A lot of hype (including some posted by yours truly) led up to last Saturday’s Big Bold Beer Fest at DoG Street Pub, and with good reason. The beer list they trotted out was and is unrivaled with anything else I have seen in over a decade. And while the overall format was a little different that normal, no one left disappointed.
Event: Big Bold Beer Fest (#3BF)
Location: DoG Street Pub, Williamsburg, VA
Date: January 17, 2015 11:30am-4:00pm
Cost: $50 for VIP (11:30-4:00), $30 for regular hours (1-4). No tickets at the door (SOLD OUT).
Included: 5oz tasting glass and 20 tickets. Beer prices based on rarity from 1-6 tickets each. Additional tickets were on sale.
Food: Everything from Pretzels, to BBQ sandwiches, to andouille sausage corndogs.
Entertainment: 3 Blues bands through out the day.
Overall Impressions: Like the festival I attended last summer at DoG Street, this one was top notch all around. Every question answered, every ‘i’ dotted. I was amiss earlier in the week when I found out about the graduated ticket system, but was quickly reassured that additional tickets could be purchased at the event. Not that I was worried that I would not get a deserving fill of beer, but food cost between 1-9 tickets as well. Over all the 20 tickets lasted most of the day until I wanted some food. And not to get on a rant about the food, but the andouille sausage corndogs were insane. Overall used about 40 tickets, and that was a stretch at the end, as I ‘bought’ a round for fellow VBR travelers. Music was very good, although this was a tented event and with the crowd was loud at one end versus the other at times. Hats off to Michael and everyone else I got to meet while I was there. We usually do a best breweries and beer, but we will just highlight the best beers from Virginia and out of state this time.
Best in Show (Virginia Beer)
Rum Barrel GBS (Gingerbread Stout), Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (Richmond, VA)
It’s tough to improve on perfection. One beer we really think highly of is the Gingerbread Stout from Hardywood Park. And while we thought that Christmas Morning (Coffee GBS) was not as good as the original, we thought enough of the RBGBS to put this first on the list. The addition of the time in the barrel added just enough roughness to the front end to make you really appreciate the sweet finish of the GBS. Please note that it was the general opinion of the group that this was stronger than the GABF Gold Medal winning Raspberry Stout which we also enjoyed, and that should say a lot.
La Calavera Catrina, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA)
I’m tired of going to festivals and writing up great reviews about LCCB. Just when you think you have figured them out, *BAM*, left turn. The La Calavera Catrina was a definite left turn from the offerings at #3BF. At 11.3% it was strong enough to run with the big boys, but it was not like taking a tequila shot at your 21st birthday at all. The lime and tequila was pronounced but smooth though out the tripel, to the point where several people commented that it was ‘the most dangerously tasty beer I’ve had’.
Jubilee VIII, Alewerks Brewing Company (Williamsburg, VA)
How ’bout that. A beer that wasn’t even on the list. Towards the end of the VIP session, Alewerks decided to uncork a few of their Anniversary Ales, which were sitting for a year in ’17-year Bourbon’ Barrels. Heavy brown sugar and boozy front, but one that you could like now, but love in about 3 years after sitting on the shelf. This was the ultimate ‘buy and stash’ there.
Barrel Aged Kings Mountain, Heritage Brewing Company (Manassas, VA)
If Jubilee VIII was the ultimate ‘buy and stash’, BAKM was the ultimate ‘buy and drink’ at the festival. A lot of issues with BAs is that it’s hard to find the balance of natural wood and spirt tastes. But taking this Wee Heavy and aging it in Whiskey Barrels, gave is just enough bite and complexity that it wasn’t too rounded. I would be interested to see how this one ages, but it is great right now.
Smokehaus Bock, Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company (Lexington, VA)
It tastes like bacon. What else do you want me to say? WHAT MORE CONVINCING DO YOU NEED?!?! IT F*&#^$& BACON, MAN!!! Hey, what are you doing to m- [Editor’s Note: The former editor of this article was so joyously enraged about the thought of drinking bacon that he got extremely agitated. He has been sacked. The rest of the reviews were written by llamas.]
Best In Show (Outside Virginia)
Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS), Founder’s Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)
It was the most anticipated beer there. Not 2 minutes after the VIP opened up, the line wrapped around the tent. Was it worth it? Of course. The maple pokes through about mid-taste that wraps around a great stout. It was a lot sweeter than the Hardywood GBS but still one of the best Breakfast Stouts I’ve had.
Aventinus Cuvee Barrique (2013), Weisses Bräuhaus G. Schneider & Sohn (Kelheim, Bavaria Germany)
In my college days, Aventinus was the quintessential to craft beer that we all hoped to get our hands on. Fifteen years later, the Cuvee Barrique from last year put a new twist on the classic. The wine barrels soften up the the heavy brown sugar notes and also thins it out a little in a good way.
120 Minute IPA (2012), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, DE)
I was ready for a full on hop-head attack with this beer, but the great thing about the aging process (minus the increase ABV) is that this beer mellowed with age and made it quite palatable. The hops were definitely present, but not as pronounced as a 120 would that just came off the line.