Kennett Brewfest 2012

Last Saturday was the 15th annual Kennett Brewfest.  The event, which started in conjunction with the Kennett Mushroom Festival and was held in what was little more that an alleyway type street between two buildings, has turned into one of the premiere beer events in the area.  Ninety plus brewers and representatives turned out to pour for a crowd of 3000+ people at the current location at Genesis Health Ventures.

The brewfest started at 12 noon for those of us who were lucky enough to get Connoisseur Tickets.  The Connoisseur tasting has only been part of the festival for 10 years, but in that time it’s practically turned into an event all its own.  More than thirty of the brewers that were there that day started early as they poured specialty, unique and small batch offerings, many of which were not going to be available at the main tasting.  Brewer Hill Farmstead, whose beers normally don’t make it any further than their gift shop as far as distribution, showed up to pour two of their beers, Vera Mae (a saison made with spelt and wild flower honey) and Ephraim (a nice imperial pale ale) for this event only as they were not participating in the main tasting.

(Clockwise from bottom) A look down Connoisseur’s row; the line around the back of the complex waiting to get into the regular tasting; looking down the back row of the tasting.

I walked in with a game plan as usual, although I was wondering how I was going to balance all the Tweeting, Untappd, picture taking and note taking I wanted to do.  Very quickly I decided to discard all the social media and focus on the beers and the people around me.  Several members The Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers were there, and Dogs of Beer Co-Founder Chuck was along, marking the first time the two of us had been together for a beer festival in quite a while.  So Tracey and I were looking forward to hanging out with friends and enjoying what we assumed would be an awesome display of beers.

And the tasting didn’t disappoint.  After first stopping at Hill Farmstead we walked around the tents trying beers like Dark Horse’s Fore Smoked Stout, Ommegang’s Scythe and Sickle Harvest Ale, Round Guys’ Old Grumplestilskin, Evil Genius’ Trick or Treat Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, Jester King’s Petit Prince, Troegs’ Scratch #76-2012 special HOPS, and Maine Beer’s Peeper Pale ale just to name a few.  In our travels we also stopped in to check out some favorites of ours such as, Allagash’s Curieux, Stillwater’s As Follows, and Flying Fish’s Exit 4.

The Boulder Beer tent pouring during the Connoisseur’s Tasting.
(L) Twin Lakes in the house. (R) The server for Twin Lakes lets me have a peak of the Festival from her perspective.

If the Kentucky Derby is the fastest 2 minutes in sports, then the Connoisseur tasting at the Kennett Brewfest is the fastest 90 minutes in beer tasting.  Before we knew it, they were asking us to pull back for the 30 minute break between it and the opening of the regular tasting.

The regular tasting is just head spinning and I’m not even going to try and recap what we had (I still have a list of beers to check-in at Untappd), but I did succeed in making it over to Left Hand Brewing and Voodoo Brewing.  We did take some time during the regular event to stop by and say hi to the guys over at Argilla Brewing (their first Kennett Brewfest) and then go over and chat for awhile with the folks from Twin Lakes (Brewfest pros).  It was great to see the state represented so strongly (Dogfish Head and Old Dominion were also in attendance) and to see people frequenting their tents.

When you go to beer festivals do you see “the pretzel people” as well, or is just a regional thing near us?
The Fegleys Brew Works station.
Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers (clockwise from bottom) It didn’t take Brian and Rob long to find the bacon on a stick; The Dogs of Beer talking beer; Pat and Dana stop for a picture.
(L) Where ever you go, it always seems that Guinness is served with a smile. (R) Me talking to the guy from Evil Genius.
(Clockwise from bottom) Steve and Pete from Argilla Brewing setting up; Chuck and I talking to the folks at the Twin Lakes tent; Argilla Brewing head brewer Steve Powell takes a picture with a guy who by that time was probably feeling pretty darn good.
The servers at the Old Dominion Brewing tent.
(Clockwise from bottom) Voodoo Brewing’s station; a nice selection from the guys at Voodoo; a toast to another great Kennett Brewfest!

The Kennett Brewfest seems to grow every year, but when I asked Mary Hutchins of “Historic Kennett Square” what she thought of this trend she indicated that for the immediate future, they were happy with where they are as an event.  “At this point we have reached our maximum with the number of brewers and attendees.  So, we will work at keeping the model the same for the next few years.  On Saturday we had 92 brewers, the most we have ever had and we think the number worked well”, she said.

Another change for the festival this year was the date.  The event is usually held the first weekend in October, but to the surprise of some it fell on the last weekend in September this year.  “I always try to avoid the GABF just because I know some brewery staff that attend Kennett would be in Colorado instead and I want them here”, said event founder Jeff Norman when I asked him about the change. “This year they are the weekend of Oct 13 (they are usually the end of Sept). Oct 6 is the Kennett High School Homecoming football Game so that was not an appropriate mix as they are right across the street.  I believe our preference for next year will be Oct 5, 2013. We will coordinate with the school.”

