Monday, May 18, 2009

West Coast Brewfest

Written by Jeff Barber

West Coast Brewfest – Miller Park – May 16

Last Saturday was the West Coast Brewfest at Miller Park in Sacramento and I felt like I was having some sort of déjà vu experience compared to last year. Great beer but way too hot and way too crowded to be truly enjoyable. They’ve had truly bad luck with the weather the last two years as both days have been over 100 degrees but the organizers need to do something with the layout, or limit the number of people, to make this an enjoyable event. Lines, even for some of the lesser known breweries were often 6-8 people long, or longer.

Heat and crowds aside though, on to the beer. Given the high temperature I planned to focus on some the the lighter, summer weather beers so I never tried any of the stouts, etc., that were being poured. I did taste some excellent beers however. I truly didn’t have a bad beer all day. Some were better than others but none were bad. I also was limited to about two hours as my other responsibility as a dad required me to be at home for my daughter’s 12th birthday party later in the afternoon.

My BOS for the day had to be the Whoop Ass Wit from Great Basin Brewing. Matt, the brewer at Great Basin, said they were trying for a classic wit and didn’t add any additional spices like seeds of paradise, etc. He did a great job with this wit though as you could clearly taste the spice from the coriander as well as the citrusy orange taste. He also said that the most difficult job in making this beer was zesting all the oranges they used since they went with fresh orange rather than dried orange peel, etc. It was worth it Matt. Great job!

Honorable mention went to Sam Adams for their Imperial White, a beer that had both a Belgian dubble or tripel character to it, as well as the spicy wit character. At 10.3% ABV, definitely not a session beer.

My other honorable mentions had to go to Blue Frog (Fairfield) for their Frog in the Rye which had an excellent spiciness and full body from the rye, and Deschutes (Bend, Ore) for their Red Chair IPA, which had lots of hops in the aroma and initial taste but carried enough malt to make it well balance and drinkable.

Other beers I tried were as follows:

Alaskan White-very refreshing and clean but not much spice

Lost Coast Great White-again very refreshing but not much expected spice notes

North Coast LeMerle-very tart and an excellent example of a saison. Great summer beer.

Coney Island Albino Python-a spiced white lager, this had noticeable spice but a very dry finish

Great Basin Rock MaiBock-sweet maltiness with a definite hoppy finish. Very good.

One regret was that I missed Peter Hoey from Sacramento Brewing’s Belgian Quad. It was poured during the early VIP hour and I missed it. I heard it was outstanding however. Another regret was that by all time favorite Hefeweizen, from Blue Frog, wasn;t being poured. Typically a medal winner, it didn’t win this time. I’ll have to go to BevMo to stock up.

Again this has the possibility of being a great event. With less people or a more spread out layout, and less heat, this event could be memorable.