BeerAdvocate’s Return of the Belgian Beer Fest!

Been sitting around wondering how it would be possible to spend 4 hours sampling a ridiculous amount of Belgian and Belgian-inspired beers?

Of course you have!

Here is the answer to your quandry: BeerAdvocate‘s Return of the Belgian Beer Fest Sept 26 & 27!

From the BA email blast–

The Belgian Beer Fest, Returns!
Save these dates for “The Return of the Belgian Beer Fest!” in Boston, MA.

Fri, Sep 26 = Night of the Funk
50+ handpicked funk-a-licious beers, plus guest speakers and delicious food. $50 per person; all inclusive. Limited to ~600 tickets.

Sat, Sep 27 = Sessions One & Two
100+ beers from here and there, guest speaker panels, and two sessions. $40 per session; includes tastings and education. Limited to 1,000 tickets per session.

Tickets are on-sale now and are going fast! We don’t expect tickets to be available online by the end of August.

BBF will be a great chance to meet-up with other BeerAdvocates in the flesh as our fests welcome thousands of attendees, many of whom are BAs. So we hope to see you there!

Held at The Cyclorama at The Boston Center for the Arts on September 26 & 27, 2008 and is proudly supported by Duvel Moortgat and Boston’s Weekly Dig.

To buy tickets and for more info:

Respect Beer.

Jason & Todd Alström

BA fests always rock and more importantly always sellout at the Cyclorama. So get your tickets soon.

I’ll be volunteering at the Friday & Saturday night sessions. Come by say “hi” and remind me to update my blog more often.

Prost! -John


A Word Of Note To NERAX Attendees

     If you are planning to hit any of the remaining nights of NERAX at the Dilboy VFW in Davis Sq.  I highly reccomend getting there atleast 20 minutes before the door opens especially if you don’t already have tickets. Advance/Will Call ticket holders go to the head of line –which makes sense, that’s why you bought the tickets early, right?– and once the Dilboy reaches capacity they cut off the line until people leave and they can let folks in.

     That’s what happened to me. I got in line a bit late and I was about a dozen people from the door when they hit capacity and that was at the very beginning. I decided since there was a good chance I’d be waiting quite a while before I got in I decided to call it a night and head home. I needed to make it an early night anyway and having to wait that much longer would have shrunk the time I had in the event to an hour if I was lucky.

     Now, unfortunately my schedule doesn’t allow me the chance to get back there while it’s on, but that shouldn’t stop you! NERAX is a great event and a great cause that needs the support.

     If you are going I found this gem of info on the NERAX website this morning:

          “Line Status Hot Line

           If you want to check to see the status of the line to get into the hall after a session starts, please call (207) 615-9660. This number will only be monitored during the session, so please do not call outside of the festival hours, listed below. “

Session Times and Festival Admission Prices
     Thursday (5/1) 6:00 – 10:30 p.m. $15
     Friday (5/2) 6:00 – 10:30 p.m. $15
     Saturday (5/3) 12:00 – 7:00 p.m. $5

Cash Bar Prices
     Imperial Pint (20 oz) $5.00
     Half Pint (10 oz) $2.50
     Quarter Pint (5 oz) $1.50

     So there it is. I hope if you have the time you do go. A friend who was smart enough to buy an advance ticket for last night said there were some amazing beers.


The New England Real Ale Exhibition –NERAX– In Davis Sq, Somerville

If you are in the Boston area over the next four days and just can’t get enough of cask conditioned ale –also known as real ale– get yourself over to NERAX, The New England Real Ale Exhibition, at the Dilboy VFW Post in Davis Square Somerville where you will be able to sample some of the best real ale from all over the US & UK.

Tickets and entry are first come first serve so don’t be surprised if there’s a line and a bit of a wait depending when you get there. It will definitely be worth your while given the quality and rarity of the beers on offer.

Session Times and Festival Admission Prices
     Wednesday (4/30) 6:00 – 10:30 p.m. $10
     Thursday (5/1) 6:00 – 10:30 p.m. $15
     Friday (5/2) 6:00 – 10:30 p.m. $15
     Saturday (5/3) 12:00 – 7:00 p.m. $5

Cash Bar Prices
     Imperial Pint (20 oz) $5.00
     Half Pint (10 oz) $2.50
     Quarter Pint (5 oz) $1.50

If you’ve never been the way it works is you pay the day of admission at the door, get your glass, and then you pay per pour. From my experience stick with the Half Pint pours. It’s a good amount in case you don’t like an offering that much (though truthfully I’ve never had a bad beer there) and for some pourers it’s tough to catch the 10 oz cut off line marked on your glass so you usually end up with closer to 12 oz. Not bad for $2.50.

