A great cross-section of beers were represented. Truly, come for the variety alone. As examples we had:
- We had Hoppy, Rubicon, River City and Two Rivers for truly local.
- Sudwerk, Snowshoe, and Lockdown for regional.
- Stone, Lagunitas, Anderson Valley for California.
- Caldera, Shipyard, and Big Sky for national.
- And Primator, Schonrammer, and Hopf for international.
Can I possibly review all the good beers there? No. And I didn't try (though it is good to have goals!) Was it hard to stay objective after drinking so many diverse beers in the hot sun? Of course. Did I still come away with a few strong opinions and insights to share? Indubitably.
WINNERS (AKA: VERY PLEASED TO MEET YOU):
-Ruhstaller (Sacramento): This was the guy with the Beer Truck and cool mustache. His beer 1881 Red Ale rocks. Lets keep a lookout for where this beer is going. I'm excited.
-Schmalz Breweries (SF/NY): A vagabond Brewery with no physical location (pictured above). Good folks churning out some nice beers. Not sure what the crossover with Coney Island is, whether it is just another label they sell? Doesn't matter if the beer is good. Absolutely loved the Coney Island Albino Python. Claimed to be America's only Wheat Lager (did I get that right?). Described as White Lager brewed with Ginger, Fennel and Orange Peel this stuff was just delicious. It is comparable to Great White by Lost Coast, good body and excellent spice but still light and crisp. From me, that is very high praise. The dark beer they were pouring was well received, good coffee notes and solid flavors (name?). The Freaktoberfest was terrible. Sorry, the red color didn't help. A couple friends poured this out. Schmalz wins the distinction of one of the best and one of the worst beers.
PERFORMERS (AKA: OH, I DON'T KNOW YOU BUT, THAT WAS NICE):
-Shipyard (The Other Portland, Maine): Very nice guys coming a long way to bring us good beer. The Smashed Pumpkin was delicious. I'm guessing pumpkin beer is bigger on the East Coast, cause it is rather new to me. This is a great autumn beer, rich flavor, nice finish. The berry beer they were serving was unremarkable.
-Grand Teton (Victor, ID): Pictured at top. Bitch Creek ESB is a good reliable brown ale, well balanced, tasty. The Saison was quite good. I had seconds, 'nuff said. Nice guys, drop in if you are lucky enough to be headed to Jackson Hole or Grand Targhee.
-Great Basin: (Sparks, NV): Until proven otherwise, I declare them Nevada's "Best Brewery". I'd like to visit and try out that selection. So invite the blog up there and impress us!!!
-Hopf / Schonrammer (Munich, Germany): Pictured below. The imported Schonrammer Festbier is a good Marzen, and an example of what most "Oktoberfest" style beers are trying to be, how could I not like it. Not Munich's greatest, but worthy of the heritage. Hopf was also tasty, again this is what a true "Weisse/Hef" tastes like. Very cool servers. Bavaria demands the highest standards, and these beers meet them. Now if Americans were brewing these beers, I'd be very very excited.
VETERANS: (AKA: PERFORMED AS WELL AS EXPECTED, NO NEED TO COMMENT, THESE ROCK)
In general, these are true professionals doing great work. These are the people responsible for the American Beer Renaissance, and they deserve our beerful respect. I trust everything they make to be tasty, without reservation (except in the odd case). Keep up the good work.
-Deschutes (one of the world's best! the best? debate amongst yourselves...)
-Mammoth Brewing Co (see my earlier review for a full rundown)
DECENT (AKA: I HEARD GOOD THINGS, BUT CAN'T HYPE IT):
-Two Rivers Cider (Sacramento, and cool owners)
NOT GOOD (AKA: I HATE TO SAY IT, BUT IT'S TRUE):
In fairness, it was hard to be objective, but a few beers fell below the average and need to be pointed out. Until future testing and review, I would avoid:
-Fossil Fuels (Oakland, CA): Nice concept with the 45 million year old yeast. The Indiana Jones of beers. But sadly it performed like the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This was my first tasting, but it came out flat and unremarkable. Muddled. Everyone agreed.
-Mt Shasta Brewing Company (Folsom, CA): I know this brewery is better than this one beer. They served my cousins wedding and the Weed Brew Truck was pouring delicious beers all night. So the jury is still out on the rest of their beers. Whatever the Hemp Ale they were serving was terrible. Bitter and sharp, poorly balanced. If I don't like a gimmick beer like this, not sure who is supposed to.
I welcome any comments or corrections (from brewers or attendees). Thanks.
So, until a warm September afternoon next year, Happy Sipping. PROST!