For my girlfriend Kristen and I, this past weekend (February 12-13) was a time to celebrate our love…. for craft beer. Saturday at the Electric Factory was the Winter Beer Fest. Hoards of people gathered to celebrate and sip over seventy plus beers ranging from spicy winter beers to citrusy IPAs. For our session the doors opened at 1:00, but we got there early to make sure we were able to make the rounds. To our surprise there was already a line forming in the frigid parking lot.
Finally at exactly four minutes after 1:00 they let the thirst, impatient masses loose onto the floor of the Electric Factory.
Once we’d breached the entrance it wasn’t long until we were sampling some beers. First off for me was surprisingly something I’d already tried before, the Back in Black, Black IPA from 21st Amendment Brewing Co. Kristen’s may have been 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat. I think what attracted me to the Black IPA was the fact that I’ve never had it from a keg before. They are usually canned and I was looking to see if I tasted a difference. Of course as expected my taste buds, nor my memory are acute enough to be able to figure this out.
After we had gone through a few breweries we started noticing less and less space available to walk. The lines were getting longer and less defined while new patrons were still filing in from the cold. It became slightly frustrating to try to move from one brewery station to another so we decided to take a break and see what vendors were hosted at the beerfest. I passed up T-Shirts with terribly unfunny quippy phrases like ‘BEER is the reason I wake up in the Afternoon’ and also the god awful retro signs that say ‘BEER helping ugly people have sex sine 1862’. Seriously folks if you are buying these you certainly aren’t helping Craft Beer culture. I also love that everything has to be associated with Ireland for some reason, putting a shamrock on a green shirt with ‘Kiss me I’m drunk‘ plastered across it isn’t really celebrating your heritage. Anyway… sorry. I hate those things. Thankfully there were some worthwhile vendors like a very interesting cheese with horseradish, a slap-bracelet style beer koozie, and some insanely hot and dangerously delicious pretzels from Famous Kirby’s.
It wasn’t long until we got bored and more importantly thirsty. While shuffling back to the beer we realized there was a tad bit more room. Initially I figured some inexperienced patrons had over indulged on the free booze, but as I look above I realized the balcony level of the Electric Factory had been made accessible. Until then it had been closed off, cramping everyone’s personal space and impairing their ability to reach new beers. Some breweries were moved upstairs and the remaining brewing companies were spaced out to allow for easier access.
By the end of the day we had hit up about 80 percent of the over SEVENTY beers. A few stand out, but no matter how much detail I go into it won’t match the joy of tasting them. One beer that I especially enjoyed was the Islander IPA from Coranado Brewing Company, not because it was the best beer at the festival, but because it surprised me entirely. I expected a light, somewhat hoppy and not very complex attempt at an India Pale Ale, but instead was blown away by the most hoptacular aroma I’d every smelled. It may have been the most aromatically true-to-hop scented beer I’ve ever had.
With Winter Beer Fest 2011 behind us we impatiently await another chance to taste unlimited free brews. Maybe someday our little homebrew setup will find it’s place among some of the amazing breweries we enjoyed.