What I Learned from Big Beers 2012
All six members of the Fearless Tasting Crew noticed it and agreed: There was a feeling that something was different, and better, about the 2012 Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines festival this weekend.
Maybe dividing the high-alcoholfest over two rooms on separate floors opened the space up enough to make it feel more pleasant. Maybe the educational seminars, which felt directed to brewers and beer geeks rather than casual drinkers, were a little better. Or maybe there was this: The first time I tasted a beer that I didn't like, I looked down at my watch and realized it was 4:07 p.m. - one hour and 37 minutes into the show.
A festival that can bring out the best experiments in the brewing community - but also some concoctions that shouldn't see the light of day again - this year featured things both daring and shockingly drinkable. Even Avery's Coffeestopheles Stout, the 16.4 percent coffee/alcohol bomb formerly known as Meph Addict, felt just a little easier on the palate without losing any of its gusto.
With that said, here's a few things I learned at the festival:
* The Bruery
is quickly evolving into one of the top breweries in America. If there was a beer of the fest, it was Partridge in a Pear Tree, the 3-year-old Belgian-style dark strong ale that presented itself as spicy on the nose, black and sweet on the palate and slightly sour with aged dried fruit. The Orange County beermaker also created the best beer of this Christmas season
, Four Calling Birds, and continues to dazzle.
* Brettanomyces and hops really do make a great combination. Crooked Stave
's Wild Wild Brett Green combined the magical yeast strain with three pounds of hops per barrel of beer and created a layered and unique hop bomb that stood out among a host of grassy beers.
* Brettanomyces and red wine barrels also make a wonderful partnership, as Surly Brewing
showed quite ably with Five, a brett-fermented dark ale that walloped you with tart cherries. It jolted your taste bud at every sip. If only it was sold in Colorado ...
* Coffee and big beers are a combination of which we should see more. Between Coffeestopheles Stout (worth a trip to Avery
's taproom if you have a designated driver), Ballast Point
's Victory at Sea Imperial Porter (the most drinkable 10% porter ever) and Great Divide
's Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (a known entity, but one that proved its heft against the others in the room), there was a series of tastebud-rocking efforts adding a new twist to the known big and dark beers.
Labels: Avery Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing, Big Beers, Crooked Stave, Great Divide, Surly Brewing, The Bruery