If you really want to see what American beer is all about, Beer Advocate’s American Craft Beer Fest is probably the best showcase for beer made right here in the United States.
Held this past week at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, more than 140 breweries poured more than 600 different beers during the festival. There was pretty much a beer for all tastes.
I’ve been to every American Craft Beer Fest, and the thing I like about it is you get a true view on the breweries and the beers they brew. During the Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest, for instance, you’ll find many of the most unusual beers. Many breweries just bring their weird creations, beers that are often really good but you’ll never see again.
At the Belgian Beer Fest, you’ll find some hard-to-find Belgian ales, and many breweries bring special releases that you have to wait in line for, or maybe trade your first born to get a hold of a bottle.
At the American Craft Beer Fest most brewers bring their standard line-up of beers, an occasional seasonal and maybe a special release or two. That means you’re tasting beers you can later find on store shelves.
This year’s festival was phenomenal as usual. A quick glance through the festival guide indicated there were at least 30 breweries making their first appearances there. I tried to get to as many of them as I could to sample their beers, but a man’s liver can only take so much.
As a New England beer writer, it was great to see many New England breweries there. At least half the beers I tried were from New England breweries. Of the 140 or so breweries attending the festival, more than half (88) are based in New England.
There was good representation from every New England state. You’d expect a lot of breweries from Massachusetts (more than 40) and Maine (11), but Rhode Island and Connecticut - the two states that have been woefully underrepresented in past years - really showed that craft beer is gaining ground in southern New England. Rhode Island had five breweries there, while Connecticut had six. In the past, the most I’ve seen from either state was two. I think someone could put on a very successful New England Craft Beer Fest.
Another thing I like about the festival is you can really see where the beer world is heading, when it comes to styles. A style I’ve rarely seen at previous festivals, Berliner Weisse (sour German ale), was relatively easy to find this year.
Lagers, seemingly ignored for years by craft brewers, appear to be growing in popularity. Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham brews them exclusively, but many breweries such as The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery from North Carolina and Prodigal Brewing at Misty Mountain Farm in New Hampshire, had several lagers available. As a lager lover, it pleased me to see all of the pilsners and Maibocks available during the festival.
Page 2 of 2 - And, just for those who were wondering, I could not pick just one “Best of Fest” beer, so I picked three: Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Company’s Beer Week Sauce Coffee Porter, Boston’s Trillium Brewing Company’s Bug Valley and Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing Company’s Ranch Double IPA.
Can’t wait for next year.
Norman Miller is a MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News staff writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Follow him on Twitter at @realbeernut or on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/beernutnorman. Also check out the Beer Nut on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/bwa2sdn.