Tuesday, May 15, 2012

International Beer Fest 2012, Part 2

This is the second part of the two part series about my exploration through craft beer at the 2012 International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio.  In the first part, I detailed the eleven or so craft beers from Europe.  I tried a wide range of beers, from Belgian Tripels to an Irish Oyster Stout.  

This time, I turn my attention to the craft brewers in the United States.  The craft beer movement has grown exponentially across the country.  The Beer Fest divided the American craft brewers by regions, although that categorization did not matter to me.  Just as with the European bears, I focused on some beers that I had not heard of before and/or that I cannot get near me.

The ten or so American craft beers that I sampled include the following: 

Jolly Pumpkin -- Maraicabo Especial: I have seen Jolly Pumpkin beers around, but I have to say that I have not had any of them.  That ended with a sample of the Maracaibo Especial.  This beer is brewed with cacao, cinnamon and sweet orange peel.  Although these ingredients were in the brew, the beer was not just any Special Brown Ale.  Instead, it was more like a Flanders Sour Ale.  The light brown, amber color of the beer gives rise to aromas of green, sour apples.  The taste of the taste of the beer is also full of green apples.  I did not get any of the cacao or cinnamon though.

Rockmill Brewing -- Organic Saison: This is a small-production organic brewery located in Lancaster, Ohio.  The brewery models its beers after those found in Wallonia, Belgium.  The brewer believes that the Wallonian water has the same minerality profile as the water of Lancaster.  In addition to using local water, the brewer also uses whole hops in the production of the Saison.  This beer pours light golden in color.  The aroma has elements of spice, as well as an earthy tone to it.  The taste of the beer has elements of grass, whole cardamom seed and a slight Brettanomyces flavor.  These flavors give this beer a unique flavor profile. 

Great Divide Brewing Co. -- Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti: Great Divide is known for its Yeti, an Imperial Stout.  This particular bottle is a version is produced with coca nibs and aged in oak barrels, which impart a little oak and vanilla flavor to the beer.  The brewer also adds some cayenne pepper to give the beer a kick.  The Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti pours pitch black, which aromas of chocolate, spice and pepper.  The taste of this beer is brings in all of the central ingredients -- the cocoa nibs, the oak barrels and even the cayenne barrels.  The cayenne pepper comes out in the finish of this beer.

The Brew Kettle Production Works -- Jack Hammer Barleywine: The next beer I tried is one from a brewer that I know well, the Brew Kettle.  My father suggested that I try the Jack Hammer Barleywine, which has won awards in competitions.  The Jack Hammer pours brown in color, with sweet fruit aromas.  Brewed in the British style, the Jack Hammer was tastes of candied fruit and alcohol, with more of a focus on the malts than on the hops.  This is the principal difference between the British-style barleywine and an American-style barleywine.

Cellar Rats Brewery -- Black Rat Imperial Stout: The next beer that I tried comes from Cellar Rats Brewery, a craft brewery based in Madison, Ohio.  This beer is a more straightforward example of an imperial stout, without the added flavors that were used in the Yeti.  The Black Rat Imperial Stout pours black in color.  The aromatic elements are primarily sweet chocolate and coffee.  The principal flavor of this beer is roasted coffee, but some chocolate can be sensed in the background of this beer.

Chardon Brew Works -- Ironworker India Pale Ale: I have to admit that the title of the next beer caught my attention and is the reason why I tried it.  The Ironworker IPA caught my attention, because it evoked images of iron workers and union workers.  This beer poured a cloudy, orangish/copper color.  The aromatic elements of this beer suggest oranges and orange peel, as well as grass.  The taste of the beer is what one expects from an IPA, basically a citrus driven beer.  However, the citrus is not the normal types when one describes an IPA, such as lemon or grapefruit.  Instead, there where hints of lime that shined through the tartness, particularly in the finish.

Epic Brewery (In Collaboration with D.C. Brau): Once again, I sampled another imperial porter.  This particular beer is a collaboration with D.C. Brau.  As they brewed the imperial porter, they added two hundred pounds of pumpkin and whole Madagascar vanilla beans.  The beer poured like any other imperial porter or imperial stout ... pitch black.  However, the aroma was like a pumpkin pie, with pumpkins and spices greeting the nose.  The taste of the beer also featured pumpkin spices, such as allspice and clove. 

AleSmith Brewery -- Old Numbskull Barleywine: Next to the Epic Brewing beers, there was AleSmith, a southern Californian craft brewer.  I tried some of their beers at the last Beer Fest; however, I saw a barleywine that I did not recall seeing.  The barleywine pours brown in color.  The aromatic elements are primarily spice and malt.  The taste of the beer includes sugar and citrus.  Whereas the Brew Kettle's Jack Hammer is brewed in the British style, the Old Numbskull is brewed in more of an American style.  The hops were clearly more evident in this beer. 
Hopping Frog Brewing -- Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S. Oatmeal Imperial Stout: Continuing with the high powered imperial stouts and porters, the next beer I tried is Hopping Frog's Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S. Oatmeal Imperial Stout.  This beer won a gold medal at the World Beer cup. The beer is aged in whiskey barrels, which contribute to the aroma of the beer.  The flavor of this beer is reminiscent of chocolate liqueur, the combination of chocolate and alcohol.

Rust Belt Brewing Co. -- Coke Oven Stout: The final beer that I tried is a stout.  After all, I have tried several stouts this time, so why not finish with one more.  This one comes from Rust Belt Brewing Company, a craft brewer located in Youngstown, Ohio.  This is one of the brewers that I have seen, but have never been able to try its beers.  Like all of the other porters, the beer pours black in color.  The aroma had elements of chocolate and coffee, which are also part of the flavors of the beer.  

Overall, the 2012 IX Beer Fest was a great time.  The one lesson that I learned is that I cannot exhaust thirty-six, two-ounce tasting tickets.  That is seventy-two ounces of beer, or a six pack.   It may be because I am getting older, but it is probably due to the fact that, unlike just about everyone else at the Beer Fest, I was taking photos and notes with each beer I tried. 

In the end, I got to try some really interesting and great beers.  I did not get to one of my favorite brewers, Fat Head's.  The brewer at Fat Head's, Matt Cole, brews some excellent beers, like the Head Hunter IPA and the Hop JuJu.   I should note, however, I had stopped by Fat Head's for lunch the day before and got to enjoy a couple full-sized beers ... the Mexicali Smoke and the Zeus Juice.

Hopefully, when the next fest comes around, I will be able to find some more unique beers to try.  Until that time ...


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