Looking at the Connoisseur’s Tasting for the 20th Kennett Square Brewfest – Map Included

– I’ll totally judge your brewery by just your porter!

KSBFWhen 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.

Conn Map 2017

 

 

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:

.    .    .

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!