Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer Fest: A Review

Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune attended the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, which recently took place in Chicago. His takes on the 14th edition of this event:

  • The beer is good, and getting better. He rates 20 percent of the beers “genius”, and another 60 percent “good to very good”. The “undrinkable” beers likely sat in the barrel too long.
  • John Laffer, the co-founder of Off Color Brewing in Chicago, has emerged as a star. He’s an alumnus of Goose Island Brewing Company’s barrel-aging program.
  • Festival-goers didn’t shun Goose Island on account of it having been taken over by Anheuser-Busch. If the beer is good, they want it.
  • It’s possible to brew bad sour beer. The style “requires layers and nuance.”
  • The best thing about the festival is discovering new beers. One, in particular, was Peach Climacteric from Colorado-based WeldWerks Brewing. Co-founder Neil Fisher was amazed that attendees knew so much about his new brewery. fisher said, “You guys have a very connected beer culture here.”
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The Friday Mash (Mickey Mouse Edition)

On this day in 1928, The Walt Disney Corporation released the animated short “Steamboat Willie”, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon. It was directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Disney considers this release to be Mickey’s birthday.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in England, where pub companies warn that the price of a pint is about to jump. Factors include inflation, higher costs of doing business, and the introduction of the living wage.

Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa showed off his axe-throwing skills in an Instagram video. What makes his performance even more impressive is that he drank a beer immediately before he hit the bulls-eye.

FIFA, the world-wide governing body of soccer, is negotiating with officials of host country Qatar over whether beer will be served there during matches at the 2022 World Cup.

Effective January 1, 2019, Labatt will discontinue the 50-year-old tradition of issuing free beer for life to company retirees. The Canadian brewery is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Travel blogger Emmanuel Marshall used Innis & Gunn IPA as currency to pay for transportation and lodging on his 5,000-mile trip from Scotland, the home of Innis & Gunn, to India.

Scientists at Rockefeller University have found that beer pong players expose themselves to numerous icky bacteria. The good news is that college-aged players have strong enough immune systems to cope with them.

Finally, the San Diego Union-Tribune named the five beers that put the city on the craft beer map: AleSmith Speedway Stout, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Green Flash Le Freak, Karl Strauss Red Trolley, and Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale.

The 19 Types of People You Meet at Beer Festivals

Matt Lynch of Thrillist.com has compiled a taxonomy of the stereotypical people one meets at a beer festival. His list of the 19 usual suspects include these:

  • The Guy Who’s a Little Too Excited About His Pretzel Necklace. “He came prepared. Three different sizes of pretzels and a baggie of trail mix dangling from the bottom that may or may not have some string cheese taped to the back. He’s constantly puffing out his chest as if to say ‘I made this’. He will be very sick of pretzels in an hour.
  • The BeerAdvocate Review Come to Life. “It’s not normal to say ‘mouthfeel’ that many times in one day, OK?”
  • The Brewery Groupie. “Hoodie? Check. Pins? Check. Talking to the brewer like he’s an old friend and holding up the line for everyone else? Check”.
  • The Bro Brigade. “They’re decked out in their finest North Face apparel, ready to alternately brag about their finance jobs and about all the rare beer they’ve bought on the resale market because who has time to actually wait in lines at releases.”
  • The Parent(s) Who Scored a Babysitter. “The kid’s like a year old. They have five free hours and they’re drinking like every booth just announced it was almost out of beer. They will really hate tomorrow.”
  • Why Some Breweries Skipped the GABF

    Even though they’re well regarded and have a following, some breweries passed on this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Their reasons include the high cost of travel, the limited impact of GABF on sales, and the difficulty of getting the word out at such a heavily-attended event.

    Some breweries that skipped the GABF poured instead at fringe events during festival weekend. Those events attracted aficionados of certain styles, such as sour beers and beers made with wild yeasts or locally-found ingredients. The more intimate, laid-back atmosphere enabled brewery representatives to talk to attendees and further build their brand.

