Monday, January 18, 2016

Barley's 2016 Biggest Little Beer Fest Wrap-up

Well, Barley's Fifth Annual beer fest is now history, joining the ranks of the other four fun times. I think I'll take this opportunity to reflect back on how I experienced the event, talk about the new beers I tried and the new friends I made. Thanks to Drew Moren for his assistance.

Barley's is a great venue, thanks to 3 levels, including The Trappe Door where all the
Belgians hang out. Plus for VIP ticket holders, there is the library room where very special beers are on tap, and you are surrounded by aging rare bottles which can be ordered off their reserve menu.

So, on to the Fest offerings. My usual policy for beer fests is to try beers that I've not previously had (or heard of, even better!) so as is the case here, many brewery names you'd recognize aren't mentioned because I gave priority to the new ones. Here goes:

Creature Comforts Brewing is in Athens, GA., so far I've not been able to visit them but I was able to sample their Tropicalia IPA, their only offering. At 6.5% abv and 65 ibu's it's got a refreshing citrus nose and palette, plenty of hops to tame the sugars and well balanced finish. Quickly became one of my faves. Now, I really need to visit the brewery.

Manlandia 2.0 Brewing, home brewed by Jason, offered up their Mosaic version of the H.I.P.A. which I also enjoyed; very citrusy and solid palette balance. Could easily become a favorite, tho hard to find.

Cismontane Brewing poured their Marea Roja, a sour Flemish Red which was barrel aged. Not overly sour, reddish color, light body. Easy sipper, I'd say.

Holy City has two very limited release beers and it would have been a shame to miss out tasting them so that's why I go to events like this. First was their Kate the Great, a Belgian tripel aged in red wine barrels. If you've had their That's What She Said then you've had the base beer for this one, without the barrel aging. Btw, the beer is named after Kate Brown, the Brewmaster Chris' wife. Brewed originally for their wedding. At 8.8% abv, it's a bit stronger than usually found in that style. Very drinkable.
Their other beer was the Bourbon B/A Collision Stout, an Imperial Stout. Big at 8.5% abv, this winter seasonal will definitely warm whatever is chilling you!

 A brand new brewery for me was DuClaw Brewing, from Maryland. I tried their Hop Continuum #3 Imperial IPA which with 75 ibu, it was my style preference. Another big one, 8.9% abv, is light in color but heavy on hop flavor. I meant to go back for more but ran out of time. HIghly recommended.

I've long been a fan (and many years a neighbor) of Lagunitas Brewing, in Petaluma, CA. They had one of their OneHitter Series, Bitter Oaks available, one that I've not had before. Being a fan of oatmeal adjuncts in general, this one did not disappoint. Described as "This big boozy blonde was brewed with a boatload of oats," on their website, I liked the tartness, very dense head as you might expect. Lagunitas typically doesn't list IBUs but the abv is 10.5%, so you know it's a big hop bomb. Recommended as well.

 A very familiar name, New Belgium (about to open in Asheville, NC) came up with a new favorite of mine, their Citradelic Tangerine IPA. Ok, I know, lots and lots of variations of IPAs these days, but this had citrus in the nose (orange and tangerine) citrus in the body and refreshingly citrusy in the finish, almost like a palette cleanser. The website calls it, "a mystical marriage of Citra hops and tangerine peel..." I called it yummy!!! More!

Winding up my list of favorites (every beer there was a well made, wonderful beer but I could only choose so many) are the offerings from one of my favorite South East Coast breweries, Westbrook from Mt. Pleasant, SC. First up of the two, a bourbon barrel aged version of their Weisse Weisse Baby Berliner Weisse, Whiskey Sour. Lots of wheat as the name reveals, but the sour bourbon flavors elevate this to special status. Only 4% abv, so if I had the time I could drink this one all day long.

Their other beer was equally captivating, a Margarita Gose. Aged in tequila barrels with lots of lime additions, this made me want margaritaville to get here soon! Definitely a summer sipper. Very tart, perhaps a little saltiness but a welcome addition. This may be a limited release but should you see if offered this year, go for it!!

So far, I've not even mentioned the Trappe Door where the Belgians to to play. If you want to see what was available, Barley's website has the list. I had a De Troch Lambic Kriek filled with cherry flavor but enough sour to keep it from being cloying. I also tasted a Petrus Aged Pale by De Brabandere, aged in oak, a very effervescent yet sour pale ale. I owe it to all those Belgian brewers to learn more about their traditional recipes and appreciate them more as well. We are fortunate here in Greenville to have a Belgian-centric pub, with good food as well.

Big festival, lots of choices for craft beer lovers and full of opportunities to learn more. For example, a guy named Mike Smith, here with two friends in the photo, told me to be sure and visit  The Black Cloister brewery if I'm ever in Toledo, Ohio. It could happen!

All in all, a fun festival and I'm already looking forward to next year's fun. And speaking of having fun, here are some more photos of folks doing just that:

So, the first festival of the year is past, now time to look to Asheville and this weekend's Winter Warmer. So many beers, so little time!!!


Tarver says, "see ya next year."


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