Sunday, August 26, 2012

Columbus Summer Beerfest 2012

Last night, I attended the Columbus Summer Beerfest with my wife, brother-in-law, and a friend.  In January, I attended the Winter Beerfest, and I'll compare the differences between the two later in this post.

The Beerfest offers three types of admission.

  • VIP: This gets you into the event an hour earlier, and provides access to beers that aren't offered later.  There is also a "VIP Lounge" area where the limited samples are available.  This costs about $10 more than the general admission, but the benefits are that the crowds are smaller during the first hour and there are more things available to sample.

  • Regular Admission: This gets you in an hour after the VIP admission, and doesn't provide access to the VIP samples. The benefit is that it's cheaper to get in.  The down-side is that this is the most popular admission type, so when you can enter the venue it's a lot more crowded.

  • Designated Driver:  This admits you into the facility and provides free soft drinks.  If you're caught drinking while admitted with a Designated Driver band, you'll be escorted out.

My experience at the Winter Beerfest led me to opt for the VIP admission.  At the Winter Beerfest, the VIP-only admission hour was great.  Practically no lines for samples, providing the option to try as many beers as you could during that hour.  Once general admission began, the lines became long, the venue was shoulder-to-shoulder crowded, and the noise level increased significantly.  It wasn't terrible, but was unpleasant.  At the Summer Beerfest, though, this wasn't an issue.  The large, spread-out venue left a lot of room for the crowds, and lines for samples were rarely more than 2-3 people deep – even during general admission.  It was a little harder to find some samples, but the crowds were much less of an issue.

A number of food trucks were setup in the parking lot.  I remember three of them, but there may have been others.  The Cheesywagon was there, offering its gourmet grilled cheese.  Mikey's Late Night Slice was there, delivering their excellent pizza.  A pierogi wagon (whose name escapes me at the moment) was also there.

An impressive list of breweries was represented.  The list included Ohio breweries such as Barley's, Mt. Carmel, Columbus Brewing Company, Neil House, and Rivertown.  It also included some well-known names from outside Ohio, like Breckenridge from Colorado, Jolly Pumpkin from Michigan, Bear Republic from California, Dogfish Head from Delaware, and Harpoon from Boston.  Unfortunately, one brewery whose products we were really looking forward to tasting, Innis & Gunn, was a no-show.  There were also some specific brews listed on the official web site that didn't appear at the event, but not many.

At the Winter Beerfest, several breweries were represented by their actual employees or brewmasters.  Unless I mis-read things, all (or nearly all) of the beer was dispensed by volunteers rather than breweries.  One way that makes things different is that you can't as
k the breweries about their products, and there weren't any "secret samples" around (like the excellent Left Hand Brewing peach beer their brewmaster offered me in January – which isn't sold in Ohio yet).

Because of the crowds, I didn't keep detailed notes on the beers I tried at this event.  I do, however, offer the following lists of beers I liked, thought were "OK", and those I didn't care for:

  • Liked:  Tripel Karmeleit from Belgium, Roebling Porter from Rivertown in Cincinnati, Dogfish Head's Tweason'Ale, Smuttynose's Belgian Dubbel, Alltech's Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, and the Pear Cider from Magner's of Ireland.

  • Thought were "OK":  Breckenridge Agave Wheat, Bear Republic Big Bear Stout, Breckenridge Autumn, Dogfish Head Indian Brown, Founder's Dirty Bastard, and Stone 16th Anniversary (even though Stone's products tend to be very hoppy, I have a soft spot for them)

  • Didn't care for: Brooklyn Blast, Dark Horse Sapient Triple.  (These were both hoppier than I care for, though I saw plenty of people enjoy them.)

It was, on balance, a great evening of beer and company.  If you enjoy craft beer, you should check out the next Columbus Beerfest (which I believe will be in January 2013).

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