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Cheers for Belgian Beers
Yesterday I took the day off from writing and went to my first brewfest of the season: The Cheers for Belgian Beers. Belgian beers are some of my favorites. I like the buttery smooth flavor the Belgian yeasts tend towards and Belgian beers tend to lean towards lighter brews. Because we intended to spend a good part of the day sampling a wide variety of brews, we took public transportation to the festival. It’s just the smart thing to do. That allowed us to ride in comfort after the festival and enjoy the post festival buzz without all the stress of trying to drive, which one should not do after drinking.
We got our tasting glasses and this year they were beautiful little goblet style glasses and our ticket for tastes of beers and entered the vast warehouse of Metalcraft Fabrication to a crowd of happy people and a myriad of tables with beer venders and their offerings for our festival enjoyment.
My first choice was a cheeky little beer called The Fez brewed by Solera Brewery. It used Wyeast 3726| Farmhouse Ale with an alcohol content of 4.2%. Of course I had to try it because Fezzes are cool. Unfortunately I did not find Solera’s The Fez all that cool. It was quite sour.
Thankfully my friend really likes sour beers and she had chosen for her first beer a Saison from pFriem Family Brewers that used Wyeast 3711| French Saison with an alcohol content of 6.5%. It was hoppy but not in that bitter hoppy way, more in a citrus peel way where the bitter isn’t so harsh.
After tasting each other’s beers we happily traded glasses and enjoyed a first beer that we each liked quite a bit. That is one of the really nice things about going to a beerfest with friends. Not only do you get to taste even more beers, because invariably when someone gets a good beer they insist you try it, but if you get one you don’t particularly care for you can give it to someone who probably really will enjoy it.
For my third beer I was drawn into the pFriem Family Brewers table once more by the description of their Belgian Strong Dark beer. It was made using Wyeast 3538| Leuven Pale Ale with an alcohol content of 10%. They described it as having fig and chocolate flavors. Now I’m all over any chocolate beer. This one was so delicious. This one was quite strong. The aroma was fruity and I found the flavor to be very much that of dark chocolate with a fruity fig under-flavor and strong malt finish. I found it slightly bitter on the back end and very much like a dessert beer. I liked it quite a bit. I enjoyed both offerings by the pFriem Family Brewers.
At this point it was time for some lunch. I was four beers in and I needed some food to join the party. There were tents and tables set up outside along with several vender trucks and we wandered out into the delicious smells to find something to eat. I chose a mushroom and pepper Philly Cheesesteak sandwich from Philadelphia Steaks and Hoagies who had a set-up there. It was really good and a generous portion that made a good base for the drinking to come. The people were very friendly and fast. The horseradish sauce was spicy and creamy and the cheese all melty and yummy on a soft hoagie roll, it was very nice.
Next up for me was the Agrarian Ales Saison called Coalescence Spring Saison. It was brewed with Wyeast 3655|Belgian Schelde with an alcohol content of 5.9%. Now this is the yeast I really love when it comes to Belgian beers. Unfortunately this offering was very hoppy and I felt the hops got in the way of an excellent yeast.
From there I tried Ambacht Brewery’s Belgian Specialty: Ginger Farmhouse Ale. Brewed with Wyeast 1762|Belgian Abbey II with an alcohol content of 6.5%. This was my first find of the brewfest. I really love the Belgian Abbey yeasts and this beer was just amazing. It smelled so good. I took a minute to just enjoy the ginger aroma. They managed to brew it without compromising the spiciness of the ginger and that overlays the buttery smooth flavor of the Belgian yeast.
Brewmaster Brandy of Ambacht Brewing
Also Brandy, who is one of the brewmasters responsible for this remarkable brew was manning the keg at the table and he was happy to answer a question or two. We asked him how he came up with this brew.
Brandy smiled and said, “Well Tom and I tasted a lot of others before we made ours.”
He also said that he likes to make beer can chicken with this particular brew and I can imagine why. The ginger and flavor of the Belgian yeast would be divine with chicken.
