A Stroll Through My Mind – The Kennett Square Brewfest 2011

I confess I haven’t been to a beer festival in a long time.  I do go to Max’s Belgian Beer Fest every year, but a local beer fest populated by mostly local brewers?  It’s been awhile.  So when my buddy Kenny suggested we hit the Kennett Square Brewfest, I agreed.  One, because it fits the bill as a “local beer fest” but also because the proceeds benefit Historic Kennett Square, a non-profit charity.  And like I’ve said, drinking good beer and helping a good cause – sign me up!  We decided to get tickets to the connoisseur’s tasting – a smaller tasting where brewers often break out some less common beers they brew, and then have lunch at one of the local restaurants.

A long time ago when we’d go to Stoudt’s microbrewfest I always wrote up a little “trip report” and sent it out to all my beer friends.  One thing I learned back then, doing a detailed and comprehensive write up of a beer fest takes more patience and focus than I have.  Oh I start out with grand intentions, but after awhile I’d rather be drinking beer and talking to the people around me then scribbling tasting notes in a notebook. Heck, I don’t even remember every beer I’m poured.  Which isn’t a slight against any brewers, there’s just always some much going on that sometimes I miss a brew or two (or three).  That being the case however, no matter how overwhelmed I’ve gotten, at the end of the tasting I could still identify those one or two breweries or beers that I’d want to seek out again, and that’s all I cared about.

But for the most part, the events always end up looking like one big parade through my memory.   So with that, here is my stream of consciousness “review” of the Kennett Square Brewfest:

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Haven’t been here since they’ve moved to the new location down by the high school.  Way better!  Awesome layout!

My friend Steve (AKA BUBBA!) is checking in the brewers as they arrive.  That man should not be given that much responsibility! LOL

Yes people, you do need your ID.  It’s a beer tasting so they may be serving alcohol in there.

The people across the street from the entrance have a little section roped off in their front yard where they are standing and drinking beer.  It looks like the poor guy who lives across from the Santa Claus house who puts up one string of lights across his gutter.

Hmm, some people just showed up with pretzels on a string around their neck.  That’s really a good idea or kind of silly.  Can’t decide which.

And in we go!  Most people are heading towards the first available tents.  Rookie mistake.  Always go to the back where there’ll be fewer people at first.

My first "check-in". Before I just admitted to myself that Untappd would be easier.

First beer (love the sound of that) “Wine Flower of Belgium” from Boulder brewing.  Nice floral Belgium.  Excellent start to a good day.

To check-in my beers on Untappd or not to check-in?  I decide not.  I take a picture of the Boulder tap handle instead.

Next beer, “Brekle’s Brown” from Anchor Brewing.  It’s named in honor of the person who owned the brewery that would later be called Anchor. Interesting interplay between the brown ale and the citra hops.  Might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I liked it.

I decide to say screw it and use Untappd.  Why not use the perfect tool for the job?

My check-in of “Brekle’s Brown” earns me the BEER PARTY badge on Untappd.  Guess I’m not alone.

Between about every third brewer’s tent they have a Rubbermaid cooler of water.  Nice upgrade from back in the day when they used to put pitchers on the tables and when they were empty, they were empty.

Yorkholo brewing has poured me something that I won’t remember later as I didn’t check it in and someone was blocking the sign on the cooler when I took the picture.  Like I said, it’s amazing how much effort this takes.

Stoudt’s is pouring their “Brewer’s Reserve Double Chocolate Porter”.  It’s everything I love in a porter.

The pretzel boys are back.  Still can’t decide.

Dockstreet.  I remember back when they put their labels on the bottles upside down to honor some historical protest.  They’re pouring a brew called “Prisoner of Hell”.  Pretty good, but I liked the name better than the beer.

KSBF volunteer Steve Platz enjoying the fest with Ken Finney

My buddy Steve comes over to talk to us.  He’s an annual volunteer.  It’s because of people like him that we can enjoy this brew fest.  He always says I should volunteer, but I’d rather drink beer then lug ice.