Bring your wallet and hit the ATM before you get there as it’s cash only and they’ve got some nifty T-shirts and beer related gear for sale on top of all the great beer. Plus Redbones provides BBQ sandwiches.

How can you say no to that?

Hopefully I’ll be able to post some notes of what I sampled by tomorrow afternoon.

Cheers! -John

Very Belated Extreme Beer Fest 2008 Notes

"My favorite? Traquair Jacobite. Very tasty scotch ale." Repeat every 5 minutes.

"My favorite? Traquair Jacobite. Very tasty scotch ale." Repeat every 5 minutes.

Way back on Feb 15th & 16th I volunteered to work at The Beer Advocate‘s (BA) 5th annual Extreme Beer Fest (EBF), which was an amazing event as all the BA events are. Below is a collection of notes (mostly from memory) about some of the magnificent beers that I got to sample. Sample is the key word for the most part. We’re talking 2oz. pours so you get an idea of what a beer is like, but not necessarily a complete picture.

The EBF isn’t just about high alcohol content or super hopped brews. It’s more about ‘extreme’ in the sense of pushing boundaries of craft brewing be it by aging in a variety of barrels from new oak to used bourbon to used Tabasco sauce barrels or by using non-traditional ingredients or by simply doing things with beer that hasn’t been done before or even reviving centuries old recipes nearly lost to time. The results were sometimes good sometimes bad, but always different. I’m only giving brief notes on the beers I actually had. There were well over 100 beers between the two days and I hit only a fraction.

Friday- 2/15/08: Night Of The Barrels (NOTB)
Every beer offered on Friday night was, as the name would imply, either aged in barrels or some other sort of wooden vessel. The good thing was all the brews I sampled were fantastic. The bad thing was that most of the beers featured were one offs or small batches that you were almost never going to find out in the real world except on tap at the breweries themselves.

Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien (15.5%)- BFM Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes, SWI
I hadn’t ever run across a “Bière de Garde” before so I have no idea if they are all like this, but if they are, I’m on board. Sour and fruity, but not too much of either. There was a slight yeast flavor from the bottle fermentation. Something between a beer and a wine.

Braggot (6%)- Magic Hat Brewing Co., VT
This old school (circa 1300 AD) mead/beer concoction was a nice break from the routine. Crisp, dry floral finish. Chamomile? Like the love child of Sleepy Time Tea and a bottle of mead. I wish I could get regular access to this. May have to make a trip to the brewery for a bottle.

Oak-Aged Bender (5.1%)- Surly Brewing Co., MN
Brown ale aged in new oak barrels. Had a weird almost burnt rubber aftertaste. Heard a lot people saying that the regular bender was far better.

Scaldis [a/k/a: Bush Ambrée] (12%)- Brasserie Dubuisson Frères sprl, BEL
Quadrupel. Says right on the label “Strong Belgian Ale” which is exactly what it tasted like. Belgian body with a lot of front end alcohol spice. Not bad, but one of these small 8.5oz bottles would do it for me.

Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale (8.4%)- Stone Brewing Co., CA
Stone took their 070707 VE offering, a Belgian strong ale, and aged it in used oak Syrah/Shiraz barrels. Never had the original, but man this stuff was nice and smooth. Crisp, dry finish that was a bit wine like. A very nice diversion given the thickness and/or cloying nature of many of the NOTB brews.

Traquair House Ale (7.2%) & Traquair Jacobite (8%)- Traquair House Brewery Lld, UK/SCOT
These are both Scotch ale/Wee heavy styles. The Jacobite is very similar to the House Ale, but is spiced with coriander. Both were good but the Jacobite was my favorite with its sturdier malt backbone and touch of spice.

Utopias- Cacao Aged (26%)- Boston Beer Co., MA
Yes, that’s right as if Utopias wasn’t rare enough the Sam Adams gang took some of the ’07 batch of Utopias and aged it on cacao especially for EBF. Strong stuff that I was lucky enough to get a hold of. I heard a lot of people comparing it to bourbon or scotch which on one hand I can see, but really given its thickness and taste it’s more like a sherry/port wine hybrid. Very rich. Very sweet. Some chocolate. A lot of dried fruit: raisins & prunes more than anything. And of course alcohol. Good, but you have to be prepared for Utopias to not taste anything like beer. Think of a port wine’s mouthfeel and consistency before you take a sip and you will be ok.

