Savannah Craft Brew Fest – Part 3 of 3 – The International Tasting

Savannah TrolleyWelcome back to Savannah!

After two days of experiencing all that the city of Savannah had to offer and trying a large number of local craft beers, we wanted more. This fueled our excitement for the last event of the weekend: the International Craft Brew Tasting!

Because the tasting was located across the Savannah River at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa, we boarded the free Savannah Belle’s Ferry from our hotel and made our way over.

The Harbor LawnUpon our arrival at the Westin, we immediately noticed a difference between the International and Grand Tasting Events (see Part 2). Sunday’s event was being held in one of Westin’s large banquet rooms, the Harbor Ballroom, and opened up to an outside area, the Harbor Lawn. Overall, the atmosphere was substantially more chic.

Over 35 breweries from around the world were categorized into country of origin and placed along the perimeter of the Harbor Ballroom for attendees to visit. Additionally, a few breweries were located under tents outside in the Harbor Lawn area providing an escape from the popularity of the ballroom.

Craft Brew Fest SponsorsThe list of participating breweries included Rochefort (Belgium), Palma Louca (Brazil), Hitachino Nest (brewed in Japan, distributed by China), Samuel Smith (England), Pinkus (Germany), Tucher (Germany), Famosa (Guatemala), Beerlao (Laos), and Innis and Gunn (Scotland).

As if craft beer from 17 different countries wasn’t enough, the organizers of the event also created a food pairing menu which included 12 different dishes from South American, German, Asian and English kitchens.

From Crisp Empanadas with Chorizo and Chipotle Lime Dip, to Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, to Cottage Pie with Red Leicester Cheddar, there was something for the even the toughest food critic to enjoy.

Craft Brew Fest SWAGAlthough we did not purchase a ticket for the food pairing, we did chat with a few folks who were chomping on some extremely delicious looking food. They did not hesitate to give the beer and food pairing a big thumbs up!

I mentioned in the second part of the festival recap that my ultimate goal at all beer festivals is to find three beers which I’ve never had before that truly stood out to me. The International Tasting was no different!

  • Der HirschBrau/Privatbrauerei Höss: Doppel-Hirsch – A 7.2% ABV dark doppelbock with expected yet extremely well balanced caramel and roasty tastes. Hints of fruits and plums come in really making this one stand out!
  • Innis and Gunn: Rum Cask Oak Aged – Although available in the northeast, I actually never had the I&G Rum Cask prior to this festival. A 7.4% ABV Wee Heavy ale aged in, well, rum casks, with a number of “hearty, feel good tastes” like oak, vanilla, caramel and biscuit!
  • Tucher: Dunkels Hefe Weizen – This 5.35% ABV dunkelweizen was my favorite of the three as it completely messed with my brain as I was trying to interpret the tastes. The label noted hefeweizen so I was prepared for banana and citrusy notes – they were noticeable, but in addition, the beer presented with stronger tastes like caramel and even cocoa. A great experience!

One of the more unique experiences for me was the ability to try beer from very remote (at least to me) areas of the world like Kenya (Tusker, East African Breweries Ltd.) and Ethiopia (St. George Beer). Although nothing more than standard adjunct lagers, I felt like an explorer traversing the world in search for new beer as I enjoyed samples from these breweries.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous throughout the International Tasting which lead to us spending a substantial amount of time on the Harbor Lawn hanging out with other festival attendees. We met a number of people from different parts of the country as we chatted and discussed our favorite beers.

The entire experience reaffirmed the common notion that “beer people are good people”.

Freemason HouseAfter the tasting was over, we hit the Savannah streets and further explored the city! Check out some of these pictures of a few interesting landmarks that we found.

In conclusion, the three days that we spent in Savannah were extremely entertaining and exciting. We had an opportunity to try new craft beers, meet new people, and explore places we’ve never been to.

Forsyth Park MonumentThe dates for the next Savannah Craft Brew Fest have been set – August 31st through September 2nd of 2012!

There’s a good chance that you’ll find us there amongst the many in the crowd – see you in beautiful Georgia!

If you haven’t gotten the full story yet, keep scrolling or click to read Part 1 and Part 2!