Brewery Ommegang has brought their “Aphrodite”.  I though Tracey was going to love this considering some of the other tart, fruit beers she loves but it didn’t displace any of her favorites.  Not to worry Kasteel Rogue, you’re still number one in her heart.

Rinse glass with water, toss. Fill glass with water, drink. It’s a good routine after each beer.

Kenny points out someone tossing out a beer by calling them a “criminal”.  Normally I would agree but with this many beers around why choke one down you don’t like?  It’s only 2oz.

Time to hit the head (must be drinking to much water), luckily the porto-potties are right next to the Stoudt’s tent.  When I’m done I grab another chocolate porter to sip on while I catch up to my group.

Stop at the Allagash tent hoping to get a glass full of their “Four”.  They’re pouring the “Curieux” instead.  Not usually a fan of barrel aged beers, but these guys do this one nicely.

You spend $70 for a ticket to a beer fest and then light up a big stogie?  I mean, I love a good cigar as much as the next person but really?

The guys at the Yards tent pour me something.  I remember when you’d see their beers around and then one day they just disappeared in Delaware.  I’m glad to see them re-appearing on the shelves again.

I get a sample of something from I believe Forest and Main.  I’m not sure because while I’m getting it I strike up a conversation with the guy next to me.  We spend a few minutes sipping on our beer and discussing home brewing.  This is why I enjoy beer fests.

Time for Tracey to get something to eat so we stand in front of the Ommegang tent and talk for a while.  I take this opportunity to get another chocolate porter uh, I mean hit the head again.

We go over and have a little conversation with the people from Twin Lakes.  Good to see someone from Delaware is representing (yeah, I’m looking at you Evolution and 16mile!)

It’s about time to close the tasting down so I go over and get another chocolate porter (not even disguising it with a trip to head this time).

Glad to see so many women enjoying the beer fests now.  When I started going to them you could count the women on two hands and most looked like they were drug there by their boyfriends.

Word gets out that we can stay for the regular tasting (I’d forgotten about this!) but we have to leave the brewers alone in the half hour in between – brewers?  What brewers?

Kenny has to leave because he promised he’d meet family at a local restaurant for lunch.  We were supposed to go as well.  Hmmm, go to a bar or stay around and drink more free beer.  Yeah, you know the answer.

Ok, the pretzel guys are just teasing me now.  I want one!

And they open the gates!!! Everyone goes to the front tents, we head to the back.

I get a brown ale at the Boxcar Brewery tent.  It’s a nice brown maybe a little thin but I really like it.

Mission brewing pours me an IPA.  It’s crisp and hoppy which is just what I needed at the moment to waken by tongue back up.

The Shocktop VW Beetle

The Shock Top folks are here with their “bug”ulator.   A VW beetle with a working tap system in the back.  The faucet comes out the back just over the license plate.   You know, I’ve never looked at a VW as a tailgating vehicle before, but now….

Eel Brewing pours me an organic amber.  It’s a nice clean beer.  Very good.  I’m glad; I’ve run into places that seem to put the “organic” label over “quality” when they make their beers.

The guys at Williamsburg Brewing fill my glass with something.  It was beer I’m sure.

Hmmm, a picture of the girls in the German outfits or the guys with hop leaves around their heads.  Must be the beer because these decisions usually aren’t this difficult.

Tracey enjoying a Voodoo Love Child

Voodoo!  Wynona’s big brown ale is very good.  Tracey is digging the Love Child.  She’s a hippy at heart.

At this time we’re getting that “it’s time to go vibe”.  We’ve had the run of the place for a while and lines at many of the tents are starting to get a little long.  Time to go sit and have some food.

The KSBF was amazing and I’m happy to say they’ve really got this thing down to a science.  Congrats and thanks to all the volunteers and breweries that come every year and make this into the great event it’s turned into.  We’ll be back next year!

