2010 release presented us with an American Wheat IPA, which didn’t make a
lick of sense to us at The Manor. It started off being syrupy with some citrusy hop flavours before banana and earthy herb flavours made their presence
known. The finish was of mild bubble gum. A total freak show of flavours – something I’d expect from Magic Hat. A complete disaster. 1/10
13) Magic Hat Brewing Co, South Burlington, Vermont.
Vinyl Spring Lager (5.1%)
You might be wondering why I continued to punish my taste buds with this tat from Magic Hat – I just kept thinking that surely one of their beers would
approach a level of reasonable normality. Would it be the Vinyl Spring Lager?
‘Er, no. This effort was really malty, like a sickly Killian’s Red. The caramel malt kept up it’s presence throughout with muted hops in the background. The
finish was of sweet butterscotch. Complete and utter shite. 1/10
Here’s the commercial blurb from Magic Hat regarding their Vinyl Spring Lager which may put things into perspective: “Vinyl sails in on her shining wings as
the spinning sun returns. She is the season-shifter, bursting from her cocoon to sing the ancient song of vernal yearning and to summon spring’s sweet
green return...Her metamorphosis becomes our own. Her thirsts are shared by all. Drink in her mysterious elixir as the revolution blooms again...”
14) BJ’s Brewhouse, Columbus, Ohio
Tempest IPA (abv unknown)
And so, to finish with, I returned to my favourite style of beer. The Manor peasants are quite familiar with BJ’s brews – BJ’s Brewhouse is a favourite stop of
theirs on their one night off a month - but Tempest IPA was a new one. It was not only new, but also shite. It had a very flowery nose as if it had been brewed
at The Body Shop with mild flavours of grapefruit and BIG flavours of sweet malt. In fact, it was all about the malt. Perhaps there was a lack of hops
available to brew this beer. A total mess. 1/10.
On reflection, I can't remember grading so lowly for so many beers before. It wasn’t just the fact we were trying new beers; we think the festival was put
together in a hurry and the beer choices were somewhat more limited than usual. The beers were jacked and the 2010 Columbus AleFest was jacked. Now
there was the issue of driving home through the next oncoming blizzard….Oh, and River Mink Mild Ale WAS the best beer of the festival!