So this weekend marks the passing of another Strong Ale Festival at Avery Brewing. What a great time. If you haven’t been before, you should absolutely go next year. It is a showcase for breweries from around the country that allows them to put their big beers on display. Nothing at the festival is less than 8%ABV and there is generally a good number of beers that show up at the fest that are small batch one-offs that brewers put together to show off their skills. I have missed one out of the last five and am excited for next year already.
I have had a bit of a rough relationship with this particular fest in the past but I think that that is behind me for the most part. The festival used to be held at Harpo’s, a bar in Boulder. It was always a pretty good time but the venue just became too small, in my mind. I think that opinion was held by others too. Last year, the venue changed to the barrel room and warehouse of Avery Brewing. I can’t tell you how much better it is now. It is still nuts-to-butts crowded around the taps but we were able to find a place to hole-up and talk without too much trouble. I think the venue gives it a better overall feel as well. Harpo’s just felt like a bar that was packing in too many fools and everyone was a little grouchy because they couldn’t find a place to sit or in some cases just couldn’t move. At Avery, it is hard to complain when you are surrounded by their beers aging in barrels. It sets a mood quite nicely.
The beers… Oh man, the beers. It can be a bit of an assault. You are really dealing with big beers with big flavors. One thing that I noticed this year was a marked lack of wine barrel aged beers or other sour beers. I think that that is probably due to Sourfest, which is another fantastic festival coming up in a few months. While they were missed, there were a few there. Ska Brewing brought a foreign export stout that was aged in a merlot barrel. It was tasty but subtle. Allagash Victoria, while not fully a “sour beer” was really nice. Tart, fruity and refreshing. Redstone Meadery had the requisite Black Folie, which if I am not mistaken, is a blend of La Folie from New Belgium and a blackberry mead, yum. I found myself drinking a lot of stouts. There were hits and misses in this style and some that were completely over the top. I can’t remember the brewer or the specific beer but there was a maple syrup bourbon barrel aged porter that was completely schizophrenic. They should have called it kitchen sink. Surly’s Darkness was quite good. Avery’s Meph Addict got great reviews from my coffee drinking friends and my favorite of the night may have been their Double Dry Hopped DuganA. Of course, by the end when I had a healthy buzz and just wanted something familiar, Ska’s Nefarious Ten Pin Porter was just the thing.
I am having a tough time remembering all of the stuff I had. The beers can do that to you. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep any notes – I was told that there was a guy there doing a 1-5 ranking (including decimals!) on every beer that he tasted and not wanting to be that nerdy, I chucked my list and enjoyed the fest. How gauche of me.
Well, that is my short and fuzzy review of the 9th Strong Ale Fest. Looking forward to the 10th for sure. I made it through another year without allergic reactions or fisticuffs or any number of dumb-ass things. Try and make it out next year and if you can’t, well… you are definitely missing out.