On Saturday 8/22 we attended the Summer Brewfest at Indian Ranch in Webster, MA. This event isn’t your typical beer festival. Sure, there are 30 or so brewers pouring unlimited 5 oz samples of beer, but there was also a live southern rock cover band, a lakeside beach with beach games, an old strongman carnival bell game, and BBQ being smoked on-site by BT’s Smokehouse of Sturbridge, MA. This event is really more of an all-around summer party with lots of beer, than a brew festival.
That being said, there was still lots of good beer there, and as always some companies had a better showing than others. Here are the results:
Best in Show goes to Boulevard Brewing from Kansas City, MO. This was a pretty easy choice, as it came down to quality and selection. Most of the brewers here were just pouring out of bottles and cans kept in an ice bucket of some type, but boulevard set up an on-site draught system with chilled draught lines, which automatically set them apart from 90% of the other brewers. Combine that with the fact that they had three beers to choose from (Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, Calling IPA and 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat), when many others only had two, and that the beers they had were high quality and diverse, made them a no-brainer pick for winner.
Runner-Up goes to Kretschmann Brewing Co. (KBC) out of Webster, MA. These guys were the hometown heroes considering this brewfest was in their backyard, but they were also an underdog, as they were the smallest production brewery there. They were conscious enough to have a chilled line draught system set up just like Boulevard, with two beers to choose from. They deserved to be runner-up just for having one of their two offerings be a small batch bourbon barrel-aged dopplebock known as “Bourbonator”. Most of the breweries that were present only had mainstream mass-produced choices and I’d estimate that 80% of the beers were IPAs, summer ales & white ales. Bringing Bourbonator really helped to distinguish KBC from the crowd. Their other offering was a really good hefeweizen that I reviewed previously (read here).
Honorable Mention to Peak Organic Brewing of Portland, ME for bringing and serving their King Crimson Imperial Red Ale. It was a pleasant surprise to try a 9.5% ABV Imperial Red (and a good one at that), amongst the sea of session IPAs and summer beers.
Normally I would now discuss the worst performing brewers, or “lowlights” as I like to call them, but the real lowlight of this brewfest was the diversity of beer choices and the way the beer was being served (from bottles and cans, often way over optimal temperature). I’m not saying there weren’t some macro brewers set up (you know who you are, Budweiser, Blue Moon, Sam Adams, etc.), but that wasn’t the biggest downside of the event.
The Summer Brewfest at Indian Ranch is a really good summer party that even The Dukes of Hazzard would’ve been proud of, but because of the outdoor activities and great food from BTs Smokehouse, you’re left just wanting to have a full-size beer in your hand rather than a 5 oz sample cup that you have to keep waiting in line to refill. The problem is, you can’t get one, even for an additional cost. It’s not an option. Trying to ignore the festivities and just sample great beers really wasn’t an option either, because there weren’t that many great beers there and these were the type of festivities that won’t ignore you, if you know what I mean. Maybe the lesson here is that a great outdoor party shouldn’t try to be a brewfest much like Tim Tebow shouldn’t try to be an NFL Quarterback. It seems like it could work, but the results aren’t quite what you hoped for.