|Barley’s 2013 Real Ale Festival
Spring had finally arrived for the 2013 Barley’s Real Ale Fest, although I might add, it had just arrived by the skin of its teeth. The snow shovels were still in
position, like silent sentinels, sitting by bags of ice salt on The Manor deck and our house staff were still ironing my Royal long johns.
And what better way to see in spring than by attending a Real Ale festival. This year can surely only get better!
Accompanied by young Holly and Marta, we were off to see the Wizard of Real Ale and this, children, is where we begin…
1) Founder’s Brewing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Porter with Chocolate and Thai Chilis (6.5%)
It’s well chronicled that my Royal self is not terribly fond of Porters, but this one was a bit of a rarity and the plan was to taste beers that just don’t show up in
these thar parts too often.
Soooo, that said, the Porter with Chocolate and Thai Chilis was a very pleasant surprise. With a chocolatey nose, taste-wise you couldn’t get away from that
extremely malty and smoky personality, but it was countered by bitter chocolate, some spiciness from the chilis with a distinctive peppery finish. A most
commendable – and very well balanced - offering from the Kings of Grand Rapids. 8/10
2) Barley’s Smokehouse, Columbus, Ohio.
Cherry Zoltar (7.5%)
I’ve got into this habit of late, of going to beer festivals and then tasting a string of beers within the same family. I haven’t worked out exactly why I've got into
this habit, but here was another “dreaded” Porter, this time a Barrel Conditioned Imperial Porter.
After the Founder’s Porter, we were surely going to be on a roll, weren’t we? Well, not exactly Squire, as the Cherry Zoltar was all over the place. The
chocolate cherry aroma was the good bit – on the palate you could pick up rather a lot of sour cherries, plus some bourbon, but there was also methylated
spirits, menthol and some rather nasty stale coffee flavours, before leading into a malty, tart finish with a touch of grainy sand. Altogether, a truly f****d up
beer. 1/10 Isn't "Zoltar" the name of the machine that grants wishes to Tom Hanks in "Big"?
3) Gordon Biersch Brewing Co, Columbus, Ohio.
Unfiltered Czech Pilsner (5.5%)
After the previous calamity, it was time to visit a beer of a more tried & tested nature. Cue the Unfiltered Czech Pilsner from Gordon Biersch. You rarely find
this one unfiltered, which gave it some tasty orange notes with some bready, grassy flavours couple with a touch of hay. With some peppery hops and a dry
finish, this little offering was both crisp and refreshing, just what you’d expect from a well-made pilsner. 9/10
4) Thirsty Dog Brewing Co, Akron, Ohio.
Whippet Wheat with cherries (5.1%)
Described by Thirsty Dog as A German Style Weizen, the Whippet Wheat (with cherries) immediately hit you with a cherry nose with an explosion of cherries
on the tongue, before giving way to mild banana and clove flavours with just a dash of orange. The fruity flavours continued into the finish, with a little bit of
wheat and grain. Not too shab at all, considering I rarely like any beers from Thirsty Dog. 7/10
5) Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Maryland.
Raging Bitch Belgian IPA (8.3%)
Now, here’s something different – a cask ale from Flying Dog. As we all know, the state of Michigan banned the Raging Bitch, due to the rather revealing
artwork on the bottle from Britain’s Ralph Steadman (the ban was overturned when Flying Dog called in their lawyers), so would the cask version of Raging
Bitch cause a similar stir?
Well, no. This was a hideous pile o’ dog shite. What we had was a heavy-handed thick, syrupy, gooey mess with stale oranges, rotting lemons that had been
found in a garden dating back to biblical times and something that my tasting notes described as “sheeke” eggs. I still have no idea what that means, but it
obviously means something pretty rank. Hideous! -5/10
6) Hinterland Brewery, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Raspberry Saison (6.3%)
I was excited about this: my first ever tasting from this Wisconsin brewery. And a good one too, as this raspberry infused farmhouse ale was tangy, citrusy and
slightly sour, with flavours of oranges, raspberries and some herbal spices. With a fruity, berry finish, this little number was a delight and a refreshing change
from the previous disaster. 9/10
7) Buckeye Lake Brewery, Buckeye Lake, Ohio.
Black IPA (7.8%)
I don’t like Black IPAs, me, but considering I had yet to taste an IPA at this festival, it was time. Actually it wasn’t time, as the Buckeye Lake Black IPA was a
ghastly mixture beginning with a foreboding aroma of slate, followed by some strong malty and coal-like flavours pinned by mild hops. The finish presented
roasty malt, dirt, soot and charcoal. This one needs to be dumped at the bottom of Buckeye Lake. 1/10
8) Heavy Seas Brewing Co, Baltimore, Maryland.
Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet Big DIPA (10.5%)
No mates, I was not to be denied a decent IPA at this festival - I mean, it’s the beer for Kings, plus myself. Featuring Centennial and Amarillo hops, plus
American 2-Row, Crystal, and Biscuit malts, this 10.5% Double IPA was one monster of an IPA – it was dense, thick, deep with an assault of grapefruit, which
evolved into pine resin which was all carried by some sweet malt. The finish (as expected) was of bitter grapefruit. A classic! 10/10
9) The Actual Brewing Company, Columbus, Ohio.
Fat Julian (12%)
One of only two beers that The Actual Brewing Company currently brews, Fat Julian is actually a French Wine Barrel Conditioned Imperial Chocolate Porter
(say that after 10 pints of Fuller’s ESB!) and that in itself made this beer look rather intriguing. Following an aroma of oak, dark chocolate and red wine, this
full bodied beer started off very, very silky smooth with a vinous character and notes of chocolate malt and oak, before leading into a mildly bitter Bournvita
finish. A curious beer indeed. 7/10
10) Oskar Blues Brewing Co, Longmont, Colorado.
Dale’s Pale Ale - dry hopped with Citra and Falconer’s Flight - (6.5%)
You have to finish on a good note at a beer festival and a cask version of Dale’s Pale Ale, with the added bonus of being dry hopped with Citra and Falconer’s
Flight hops, was right up my street, especially as there was already four other hops (Northern Brewer , Cascade, Columbus, and Centennial hops) in the mix.
So, kids – this was less of a pale ale and more of a bloody good citrusy, piney and grassy IPA underscored by a malty breadiness. Despite all the hops, it
wasn’t overly bitter. A quite remarkable offering from Oskar Blues and very well balanced - an excellent finale for Barley’s 10th Real Ale Fest. 10/10
What was next? Perhaps a return visit to San Diego???!!!