This is usually Kevin’s bag so I stay away from posting anything beer related but after he assured me it was cool if more than one person talks about beer on this site I figure why not. (Kevin’s Edit: Everyone knows you drink more than me so why shouldn’t you post about beer? In other news, look forward to a year end round table which will include Jeremy and a variety of guest contributors.) This past weekend was the fifteenth annual Charlotte Oktoberfest which just so happens to be a craft beer festival as well. Seeing how I just moved to Charlotte it was a no-brainer decision to attend. Actually, I had the tickets well before I moved here but whatever. The girl and I arrived for our special VIP entrance and we were off. Oh, VIP meant we got in an hour and half earlier than what we continually called, the commoners.
As we waked through security were handed our complimentary 5 ounce Fifteenth Annual Charlotte Oktoberfest shot glasses and were left to figure things out on our own. What we found was the equivalent of a Catholic Church festival minus the gambling, rides and children. It cannot be over stated how nice it was to walk around and not hear one infant or some brat whining and crying. No protective mothers using their kid filled strollers as battering rams. Just a calm and festive environment.
It would be dishonest to give full account of all the beers we, my girl attended as well, tried through the day. We were so excited by the idea of free beer we immediately went to the first brewery that we recognized and tossed back a few. Before it became a forgone conclusion I did make the conscious decision not to write any beers down unless they stood out. No matter how much we may have consumed, if the beer stood out it was going on the list. It just so happens that I only took note of five. The perfect list number. Hmm, go figure. So here they are for your perusal. Oh and if you are interested, the Charlotte Oktoberfest and Craft Beer Festival is back for a sixteenth year on September 27, 2014.
Green Flash Bullet from Green Flash Brewing was the first standout beer of the festival. It is a 10% Triple IPA. IPA is my usual choice of beer but I am not a fan of double IPA’s. They feel too much like a simple syrup and lack the crispness of your standard IPA. So it was with a great reluctance I tried it but seeing how this was the first Triple IPA I had heard of it had to be sampled. Boy was it a surprise. It had three distinct flavor changes with the final bite taking a few seconds to hit the taste buds. When it did it was impossible to miss. The brew was much crisper and cleaner than a double IPA and retained the smoothness and bitterness without going overboard like a true IPA. At 10% it is not a mass consumption beer but it warranted a few trips back to the tent.
After the Green Flash Bullet we grabbed a sausage or two and decided to try something other than our comfort ones. She gave up the stouts and browns and I went away from the IPA’s. Part of our plan to maintain ourselves and not overindulge was to try a brew or two on one side of the festival grounds and then crisscross our way around. This way in between different length of walking and waiting in lines we would naturally pace ourselves. Let it be known, that idea is bullshit. It doesn’t help.
Anyway, this brought us to one of my favorite breweries, Lagunitas. Lagunitas has become the default IPA of choice whenever Terrapin Rye Ale is not available. So it as with great excitement that I noticed a new brew from them. It was a variation of their Lil Sumpin Sumpin Ale, this one was called Lagunitas Little Sumpin Wild. It is an 8.8% flavorfest with a smooth body. I was assured there is no fruit involve in the brew so it must have been the hops that provided a heavy aroma with a sweet aftertaste. It was a shock to find a better beer produced by Lagunitas that tasted better and was more enjoyable than their flagship brew. Little Sumpin Wild Ale is a limited release apparently so if you can find it snatch it up.
As per the process we waked back across the festival and we came across The Mother Earth Brewery booth. Mother Earth Brewery is not a company I am familiar with and cannot recall ever trying one of their beers. After we perused their selections I denied myself an IPA and went with my secondary beer of choice; a good wheat or wit beer. This turned out to be yet another good decision on my part. What I chose was the Weeping Willow Wit. It is a relatively low alcohol content beer, clocking in at a mere 5% was a late, definite refreshment. Wit beers are usually light and sweet and lack a proper body; this did not. It was a cloudy brew with a load of flavor and finished with a mystery flavor. I still have not figured out what it is and their website is no help. Even after dulling the taste buds with countless IPAs and a scorching hot spicy brat the flavor from The Weeping Willow Wit was plentiful.
The next beer on the list and the most surprising came from Red Oak Brewing just down 85 south here in North Carolina. Red Oak is a fairly popular beer and it has a presence at just about every pub or beer garden in the Charlotte area. So, we weren’t all that excited to stop by but once we saw they had three taps we investigated a little closer. It turns out they had their standard choices but one stood out. The Red Oak Hummin’Bird, as it was described to me by their rep, is the Red Oak version of a light lager. Apparently my enthusiasm showed as I was reassured it was not a Miller Light or Bud Light and to give it a shot. I was handed a half full shot glass and with an open mind enjoyed their “light” beer. There was no loss of flavor and it had a strong body while not being heavy at all. There was no sinister aftertaste as the flavor was even throughout. From lips to stomach this was a total surprise.
Hands down the best beer I consumed at the entire festival. So much so in fact that I now have in my possession their booth sign. Why? I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time but after five straight power hours of beer sampling drinking an actual frog may have been negotiable. So taking a generic red and white sign with generic Frog Level Brewing, block #12 and Waynesvile, NC was the least damaging idea I had as the day wore on. Anyway, as for the beer itself Frog Level Catcher in the Rye was the best beer I had during the day and it may e in the top five beers I have ever tried.
If you couldn’t tell it is a The Catcher in the Rye is a Rye Ale but without the bitterness and strong bite of most Rye or Pale Ales. It also only clocks in at a reasonable 5.3% alcohol content. Normally Rye Ales clock in a bit higher but even with the smaller alcohol content there is no loss of flavor or potency. I blame this brew, along with the Green Flash even though they were consumed hours apart, for pushing us over the edge. No one forced me to go back over and over but it was such a refreshing Rye Ale no that is not a mistake I did mean refreshing. It is perfect for nursing or consuming while binge drinking. This should be regarded as high praise no matter how terrible that sounds. This single beer also motivated me to finally throw down some hard earned money, well, the girls’ money, on my very first beer shirt. A nice yellow t-shirt with the company logo on the front and frog foot on the back. Pretty sweet I thought and it wasn’t black so that was also refreshing.
So hopefully some of these brews are available in your area. If not check out their web sites and see just where you can find it or order from them direct. You may not agree with what you read here but it will broaden your taste just a bit. At least that s the goal. The craft beer market is so large now it is impossible to sample them all but then there is still plenty of time to try. -Jeremy