Eddie Pensier writes:
I had so much fun at last year’s Beer Day Out (which I recounted for readers here) that I decided to return. Once again, the event was held at the Old Bus Depot in Kingston: once again, the atmosphere was friendly and lively without the hordes of staggering drunks one might expect. At least 50 domestic and international brewers were represented. I decided for the most part to focus on the weird, whacky, and otherwise unusual.
Young Henry’s Natural Lager
A hazy, pale-yellow lager with a clean initial flavor punch. Once the hop-hit subsided, the strong inclination was to return for a second 100ml helping. With several dozen untried beers in my immediate vicinity, this was a good sign.
Grand Ridge Brewery “Go Figa” Fig & Ginger Ale
Was this an ale made from figs and ginger, or a figgy ginger ale? Whichever, it was not the least bit sweet and in fact leaned distinctly sour. It definitely tasted more gingery to me, not a problem as I’m a big fan of ginger ales and beers. But I’d have loved to have detected more of a fig note to this.
Nomad Brewing Company “Threesome” Anniversary Grappa Barrel Aged Strong Ale
The brewers of my most unusual beer pick from the last BDO (the spicy, fluorescent-orange Long Trip) returned with another oddball beer. A wicked 7.7% abv was certainly responsible for part of this ale’s knockout punch, but the aromatic spices, megahops and grappa barrel-aging added more idiosyncracy. Not a chug-on-a-hot-day beer, and close to the edge of what I’d consider unusual for unusual’s sake, but Nomad certainly has my attention as one of the few breweries I’d trust to do something like this without it resulting in a hot mess.
Emmelise Smoked Rye IPA
The magnificent pear-fruity aroma and full bitter hoppiness was only the beginning: the spiciness of rye and the sinister smokiness remained in my mouth long after swallowing. Any fan of rye whiskey needs to find this and consume it posthaste. My drinking companion pronounced it his pick of the festival and resolved to buy it, should he be able to find it in a store or pub. Unfortunately, the elusive Emmelise has resisted our attempts to locate her.
Snack break: Happy as Larry pizza Margherita, far better than any pizza emerging from the back of a Toyota van had a right to be, and in fact right up there with some of the tastiest I’ve had. (And I’ve had a few.)
Pact Beer Co. Brickworks Brown Ale
I thought I might be getting drunk at this point, because Brickworks Brown Ale looked like a brown ale and smelled like one too, but the taste was strangely insipid. Perhaps that’s not fair: if I’d tasted it blindfolded I might’ve guessed it was a serviceable lager. But call something “brown” and I expect it to be brown in flavor as well as color: the roasted, malty notes that are characteristic of the style. None of that here, unfortunately.
Local gang Zierholtz had mixed results with me last year, but their Oktoberfest was a winner: a richly bitter, molasses-y, almost chewy ale. My companion described it as “weird” but I liked the rummy aspect to it.
Feral Brewing Watermelon Warhead
Watermelon beer? Well, why not? A wheat beer in the German sour style, distinctly citric, watermelon more present in the aroma than the taste. Like the Nomad Threesome above, it has been aged (Chardonnay barrels rather than grappa). My fear on getting this beer was that it would be fake-watermelony of the Jolly Rancher sort, but it was nothing of the kind: fresh and ciderlike, something you would drink all day (and at a mere 2.9% abv, you certainly could).
Snack break: Frugii Gin and Tonic Sorbet
Readers may recall my epiphany at Frugii’s Baltic porter ice cream from last year: the amazing combination of flavor and texture that opened my eyes to all sorts of boozy frozen possibilities. The G&T sorbet was creamiest, lushest sorbet I’ve ever tried, without a single ice crystal to mar the glorious texture. The flavor was…gentle reader, similes fail me. It was a gin and tonic in the form of sorbet, full stop. Everyone should try this once before they die.
Bridge Road Brewers Porter
Not your usual porter: this had odd, and it must be said, somewhat off-putting flavors of chocolate-covered limes. What? You read right. The citrus/sour theme of many of today’s beers reached its nadir here. I like my porters to be rich, unctuous and nourishing. This wasn’t, and the bitterness that usually is a hallmark of a porter turned into a weird mess in this.
Bridge Road Red Ale
On the other hand, their Red Ale was a gently floral, ambery delight with crisp notes of lychee and light hoppiness. This is the Bridge Road beer of choice…until I try all their others, of course.
La Sirène Praline
I inadvertently saved the best for last: Praline is its namesake rendered into rich, stouty form. Sensational aromas of vanilla, hazelnut and chocolate lead to a creamy body and a faintly sweet finish. I’m planning on keeping a steady supply of this in the Pensier family refrigerator. If you ever wished someone would make Nutella into a beer, your wish has been granted.
La Sirène also won the day for their sexy, Art Nouveau label artwork.