GABF Results – Delaware

The old adage is Location, Location, Location.  And although that phrase was coined for business real estate, it definitely can be applied to other aspects of life.  And since this is a beer blog (for the most part), I’m sure you can already see where this is going.

If you locked 50 beer lovers from around the country in a room and asked them where is the hub of craft brewing in America you’d likely get 52 different opinions.  That’s the level of debate that can run wild when you get beer lovers together arguing over where the best place to live is if you want to best experience the craft beer revolution.  And most of those people arguing the virtues of their selected area would have valid points.  Let’s face it, when it comes to craft beer there are a lot of amazing cornerstones around the US.  People from Seattle, Portland, Boulder, NY, etc can all easily argue how special their place in the craft beer world is.  That’s why I always get strange looks when I tell people that I feel lucky to be enjoying the craft beer growth from – Delaware.

Yes, Delaware.  Definitely not the first place that jumps into your mind when you think of the craft beer revolution, but I think the thought has merit none the less.  First, I’m only two and a half hours or less from NYC, Baltimore and Washington DC.  Places like Rattle N Hum, Blind Tiger, Max’s Taphouse, and Bier Baron (the former Brickskeller) are just a day trip away.   Also, brew establishments such as Stoudt’s, Sly Fox, Yards, Nodding Head, and Triumph are within a reasonable car drive away.

As far as Delaware itself, well everyone knows Dogfish Head, but we have some other breweries doing some amazing things as well.  The Iron Hill chain, with locations in Newark and at the Wilmington Riverfront (as well of their locations outside Delaware) are pushing the limits of craft beer by allowing the brewers at each location free rein to create beers that they find interesting.  And of course there is Stewart’s who make solid beers and build a clientele that enjoys what they have to offer.

But it’s not just the brewpubs that are doing well.  Brewer’s Twin Lakes showed up a few years ago as well as the new kids on the block Evolution Brewing and 16 Mile Brewing.  All which are brewing beers that are beginning to gain tap room at local bars.  And then there’s Fordham, who when their brewery in Maryland got to small they pulled up stakes and moved to Dover, DE where they’ve flourished quite nicely.

So with that in mind I’d like to salute my state’s metal wins at the 2011 GABF.  Congratulations guys, can’t wait to be at the bar tasting your metal winning beers!  And to all the other GABF winners who are just a day drive away – I’ll be seeing you all sometime soon as well.

Congratulations to the  2011 GABF metal winners from Delaware! :

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant:
Bronze    Vienna Red Lager             Vienna-Style Lager
Bronze    Grand Inquisitor              Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout
Silver      Russian Imperial Stout    Imperial Stout

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery:
Silver      Chateau Jiahu                     Specialty Beer
Bronze    Midas Touch                       Specialty Honey Beer

Stewart’s Brewing Co.:
Bronze     Maibock                               Bock

Time for another beer!  Maybe a metal winner!

Social Drinking in a Social Media Age

Let’s be honest, drinking is a social event.  Oh I won’t lie, I enjoy drinking a nice beer in quiet solitude (well as much solitude as you can have with a girlfriend, two kids and two dogs) but if you look through history, drinking has been an activity that brings people together.  Whether it’s a bottle of wine at dinner, some mead shared by vikings around the campfire, or guys at the local bar cheering on their favorite baseball team. Whatever the occasion, people enjoy drinking together.

So it’s no small wonder in this age of social media that a few people have taken up the task to broaden the scope of social drinking, and to my thinking it was inevitable.

One such group are the guys from Untappd, the designers of a social media application that allows you to enjoy beers with your friends, even if they’re seven states away.  The concept is easy enough (if you do Facebook or Twitter you’re 3/4 of the way there) and in my mind the execution is flawless.