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Savannah Craft Brew Fest – Part 2 of 3 – The Grand Tasting

Savannah Craft Brew FestBack to Savannah we go!

It’s difficult to recap an entire weekend long festival and do it justice in one single post. Hopefully you had a chance to read Part 1, but if you have not, I suggest you link back to the post here before continuing forward!

Upon waking up on Saturday morning, I realized and finally understood how hot Georgia could get. It was the beginning of September at 9AM in the morning and the temperature already reached 90 degrees. And it was crazy humid!

But absolutely nothing was going to stop us from today’s activity: the Craft Brew Grand Tasting!

Savannah River FerryBecause all of the weekend’s events occurred on the Hutchinson Island, we jumped on the free ferry to take us on a quick 20 minute boat ride across the Savannah River. The short ride over gave us the opportunity to scope out the river front as well as the grounds for the Craft Beer Fest from the middle of the water.

What a great opportunity for a few pictures! The views were truly spectacular. In addition to the aforementioned sights, we also had breathtaking views of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge and another chance to snap a few pictures of enormous cargo ships which are a regular sight on the river.

Festival Grounds on Hutchinson IslandWhen we arrived on Hutchinson Island, we walked around the grounds to orient ourselves with the layout of the festival. A pretty straight forward format allowed us to easily get acclimated prior to our first event at 11AM: a discussion with John Pinkerton, one of the owners and brewers at Moon River Brewery (see Part 1 of our experience at the brewery).

John Pinkerton Guest SpeakerThe hour long discussion with Pinkerton touched on various topics including Moon River History, Georgia beer politics, and how to taste new beer. Furthermore, John spent a substantial amount of time on questions from home brewers discussing beer gravity, yeast selection, and the importance of line sterilization. Being new to the concepts of brewing, it was an entertaining and very informative session.

After listening to John speak, it was time for the main event, the Grand Tasting!

As I mentioned before, the outside festival had a standard beer festival layout with a number of tents each housing six breweries of the total 48 present (click here for a list of participating brewers).

Sampling Glasses Ready for Pick-upThe random order (or what seemed to be random) of the breweries helped patrons “explore” and find new breweries they might have not tried before. For those with a previous knowledge of which beers they wanted to sample, a beautiful color printed guide showed the location of each brewery in relation to the festival grounds.

The Grand Tasting in Full SwingThe vibe at the Grand Tasting was extremely relaxed as people shuffled between breweries trying new products. A large number of breweries that I’ve had the opportunity to try before made the Fest seem more homely and local. Our friends from Weyerbacher represented the northeast very well with a sampling of Double Simcoe, Merry Monks and Blithering Idiot.

Being that it is one of my favorite breweries, I spent extra time at the Terrapin tent trying out their highly hop infused products like Big Hoppy Monster and Hopsecutioner. I even scored a sweet Terrapin t-shirt showcasing the Terrapin Hopsecutioner turtle on the back and words “Killer IPA” on the front!

We tried a substantial amount of new beers, and as with most craft beer festivals, I decided on a few that stood out to me:

  • Thomas Creek: Conduplico Immundus Monachus – A Belgian Strong Dark Ale weighing in at 10% ABV with dark fruit and roasty characteristics (I went back for a few samples of this one!)
  • Uinta: Cockeyed Cooper – Keeping in with the strong and heavy, this 11.1% Barleywine had amazing bourbon hints and was very creamy!
  • Cigar City: Cubano Espresso (Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale) – A downgrade in terms of strength, this was an extremely fun and tantalizing brown ale clocking in at 5.5% ABV. A ton of coffee flavor mixed with a light feel made this one susceptible to quickly running out!

In addition to plenty of beer to sample during the five hour long Grand Tasting, there were a number of “Beer Talks” including “The History of Women in Brewing”, a discussion with Jodi and Eddie Stoudt of Stoudt’s Brewing Company and your favorite Twitter bug, Gerad Walen (@RoadTrips4Beer), chatting about “Road Trips for Beer Made Easier”.

Anchor Brewing TentThere was plenty of delicious beer festival food like soft pretzels, french fries and chicken sandwiches. At one point, Amy from @SavCraftBrew started a tweet contest asking the first person with a pretzel necklace to tweet a picture to win some sweet swag.

