Monday, September 30, 2013

Pouring (but not making) homebrew at The Beer Diviner's Harvest Festival

beerdivinerBack in June, The Beer Diviner held a grand opening at their newly-opened taproom in Stephentown. I was there representing my homebrew club, Albany Brew Crafters (ABC). We even made a homebrew version of their “Very! Brown Ale” during the event. You can see video of the brew here:

This weekend, they held their first annual Harvest Festival. Much like the June event, it was essentially a mini beer fest featuring a variety of local food, drink and craft vendors. Once again, I was there representing my homebrew club, though we had a few more people and a LOT more beer to pour this time. Earlier this summer, ABC came into possession of a “jockey box”, which is a mobile draught beer dispenser. We brought it to the Shmaltz Grand Opening in July, but only had two beers on tap. This time all four taps were in use, along with several bottles of additional homebrew.

Since ABC is not a brewery, we’re not allowed to charge for our beer. We can, however, give away free samples* and we certainly did a lot of that. Here’s what we had on tap:
  • Scott’s Black Saison: A brown ale/saison hybrid, but a really good one at that. Sweet, smoky, fruity, and a bit funky
  • Scott’s Oktoberfest: On par with many commercial examples of the style. This was one of the most popular beers of the day.
  • Aaron’s “10.10.10 Vertical Epic Clone”: Based on Stone Brewing’s 2010 one-off release. A strong Belgian pale ale with sweet, white grape and other fruit flavors.
  • Ryan’s Saison with Brett: “Brett” is short for Brettanomyces – a strain of brewer’s yeast that imparts a funky, outdoorsy quality to beer. It’s a great yeast to use with a saison as it really brings out the countryside, farmhouse quality of the recipe.
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We also had several homebrews in bottles:
  • My “Trap in Black IPA”: It’s an American Black IPA recipe made with Trappist ale yeast. I brewed it mostly for the name. I’ve never been happy with the way this beer turned out, but nearly everyone who’s tried it has seemed to like it.
  • Aaron’s Stout with Brett: You wouldn’t think the Brett yeast would work in a stout, but it actually does pretty well. The roasty, chocolaty base is still there, but the yeast gives it a slightly fruity/tart edge.
  • Ryan’s Oktoberfest: Much like Scott’s, it’s a solid take on the style and highly drinkable.
  • Ryan’s “Very! Brown Ale” clone: This was the beer we brewed back in June at the Grand Opening. This was actually my first time tasting it and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Ryan did tweak the recipe a bit and threw in some dry hops, so it’s definitely a different beer than the Beer Diviner’s commercial brew. In retrospect, we should’ve done a side-by-side comparison (d’oh!).
This was the third event this year where I’ve been pouring homebrew for Albany Brew Crafters and it was the most fun, too. The people were extremely friendly and eager to learn about homebrewing and our club. The only problem with pouring beers such as these is that they’re not exactly of typical, familiar styles (with the exception of the Oktoberfest beers). When people asked for a description of the homebrews, it was quite challenging to explain them in layman’s terms. I noticed I would begin to describe a beer, get tongue-tied and flustered, and then hand out a sample saying it’s so much easier and quicker if they take a taste and they’ll see what I mean. More often than not the response was met with “Oh yes, I see what you mean. It’s kind of like ____ ,but not ____.”
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Getting back to the event itself, there were several other beers available for sampling. C.H. Evans Ales (aka Albany Pump Station) had a cask of their new 4.4% ABV “Session IPA” that was brewed with locally-grown Heirloom hops. It was exactly what its name implied: hoppy like an IPA, but light-bodied enough to be sessionable.

Craig Gravina of the Albany Ale Project was at the Evans Ale table, representing the project and discussing the re-creation brew of Albany Ale he recently brewed with them. Unfortunately, there weren’t any samples of the beer.

Justin Behan of the up-and-coming Green Wolf Brewing Company was offering samples of his Black IPA. It was dank and piney, but still had a good stout character. Schoharie County residents should keep an eye on this brewery as it will be, I believe, the first and only craft brewery in the county. Check their website for more details.
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Since this event was held at The Beer Diviner’s taproom, I tried a few of their beers as well. Though several are available in bottles year-round in the Capital District, there’s always something new on tap. I tried three and was really impressed with them all. (Note: I couldn’t find an official description of these beers online, so I’m just going by the name on the chalkboard)
  • Smokin’ Pumpkin: I didn’t get any smoke character, but I did get a lot of sweet vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Everyone who tried this said they really liked it. I should’ve gotten a growler of it to bring home.
  • Initiation Hefeweizen: Huge banana notes and a touch of clove. A sweet lemony flavor, too. Not quite as spicy as most German brews of the style, though it was very refreshing. I should’ve gotten multiple samples of this as it was perfect for the warm weather.
  • Very! Brown Ale on bourbon cask: I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the base beer. However, the bourbon barrel aging made a huge difference. It drinks more like a liqueur than a beer as it’s quite tepid with prominent alcohol. I think with time this will mellow nicely, though a sample size was quite satisfying.
The Wandering Dago food truck was in attendance as well. This was my first time seeing this local legend in person. I’ve heard plenty of good things about their food for a while now, so I was eager to try their cuisine. I decided to go with the aptly-named Dago. It’s pulled pork, marinara sauce, with melted provolone and grated parmesan cheese on top ($7). It’s a lot like a meatball sub, except with pork and it was fantastic! It was messy, though, and quite the challenge to eat while wearing a white t-shirt.

There were many other vendors at the event, but because I spent most of the time manning the ABC table, I wasn’t able to see them all. Watch this video for a tour of the event:

I didn’t want to close with this line, but it’s so true: a fun time was had by all!

*Homebrew is a lot like sex: it’s perfectly legal to give it away to people of the appropriate age, however, as soon as you charge for it you’ve committed a crime.

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