The Riverside Craft Beer Festival happened again and lo and behold the Earth continues to turn on its axis. As far as I’m aware, Five Points is still standing, but I’m only assuming that because I haven’t heard otherwise. I took a post-beer fest nap. It was glorious.
It’s been a year or two since I last attended the festival but I was actually slightly impressed with the lineup. It’s hard to say if it’s simply a result of the craft beer industry as a whole gaining traction or a real local movement towards genuine craft beer appreciation. Either way, the beer lineup was acceptable and not just a parade of core brands.
You have to understand this is actually nearly high praise as far as beer fests go. Having attended one of, if not, the beer fest to end all beer fests, anything less is always a disappointment. I shouldn’t be so harsh as it’s ridiculous to expect Cantillon and Westy to make an appearance anywhere much less Jacksonville.
But what really bums me out about beer fests are the droves of amateurs they attract. I’m not talking about craft beer novices here – I’m super stoked they have found their way in and are giving craft beer a go. It’s important for them to experience craft beer in a setting that allows them to taste all that it has to offer and cross our fingers in hopes that they find something they like. Inevitably, they always do. Or they don’t, in which case, fuck ‘em.
No, I’m referring to the amateur drinkers be they craft beer aficionados or noobs. It’s the images of these idiots puking in the streets that the opposition to craft beer reform uses to paint a damaging picture of our kind. It’s not helping. I’m not saying everyone should be on their best behavior and not have any fun but in my experience, beer fests are just a recipe for disaster.
Anyway, enough ranting. Here’s some beers I went and drank before I went home to take a nap.
The Eradicator IPA – Wicked Barley Brewing Company
Wicked Barley is one of the newer breweries in town and although I’ve made a couple trips to their taproom, I had not yet tasted their liquid. Patrick and I have been doing the email/text dance for a few months now, trying to arrange a sesh so visiting him at their booth was my first stop. They had some interesting things on draft but as it was my first taste of what they were brewing, I had to check out their IPA. While you can’t necessarily judge a brewery by its IPA, you can tell a lot about their approach by tasting the thing they know good and well they are going to sell the most. Wicked Barley calls The Eradicator a First Coast Double IPA, weighing in at 8%. It’s an apt-title I suppose as it’s not particularly West Coast or Northeastern but a nice blend of hop profiles. It’s got a big malt body which I noticed right away before I discovered that it was a DIPA. I’ll be sampling their core lineup soon and look forward to giving this beer a deeper dive.
Cascara Gose – Hyperion Brewing Company
Hyperion’s goal once they open later this Spring is to not brew the same beer twice during their first year in business. That means you’re going to see some interesting shit and it means they are going to be taking some risks. Inevitably there will be misses and unless it’s just plain undrinkable, I think they would be smart to keep even their mistakes available on tap. Some weirdos might actually like it and if nothing else it allows the curious drinker or the aspiring homebrewer a peak behind the curtain to experience the experimentation process first-hand. I’m not saying that to say that this bar is a miss, it’s actually pretty good. I think it could use more salt (I always think that) but it actually tastes better than the tea I’ve made from the same cascara. Oh by the way, cascara is the dried coffee cherry that’s normally discarded in the processing of coffee. It’s a thing in coffee producing countries where they ship off most of their product to be roasted abroad and it’s gaining traction here stateside at high-end coffee shops. It’s supposed to resemble hibiscus but the cascara from Bold Bean tastes more like chewing tobacco to me and they’ve since taken it off their menu. I love the idea of this beer though and I hope their “no beer twice” mandate doesn’t prevent them from exploring the concept further.
