by Brian Wall
Most people enjoy a good festival. Whether it be a carnival, renaissance faire, music gathering; they all have their own separate functions but are all designed for one simple thing- to enjoy a social atmosphere and have fun. Beer festivals are no different from other festival with the exception that there is normally plenty of brewers offering samples and rarities that may have only been brewed for the festival. On April 5th, the festivities at Fair Park gave us the Big Texas Beer Fest.
Beer fests are not for the uninitiated or the casual beer drinker. Similar to the way a marathon is not for the three mile per day jogger, beer fests are marathons that must be prepared for and trained for. The craft beer offerings go unrivaled from the standard tavern selection and maintain more samples than it is safe to consume in a given day. BTBF was definitely no exception to this rule.
The first samples that were tasted came from Jester King Brewery. Both beers were the classic sours and were cask beers. Cask beers generally are limited quantities and are lower in carbonation from normal beers. The beers- Aurelian Lure and La Vie en Rose- are produced in very small quantities aside from the cask and are normally only available at the brewery. These beverages were phenomenal. One person that sampled near me made the remark that it was too tart for her liking.
The next beers sampled came from Gordon Biersch Brewing. A very pleasant IPA, Hefeweizen, Scotch Ale and Porter were sampled while discussing the beers with the brewmasters from the Plano location- Eric and Dallas location- Abram. Both brewers were very friendly, helpful and great beer knowledge. The beers were absolutely flavorful and allowed for a myriad of scents not expected.
Making my way to the next booth, I found myself in front of Firestone Walker. Firestone Walker is known for impressive DIPA’s, Stouts and Barleywines. Unfortunately, sometimes what is listed on the program is not always present at a beer fest. This was true with the lack of the Barleywine- Sucaba. Sucaba is one the higher rated and highly sought after Barleywines on the market. While I was slightly disappointed, I was granted a sampling of 2013 Parabola instead. An absolutely intense imperial stout with a strong alcohol presence and high coffee notes.
As the crowd started to swell, Peticolas Brewing appeared in the beer sights. I decided to spend a little time at the booth but was unable to talk with the owner Michael. I did sample the Irish Goodbye, an Irish Red Ale, Black Curtains, an Imperial Stout, Sit Down or I’ll Sit You Down, a DIPA but dry hopped with Chinook hops, Velvet Hammer, a Strong Ale but dry hopped with Cascade hops. As I have mentioned in previous articles, Peticolas offers great beers and there was no disappointment and even some surprise with the different hop varieties.
Prairie Artisan Ales from Oklahoma had three beers, of which two were sampled- the Coffee Noir and the collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing- Bible Belt. Coffee Noir was very strong in coffee flavor and is an Imperial Stout. Bible Belt is also an Imperial Stout and asserts itself with a very heavy coffee/vanilla/chocolate flavor. Both were very strong in the alcohol note as they both are above 10% abv.
Rahr came in next on the list. Snowmacocoageddon- Snowmageddon with cocoa nibs added- gave a nice surprise for a twist on the usual Oatmeal Stout. The cocoa nibs allowed a bit of a chocolate flavor and scent to seep through during the tasting. The other beer sampled was the 9th anniversary Belgian Style Golden Ale. A little light in the flavor but still a nice beer after so many Imperial Stouts were sampled.
Franconia Brewing had a whopping eight beers to sample from. Two specifically caught my attention, McKinney Champagne and Trippel Dunkel. The Trippel Dunkel was a good example of a dark German beer and the McKinney Champagne was a pleasant Strong Ale.
Deep Ellum was the next booth hit. While there were plenty of beers present, the Oak Cliff Coffee Ale was the only sampled as the Neato Bandito was not present. The coffee flavor was very prominent in taste and scent. While the expectation that it might have been a lighter ale, it was dark in color but still a nice touch.
Aside from beer, there were a ciders that were sampled as well. Leprechaun Golden and Leprechaun Pomegranate as well as Woodchuck Smoked and Chocolate ciders were thoroughly enjoyed. The Golden was a nice crisp flavor whereas the Pomegranate was tartly-sweet. The Woodchuck ciders both shined intensely with a smoky and chocolate flavor that leaves me hoping they will be seasonal offerings rather than limited/once only releases.
Other beers were sampled throughout the day and there was no disappointment except for those rarities that were no present. Fortunately enough, public transportation is not far from Fair Park and there were plenty of food trucks as well as bands playing. The day was great for socializing, beer talk and variety. New friends were made while old ones popped up unexpectedly. For those that enjoy “schwag”, most breweries had bottle openers, stickers and other freebies for those that arrived early enough.
If you are planning on attending a beer fest, consider a few things beforehand. First, make certain you have a designated driver or public transport to and from the fest. While you can drive there, it would not be wise or safe to drive from the fest. Most of the beers that were sampled were higher than normal in alcohol content. Second, know your limits. The samples are only two ounces but when you consume those ounces in a non-stop manner over the course of a few hours, it adds up quickly. Remember, it is a marathon and not a sprint and you will not sample every beer present. Be sure to drink some water and eat something throughout the day. This will decrease the intoxication limit of those beers consumed. Slàinte.