Extreme Beer Fest – Boston, MA

On Saturday February 21, 2009 we spent our day, from 1 – 4:30 PM, at the 5th Annual Extreme Beer Fest, held at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama. It is described as “a uniquely awesome and epic celebration of American brewers who push the boundaries of creative brewing – the original fest that helped define what “Extreme Beer” is all about.”

Breweries are hand-picked to attend this event, and are required to have knowledgeable people behind their booths, which typically means the brewers and key staff are there.  The room was lined with breweries along the perimeter, and one row down the center, leaving plenty of room for people to stand, sip and enjoy over 100 Extreme Beers from over 30 different breweries.

Naturally, I lost my tasting list in all the excitement, but here is what I can recreate of my tastings from the list provided on Beer Advocate  (alphabetically by brewer and in no particular preference order):

Allagash Brewing Co. (ME):  Bi-Curieux– Curieuxaged in barrels for 1.5-years with locally grown hops; 11.0% ABV

Bell’s Brewery (MI): Bell’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Expedition / Double Cream Blend – A brand spanking new blended American Stout.

Cambridge Brewing Co. (MA): CaCow!– Chocolate Milk Stout brewed with milk sugar (lactose) and locally roasted cacao nibs from Taza Chocolate; 6.0% ABV

Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. (NY):  Cuvee de Castleton– American Sour in wood with Muscat grapes added; 8.0% ABV; Golden Delicious– American Tripel in apple brandy barrels; 10.0%  ABV; Little Linda’s Lixer– American Sour with cherries; 8.5% ABV

Dark Horse Brewing (MI): Whiskey Richard in Mouth with Kumquat– Belgian-style pale fermented and aged 2-years in bourbon barrels with kumquat fruit; 9% ABV

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (DE): Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right BA Select– A collaboration beer brewed by Sam Calagione, Bryan Selders, and the Alström Bros at the original RehobothBeach Dogfish Head brewpub. Brewed with maple syrup, chestnuts, green peppercorns, Korean Corn tea (Oksusu-cha), Fawcett’s Maris Otter base malt, MFP kiln coffee malt, Liberty and Vangaurd hops, and DFH’s Raison D’Etra yeast strain. 8.0% ABV.  The name is an ode to The Konami Code (cheat code) on the Nintendo Entertainment System in the 80s; submitted by BA thequeue, the winner of the collaboration naming competition.

Flying Dog Brewery (MD): Whiskey Barrel-Aged Gonzo– Gonzo Imperial Porter aged in whiskey barrels; 9.5% ABV

Foothills Brewing (NC): Pappy Van Winkle Seeing Double IPA– Barrel-aged DIPA; 9.5% ABV; Seeing Double IPA– American Double India Pale Ale; 9.5% ABV; Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout– Imperial Stout; 9.75% ABV

Founders Brewing Co. (MI): Canadian Breakfast Stout– Maple barrel-aged Chocolate Coffee Stout; 8.3% ABV

Haverhill Brewery / The Tap (MA): Leatherlips– Our famous ridiculously hoppysession-IPA brewed with an incredible amount of Centennial and Chinook hops. Hop heads only; 5.0% ABV; Peruvian Cacao Porter– Robust American Porter brewed with raw organic cacao from Peru and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla beans for a great dark chocolate flavor; 5.8% ABV; Tangaweizen– Spicy Hefeweizen brewed with real ginger and traditional ginger beer yeasts including a lactobaciilis strain.

Magic Hat Brewing Co. (VT): Bergamot Bitter– English Ordinary Bitter with bergamot added during conditioning, most famously used in Earl Gray tea and in the practice of Calabrian witchcraft; 4.5% ABV; Hibiscus Pomegranate Beer– This crisp, hibiscus ale is brewed with agave nectar, pomegranate juice, and the red petals of the hibiscus flower; 5.0% ABV; Wild Ginger Ale– Real California ginger is added during primary fermentation and then once again after fermentation is complete. In English taverns in the nineteenth century, would put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer (the origin of ginger ale); 5.0% ABV.

Short’s Brewing Co. (MI): Cup-A-Joe Coffee Cream Stout– American Double / Imperial Stout and then some; 7.5% ABV; S’more Stout– American Stout and then some; 6.5% ABV; Peanut Butter & Jelly – a blend of Soft Parade(Fruit Rye Beer; 7.8% ABV) and Uber Goober Oatmeal Stout(6.5% ABV)

Sixpoint Craft Ale (NY): Gorilla Warfare – Coffee infused Porter; 8.5% ABV

Smuttynose Brewing Co. (NH): Oak Aged Hanami– Tart cherry ale aged for 9 months in a Jack Daniels Barrel; 5.4% ABV

Southern Tier Brewing Co. (NY): Choklat– Imperial Stout made using dark and bittersweet Belgian chocolate; 10.0% ABV

The Lost Abbey (CA): Phunky Duck– A single barrel from their Duck Duck Gooze program, which will eventually release Duck Duck Gooze(a blended sour ale with 1, 2 and 3 year old beer) in 2009. Phunky Duck was brewed as the back bone for this blend; 7.0% ABV

Three Floyd’s Brewing Co. (IN): Oatgoop– Oatwine; 9.5% ABV; Dwarven Hammer– an American Alt Beer brewed with three types of coffee – Santuario, Heliconias, Colombia – from Intelligentsia; 6.0% ABV

Tröegs Brewing Co. (PA): Barrel-aged Mad Elf– Strong Belgian Dark Ale; 11.0% ABV; Scratch Beer #18

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. (PA): Twelve (2007)– Ryewine; 10.2% ABV

Thank goodness for the 2-oz marker on the glass, keeping me from getting any happier than I already was by the end of this event!