A lot of people come together every year to make possible the Kennett Brewfest which benefits “Historic Kennett Square” a 501-C3 non-profit organization committed to making Kennett Square a social, cultural and economic center; and Jeff was quick to thank them all, “The Borough of Kennett Square; the Kennett Square Public Works Dept; the Kennett Square Police Dept.; Genesis Health Ventures who provides the site for the fest; the Board Members of Historic Kennett Square; the Brewfest Executive Committee , a group of people who put in a huge amount of volunteered time;  Waywood Beverage for staging and delivering about 80% of the beer for the day;  our sponsors; our day of event volunteers; the musical acts and food vendors; of course the breweries that keep coming back year after year; and finally folks like you and our other patrons that support our organization through this festival.”

I’d like to echo Jeff’s appreciation for all those who come together make this event happen, and thank Mary and him for taking some of their valuable time to talk to me.

See you next year!!

Five Don’t Miss Breweries at Kennett Brewfest

This Saturday marks the 15th annual  Kennett Brewfest in Kennett Square, PA.  The event organizers have really out done themselves this year bringing in over 80 breweries from around the US and overseas, over 30 of which will be pouring specialty beers at the Connoisseur Tasting (which really has turned into it’s own event).

Big events like these can be just down right daunting.   To be honest, I always try to do a little homework before hand and go into these events with a game plan.  But then, somewhere around beer 6 or 7, it all goes to hell as I switch to kid-in-a-candy-store mode and just go where ever the promise of beer to taste takes me.

That being said, I do try to make a mental note of some breweries whose tents I definitely want to make sure I visit.  Some are breweries I’ve grown to enjoy over the years.  These are great to visit in the hopes that they’re bringing something new or different from the usual beers that make their way to our area.  Others are breweries that don’t normally come around this area, but their reputation proceeds them.

So with that in mind, here’s a few breweries I’ll be looking for on Saturday.

LEFT HAND BREWING Co

This Colorado based brewery started with two homebrewers who decided to just start a brewery.  They got off to a good start, opening in January 1994 and then going right out and winning two gold medals at the GABF later that year (and racking up 14 more medals since).  They created quite a stir at last years GABF with a release event for their Milk Stout Nitro, the first nitrogenated beer in the US not to use a widget.  I’ve heard a lot about these guys and can’t wait to check them out.  Beers I’m looking for: Oktoberfest, 400 Pound Monkey (English IPA) and Wake Up Dead (Imperial Stout).

ELYSIAN BREWING COMPANY

This Seattle Washington brewery has made its way it to Delaware a few times and it’s available over the Maryland state line at State Line Liquors.  They are quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries with the help of such solid beers as Bete Blanche Tripel, Dragonstooth Stout, The Immortal I.P.A., Perseus Porter and Loser Pale Ale.  They’re also doing a very interesting series off beers based on the Mayan apocalypse prediction.  They’re releasing a different beer every month with labels done by noted Black Hole graphic novelist Charles Burn.  Most of the beers in the series have so far been pretty solid, although #5, Peste,  didn’t click with me.  Besides the beers that I’ve previously listed I’ll be looking for apocalypse series beers Ruin (a Rosemary, Agave IPA) and Rapture (Heather Ale).

Tracey enjoying a Voodoo Love Child

VOODOO BREWERY

This was high on my “must visit” list last year and they didn’t disappoint.  Coming in from Meadville PA, these guys show up with Wynona’s Big Brown ale, which I really enjoyed and Tracey loved their Love Child.  To be honest, not much to say other than that.  Beers I’ll be Looking for:  One of the 4 Season IPAs and Big Black Voodoo Daddy (Russian Imperial stout).

HILL FARMSTEAD BREWERY

This will be my first chance to try any beers from this brewery.  To be honest, I’m not a big user of beer rating sites like Beer Advocate or Rate Beer, but when a brewery has 8 of their beers in Beer Advocate’s 100 most popular (using what ever devil-witchery formula they use to determine that) I have to take notice.  Shaun Hill has been brewing beer in Vermont for years and for the most part, that’s where his beers have stayed.  In fact, except for a few times a year when some make their way to Philly or New York (Boston is or has joined recently), the bulk of his beer is sold directly out of his gift shop.  And people apparently drive for miles to get some.  Beers I’ll be looking for : Anna Saison (brewed with Vermont wildflower honey), Holger Danske (a smoked brown ale) and any of the Society and Solitude series.

ALLAGASH BREWERY

This brewery is certainly no stranger to Delaware, and Tracey and I are no strangers to their beers.  Their beers have been featured at bars like Two Stones Pub, Cantwell’s Tavern and Ulysess Gastropub just to name a few, and we count some of them among our favorites.  Brewing out of Portland Maine, Rob Tod started out with the “simple” goal of producing first rate Belgian-style ales.  To be honest I don’t really care what they bring, but if they’re pouring Four (Belgian-Style Quadruple) then I’ll be very happy.  And if they’re pouring White (Belgian Style Wit) then Tracey will be happy.

There are just a boat load of good breweries showing up on Saturday besides these (21st Amendment, Weyerbacher, Stillwater, and Flying Dog just to name a few) , and don’t forget to stop by and say hi to all the local breweries who will be representing Delaware on Saturday: Argilla Brewing, Twin Lakes, Dogfish Head and Old Dominion.

See you there!