To start, point the browser of you computer to the Untappd website.  I always recommend registering and setting up new accounts on a computer – it just seems easier.  Once you’ve answered a few easy questions and roamed around the site you’re ready to go.  Now here comes the easy part, go drink a beer.  See?  Fun isn’t it?  While you’re sipping, point the browser on you phone to return to the Untappd web application. Yes, I hear you “what? no app?”  No, at the moment Untapped runs off of a web browser based app so you’ll need a  phone with internet capability to get the most at out it, but don’t panic!  The app is tight and straight forward and you’ll have no problems running it.

Once you’ve logged onto the Untappd web app, the fun begins.  By clicking a button at the upper right of the screen that says “drink up” you’ll be taken to the check in screen.  Checking in is easy.  First, in the field for your beer, type the name or a few key words of your beer and hit the search button.  Untappd will then search through it’s extensive beer database and find the beer it thinks you’re drinking.  Didn’t find it?  Don’t worry, Untappd gives you the ability to add it – but to be honest, I think you’ll rarely have to do this.  Once you’ve entered your beer next is the location where you are enjoying it.  Untappd gives you the ability (you can opt not to do this if you wish) to use your phone’s built in GPS to find your location and give you options in the surrounding area as to where you might be enjoying your beer.  Again, not there?  Add it!  It’s easy.

After location you have the ability to leave a comment.  Untappd gives you plenty of space to do this.  If you don’t leave a  comment  your check in will have some little notation like : TheDogsOfBeer are sipping a Summer Love from @Victorybeers at @2stonespub.  However, bear in mind that if you do add a comment, that comment will be displayed in your Twitter feed (more below) and since you have only so many letters on Twitter, the above message will be displayed as a link back to Untappd.  So if you want to comment make sure you include the name of your beer (at the very least) and the location so people can easily see them.

Now that the basics are in the next part is one of my favorite things about this app.  You can connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts to Untappd so that your activity is uploaded from Untappd (do this when  you register) when you check in. However every time you check in, Untappd gives you the option of whether or not you want to upload your activity to these accounts.  A few clicks on some radio buttons and you’re all set.  Now is the big moment.  Click the “Confirm Your Brew” button and POW! you’ve checked in your first beer.

While the check in process is the spine of Untappd, it offers a lot of other fun features as well.  First, Untappd will recommend new beers for you to try based on the ones you have input.  Also, like facebook (friends) or twitter (follow) Untappd allows you to “friend” others in the Untappd community.  A screen in the app will show you what your friends have been drinking

One of the coolest things about Untappd is that it rewards you for  your beers in the way of badges.  Badges can be earned based on the beers you enter, and there are some cool ones.  Badges are separated into three categories, the first, BEERS is pretty straight forward.  You get badges at certain numbers of unique beers (1, 25, 50…500) you check in.  You can also get badges for drinking beers in a certain style like mexican, IPAs or irish.  Drink 5 beers in a sitting and earn your “Drinking Your Paycheck” badge.

The next catagory is venue. Interesting badges like Ahoy Matey!, The Layover, Hitting The Slopes and Bowl-a-Rama wait for you beer lovers that tend to enjoy your brews in interesting places.

Finally, the really cool ones, the “Special” badges.  Some of these are limited to within a certain time frame.  For instance, you needed to check in during American Craft Beer Week to earn that badge.  Now you’ll have to wait till next year.  Some of the badges however are a collaboration between Untappd and other beer minded people.  Dogfish Head Brewery has a badge for anyone that drinks three beers in their Ancient Ales category.  The guys from Hop Cast have just jumped on, drinking beers that they feature on their webcast  show will get you a badge. And don’t over look one of my favorites, “New Beer Thursday”.  Check in with a new beer three Thursdays in a row and get your badge.  Got it?  Well keep going!  The badge has levels.

There are other apps out there for connecting to your beer friends.  I encourage you to seek them out, find one that works for you and start checking in.  After all, drinking is a social event.  And it no longer matters if the person you’re drinking with is 4 time zones away!  Time for a beer, I want that July 4th badge!

What’s your favorite app for beer?  Have you used Untappd?  How do you like it?