One little innocent glass that gets handed to you and then you are off to each of the tents where the craft beer is flowing. Sounds great doesn't it! Well I have to admit this is my rookie season and I attended the Benson Beer Fest earlier this summer. I keep asking myself as to why I waited so long to try out this wonderful adventure. I have to say the experience was amazing and wanted to tell you this story through the eyes of a newbie to Beer Fests.
So the amazing part to me was the fact that there were breweries represented from coast to coast across the United States. I looked up and down the street and saw so many local favorites like Scratchtown, Thunderhead Brewing, and a newcomer to Nebraska - Prairie Pride Brewing - out of Grand Island. Then quickly saw favorites from the northwest like Deschutes, Elysian, and Rogue breweries. Down another street Colorado well represented with New Belgium, Odell, and Avery Brewing. Wait, I can't forget the incredible breweries from Michigan - Bells, Founders, and Saugatuck brewing. My oh my, I was like a kid in a candy story. Which ones to try first? So many to try, so little time!
Favorite Brewery Swag
The breweries come prepared with lots of free items to promote their products and as well as some items for sale. For example, I purchased a very cool hat from Peace Tree Brewing in Iowa.
Favorite sticker comes from Avery Brewing (CO)
Favorite coaster from Deschutes Brewery (OR)
Favorite tattoo from Rogue (OR)
Favorite free beer token from Scratchtown Brewing (NE)
When first arriving I wasn't sure as to what to expect. I met a friend for the event and we headed to get in line. I had already purchased my ticket, but my friend Jeff hadn't. Let me tell you, my first tip is to get your ticket ahead of time to avoid the long lines to purchase one. Once into the event, I hadn't really thought too much about a game plan. The one thing I did know is that I would have to pace myself. The worst thing to do would be to over indulge in the first hour and miss out on the rest of the event. The second tip I have is to find where the water is at and make sure to stay hydrated during the event. This is especially important for summer beer fests when it is hot outside. The other thing this will do for you is to space out the time between beer samples keeping yourself on a good beer consumption rate.
The third tip that I have for you is make sure to go with a friend or a group of friends. First of all, it is great to have someone to share the experience with and secondly someone that will make sure you are not having too much fun! Jeff is a fellow craft beer enthusiast and enjoys meeting new people, so we both had a great time meeting the people of the breweries and getting to sample their beers. Also we chatted with lots of people that day getting to hear what type of beers they were enjoying at the event. There is nothing like getting a second opinion on a beer from someone else's taste buds. Maybe a little tough to see in this picture, but Jeff has a pretty healthy pour from the sample he got from New Belgium brewing. Most of the time the pours are probably only a couple of ounces in your 7 oz glass. That is a good amount for being able to get a good idea of the aroma of the brew and enough for your palette to determine if it is something you like. On to another favorite part of the beer fest, the swag.
I have to admit I had the time of my life talking with all of the breweries and learning more about all of the types of beer. Here are some of the highlights from the beer tasting:
Overall Favorite Beer: Founders Sumatra Mountain Brown. What a robust coffee flavor in an imperial brown ale.
Favorite New Local Brew: Prairie Pride Islander Porter. This toasted coconut infused porter was an incredibly smooth and malty treat.
Favorite New Type of Beer: Rogue's Cold Brew IPA. I was intrigued by the coffee aroma and loved the back end hop finish. Definitely a beer I wouldn't have thought I would like before trying this one!
Favorite Beer Tent: Scratchtown Brewing. I always love getting a chance to talk with Mike, the head brewer and Shay, assistant brewer. These guys turn out fantastic brews like their Black Eye Imperial Porter. Ever have a question about craft beer, Mike and Shay can answer it. If you ever make it to Ord, NE stop in, say hi, and enjoy the Sandhill's finest on tap.
I think that is about a wrap. Even though I am a rookie, I had an incredible time and plan on at least attending one or two more beer fests this year. I have so much to learn about craft beer, but these events definitely help. I hope to see you at the next one and would love to meet you! I am sure I will be the only guy walking around in a Joe Java-Stout t-shirt.