Unfortunately, we did not bring a pretzel necklace – but that wasn’t going to stop us. Being the innovative and creative people that we are, we improvised. Our winning entry consisted of a long soft pretzel bought at the vendor stand attached to plastic beads we found at the Abita tent! Creativity = A+!

Grand Tasting EventOverall, the Grand Tasting was a fantastic American Craft Beer festival that showcased 48 different breweries from different parts of the country. Being that the northeast has limited distribution of southern breweries, I was extremely happy to sample the likes of RJ Rockers, Duck Rabbit and the three “winners” I noted above.

Fearing a backlash of ferry demand towards the end of the festival, we hightailed away from the plethora of beer about an hour early to find ourselves on a practically empty ferry heading back to our hotel. What a fun filled and successful craft beer day!

Come back tomorrow for Part 3: the International Craft Brew Tasting or keep scrolling or click for Part 1 if you haven’t read it!

Savannah Craft Brew Fest – Part 1 of 3 – The Arrival

River StreetMy girlfriend always told me that Savannah Georgia was the best place she’s ever called home. Her words painted it as an old southern style, river hugged city lavished in beauty and history.

Always describing Savannah-ites as overly friendly and unaware of the hustle and bustle of a northeastern lifestyle we are accustomed to, she warned me that unless I want to engage in a 20 minute conversation, I should stick to “Hello” as my greeting instead of my typical go-to “How’re you?”.

And right she was — but man, did I welcome it. The people in the south are incredibly welcoming and instantly willing to engage you in a conversation. From shop keepers to random folk on a walk, I think I almost grew tired of talking (a hard concept for me to fathom).

Savannah River and TP BridgeSavannah, Georgia is a 75 square mile town nestled under the armpit of the Savannah River. It would take an entire book to describe the town with a recorded history stemming back to the 1700’s. If you’re really interested in what the town has to offer, check out savannahvisit.com and follow @VisitSavannah for a ton of information.

Our trip to Savannah was two fold: 1) surprise my girlfriend with a trip to a city where she spent a number of years studying at SCAD and 2) the annual Savannah Craft Brew Festival happening during Labor Day weekend!

I gathered all of my information from Amy, the brains behind @SAVCraftBrew. She was so welcoming and informative that I felt as if I was going to visit an old friend.

Prior to the event, I even scored a limited edition Craft Brew Festival t-shirt from 2010 through a Twitter retweet contest. What a start to the trip – all before we even took off!

The organizers had various events planned for the festival including:

  • A craft beer dinner on Friday the 2nd
  • An American craft beer tasting on Saturday the 3rd
  • An International craft beer tasting on Sunday the 4th

Moon River Brewery TapsWe arrived in Savannah in the middle of the day on Friday and quickly began the town and craft beer exploration. After we downed an enormous plate of fresh seafood and grabbed two Fat Tires to go, we traveled the streets to our first craft beer stop: Moon River Brewery!

Moon River Brewery is a well known local brewpub located on West Bay Street and is run by brewmaster John Pinkerton. The pub brews all of their beers on the premises and features a weekly casked augmented version of one of their flagships.

Knowing that we wanted to try all the beers that Moon River had to offer, we ordered a flight and utilized our crazy yet logical scoring system to decide the winner!

Crazy Scoring System at Moon RiverBeing the hophead that I am, my favorites were the Swamp Fox IPA and Rosemary IPA brewed with rosemary spice. In addition to their own brews, Moon River also featured local beers from Terrapin and Red Brick. I had a pint of the Red Brick Brown Ale which to this day is my favorite Brown Ale.

Because we were not in the mood for the showcased beer dinner event at night, we ultimately landed at The Distillery on West Liberty Street. This place is a craft heads dream! I highly recommend it if you’re ever in town.

The Distillery Craft Beer MenuThe walls are filled with signs and logos of the beers that likely fill many of our refrigerators. That night, the bar was holding their 2nd Annual “Night of the Beer eek” which featured the infamous Dogfish Head Randall.

Unfortunately for the patrons, the DFH representative never quite got it to work and the Randall had to be quickly decommissioned. We did get a very small sample of the DFH Theobrama infused with chilli chips – awesome concept and unique taste, although not overwhelming or extremely memorable.

