Mr. X Does American Craft Beer Fest, Part I

ACBF 2011 was well worth the price of admission. Oh wait, I had a free media pass.

When I decided to attend my first ever American Craft Beer Fest, I half expected it to be a total shit show. You know, waiting in line for an hour for a beer, and then bumping into the crowds of people as you try to make your way from brewer to brewer. But this weekend’s ACBF far outpaced my expectations. So much so that I had to break my wrap-up of my Saturday night into two separate posts. There was just too much for a single entry.

I went to the last of ACBF’s 3 sessions, on Saturday night. I got there right before it started, which was good, because I got to sample a lot of great beer before the lines built up.

Rather than bore you with my more juvenile observations, I’m going to get straight to the beer (OK, there will be a few juvenile observations, too). I’ll give a quick recap of each beer I tried.

Remember, I’m no beer connoisseur. I just know what I like, and what I don’t like. So if you’re looking for a detailed description of how hoppy each beer was, or whether it had a hint of floral aroma, you’re in the wrong place. Anyway, here goes. I’ll post Part II tomorrow:

As soon as I walk in, the first booth I see is for Butternuts. That’s a bad sign. I can’t stand that stuff. And that’s saying something, because I love canned beer. Needless to say, I didn’t stop there.

I also saw the Widmer Bros. stand. I considered stopping by, because The Beer Drinker had told Rob Widmer I’d say hello. But I didn’t see Rob behind the table.

Then I saw it — Brooklyn!!! They had their East India and Summer and two Brewmaster’s Reserve beers — The Concoction and Main Engine Start. I went for the Main Engine Start. It was a bit too wheaty for me, and just a little too fancy. Not really my thing.

I passed on Magic Hat, because their selections were a bit uninspiring. Circus Boy, Wacko and Blind Faith IPA. All good beers, but I nothing I hadn’t tried before.

Next up was Gritty McDuff’s Frosty Knuckle, a German Style Alt. That was much better, and had some real kick to it.

I also tried some Geary’s barrel aged cask ale, the first cask ale I’d ever sampled. It was warm, which I wasn’t ready for. I mean, what are we, in Ireland? I’m not sure I get the growing cask beer trend. I’ll have to get my buddy JT from Smuttynose to show me the ways of the cask.

Next, I strolled over to the Dogfish Head table. I almost started running when I saw it, like when you see a loved one you haven’t seen in a long time at the airport. There was a huge line — the biggest I’d seen to this point — but that didn’t stop me. I tried their Worldwide Stout, which was some serious shit. I mean, it had people who tried it gasping for air afterward, and letting out a whispered “Wow.” It tasted a bit like chewing on coffee beans, which in my book is fantastic. It also would be the strongest beer I tried all day, at 18 percent alcohol. Good thing I only had 2 ounces (as required by Massachusetts law), or I might’ve been in trouble.

Then I saw a booth that had nothing but canned beers set up. They had a tough location, seeing as they were right next to Dogfish Head. There was literally no line. It was for Anderson Valley Brewing in California. I tried something called the Summer Solstice, which was fantastic. Excuse me while I act like a fancy beer blogger — it had a slight caramel flavor. It was really good. Sweet, but it didn’t overpower the beer. At first I thought it might have been some leftover coffee flavor from the Worldwide Stout, so I went back and asked Charlie Carson, their Eastern Region Manager. I was right, he said, it’s definitely got some caramel in it. He also said the beer is available in Boston, so I’m going to have to pick some up.

Narragansett also had a booth set up, which was great, but I wasn’t wasting my time at a craft beer fest drinking Gansett. I’ll save that for last call at a dive bar, when I’m looking to save a few bucks. I mean, let’s be honest — Gansett is good competition for PBR, but it’s not great beer.

Next up, I decided to try some Peak Organic. I went with their Summer, both because I had never tried it before, and because I was drinking all stouts and IPAs and was worried I was going to be face down in the middle of the exhibition hall before long if I didn’t slow down. It was a bit too grapefruity, which is the same reason I’m not a huge fan of Brooklyn Summer or Gansett Summer. What is it with all this grapefruit flavoring in summer beers? Do people eat more grapefruit in the summer?

Mr. X is a contributor to the Beer Drinking Report. Stay tuned for Part II of his recap of the American Craft Beer Fest, coming tomorrow.