On Saturday 06/13 we attended the WZLX Craft Beer Festival at Union Station in Worcester, MA. There were over 40 brewers set up and over 135 beers to try. The event was well-run and well-organized, with thought given to things like cup rinsing water stations, a concession area if you got hungry and people checking IDs and tickets while we were in line to keep the lines moving quickly once we got to the front. All in all, an event I would certainly come back to if they hold it next year.
Now, for the highlights. Best in Show (my favorite brewer/booth) was Medusa Brewing Co. from Hudson, MA. They are a very new brewery that just opened their taproom back in March. They came with 4 beers to try: Mandarina Bavaria (Pale Ale at 6.2% ABV), Citra Legacy (IPA at 7.2%), Zweihander (Imperial IPA at 8.2%) and Confector (Stout aged on Cocoa Nibs at 6.9% ABV). They were all excellent and unique, and showed me that these guys really know what they’re doing (also the brewmaster was on-site for questions). The Citra Legacy was probably my favorite, but even that was tough to decide. A pilgrimage to their Hudson, MA taproom is definitely in order.
Runner-Up was Bantam Cider from Somerville, MA. I think it is important to point out that Bantam was one of the only companies there that had one of the guys that makes the product actually running the booth. This is great because his knowledge of the product and the process are so much better than the pretty beer girl hired to pour at most of the booths. They came with 3 ciders to try: Wunderkind (Modern American Cider at 6% ABV), Rojo (Cider aged with sour cherries and black peppercorns at 5.4% ABV) and Americain (A Seasonal Farmhouse Cider at 5.2% ABV). I would say the Rojo was my favorite, but they were all excellent. You could say it’s tougher to find a really good craft cider than a really good craft beer, considering the amount of too-sweet, artificially flavored crap that’s out there and the lack of quality craft cideries, so it’s nice to know there’s one near me that’s doing it right.
Honorable Mention to Saranac from Utica, NY for having one of the most interesting and tasty beers of the event with their Immortality (Hopped Imperial Amber Ale at 7.5% ABV). It was a really complex and balanced beer that is worthy of a try if you see it in your area.
Now for the lowlights, which I don’t want to dwell on too much on since this was such a good event (but these things need to be mentioned). First, the fact that Blue Moon had a booth there at all, enough said. Which reminds me, “If a MacroBeer is bothering you, just sue them“.
Another lowlight was Downeast Cider House from Boston, MA, which did everything wrong that Bantam Cider did right. They offered ciders that were too sweet and tasted “flavored”, like the cranberry, hard honey and lemonade, the last of which literally tasted like someone took a hard cider and poured a packet of Country Time lemonade mix into it. They actually have a “Mixology” page on their website that shows you all the different mixed drinks you can make with their hard cider, which is never a good sign (The “Down on Fire”, which is just their original cider with a shot of Fireball Whiskey in it, sounds especially tasty). Remember Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita and its many spin-offs?
Narragansett from Providence, RI also had a booth there, but since they have a cult following in New England I won’t beat them up too much (read review of Narragansett Lager), plus look at all the new beers they now offer (sarcasm).
Overall this was a really worthwhile event, and I hope to see you all next year (if they have it), and keep supporting local beers by hitting up a taproom or tasting room near you!