Founder Kentucky Breakfast StoutOh, and Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout was being tapped 30 minutes after our arrival. Patiently waiting until the 6pm tap time, I nursed a forgettable IPA.

Upon entering the bar, I requested a KBS and was pleasantly surprised when the bartender brought it over immediately when it was tapped.

What an epic beer. I can’t do it justice with words – this is one you need to go out and find.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Savannah CatacombsOn our way back to the hotel, we stopped by a fireworks show and got to see some of Savannah’s ancient back streets. All in all, it was a pleasant opening day to a phenomenal weekend!

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2: The American Craft Beer Grand Tasting!

Recent Pick-Ups from Roge and Blue Point Breweries

Rogue Brown Nectar and RastafaRye Ale

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar and RastafaRye Ale - Recent Additions!

Another trip to the store, another two new bombers picked up!

This week I had the opportunity to grab two beers that I’ve been seeing on store shelves for some time.

The Hazelnut Brown Nectar comes from Rogue (@RogueAles) in Ashland, Oregon and the RastafaRye Ale from Blue Point Brewing Company (@BluePointBrewer) in Long Island, NY.

The two selections fall in line with some of my recent craft selections and sampling preferences. As you probably gauged from my previous blog posts, I’ve been on a crazy stout kick enjoying products like North Coast’s Old Rassputin (check out this blog post).

To expand my palette more, I’ve decided to move a bit more left of the beer spectrum and try out a few brown ales. While in Savannah, GA a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to try the Brown Ale by Red Brick Brewing Company (@RedBrickBrewing) in Atlanta, GA. The beer surprised me as I’ve never been a huge fan of brown ales.

Usually, I find brown ales malty and difficult to stomach – but Red Brick was different. Though boasting big malt flavor, the spices and sweetness balanced this craft beer out making it very easy to drink.

In addition to partaking in brown ale sampling, I love to sample beer with “different” and distinctive flavors. Although not always unique to the brewing process, for me hazelnut fits into that category.

Being a huge pistachio enthusiast – I’m still waiting for a solid pistachio stout (hoping that Peter from @SimplyBeer sees this post!) – until then Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar will have to do. Hoping it’s a great selection!

Despite my kick for dark and heavy beers, I did want to move even further away from my Rogue selection. Rye Ales and Rye IPAs, pale ales and IPAs brewed with a partial substitution of barely with rye, were introduced to me when I first had the Rye Squared Imperial Pale Ale by Terrapin Beer Company (@TerrapinBeerCo) from Anthens, GA (a fantastically fruity and hoppy pale ale with a taste of “something” else, hint: rye).

The RastafaRye Ale is 7.5% deep-copper rye ale that, according to the Blue Point website, contains just the right amount of rye to offset the floral and bitter characteristics of the hops. Also noted on the website is:

The Blue Point Brewing Company donates a portion of all RastafaRye Ale sales to They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) a Taj Weekes charity foundation that helps orphaned and underprivileged children in the Caribbean and around the world: www.theyoftencryoutreach.org.

I’m not sure why, perhaps it was his overwhelming passion for rye ales in the past month, but I seem to frequently attribute the style to a fellow New Jersey Craft Beer reporter, Os (@NJBeerNerd). Typically, I pick up a Rye Ale and think “Would Os like this?”.

Again, I’m not sure why I seem to think of him – but I’m going to save this one to share with Os. Hoping he likes it.

So there you have it! Two different sides of the spectrum and both craft beers look very promising. Looking forward to sampling these recent pickups!

How different was your most recent craft beer pickup?

Something New is Brewing in New Jersey! Check out @BrewTurtle!

Turtle Stone LogoIf television is any indication of the popularity of any certain location, New Jersey sure is winning. Many TV shows have placed our “little” state on the map (some with more negative connotations than positive support) and future shows (like FX’s Untitled Jersey City Project) will continue to do so.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m proud to call this state home.

The craft beer scene in New Jersey is no different – it’s winning. With close to 20 recognized breweries and many more in the making, the state is expanding its reach all over the country with a number of local breweries (like Flying Fish) being distributed in other states.

So if 20 instances of a good thing are great, why not add one more? You will get no complaints from me.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the founder of Turtle Stone Brewing, Ben Battiata from Vineland, NJ. Ultimately, our conversation became an article that I wrote for newjerseycraftbeer.com.

