With an established brewery (Thomas Creek) and two more on the way (Quest & Brewery 85), a brewpub (Blueridge), America’s Most Arrogant beer bar (Barley’s Tap Room) and two of the best craft beer stores in the Southeast (Community Tap & Greenville Beer Exchange), this inaugural rare-beer festival sounded the trumpet that the Greenville Beer Scene has arrived.
The sold-out festival was held at Larkin’s Saw Mill off North Main. It was a great venue for the event, and with only 400 tickets available, it had an intimate feel without the long lines and crowdedness of the bigger festivals. There was plenty of indoor space, with several breweries setup outside.
The best part of the festival was obviously the rare beer that was served. I won’t list all the beers here, but you can check out the beer list to see what I mean. 70 amazing beers, including 8 casks. With only 400 people, there was plenty of beer to go around.
Since the lines never got long, there was plenty of opportunity for fest-goers to mingle with the brewers and brewery reps. It’s that type of interaction I look for in a great festival that sets itself apart from the big ones. You can drink great beer anywhere, festivals are one of the few opportunities to be able to meet and talk with dozens brewery people and beer geeks in one spot.
My favorite beers on the day were Quest Kaldi Imperial Coffee Stout (one of the best coffee stouts I’ve ever had, tasted like a coffee crumb cake), Southern Tier Pumking aged in a Dark Corner Lewis Redmond bourbon barrel, New Holland Blue Sunday, Allagash James Bean and 2010 Avery Mephistopheles.
I only had the chance to try about 15 beers, so I missed out on a ton of greatness. However, it was well worth the sacrifice, as I got to work the Upstate Brewtopians homebrew table.
As I’ve said several times before, there are fewer things that are more fun than pouring beer at a festival. It takes it to another level when that beer is yours, and people keep coming back for more.
The Brewtopians table featured three beers:
- Margaret Antonik’s Tango with my Mango IPA
- Bill MacElroy’s Stiche Alt
- Brian Cendrowski and Joe Dunham’s Collaborative Tripel of Paradise
Margaret’s Tango with my Mango IPA literally stole the show. The whole show. It is with great pride in my fellow homebrewers that I say our table had the longest lines and most consistent traffic during the entire festival.
Margaret made the Mango IPA with five pounds of fresh mango put in a five gallon batch. It was perfectly balanced between hops, malt and fruit. It wasn’t overly sweet like many fruit beers, and it was perfectly refreshing on a beautiful spring day.
Tango with my Mango was the talk of the festival. It was so popular, the five-gallon keg kicked about two hours in, yet people continually asked for it for the remainder of the four-hour event, hoping that maybe we had some brewer’s reserve we could share. Even later on that night at the Barley’s post-party, people were still talking about it!
Bill’s Stiche Alt is a big, German-style alt beer. While not as flashy as the Mango IPA, it’s an excellent representation of the style and very well-made. In fact, Bill served it at the Charlotte Oktoberfest last fall, and the guys at Olde Mecklenburg Brewing offered to brew it on their system should Bill win a medal at the US Open Homebrew Competition in Charlotte.
Joe and my Tripel of Paradise was a tripel brewed with grains of paradise, star anise and blood orange zest. I thought it turned out exceptionally well and received a lot of favorable feedback. I had at least one person say it was their favorite beer of the festival, but that was late in the day and she may or may not have been really drunk.
That our homebrew stood out among some of the best beers in the world was a tremendous feeling. It really does show that the craft of brewing doesn’t require a fancy system or a degree from a brewing university. If you have passion, creativity and a little attention to detail, you can make great beer.
Overall, the festival was a tremendous success, and the guys at the Community Tap have already said they’re doing it again next year. So save the date: April 12, 2014.
And they said the Brewtopians can come back. What creations will the little guys come up with next?