When Jeff Norman visualized 20 years ago the event that would become the Kennett Square Brewfest, beer festivals at that time were like Wawa’s and cellphone towers – you could drive for miles and miles without running into one.
Fast forward today, and just like my examples above, brewfests have become something that you only have to drive over the next hill before you come across the next one.
But although brewfests have become more common, I always maintain that not all brewfests are created equal and to that point, I’ve never made any apologies that I consider the Kennett Square Brewfest to be the yardstick against which I measure all other beer festivals.
And, to drill down even closer, the Kennett Square’s Connoisseur’s tasting is – if I may be so blunt – the total shit.
Every year beer festivals offer patrons VIP tickets, which usually get the holders into the festival for an hour or two earlier then the general admission ticket holders, but Kennett has always done something different. Their tickets for their Connoisseur’s tasting gets you advanced entry to the event, but only for a select number of the breweries pouring for the festival. The trade off for this smaller selection of breweries is that they pour beers that will not be featured during the normal festival. So in other words, it’s really a tasting unto itself – and unlike some festival’s VIP tickets, worth the extra money.
With the whole festival at 110+ brewers strong, and although I’ve attempted to do so in the past, doing any kind of pre-event run down is a daunting task to say the least. So instead, I want to turn my focus to only the Connoisseur’s tasting and a handful of beers that I’m looking forward to trying, and for the sake of keeping it interesting, let’s keep IPAs out of this….you’re OK with that right? Good!
First, some details. This year Kennett joined up with Untappt to keep a running list of the breweries attending and the beers they’ll be pouring for both the regular and the Connoisseur’s sessions. So if you’re an IPA fan and are dying to know, click here. The links to switch between the two can be found just under the Kennett Brewfest logo. Tickets are still available for the regular session. You can purchase them here. And finally, the Connoisseur’s tasting has moved! But don’t worry, they just moved it to the other side of the building, in the back section of the festival (see map below).
And that is just about all you need to know, so let’s look at some beer. My thoughts are in normal type, descriptions from the breweries (if there are any) are in italics.
Allagash Brewing Co. – St. Klippenstein
A Belgian strong ale from Allagash that I haven’t had before?? Yeah, I’ll have two, please. OK, maybe three. See you at the tent!
This full bodied beer is brewed with an array of dark roasted malts: dark chocolate malt, roasted barley, chocolate malt, and brown malt. After being hopped with Chinook and Northern Brewer, and fermented with a trappist-style yeast for a month in stainless, the beer spends three months aging in bourbon barrels. At the brewery, we celebrate St. Klippenstein day to commemorate our love of free ham, pot lucks, and big stouts. In honor, we brewed this Belgian-style stout aged in bourbon barrels. Rich cocoa brown in color, the first sip of this beer opens with a complex chocolate and roasted aroma. Notes of vanilla, coconut and oak infuse the palate and lead to a smooth, warm finish.
Conshohoken Brewing Co. – Viking Funeral
Who doesn’t like a smoked beer? OK, many people, but my love for BBQ means that although I might not enjoy it, if you put smoke in your beer I absolutely need to try it. This will be one of my first go-tos.
Viking Funeral is a Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Smoked Honey Ale. This beer defies description. We brewed it with pale, munich, light crystal and smoked malts, then added 60lbs of local wildflower honey. Deep, smokey and incredibly hard to define, Viking Funeral is smooth and incredibly easy to drink, even at 10.9% ABV. Sharpen your axe and groom your beard, Vahalla waits.
Merchant du Vin bringing – Yorkshire Stingo
An English Strong Ale? Yes, please! Admittedly this probably won’t be the most remarkable beer I’ll try this day, but try it I will, and like it I probably will.
Some of the oak casks at Samuel Smith’s date back more than a century with the individual oak staves being replaced by the Old Brewery coopers over the years. Gradually the casks soak in more & more of the character of the ale fermented in stone Yorkshire squares. Yorkshire Stingo is aged for at least a year, matured in these well-used oak casks in the brewery’s underground cellars deriving fruit, raisin, treacle toffee, Christmas pudding and slight oaky flavours, before being further naturally conditioned in bottle.
Mispillion River Brewing – Pound Town
One of my favorite breweries in Delaware is bringing one my my favorite styles, an imperial porter!!! I’ll see you at the tent! I’m going to have more than one of these.
Ship Bottom Brewery – Barnacle Bottom W/ Peanut Butter
A stout with peanut butter? I know it’s not everyone’s glass of beer but I’m definitely in for a taste.
St. Boniface Brewing – Chocolate Porter Firken
I’m not a fan of what firkens have become here in America, but if done with restraint, and admittedly, chocolate, well, I’m willing to give it a try. But I’ll admit, I’m a little dubious with the “hints of coffee”. Hopefully it’s just a hint.
Firkin – Rich chocolate notes with hints of coffee & vanilla beans
ZeroDay Brewing Co. -Midnight Angel
I’ve had a love for ZeroDay after I named them one of my five breweries to look to at a previous Kennett Brewfest and I was not disappointed. This year for the Connoisseur tasting, they’re bringing a Russian Imperial Stout. I’ll admit I’m not normally a fan of beers aged in bourbon barrels, but with this brewery, I’m willing to give them at least a taste.
Aged for a year in Kentucky bourbon and rye barrels blended to perfection Hobbies: Sexy Mother Russia, Submarines, Making snow angels
And that’s the run down. We’re looking forward to this event as we do every year. I’ll be wearing my usual festival clothes, a Monty Python and the Holy Grail “Killer Rabbit” shirt and a black fedora and Tracey will be wearing her festival straw hat, so if you see us, come up and say hello, and point us to the best beer you’ve tried so far. After all, that’s a large part of the fun of tastings – seeing what everyone else is enjoying..
See you Saturday!
To print the map click on it and then right click and either “save image” or “copy image” and paste it into your favorite picture program. It will be larger than it appears here.