Monday, October 19, 2009

Night of The Funk

When I first heard about this fest, a prelude to the Belgian Beer Fest sponsored by Beer Advocate (among others), I was giddy as hell. These are the types of beers that get me the most excited. To see a collection of wild/spontaneous/whatchamacallit beers from the US and around the world was something I couldn't miss. I bought two tickets months ago in hopes that my girlfriend would join me, but it looked like she couldn't as she was too busy with work (the catering business is a bitch). Fortunately, I found a good buddy who was willing to buy my ticket and help get a hotel room to share in Boston. Off we went to what looked like an amazing list of American sours. This was my first time really going to any beer fest outside of SAVOR in DC. The Bros. as Beer Advocate were responsible for it (with what looked like a hefty sponsorship of Duvel/Moortgat).
As you can hopefully see from the list, it looked like some really exciting, experimental brews from some really small craft brewers who weren't previously known for producing wild ales. What we tasted, for the most part, was quite the opposite. I don't want to be a complete Debby downer, but, we both poured out almost as much as we drank. So many of the up and coming brewers brought sours that were just above drinkable if not well below. The worst of the bunch was Ithaca's Le Bleu, an absolute abysmal conglomeration of beer, blueberries and what seemed like an overt pedioccoccus infection. It was buttery in the aroma followed by a sickly, oozy thick mouthfeel and a forgetable flavor. Aside from that, there were some other failures. Up and coming White Birch Brewery founded by a really nice guy whom I was able to converse with (and have to opportunity to try his pre-brewery beers) produced an overly phenolic, band-aid filled Belgian pale that was well above my threshold of tolerance. Even Sam Adams brought some really exciting beers like a 6 year old lambic and a Flander's style red. Both were pretty good with balanced acid, but with a strange dominating apple flavor, which I'm not sure is attributed to the use of a Calvados/apple-jack barrel, or faults in the brewing.
However, amongst the faults of the fest, both The Lost Abbey and Allagash brought their A-game. The former, the formidable Yellow Bus which is an American sour made with peaches (incredible rich, sour aroma filled with the stone fruit, sulfur, and orchard like flavors), and the latter, Vagabond, a bourbon barrel aged sour with (I believe) cherries added which was really boozy, slightly sour and fruity all at once. These were certianly the exceptions to an otherwise mediocre presence by some other big name microbreweries. The Bruery brought a couple solid brews (White Zin and a Sour Rye) along with some interesting Cisco brews (The Stoned Sour especially). But overall, it was a two sided fest with Lost Abbey and Allagash to pull the fest goers attention.
I'm trying to figure out the reason for this. Is it that many of these brewers are so new to the sour beer world that they don't know what they're doing, or unfortunately, they know their beers aren't that great by they can't afford to dump them. I'd love to see the trend of wild and sour brews expand into the micro brew scene of America, but I'd also like to see the brewers know what they're doing before they sell them. To use the common analogy of Top Chef (one of my favorite shows): if you can't stand behind your dish (beer) 100%, it's not worth serving (pouring).

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