    The Friday Mash (Neptune Edition)

    One hundred and seventy years ago today, astronomers Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, John Couch Adams and Johann Gottfried Galle collaborated on the discovery of Neptune. Now that Pluto has been demoted, Neptune is the most distant planet in our solar system.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Jacksonville, Florida, where an over-eager liquor control officer charged a 17-year-old girl with the crime of underage possession of alcohol. Her offense? Moving a cup of beer on a beer pong table at a Jaguars tailgate party.

    Terrorist attacks in Europe have forced Oktoberfest organizers to beef up security this year, and many would-be attendees are avoiding the celebration out of fear of an attack in Munich.

    Rutgers University ended its school-sponsored football tailgate parties after athletics director Pat Hobbs was seen chugging a beer onstage. Drinking on the job is a no-no at RU.

    The new season of Shark Tank begins tonight. Leading off are the inventors of Fizzics, an in-home tap that re-creates the mouthfeel and aroma of freshly-poured draft beer.

    Long Island’s Blue Point Brewery is serving up history in the form of Colonial Ale. It was made using a recipe written by George Washington in a military journal in 1757.

    Are you seeing less pumpkin beer on the shelves this fall? It’s because breweries overproduced it last year and demand for the style fell off. Unseasonably warm weather also hurt sales.

    Finally, scientists have figured out why the foam on top keeps your beer from sloshing. The answer is “capillary action”, the same phenomenon that enables paper towel to soak up spilled milk and plants to suck up water from their roots.

    The Friday Mash (Night at the Opera Edition)

    Fifty years ago today, the Metropolitan Opera House opened at Lincoln Square in Manhattan. The opening-night performance was the world premiere of Antony and Cleopatra by Samuel Barber.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin on ESPN College GameDay, where Sam Crowder held up a sign last Saturday asking Vemmo users to send him beer money. Within hours, more than 2,000 people contributed.

    BBC correspondent Stephen Evans hopped a flight to make a beer run…all the way to Beijing. His Chinese friends had made a trip to the border to acquire “forbidden” Taedonggang beer, which is brewed in North Korea.

    Here’s a solution to a problem you didn’t know you had. It’s a beer mug that won’t block your view of the TV when you’re drinking.

    Pork roll aka Taylor ham, a New Jersey breakfast favorite, is now a beer ingredient. Flying Fish Brewing Company has released Exit 7 Pork Roll Porter as part of its “Exit Series”.

    Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing has rolled out a beer honoring the stereotypical “Florida Man”. The label for this beer, a double IPA, depicts a man wrestling an alligator—and winning.

    Beer is more expensive than ever at NFL stadiums, but there’s one consolation: you can now buy craft beer from breweries that Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors recently acquired.

    Finally, Nebraska liquor regulators have banned homebrewers from beer festivals. Because homebrewers aren’t licensed, there’s no assurance that they meet health and sanitation standards.

    The Friday Mash (Piggly Wiggly Edition)

    One hundred years ago today, the first Piggly Wiggly grocery store opened in Memphis. It was the first true self-service grocery store, and the originator of such supermarket features as checkout stands, individual item price marking, and shopping carts.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin at sea, where part of the sixth annual Brews by the Bay will be held tomorrow. Festival venues are Cape May, New Jersey; Lewes, Delaware; and the ferry connecting those two towns. It’s the only multi-state beer festival we’re aware of.

    Edinburgh’s Innis & Gunn latest release is “Smoke & Mirrors”, whose ingredients are said to make the drinker more likely to tell the truth. The brewery has sent a bottle to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    Liquor laws left over from the repeal of Prohibition are a case study in how government regulations can stifle entrepreneurship, then leave entire regions playing catch-up when they’re finally relaxed.

    What makes breweries’ flagship beers disappear? The reasons include waning brand loyalty, competition from newcomers, and consumers’ changing tastes.

