Friday, October 11, 2013
As the line swelled to get into the brewers and media entrance of the Great American Beer Festival Thursdsay, there was much anticipation about what could be found inside. And here is what this beer geek discovered.
1. Destihl exceeds expectations
After last year's eye-opening showing of sour beers in 2012, everyone wanted to try Destihl, the previously unknown brewery from Bloomington, Ill. again. And everyone agreed they hit it out of the park - again.
The biggest winner was the St. Dekkera Reserve Sour Paw Paw Ale, a tart and fascinating creation using the "prairie banana." But also fantastic was the Saint Dekkera Reserve Flanders, a sweeter but still tart cherry/raspberry mouth-filler.
2. Unknowns starred too
One of my favorite things to do is drop by a brewery with little to no name recognition - and even less of a line - and try their wares. That produced two great finds Thursday.
First was JAFB Wooster Brewery's Never Winter IPA, imbued with New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops that give it a wonderfully grassy mouthfeel without being harsh. The second was Freetail Brewing's Salado Kriek, both fruity and tart and full of flavor.
3. Dark is the new hoppy
It seems brewers have reached their limits somewhat in pushing the hop; there don't appear to be any quadruple IPAs on the floor. But beer makers are going increasingly bigger, darker and more creative with their stouts.
It should be no surprise that a stand-out in this genre was Bell's Black Note, which combines their imperial stout and double cream stout to black out your taste buds in a satisfying way. Some other breweries, though, seemed to push it a bit too far, making stouts so roasted they were burnt.
4. Remember this name: Almanac Beer Co.
I didn't discover the San Francisco brewery's sours until the end of the night, but people hovered around its strawberry- and nectarine-laced barrel-aged projects for a reason. I'll be back there tonight.