Saturday- 2/16/08: EBF main event
2 sessions. Both sold out @ 1000 tickets each. Lots of people and lots of beers. Some beers were leftover from NOTB, but most were completely different and there were twice as many brewers.

Allagash Black (7.50%)- Allagash Brewing Co., ME
I only had two samples of this dark Belgian and it reminded me more of a stout than a Belgian. Regardless it was good and I’m now on a search for a bottle.

Blasphemy (11.8%)- Weyerbacher Brewing Co., PA
Bourbon barrel aged version of their QUAD. Sweet Jeebus this was tasty. Mildly sweet vanilla flavors pop up in an already good quadrupel. I managed to snag a 12oz bottle of this which is now sitting in the cellar waiting. Waiting!

Bourbon Ten Fidy (10%)- Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery, CO
I hate to admit it, but I like the bourbon barrel aged Ten Fidy because it takes the edges off the bitterness of the original. The original is good, but bourbon aged is way better.

Coffee Bender (5.1%)- Surly Brewing Co., MN
I know there are a slew of coffee/beer bastard brews out there, but this one is actually pretty damn tasty. Better than the Oaked Bender. Damn shame I can’t find Surly in Boston.

Dark Lord Imperial Stout (13%)- Three Floyds Brewing Co., IN
There was a ridiculous amount of hoopla around this beer. Dark Lord is one of those ‘holy grail’ beers for beer geeks. There’s such high demand for it and such small quantities brewed that bottles often sell on eBay for over $100 for a 22oz bomber. So people were forced to get in line and wait until a specific half hour pouring window. However, the brewery held back enough to pour plenty for all the volunteers afterwards. It’s a damn good imperial stout, but I think it might be a little over hyped. Sure it would be nice to lay hands on it in Boston, but I can’t so instead of blowing money on a black market bottle or plane tickets to Indiana I guess I’ll just have to suffer through a glass of Smuttynose Baltic Porter or Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. Oh, what a terrible life.

Red Poppy Ale (5.5%)- Port Brewing Co./The Lost Abbey, CA
Another sour cherry offering that I found very tasty and sippable. Good luck finding it on the east coast was what all the other BA volunteers told me when I asked. Drag. I filled an empty water bottle and enjoyed it as a wind down for the next two nights. Then I cried silently when it was gone.

Om (9.5%)- Strong Ale- Cambridge Brewing Co., MA
I can’t even begin to tell you about the sonic therapy that went into this oak aged Belgian style brew. Check their website under the seasonal brews. Regardless of the process the result was beautifully subtle ale that I’m glad I have access to given that CBC doesn’t bottle and this is a very limited release.

Sunday Brunch- 2/17/08: Hair of the Dog brunch @ Redbones BBQ.
This was mostly just for fest staff as a thank you to us from the Alströms.

Aventinus (8%)- Schneider-Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn GmbH, GER
I’d heard plenty about this weizenbock, but hadn’t had the opportunity to have a go at it. It’s funny that after all the great stuff I had over the preceding 48 hours this was the one that made me fall in love with beer again. A big rich beer, that wasn’t too in your face. Wheaty, meaty, and so drinkable.

Black Albert (13%)- De Struise Brouwers, BEL
Yet another ‘holy grail’ brew that is brewed in Belgium, but only available at Ebenezer’s Pub in Maine of all places. They bottled a special batch of 3 magnum-sized bottles back in 2007 for a few special people. The owners of Ebenezer’s decided to bestow a bottle upon the Beer Advocate’s own Alström Brothers. In turn the brothers shared it with the volunteer staff at the after brunch. Very very tasty. Rich and silky smooth; it’s as good as an imperial stout can get. truly great stuff I’m lucky to have had. Unfortunately, this means when the weather clears a bit there must a road trip to the middle of nowhere Maine to try and get more.

Three Philosophers (9.8%)- Brewery Ommegang, NY
Can’t go wrong with Ommegang. This quad was nice way to start brunch. Smooth, full bodied, and delicious. Even better that the bartender spaced on the 10oz snifter it’s supposed to come in and poured me a pint.