    Researchers at Indiana University found that that if you really want a beer and want it right now, the source of your craving may be a pea-sized structure deep inside the right side of your brain.

    English illustrator Tom Ward has created a series of beer mats depicting fictional bars from the movies. The collection includes the Hog’s Head Pub from Harry Potter and The Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings.

    Finally, Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker have found success with Craft Beer Cellar: small, selective stores with hundreds of beers and knowledgeable staff. Schalow and Baker have learned that “craft” and “local” don’t equal quality.

    The Friday Mash (”Old Ironsides” Edition)

    On this day in 1812, American frigate USS Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia. That victory earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides”; and an Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.’s 1830 poem of that name saved her from being decommissioned.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Bosnia, where an online post about homebrewing has, in just five years, grown into a flourishing craft-brewing industry—in a country where fruit brandy, not beer, has been the national beverage.

    Pyongyang, North Korea, is playing host to its first-ever beer festival. It was organized to promote Pyongyang-brewed Taedonggang beer, which is named after the Taedong River.

    Twenty years after the last shakeout in the craft beer sector, writer Lew Bryson sees another one coming. The good news is that the industry will rebound, and emerge stronger than ever.

    The Australian spreads Vegemite and Marmite are made from brewer’s yeast extract. Native Australians are using them to make homebrewed beer in towns where prohibition is in effect.

    Stone Brewing Company plans to open a beer-centric hotel across the street from its brewery in southern California. It will offer rare beer tappings along with room-service growlers.

    Bob Beamon, whose Olympic long-jump record set in Mexico City still stands, offered a free beer to any athlete who broke his record at the Rio Olympics. No one came close.

    Finally, MLS Soccer magazine has the rundown on where beer is sold at pro soccer matches. Germany is one of the beer-friendliest countries; you can drink in the stands at a Bundesliga match.

    Devil’s Backbone Catches Hell

    On Saturday, the fifth annual Virginia Craft Brewer’s Festival will take place at Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company amid controversy.

    Devil’s Backbone is being acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev. This means it will no longer qualify as a “craft brewery” making it ineligible to compete in the Virginia Craft Beer Cup, even though its Schwarzbier is a three-time Best of Show winner. In fact, this year’s awards ceremony was pulled from the festival, and will take place at a different venue.

    The A-B deal also means that Devil’s Backbone will no longer host the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Festival. The state’s Craft Brewers Guild has decided to stage the 2017 event at a location to be determined. Meanwhile, Devil’s Backbone will host a new event as part of next year’s calendar of festivals and parties. The brewery says that it won’t conflict with the Craft Brewer’s Festival.

    The Friday Mash (“Be Prepared” Edition)

    On this date in 1907, Sir Robert Baden-Powell set up the Brownsea Island Scout camp on the south coast of England. That nine-day event—we assume that no beer was served to campers—was the foundation of the Scouting movement.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Scotland, where the Innis & Gunn brewery has released a “Vintage” beer that is meant to be aged. One bottle has been put inside a time capsule, which is not to be opened until 2116.

    Old Style beer will return to its La Crosse, Wisconsin, birthplace. The brewery will make an Oktoberfest-style version of the 114-year-old brand for the city’s annual Oktoberfest U.S.A.

    After winning his third Tour de France, Britain’s Chris Froome celebrated in style. In the Tour’s final stage, he handed out bottles of beer to his teammates.

    According to the libertarian magazine Reason, state beer laws continued “a slow creep in the right direction.” However, many bad laws remain on the books.

    The Smithsonian has posted a want ad for a beer historian/scholar. This three-year position, funded by the Brewers Association, will pay $64,650 plus benefits.

    Some breweries try too hard to be original, and wind up giving their beers awful names. Thrillist.com calls out some of the worst offenders.

    Finally, Jim Vorel of Atlanta magazine criticizes Terrapin Brewing Company for selling a majority interest to MillerCoors—and then keeping mum about the transaction on social media.

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