Click here to read about this new local brewery opening its doors in late 2011!

You can also follow the Turtle Stone story on their blog at http://turtlestonebrewing.blogspot.com.

A Little Ode to the Man Behind the Biggest Apple in the World

Steve Jobs In Your Face!Very seldom, I like to use this soapbox for something other than discussing beer. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 was one of those things; another such event happened tonight.

Today, at the young age of 56, the world’s most famous tech geek passed away. I’m sure there are already hundreds of people writing articles and blog posts about Steve Jobs. And 99% of them will be better than mine.

But for some unknown reason, I feel compelled to write.

Tons of thoughts are swirling in mind and I have a feeling that no matter how many times I edit this post, I will never quite get it right. Yet I feel the need to write about Steve Jobs.

When I first heard that Steve Jobs passed away, I was immediately saddened. I wasn’t sure why. He wasn’t a family member or a friend. I never met him. I wasn’t close to him but I was sad.

I even remember over the years hearing tough to swallow things about Jobs – things like he was a hardass, prone to fits of rage, an instant yeller, and someone whose mind could never be changed. Despite remembering all of these things, I was still sad.

Various iPodsThen I started thinking about what Steve Jobs meant to a substantial portion of the human race (feels weird to write that). He was an innovator and an artist that touched billions of people throughout the world. How often can you say that about a single human being?

His products were creative, smart, fun and always kept the end-user in mind. They revolutionized how people interacted with machines and gave birth to GUIs that could be used by both a baby and an 80-year old geriatric.

The products that he created resonate throughout our society and personal lives. Between the six of us, my immediate family members and I own:

  • 5 iPhones
  • 5 iPods
  • 4 iPads
  • 2 MacBooks

That’s a total of 16 Apple products – guess what was a distant second with three? Sony: two TVs and a Playstation. Wow.

This is the reach of Steve Jobs – his unique combination of product creativity and business intelligence turned Apple into a $300B+ company rivaling the GDP of most countries (Apple Nation). In a ten year span, Apple stock rose from trading at $8 to over $370 per share. This happened in 10 years!

MacWorld 1984 - Steve JobsTo me, this was the coolest thing about Steve Jobs – his ability to relate to everyone. Hipsters and techies loved him – who else unveiled the next multimillion dollar product in jeans and sneakers? Investors and bankers loved him – he turned a company that was barely surviving to the giant it is today.

I’m curious where Apple goes from here. I wonder how the company is going to react and if there will be a somber mood in the air at all Apple stores tomorrow.

Regardless of what happens, I know he will be missed by many. And I’m very happy to have lived in the Steve Jobs era – an era that I’m sure my kids will some day learn about.

Be good Steve! Thanks for everything.

Picture Courtesy of apple.com

Picture Courtesy of apple.com - Edited by Z

Founders CBS Acquired – What More Can You Say?

Founders Canadian Breakfast StoutYup! You read it right. I am now the proud owner of a bottle of CBS – one of the lucky few in NYC.

I was debating exactly what to write in this post, but I can’t settle on anything thoughtful. I was going to share exact details of how I came to acquire this very sought after craft beer, but I don’t want to bore you with lengthy details.

A quick recap for those that are curious: after some online research, a couple of phone calls, an attempted bribe or two, and two visits to Whole Foods by my amazing little sister who completely supports my craft beer hobby, I am now in possession of this sweet, sweet nectar.

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout - One Tall DudeWhat’s funny is that since I’m away from NJ until Thursday, I have not yet held the actual bottle – I just know that it’s patiently waiting for me at home. Here’s to family members – people you can always rely on.

When Magda sent me these pictures of the bottle, I felt like a 60s kid at Christmas who just got a wooden horse. After all, kids now are brats and nothing is good enough – but man, a wooden horse in 60s, now that was a present worth getting excited about.

People in the craft beer community have been chatting about what they should do with their bottles of CBS – drink them or age them. Being that this is a special beer for me, it’s going right into the back of the aging fridge to hang for a few months.

I already have an idea of the special occasion when I’d like to open it — but that incredible day won’t come until next year!

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout

What’s your take on CBS and the buzz it has created?