This past weekend, the ACBF took over Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center for an all-out beer-a-palooza. I’m talking over 640 beers. Friday night’s Session A was moderately overwhelming– I had known that there would be more than 140 breweries but hadn’t actually pictured what that would look like. It looks like row upon row of amazing beer booths ready for tasting is what it looks like.
I quickly realized that attendance at a beer fest requires two things: 1) a pretzel necklace and 2) a tasting objective. The fest guide provided by hosts Beer Advocate and Harpoon Brewery was extremely helpful in terms of finding an objective, with a list of breweries and their brews, a breakout of beer by genre, and a booth map. Juggling the booklet and a pen and my tasting cup was a bit much for me the first night so my main objective was just to increase my repertoire of tasty beers. I was excited to finally try some new breweries and specific brews I had been eying at the liquor store.
My tasting partner took the genre approach and set out to taste every Witbier and Hefeweizen. His mission required a bit more planning, flipping from beer to brewery to map booth number, but it was a rousing success. I reaped the benefits by piggy-backing on his tasting notes to get the best wheat beers around. Other beer fest methods include tasting by state (east coast dominated but there were some guests from out west), tasting in order of best pun (i.e. NoDa Brewing’s “Hop, Drop ‘n Roll”), or the ever-popular tasting everything.
Both Saturday sessions sold out ahead of time and the good cheer was evident with the rippling “WOOOHS!” that rolled through the afternoon tasting hours. Friday night I had looked over my tasting booklet and was shocked at how many delicious beers I had missed, so Saturday I went in with a mission. My surprise find of the day was Enlightenment Ales, an Everett brewery I had yet to try. I scoped them out for their “Song of Myself” pale ale which has a good grassy flavor (a double nod to Walt Whitman?) but I went back for seconds and thirds of their “Rite of Spring” Saison, “Enlightenment Brut,” and “Illumination” Farmhouse IPA.
Along with Enlightenment’s “Rite of Spring,” I added Allagash’s “Saison Ale,” Ommegang’s “Hennepin,” and Foundation’s “Wanderlust #1” to my Sunday Saison set list– a new summer tradition I just made up in which I drink saisons every Sunday. I would also love to add Boston Beer Works “Double Apricot Saison” to the rotation, so someone please bottle it ASAP!
Soon-to-be-Somerville’s Aeronaut Brewing Co. diverged a bit from the norm with their Session with Dr. Nandu, offering four dry-hopped versions of the same American Pale Ale. Visitors could literally see, smell, and taste the difference in the hops. I’m looking forward to more taste experiments when the brewery opens this spring. In other imminent Somerville-brewery news, Slumbrew will open their taproom and brewery this November, bringing Cambervillians that much closer to beer heaven.
Speaking of beer heaven… I know it’s cliche’ but Beer Advocate’s American Craft Beer Fest actually felt like an alcoholic Christmas morning. So many gifts (beers!) to open! Besides the beers, ACBF managed to round up phenomenal and friendly people: brewers, volunteers, and attendees. Everyone was there to revel in the beer and share the brew. The line into the event was daunting, wrapping around the WTC building, but every line inside moved quickly, even for crowd favorites like Treehouse, Mystic, and Backlash. Keep an eye on Beer Advocate’s forums for best of the fest brews and definitely grab a ticket or two next time this event barrels into town.