In the Flesh (Blueberry) – Two Brothers Artisan Brewing
I don’t know why but Two Brothers doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves in Jacksonville. We had the hardest time turning their product at BREW despite the fact that they make some pretty stellar stuff. Chalk it up to a crowded market and a limited sales and marketing presence I suppose. That being said, I wasn’t thrilled by this beer. They call it an American Sour but it feels like a Berliner to me, which I like but only when I’m expecting one. The term sour gets thrown around too much these days in my opinion. It’s almost like this beer is marketed to people new to the category who heard it was the cool new thing but the brewery doesn’t want to turn them off by throwing something actually sour at them. It makes sense because this beer is a can offering although I’m not sure those cans are available in our market. It is actually refermented on real blueberries so that’s a plus and it pours a beautiful bluish-purple but for what it is I far prefer the Smuttynose Blueberry Short Weisse.
Bel Air Sour – Brooklyn Brewery
You can’t pass up this bottle when you see it, it looks like freakin cotton candy. And for what it’s worth, it’s a damn fine entry. It’s not a pucker bomb but I found it more appropriately sour than the Two Brothers. The Amarillo hops do more to give it a clean citrusy, tropical character than any fruit addition could hope to achieve and it results in a nice dry finish which was nice. I could drink this beer all night as it’s pleasantly tart but not as aggressive as say an Anderson Valley gose. Since it’s already practically summer again in Florida, I could see myself reaching for this on the regular if’s available.
Pineapple Beach – Funky Buddha Brewery
Of course Funky Buddha would have the longest line at the festival, everybody loves adjuncts. Don’t get me wrong, I dig a lot of what Funky Buddha does and I’m glad they do it because they do it very well. Beers like these are the ones that are going to win over the new craft beer drinkers so they’re the perfect participant in this kind of festival. I myself find them interesting but I rarely want a full pint. I do however taste every single one that comes through if I can just to sniff it out. This was my first taste of this beer even though it’s a year round offering and I have to say I was not impressed. I feel like if you’re going to go adjunct and not referment with the fruit, you should go all the way. This drank as a run-of-the-mill blonde ale with but the faintest hint of anything remotely tropical. I’ve had pales that used hops to create a more tropical taste than this. I knew I should have just gone for the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter!
Collaboration #6 – Boulevard Brewing Co. X Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Scott from North Florida Sales hooked me up with the fat tip on this beer and I’m glad he did because I would’ve easily missed it otherwise. Poured from an unmarked tap handle it felt like an insider secret, which it kind of was. But in this lies my other big problem with your average beer fest. There’s a great story behind this beer and it’s one that few people would likely otherwise have the privilege to sample. The only information I received was that it was a blend of barrel-aged Boulevard and Firestone Walker beers. To be fair, it’s partly my fault for not asking the question but in that scenario I’m trying to GTFO and find a tree to stand under to taste my beer before some bro pukes on me. I’m being dramatic but my point is that my kind of beer fest is one in which I get to connect with a beer, learn about it and really taste it, not run around munching pretzels trying to taste every single beer. This collaboration came about after Firestone Walker joined the Duvel Moortgat family of brands of which Boulevard is also a member. The beer consists of 45% Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad, 35% Firestone Walker Stickee Monkee, 10% Boulevard Imperial Stout X – Tart Cherry, and 10% Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin. While absolutely not the ideal environment to drink such a beer, I’m very glad that I did.
The Parter Ships Rye Wit – Heavy Seas Beer X Terrapin Beer Co.
Winner winner, chicken dinner! Wouldn’t you know that the best beers are the result of collaboration, how bout dah? While I detest pirate-themed anything, Heavy Seas comes correct despite their stupid branding. They do particularly well with their The Partner Ships collaboration series. This one teams them up with Terrapin for a white wine barrel-aged rye wit. Even though Terrapin is commonly thought of as an IPA brewery and have nary a wheat beer in their core lineup, they kill it with the wits. Black is the New Wit was an exciting beer and so is this one. New school hops keep it interesting and the combination of rye and the white wine barrels make it dry as a bone. Finally something that relied on solid and creative beer making rather than cheap gimmicks! No offense to the other breweries in attendance but this beer won the day in my book. Deciding to end things on a high note, I went home for that nap immediately after this beer.