The pre-event crowd line
Get there early!
We've been showing up an hour early for a couple years now and always end up at the front of the line. If you're not as insane as we are, it appears that 30 minutes early is a pretty good compromise. You'll end up just outside of the parking lot and easily one of the first few hundred in. Don't show up 5 minutes after it starts or you'll end up waiting in line for half an hour anyway. That's quality drinking time you're losing!
Cheap food is awesome.
To be honest, I didn't eat anything at the festival on Saturday. I did have friends who did, and through them I observed that King David Dogs is offering up superb drunk food at a great price for a festival. They also have great food when you're not drunk, but their stupid restaurant isn't open on the weekends and closes at 4PM. Jerks. I think it goes without saying that cajun food is also awesome festival food. I love Yats as much as the next guy, but I've heard they're kind of inconsistent to deal with for festivals, so kudos to J. Gumbos for filling the void this year.
Not much light gets through Dark Lord
Dark Lord is not a 90 degree heat beer.
Also I don't know what happened, but there was a crazy amount of yeast suspended in it. More than last year and definitely more than the bottle. Still delicious, but I think the Kentucky Breakfast Stout made for a better festival beer this year. If only Founders brought more than a couple bottles of it (or at least it ran out so fast I assume that's what they did). I would fully support a Winter Microbrewer's Festival held indoors and featuring Imperial Stouts, Barrel aged beers and Belgian Strong Ales. Hang on, I'm emailing Bob O.
I had a lot of really good things this year. Here are some highlights:
- Backwoods Bastard was probably my favorite of the day. Bourbon aging the Dirty Bastard balanced it out a lot better than most things that get barrel aged. I would love a bottle of this in our cellar. There was a ton of bourbon and vanilla flavor in this, but not an overpowering alcohol taste.
- New Albanian performed well as usual. I loved the sour notes in their Phoenix Saison and their firkin of the Kentucky Komon. That said, I really wish more sour ales came to the party considering how hot it was. I was sad to see the Saison was out when I returned later in the day.
- Brass Monkey's Green Tea Pale Ale is great. I've had some West Coast green tea pales that were awesome so it's nice to see the trend making its way here.
- Stone Russian Imperial Stout was very nice, as usual. Lots of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malts and hidden hops in here.
- Schlafly's Biere de Garde was very good. I had not tried this one, which is the first in their bottle conditioned series. Starts out a little fruity but ends a little malty. The alcohol sticks out a tad, but they recommend aging it so that will probably help.
- Notable Firkins included Founders Double Dry Hopped Pale, New Albanian's Kentucky Komon and Clipper City's Hang Ten. Rock Bottom's American Dream and the Bell's Porter weren't too bad either. A lot of the others felt like they just recently pulled it from the keg and dropped in some live yeast, without giving it time to develop.
- Hoppin' Frog's Porter through the coffee beans was an interesting and tasty experiment, though the end result did have an insanely overpowering coffee taste.
- Sam Adams was doing a little voting experiment for their next beer, which was cool. Unfortunately the options were a way unbalanced super fruity Blackberry Wit and a generic Coffee Stout. I voted Coffee Stout by default. It wasn't bad, it just didn't stand out.
- When I first arrived, Dark Horse didn't have anyone pouring for them. When I came back later, they were out of beer.
- I completely missed Left Hand and Two Brothers. I took a break just before we got to them and then never came back.
- Brugge didn't have this year's Diamond Kings at the festival. It was so good on Friday night I was itching to come back for more. Unfortunately, there was no more.
- I also missed Founders Dumbo Head. I was there early enough to try some but it didn't even click with me that it would be a limited quantity beer. Oops.