Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Brewvival: the repour

The field adjacent to COAST brewing getting
prepped for Brewvival 2012
Before Saturday I considered myself a beer festival novice. The first one I went to was simply about drinking beer. I was able to have a few ones I hadn't had before but otherwise it was just a glorified kegger. My second beer fest was about bringing in good beer and good people and letting the event fly with that momentum. Met some great people while drinking a lot of beer I hadn't had an opportunity to taste. Great time.

However, North Charleston's Brewvival transcends all of that. I put on my big boy beer pants and tried to hang with some serious beer nerds and talented brewers. I'm proud to say I not only survived, but had a great time doing so.

Why does this event stand out? Well, for one everything is right from the tap and poured by a rep or actual brewer from the brewery. There were a few bottles I saw at the Great Divide table, but that was it. Each time you held out your tasting glass you knew you were going to walk away with something fresh and had a chance to talk to someone knowledgable about what was poured. And often what you were drinking was something that is either hard to find or relatively knew to the market. There's an air of trying to do better than the brewery at the table next to yours. Competition boils the wort and breeds success.

The runaway favorite was a brewery in Boca Raton FL that continually amazed everyone with their bold flavors and creative beers. I've told you before that I have some trouble picking up things off the nose, but I didn't have any trouble with Funky Buddha's* bold beers. More often than not you were hit with the aroma well before you even held the glass to your nose. I was smelling maple syrup long after finishing their "Maple Bacon Coffee Porter". The peanut butter and jelly dominated both my taste buds and my nose with their "No Crusts". Each tap they had was extreme and immensely flavorful. It made for long lines at their table as the event carried on, but each one was well worth the wait. Unfortunately they do not distribute, yet. So only those in the area get to enjoy these regularly.

I eventually counted about 24 new beers that I was able to taste on the day. Over the course of the weekend (and with the help of an immensely well stocked beer fridge at Ben's house) I was able to add another 8 more to that total. Not a bad weekend at all. Can't wait for next year!

Owner Ryan Sentz and Co taking orders for a
non-stop six hours Saturday
The highlights:
  • Funky Buddha - All of theirs were great, although the Ich Bein Lime is not really up my alley. But my favorite of the entire day was the very first beer I had, Last Snow. Amazing coconut with some white chocolate blended in. Great, bold flavor. Next I would put their Maple Bacon Coffee porter and then Bonita Applebaum, which reminded me of this scene from Justified just with a beer instead of moonshine.
  • RJ Rockers' Impeachment - The Spartanburg brewery will likely never win an award greater than having their beloved Son of a Peach named the official beer of this blog's Beer of the Week. But they kicked it up a notch with this imperial version of their unfiltered peach beer. The sample I had at the festival had a little too much burn, the peachiness couldn't keep up. So I tried it again downtown that night and was glad I did. More peach flavor than SoaP and boy do you feel it!
  • Southern Tier's Oak-aged Pumking - I hadn't had one of these and the anticipation was great to try it. I love pumpkin flavor and this one definitely did not disappoint. Very rich and the other complimentary flavors of cinnamon and graham crust give it the full drinkable pumpkin pie experience.
  • Westbrook's Mexican Coffee Cake - Terrific taste from this celebratory beer from a nearby brewery. There are really too many flavors to experience fully in a small sample pouring. I want this one again to get the full effect of the heat from the chilies with the sweetness of the vanilla and cocoa.
  • Speaking of which...New Belgium's Cocoa Mole - Ok, this one wasn't at Brewvival. But I had it downtown at Closed for Business later that night. And wow! Great creamy chocolate on the front that dwindle to a spicy, peppery heat on the back. And unlike most of those others, this one should be fairly easy to find around the Atlanta area
  • More than honorable mentions: Left Hand's Ambidextrous, Foothills' 2010 Sexual Chocolate, Fullsteam's Bourbon Barrel-aged Lager, COAST's Export Scotch Ale and Kona's Koko Brown (from the infamous beer fridge).
The disappointments:
  • Highland ran out of beer.
  • Allagash's Bourbon Barrel Black - perhaps I had "over-stouted" myself at this point but this one just didn't do it for me. Maybe they should have aged it a full year in Jim Beam barrels. 
  • Evil Twin's Biscotti - this one's description was a little overwhelming and produced some high expectations. Perhaps this "traveling brewery" needs to settle down...
  • And Sweetwater's Calypso - the flavor just seemed washed out. As a big Sweetwater fan I'd like to give it another shot, hopefully in a month at Suwanee's Beer Fest.
So to summarize, great weekend as expected. And if I have any readers in the Boca Raton area, go to the Funky Buddha Brewery and Lounge TODAY! Whatever you have planned this evening can wait. And if you can find a way to ship me a growler, I'll gladly spring for the dry ice.
*Here's some more info on how Funky Buddha got started a couple years ago through the dedication and hard work of Ryan Sentz, Jim Bast and Kevin Abbott.
 - an interview with Sentz
 - an article from just before they added brewery to the name in 2010 
 - Beer Drinker Rob's review of some Funky Buddha brews


Bernie said...

Great write up and glad you enjoyed our home town folks at the Buddha.  I talked with Kevin last night and he had an absolute blast at the event and in town in general.

Bernie said...

I'm currently investing in every lottery ticket I can find so that I can relocate those guys from your backyard to mine. :)

Great, great beer.

Bernie said...

I definitely sounds like you all had a good time. A lot of those beers do sound like great combinations. Any of them going to Suwannee? Otherwise, sounds like I need to plan a trip to Boca!

Bernie said...

I sure hope Suwanee Beer Fest and Funky Buddha can smooth out those arrangements. That would be awesome! If not, we'll start looking into airfare.

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