Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cincinnati Winter Beerfest

 A recent story published in Motortrend covered the Beer Brewing Renaissance on America's Third Coast, detailing a Smokey and the Bandit style beer run to breweries in the midwest.  I'm a fan of travelogues anyway, but I enjoyed tagging along, so to speak, traveling to partake of brews from famous names like Founders, Vivant, Bell's, Three Floyds, and more.  I particularly enjoyed this line, an echo of a sentiment D has voiced to me several times.  

"...And, if you'll allow me to keep waving this flag for a moment, people who know beer know that the United States now brews the best beer in the world..."

This timely article found me just as we celebrated the Cincinnati Winter Beerfest this past weekend.  I'm not sure if it was advertised, because we don't watch a lot of tv, but I only stumbled upon it by chance at the last moment.  We were only too happy to sally forth downtown to the convention center with some of our friends.  Cincy local beer enthusiasts at Hoperatives posted some crowd photos on their site, to give you an idea what it was like on the day.  I'm surprised to say I was a tad disappointed.  It wasn't a bad event, but CWB was a pale shadow of the Dayton Alefest. 

We had fun, don't get me wrong.  I love making the acquaintance of new brews.  And we got to spend time with some beer-loving pals, which was great.  And I also rode the city bus for the first time.  It's nice, as buses go, clean, and pretty darn convenient.  Good on Cincy.  I'd never have rode the bus in my hometown, the mere idea terrifies me.  But I digress.    

While its true that Dayton Alefest is outdoors in the summer and CWB is indoors in winter like a tradeshow, I think something else contributed more to the underwhelming feel of the event.  Poor organization. 

Fist-bitingly long lines at CWB made the whole thing feel less like the great craft beer event it could have been, and more grueling.  Cincy Winter Beerfest had mostly pulls, which, as you know, are operable by one person at a time.  In  contrast, Dayton Alefest booths were (mostly) serving from bottles, operable by many pourers at once.  It's a simple difference, but consider this:

A: Being part of a giant taste test, roaming from beer to beer whilst milling about, tasting, enjoying, and chatting with the people chilling nearby, maybe comparing notes on your faves. 


B: Forever queuing up as though at a beer theme park. One that is only open for four hours, so everyone has to hurry up and get in another line, facing the backs of your fellow revelers heads, otherwise you won't get to experience more than a few roller coasters.  Beer roller coasters.  The size of a sippy cup.     

my favorite from CWB
The coatcheck was bedlam.  Inebriated volunteers made one of our companions cry by threatening to have her arrested for insisting that they actually give her the coat for the ticket she had just handed over.  I did get my coats.  But I'm not surprised the coatcheck people were overwhelmed.  By the end of the night we beer-drinkers were sick to death of standing in orderly lines, and instead descended en masse in a seething, pushing crowd.  Next time they might drape those movie-theatre-style cords to instill some more orderliness. 

I do hope they continue to put on the event.  And I did like it well enough, but by the time we stood in the huge lines we hadn't actually sampled that many beers.  Moreover, I think they ran out of quite a few of them, because I couldn't find some that I was looking for.  Well, I hope they make some improvements for next year.  We brought home a Moerlein sign from the silent auction, which we were quite pumped about.  The live music was fun and the crowd never got rowdy.  Well, actually...

One of our companions was set upon by a young lush who, much to the surprise of all, took one look at his pretzel necklace, paused, and then lunged toward his chest, jaws agape.  To our (married with children) companion's surprise, she unashamedly chewed pretzels right off his chest with her teeth.  Just some anonymous, yet unforgettably classy girl.   

We were served well by our pretzel necklaces at CWB.  And though we were in good company, all around us were folk adorned with necklaces of string woven through pretzels, clearly those that did not have did covet. 

I Enjoyed: 
Two Brothers:  Cain and Ebel (Rye Beer)
Victory Brewing Co. : Hop Wallop (Double/Imperial IPA)
Something from Unibroue (which apparently, tragically, is not pronounced “unibrow”)
*the CWB website listed the Unibroue offering as Trois Pistoles, which gets super-high kudos on Beer Advocate.

I Wouldn't Refuse Another:
Harpoon: Celtic Ale (red ale)
BlueGrass Brewing Co.: Nut Brown Ale
Great Crescent Brewery: Coconut Porter (just ok)

I loathed:
Cincinnati Beerfest Ale (IPA)
Listermann’s Beerfest Ale (IPA)
Something something something (IPA)

I guess I have learned that I don't like IPAs.  The more you know.

At Leinenkugel's booth they were making a half/half mix of their Summer Shandy and their Berry Weiss, and they called it Pink Lemonade.  This was surprisingly awesome.