Sweet Stouts – Priming up for EBF

I’ve neglected to follow up on the rest of our NC trip, and already we’ve already finished up another…Extreme Beer Fest!

I started this post on Friday, and it just goes to show that drinking and blogging don’t mix, as I never finished writing about the sweet stouts that stood out on that day as terrific primers for the festival ahead.

We stopped in Willimantic, CT at the old post office, which is now Willimantic Brewing Company, for lunch. I totally enjoyed my first S.W.A.K. Stout (5.4% ABV) so much that instead of trying something new, I had another! This is described by the brewery as an unfiltered Black Ale mashed with seven malts, hopped with Saaz and “Sealed With A Kiss” of vanilla. It was outstanding!

When we arrived in Boston, we started out by sharing a growler of Captain Lawrence Espresso Stout before taking the T to Redbones for barbeque and their 24 taps, including a large selection of Sixpoint beers (I must admit I ate vegetarian and drank water from a mason jar, so I don’t have many comments on the ‘que or the beers based on the tiny sips I had…)

Our final stop for the night was Cambridge Brewing Company where I had the CaCow! Chocolate Milk Stout (6.4% ABV). Brewed with barley, oats and an addition of lactose, the description says CaCow! was additionally aged with cacao nibs from Taza Chocolate in Somerville, and house-made vanilla extract to balance the roast with a little extra sweetness. We had terrible service at CBC – pretty much ignored by the wait staff – but every beer at the table was delightful.

It was a great first night in Boston, with many, many great beers to follow!

Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. (Roseland, VA)

Tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is a lovely mountain lodge  where the creators thought of every detail before opening last November to serve house-brewed beers. We finally got a chance to check out Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, which is just south of Nellysford at the intersection of Route 664 and 151. On the edge of a development in the making, this is the flagship business for the Village at Glen Mary.

It’s modern beam and local stone construction, accented by recycled corrugated metal roofing and recycled wood from a variety of sources, make the building a work of eco-friendly art. The metal adorning interior walls comes from a 1900’s dairy barn in Urbana, MD while the tables and booths are distinctively crafted from wood recycled from a horse barn in Uppersville, VA. The wide floor boards were pulled from a tobacco barn, while the stone is local river rock. Taxidermied wildlife has been provided by Nelson County hunters and sportsman – all local mammals, with the exception of a moose from Maine. It’s a 3-million dollar investment and every dollar shows in the perfect detail.

My first impression of this over-sized building and perfectly detailed wood and stone work was that it would be a typical tourist-oriented steakhouse that serves house beer. But when I walked in the door, the first thing I smelled was mash – not wood smoke or grilled meat as expected – milled grain on the boil! That’s a promising sign for a microbrewery!

We were seated at a table near a gorgeous fireplace and under a handcrafted metal chandelier – the metal shaped into hops vines and grain. Large windows created good lighting and beautiful views of the mountain surround. The staff were courteous and attentive, not just to us, but to every detail. They kept the place tidy and ready for guests to come.

The beers were very good. Nothing blew me away, but I wasn’t disappointed by anything on our table.  Devil’s Backbone offers half-pints and several taster flight option (only 2-oz of each, though), so we opted for half-pints. We tried:

  • Wintergreen Weiss (4.7% ABV, 13 IBUs) – light, balanced and full of banana and clove aroma.
  • Eight Point IPA (5.9% ABV, 60 IBUs) – seemed like more of a Pale Ale; very light in color and on the maltier side; not a lot of hop aroma. 
  • Alpen Bock (6.9% ABV) – drinkable and smooth with a touch of roastiness and a subtle hint of butterscotch.
  • Dead Bear Imperial Stout (8.5% ABV) – full flavored brew, despite a quiet nose; ends with hints of dark chocolate and espresso.

The food was outstanding, and there were so many interesting things on the menu that we didn’t try. D had the fish and chips – the fish was prepared with a hint of chili powder prior to deep frying, and arrived in the shape of little fish “fingers”; the fries were substantial and tasty. I had a cream of spinach and bacon soup paired with a winter beet salad, made with roasted watermelon, spiced pecans and goat cheese. There were several other plates I would have liked to try, but I was working on a light appetite.

There is a wonderful description with a beautiful photo on a local blog, and I’m sure as the March 16 Grand Opening week approaches, more information on this place will come out. Certainly if you find yourself in Nelson County, VA, stopping by Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. is worthwhile (but don’t forget Blue Mountain Brewery, which is just up the road on Rt. 151 – just as Devil’s Backbone is beautifully extravagant, Blue Mountain is fabulous in it’s simplicity!)