Saturday, May 14, 2011

The International Beer Fest: The Beginning

To date, I have done a lot of recipes and reviews on my blog.  A few months back, I also did a series of posts about my experience as a Guest Chef at Rag's Italian Bistro in Birmingham, Alabama.  That opportunity opened the doors to blogging about my food-related experiences outside of my own kitchen.  I always keep that idea in the back of my mind, waiting for the next opportunity to blog about my experiences with food and/or drink.  Well, the next experience has arrived and it is the International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio.

For me, the words "Beer Fest" conjure up the movie Beerfest.  The movie is about two brothers, who inherit the German restaurant Schnitzengiggle, and, go to Munich to fulfill a family tradition.  When they are in Munich, they stumble upon a secret, International beer competition.  After being humiliated by the German team, the two brothers form their own team and begin to prepare for the next beer fest.  When Team USA returns, with a lineup including the two brothers, Barry, Fink and Landfill, they compete only to face a rematch with the German team for the coveted title of the competition. The climax of the movie is when Team USA and the German team face-off in a team competition known as ... das Boot!  Each team member has to drink an entire 2 liter beer out of a glass boot without spilling any of it and, I'll leave it at that. 

The International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio is a different type of competition.  There will be nearly two hundred brewers from across the United States and around the world.  Those brewers have brought with them approximately eight hundred beers to sample.  And one Chef Bolek.

Well, actually, there will be four of us.  I am going to be joined by my beautiful wife, Clare, and my  amazing parents for the Beer Fest.  We purchased 3 VIP tickets, which provide each of us with forty tickets, each of which is good for a two-ounce pour, and access to the VIP Brewers' Lounge, where there will be tappings of rare and limited edition beers. The tickets are good for one four hour session.
Choosing forty beers out of nearly eight hundred during a four hour session requires some thought.  Those who follow this blog know that I especially love out-of-the ordinary craft beers, such as New Holland Brewing's El Mole Ocho, brewed with ingredients used in a mole sauce, L'Abri de Tempete's Corps Mort, brewed with smoked grains previously used to smoke herring, and one of my all-time favorites, Birrificio del Ducato's Nuova Mattina, which is brewed with ginger, coriander, green pepper and chamomile. 

So the planning began in advance.  I wanted to have a strategy that would be more than just be wandering aimlessly around the convention center.  After much thought, I arrived at an overall strategy that consisted of three overarching objectives: (1) focus on the breweries whose beers I cannot get around where I live; (2) choose the special beers rather than the year-round offerings; and (3) try different styles to ensure that, by the end of the session, I had not simply drank India Pale Ales and Belgian Tripels. 

To add to the experience, I hope to be "blogging" during the Beer Fest.  I will not be posting directly to this blog, but I will be tweeting my experiences using the ChefBolek twitter handle @ChefBolek, which you can follow with the Twitter widget on the right hand side of the blog.  This will be the first time that I have ever made a concerted effort to provide "real time" tweeting  and I hope that I can do it for as long as the battery in my cell phone will hold out.  After the festival, I will post my thoughts about the beers that I tried and about the whole experience at the International Beer Fest.  So, with that, please ...


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