At this point the Bee Gees Jive Talking came on and I was dancing through the crowd. I was not the only one; my friends and I made a lot of people happy. People who wanted to dance but needed someone else to do it first were happy to join in. I ran into, not literally, a lovely couple named Casey and Shawn who had interesting looking beers in their glasses and I asked them what they were drinking. Casey told me it was a Fort George fruit ale that tasted a bit of Kiwi. Well I was sold so I made my happy way over to the Fort George Brewery table for a sample of their fruit ale named Forbidden Wonder Fruit Ale. It was brewed with Wyeast 3463| Forbidden Fruit and had an alcohol content of 6.7% and let me tell you, the volunteers were giving good solid pours on Saturday. 1 ticket later and I had a beer with a subtle fragrance the color of fresh pressed apple cider—the really good stuff that’s a little cloudy with a beautiful caramel color. I could smell the good Belgian yeast and the first taste did not disappoint. It was smooth without being watery, subtly flavored with just a whisper of fruitiness and very carbonated. This is a good beer for when you just want to relax and enjoy a casual evening after work or something. Many thanks to Casey and Shawn for suggesting it.
I ran into an old friend and while we were catching up my husband was approached by Ryan Pappe, the head brewer of Portland Brewing, which just reclaimed the name after being MacTarnahan’s for 15 years. The reason Mr. Pappe spoke to my husband is because he chose to wear his 15-year-old Portland Brewing ZigZag Lager t-shirt to the brewfest and of course the people of Portland Brewing are always pleased to see longtime fans. Ryan Pappe asked my husband if he’d had that shirt since the original Portland Brewing had existed and of course my husband said yes. This made them both very happy.
Next up I tried Caldera Brewing’s Dubbel named Dubbel and made with Wyeast 3787|Trappist High Gravity. It was a smooth, malty brew with a bit of a caramel flavor on the back end. It was so delicious it could be my favorite of the brewfest. It delivered great taste with no bitterness and a modest alcohol content of 7.5%.
Which brings me to Rock Bottom’s offering: a Low and Light beer named A Stunning Indictment of the Establishment. It was brewed with Wyeast 1214| Belgian Abbey and had an alcohol content of 5.1%. This was a sharp, crisp and slightly bitter brew up front but finished smooth and buttery. It demands attention from your taste buds with a kaleidoscope of flavors and does not disappoint. This was possibly the most fun beer of the festival to have in your mouth, constantly providing something different for each part of your tongue.
At this point I was down to 1 ticket and needed to choose wisely. After browsing the offerings I selected Occidental Brewing Co.’s Dubbel named De Keuze. It was brewed with Wyeast 3942|Belgian Wheat and had an alcohol content of 7.5%. This was ever so slightly sour and very smooth, almost silky. I found it to be an excellent beer and could easily see this as a wonderful palate cleanser or finisher after a meal.
My husband is a huge fan of Hair of The Dog Brewery and he got a taste of their offering, a Belgian ale they named Belgian Beer Geek. Hair of the Dog Brewery has a distinct base that comes through in every one of their brews. It is very fragrant and has a strong flavor. Whatever it is, is very fresh smelling and tasting. This was an excellent example of their style of brewing.
At this point a gentleman named Pete came by and noticed I had no beer in my glass. He said that could not be allowed to stand and gave me a ticket. I was delighted so I gave him a hug, which made him happy. Then my friend came by and Pete gave her a ticket too. She gave him a hug and I gave him a second hug. At that point we introduced ourselves and complimented one another, shared some pointers about beers and my husband came over. Pete gave him a ticket too but alas no hug. So I raised my final taste to our new friend Pete—May you live long and prosper.
This made my true final beer an offering from Old Market Pub & Brewery Blood Orange Lambic called The Devin. It was made with Wyeast 3787 + Brettanomyces + Wild Yeast and had an alcohol content of 9.1%. It was a good solid beer, crisp, slightly bitter.
Rogue Brewing’s Beard Beer
My husband, a man of true courage, tried the Beard Beer. Yes Rogue Ales took trimmings from brewmaster John Maier’s beard, cultured the results, separated out the yeast and used it to brew a beer. I know it’s sterile by the time they get to use it for brewing but I just could not get past the “ick” factor. My husband said it was actually pretty good. It was brewed with Beard Yeast and had an alcohol content of 5.6%. This is what you call an experimental beer.
I took many notes on my iPhone so I have to say thank goodness for autocorrect when you’ve been drinking beer all day. I met a lot of wonderful people and had a fabulous time. K.