I know this is well over due, but sometimes the joys of working get in the way of the joys of life. Plus it gives everyone time to get their feet under them (if they can stand) and opens the mind to joyful memories from days gone past. This year was the 17thedition of the annual beer festival held in Athens, GA in early spring. The festival is always boasting many of beers from craft breweries around the world. Many of the breweries in the southeast and some that have distribution here will even supply a few kegs for draft sampling. This is has always been my favorite area of the festival. Well besides the socializing.
Last year we were in pretty bad shape after wards, though not in the same kind of shape as the two guys here. Granted the previous day’s festivities took a tougher toll than last year (I blame it all on Terrapin’s Anniversary Carnival), every effort was made to enjoy as many beers as we wanted to that we don’t get on a regular basis. Thankfully we sampled a lot and don’t feel like we missed anything, most of the time, the wife and I spent talking with the Athens beer circle. We even ran into some non-local beer people, like Wayne Baxter who’s opening Monkey Wrench Brewing in the suburbs of Atlanta. We finally met Twitter beer buddy Ian, who lives two miles from us, two long miles apparently. He was pouring for Unibroue, so Sarah and our buddy Kathleen had to visit for some tastes. We kept running into all of our buddies from Leon Farmer and Co. Whether it was Pine, Cloudy or Leon himself, we made time to chat. Ort as always seemed to be everywhere, wholeheartedly.
Some would think how could a beer festival not get old after 17 years? This year was the first for having a separate cask ale pavilion which provided around 15 different casks from almost as many breweries. Most were one-off creations and ranged from beer to good to amazing, I want more but it’ll never be duplicated. What made it even more enjoyable and engaging was people were allowed to vote on their favorite cask. One thing that is a love/hate for many is that Owen Ogletree doesn’t release the actual beer list until Friday night before the festival. One it keeps you eager to what will be there. While some may think, “Well if I knew what was pouring, I’d go.” I’m gonna go ahead and say there will be plenty for you to enjoy, regardless. For those of you that roll with the latter statement and don’t think to check back, here’s the cask list.
- COPPER CREEK BIG RICHARD – DOUBLE IPA W/ OVER ONE LB. OF HOPS IN TEN GALLONS
- EAGLE & LION BRASS MONKEY MILD ALE
- HEAVY SEAS / O’DEMPSEY’S PEG LEG STOUT W/ CRANBERRIES & COCOA NIBS MANZANO PEPPERS, VANILLA & CHOCOLATE NIBS
- HIGHLAND GAELIC ALE WITH WARRIOR DRY-HOPS
- JAILHOUSE SAISON REPRIEVE W/ KAFFIR LIME LEAVES
- LAZY MAGNOLIA BONNIE BLUE BOMB – SO. PECAN W/ BLUEBERRIES, COCONUT, LEMON & CINNAMON – SECOND PLACE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD
- MAX LAGER’S IMPERIAL MOCHA OATMEAL STOUT ON DARK ROAST COFFEE & GHANA COCOA NIBS – THIRD PLACE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD
- MOON RIVER SWAMP FOX IPA
- PEAK ORGANIC OAK AGED MOCHA STOUT
- RED BRICK SPRING HOP IPA
- RED HARE WATERSHIP BROWN W/ MAPLE SYRUP & VANILLA
- SWEETWATER HOPPY BROWN PORTER – IPA, EXODUS PORTER & GA. BROWN W/ CENTENNIAL HOPS
- TERRAPIN 10TH ANNIVERSARY ALE
- THOMAS CREEK RIVER FALLS RED ALE CASK – IRISH-STYLE RED ALE ON TOASTED OAK CHIPS & DRY-HOPPED WITH SORACHI ACE
- TWAIN’S SUPER STARBURST MAD GUAVA PEACHY PALE ALE
- WRECKING BAR SLAP-YO-MAMA SMOKED PORTER W/ TAHITIAN VANILLA BEANS – FIRST PLACE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD
- WRECKING BAR HOPPY HOBBIT SESSION IPA – 3.8% ABV BUT LOADED WITH MALT & HOP COMPLEXITY
I must say that Sarah and I, along with others voted for the Jailhouse Saison with Kaffir Leaves. We were hoping it would win, as it was fantastic. Sarah really liked the Twain’s Starburst guava peach pale ale. So much she might have had 3 pours. The Moon River Swamp Fox IPA is always good, though I prefer the rosemary cask version. I also dug the Copper Creek Big Richard DIPA. I’m going to have to suggest a version for Athens only brewpub, as it was worthy of seeing a regular tap placement there. Here are my other favorites of brew fest.
- Eagle & Lion mild ale – really enjoyable, even for a true real ale. Glad to see the state brewpub law has been changed and we’ll see casks around town soon.
- Peak Organic oak aged mocha stout – nice roast notes with that hint of oak. Wish we’d see some bottles of this.
- Rogue Good Chit imperial pilsner – my first sampling of this. Always nice to have big & light in the same bottle.
- Twain’s Tropicalia IPA – if the name doesn’t give it away, big tropic fruit notes from the hops. We could see these guys in Athens soon if they start distribution under the new laws.
- Twain’s Hell for Society Stout
- O’Dempsey’s Your Black Heart RIS – I’m just starting to see these bottles around Athens so I’ll have to grab some. Another new GA beer!
- Moon River Wild Wacky Wit
- Monk’s Mead – yep, it’s mead and not beer. But they are brewing out of Terrapin, so it’s local and it’s good.
- Heavy Sea’s Plank II doppelbock – aged on Poplar wood I believe and it’s as intriguing as you can imagine.
- Southern Tier Pumking – what can you say? It’s Pumking in April.
The day didn’t end after brew fest though. I had a great conversation with Leon walking what seemed like up a mountain to Trappeze Pub. We talked about beer, the industry and even Georgia football. Hey it’s Athens, fall isn’t the only time we talk about football, plus the spring game was the day before. When we arrived at Trappeze we were greeted by Kathleen saving us a huge table with a bunch of others. This was the first time I had a burger here and I’m ashamed to say that. They had a cask of Terrapin’s new session ale Easy Rider. It kicked quick at Terrapin the day before, but I grabbed a pour at CCBF. But I must say, the cask version was awesome. It poured a nice straw color with a thick haze and drank even better than it poured. Brian had made his way in later and was chatting with Spike when he grabbed this photo.
We made it home and quickly climbed in bed but it wasn’t as near as late as last year’s brew fest. We had an even better time this year than last and didn’t over indulge. It might have been because Sachin wasn’t feeding us salt beer like last year, though I missed hanging out with him at Trappeze. I did see him at CCBF and he had kind words to say about me winning a gold medal in the Peach State Brew Off in 10-A, American Pale Ale. Oh, I haven’t mentioned that yet? The medal should be in the mail today finally.
Cheers to Owen, Kerry, Brian, The Foundry and all volunteers. We’ll drink to you!