World Beer Festival – Raleigh 2013

This won’t be an organized collection of thoughts.

I went to the World Beer Festival put on by All About Beer magazine in Raleigh, NC a couple of weeks ago.  It took a lot to get me to go – it was a very expensive trip, and the drive (one-way) was twice as long as the festival itself.

I’ll say it was an experience. It wasn’t awesome, but it wasn’t terrible either.  Overall, however, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to carry out my mission at a festival of craft beer: talking to brewers and brewery representatives.  I spoke to just a few.  The big guys weren’t really there – New Belgium was so damn busy they were just slinging beer and moving the line.  Same for Mother Earth Brewing, Oskar Blues, and Sierra Nevada.  When I finally discovered that Dogfish Head was there (booth 42), the fest was nearly over and they were out of beer.  One person was at the table packing it up and didn’t seem like a conversationalist.

Pabst Blue Ribbon had a huge booth to sling PBR and sell anything from hats to PBR pajamas.  No kidding.2013-04-13 12.56.14

Most of the booths were staffed with volunteers.  While I don’t mind volunteers (it’s time-consuming and thankless work), it would have been nice to have knowledgeable folks at each booth (preferably from the brewery) to talk to about their beer.

I will say that Sierra Nevada was an exception – they had someone (a fantastic-looking woman) out front to plug their new North Carolina location and how they’re doing it all green and sustainable and tending to the needs of outdoorsy people.  Apparently you’ll be able to visit the new location via kayak.

I got to taste a lot of local-ish beers since they had a North Carolina brewer’s tent.  I knew I’d find a lot there I hadn’t had before since most of them don’t distribute in Georgia.  One memorable brewery was Raleigh Brewing, a downtown production brewery that has an on-site homebrew store.  Their head brewer, John Federal, gave a talk about starting a brewery:2013-04-13 15.19.51_halfsize

I approached him after the talk and told him I loved his House of Clay Rye IPA (one of his own creations).  We spoke briefly about starting a brewpub – something my drinking club is mulling over – and he wished me the best of luck.  It was by far the best interaction with a brewery that I had at the entire festival.  I went back to Raleigh Brewing’s booth and bought that same red shirt you see Mr. Federal wearing above.

I remember it being crowded:

2013-04-13 12.48.25

 

That part I didn’t enjoy.  It was so loud and full of people seemingly on a mission to drink as much beer as they can, even if it was two ounces at a time.  I found very few people interested in the breweries, quality, ingredients, or the brewers themselves.  In short, it was more of a drunk-fest than a quality beer event.

In retrospect, I can’t say I blame anyone for my displeasure except myself. These festivals serve only a couple of intentional purposes, and neither of them have anything to do with Ben on Beer getting one-on-one with breweries:

  1. Breweries want to get out to the market and get their beer in as many hands as they can.
  2. All About Beer magazine wants to generate more interest in craft beer and gain an increase in readership.

This is capitalism, and I am not against it.  I think it would be wonderful for a brewery to come away from the festival with 300 more customers who know the beer is good, and will remember that when they see it in the store.

The challenge is getting that crowd to remember anything after the event.

I guess a decent thing to do would be to list my thoughts here so maybe someone reading will have some direct language to consider:

It was a drunk-fest.  I said it before, and there’s really nothing I can do about it.

The talks were awesome, but if I wanted to attend all of them there would be no time before or after to visit the booths.  I guess I wanted more time, or maybe a separate day for beer nerd talk.

The restroom situation couldn’t have been handled any better.  Hats off to that one.

I can’t carry everything.  No backpacks allowed, but where do I put all my stuff when I have to pee?  I went alone this year.  I collected as many artifacts from the brewers as I could, and ended up loading myself down almost to the point that I couldn’t move about.

Well, that’s it for now.  Maybe if things come back to me I’ll update this post.  I most likely won’t go again unless I move much closer to the Raleigh/Durham area.

Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils

I finally got a chance to try Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils Pilsner this week, and it just so happens that it was worth the wait (and the $10 for the six-pack). It pours a golden yellow (closer to hazel, I guess), telling you that there’s real ingredients in there. Like REAL pale malt and a proper amount of hops and love.

I’ve talked about Pilsner before on the show (we had Victory’s Prima Pils), and this is in the same style. Let me rephrase that: this is another Pilsner, but not a whole lot like Prima Pils. It’s more its own style, very far from megabrew quality and still not extremely Americanized with hops. It’s a delicate balance between light maltiness and a crafty-handed hoppiness. It would pair well with just about anything from chips & salsa to cold air, except chocolate.  I think they put it best on the site:

Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pills is an uncompromising, small-batch version of the beer that made Pilsen, Czech Republic famous. Unlike mass market “pilsners” diluted with corn & rice, Mama’s is built with 100% pale malt, German specialty malts, and Saaz hops. While it’s rich with Czeched-out flavor, its gentle hopping (35 IBUs) and low ABV (just 5.3%) make it a luxurious but low-dose (by Oskar Blues standards) refresher.

There’s an air of confidence we get when trying something we’ve never had from a brewery like Oskar Blues. They typically don’t go way outside the definitions of styles we expect to taste and they do what they do so well. They use quality ingredients, give back to the environment and to the community, and provide us with a superior product we can enjoy every day.

Oskar Blues should open their second location on the East coast by the end of 2012, and soon the cans I get might say “Brewed and canned at Oskar Blues Brewery, LLC in Brevard, North Carolina.” I can’t wait.

Ben on Beer Episode 5 – Publix Knows The Way

In this episode, we chose a new format and had some technical difficulties.  It was an interesting show and we talked about the new grocery store in our small town that somehow provides the most diverse selection of craft beer within 50 miles.  We also discussed Oskar Blues and their new Brevard, NC brewery and restaurant.

Cheers!

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Ben on Beer Show 4

In this episode we continue to discuss the brewery of the month, Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons, Colorado.  Their farm-to-plate philosophy includes raising cattle and growing hops right there on their farm in Longmont.  We tasted Deviant Dale’s IPA from there and discovered just how diverse one beer can be.

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Ben on Beer Episode 3

In this episode we introduce the brewery of the month for August, Oskar Blues Brewing of Lyons, Colorado.  I also divulge everything I have learned recently about hops, the wonderful plant that gives craft beer its bitterness.

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Hoppy IPA Day!

I must admit I’d never heard of IPA Day until this year, but in my defense it’s not a national pastime yet.  Today is the 2nd Annual IPA Day according to the official site of the celebration, so get to your local craft beer retailer and pick some up!

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