12 September 2011

DuClaw's 4th Annual Real Ale Festival

Overall, my experience at the 2011 Real Ale Fest was not good. Actually, scratch that, I did have a good time at the fest--it was just mostly spent bashing the disappointing beers with my equally beer-savvy brother Ryan.

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We both agreed that it seemed like most of the breweries were pouring their “common denominator” beers as opposed to special brews that were unique and would generate buzz. Most of the beers were very mediocre, some were downright bad, and a few were less bad, although I don’t think either of us tasted a beer we would actually go out and spend money on. First up, the worst:

Franklin’s Belgian Saison was by far the worst beer we had.

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It tasted like a homebrewer’s attempt at brewing a beer using Tang. Awful, awful stuff.

Similarly Pub Dog’s Cherry Tart was an insult to sour beers everywhere.

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This sample hit the dirt after a single sip from each of us. Another failed homebrewer’s project.

The people from Old Dominion were extremely nice, and I had to give them praise as their Oak Barrel Stout is one of my favorites of the style, so it came as a heavy blow to find that their Dry Hopped IPA tasted like dirt.

And, as expected, both beers Stone were pouring were imbalanced hop-bombs.

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Plus, both of the guys pouring for them seemed to be drunk and were pretty belligerent. Way to be professional, guys. I felt no remorse as we dumped their samples on the ground right in front of them.

Finally, I must say that I was very disappointed that Duclaw wasn’t including their brews H.E.R.O. (a Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter that won their homebrewing contest) or eXile #2 (an Imperial Wit which they released in August) in the festival. You could order a pint at the usual cost, but I felt it was kind of a cop out that they were hosting this event and not pouring their most talked about recent releases.

In no particular order, here are some of the beers that weren’t too bad:

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Stoudt’s Fat Dog which is an Imperial Oatmeal Stout was probably my favorite beer of the day, unfortunately it was also the very first beer I tried...

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...setting high expectations which were never fulfilled.

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Duclaw’s 2010 Oak Barrel Aged Devil’s Milk, which also happened to be the very first beer to be kicked...

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...was decent with heavy oak notes and fruity bubblegum.

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Evolution Brewing’s Rise up Stout was a light-bodied drinkable coffee stout with no bitterness that plagues so many coffee beers.

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I’d be interested to see how this would fare against Schlafly’s Coffee Stout and Kona’s Pipeline Porter.

Franklin’s Sorachi Samaurai was a decent pale ale with hints of lavender, sage, orange peel, and coriander.

The Raven Special Lager is a dry-hopped lager that had an intriguing earthiness that brought to mind portobello mushrooms...

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...but not in an unpleasant way.

The food was respectable for a Beer Festival, and ultimately somewhat justified the $45 ticket price.

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Our favorites were the crab rangoons, the Euphoria braised brats, and the pumpkin pie-type dessert.

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I asked for belly and shoulder meat from the whole hogs the executive chef of DuClaw smoked for the festival and it was pretty mediocre. I guess I'm just spoiled by my own smoked pig parts. I feel I must also note that the smore they were serving was literally the worst smore I've ever tasted in my entire life.

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The graham cracker was soggy, the marshmallow was rubbery, and it appeared to be smeared with chocolate icing. An utter disgrace to smores everywhere.

And there you have it. I could think of about a thousand better ways to spend $45 on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but if nothing else I can chalk this up as life experience. Or something.


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