On Saturday 3/11/17 we attended the 2017 Drink Craft Beer Boston Beer & Cheese Fest at Cyclorama. This festival offered beers from 25 local craft breweries/cideries and cheese from 12 New England creameries. I attended this festival last year (see review here), and although it’s not the largest festival around, it is one of my favorites.
The Drink Craft Beer Beer & Cheese Festival separates itself from the average beer festival in three important ways. First is the venue, which is not only a really cool historical landmark, but is also circular. This make it a perfect host for a beer festival as you can literally “go around the room” trying delicious beers and cheeses at every station. Second is the cheeses. Having a local creamery set up with delicious artisan cheeses every third or fourth table (interspersed between the breweries) is an awesome addition to a beer festival and makes it more of a total experience. Lastly is the brewers themselves. There may only be 25 breweries and cideries set up, but they are all from New England and there is not one stitch of filler. You won’t find Sam Adams, Blue Moon, Narragansett or Heineken here, and Guinness won’t be pushing their new Guinness Golden Ale either. (What’s the difference between Guinness Blonde and Guinness Golden?… hold on, I’m getting off track, never mind.)
Now on to the awards portion:
Best in Show: Idle Hands Craft Ales in Malden, MA. This should come as no surprise, as they were the Runner-Up in last year’s festival here. Why did they win? Simple, three of the four beers they offered were three of the best beers we tasted all day. Those beers were Child of the Sun (mixed fermentation harvest Grisette), Four Horsemen 2016 (Belgian-style Quad) and Kill Your Idles: Pluot (sour ale with plums & apricots). When you combine that with their fourth offering (a New England IPA), their diversity of selection was also tough to beat, not to mention that they had 4 great beers to choose from, while many other brewers only had 3.
Runner-Up: Springdale Barrel Room in Framingham, MA. These guys are an off-shoot of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers and a newcomer to this year’s festival. Jack’s Abby didn’t even have a booth at this show, which is fine because Springdale can certainly stand on their own. These guys came to play with their Amirite?! IPA (hazy, juicy & fantastic), Apriculture (an apricot sour aged for 6 months in French Oak) and their Single Barrel Sherry Ale which is aged in a sherry cask with Brett (need I say more). This is the first time we’ve tried any beer from Springdale Barrel Room, so their strong showing came as a very pleasant surprise.
Most Interesting/Surprising Beer: Brown Clown Brown from Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, NH. Brown Clown Brown is a sour mashed brown gruit, and if you’ve never tried a gruit before, you’re missing out. If you’ve never tried a sour gruit before, that’s not surprising as I don’t know anyone else that makes one, but you really need to do it. I know that a beer without hops sounds boring, but I can assure you it’s anything but.
Best in Show (Cidery): Citizen Cider in Burlington, VT. This was an extremely tough decision, as we were split between Citizen and Shacksbury Cider of Vergennes, VT. Both cideries offered 3 tasty and well-crafted options, but we finally gave the edge to Citizen because of the diversity of cider styles they brought to the table. They had a dry-hopped cider (Lake Hopper), a cider fermented with Saison yeast (Wit’s Up) and a cider fermented with blueberries (bRosé). Shacksbury’s ciders were just as tasty, but all 3 were dry styles that were a little more similar to each other. A close call, but Cititzen gets the victory!
Worst in Show (the lowlights): Last year at this festival there were none. Literally not one bad thing we could say. That’s pretty much true this year as well, but we felt like we should give you at least a few negatives for balance sake. The first lowlight was the absence of last year’s “Best in Show”, Hidden Cove Brewing in Wells, ME. They won for a reason and we would’ve loved to see what they cooked up this year. The second lowlight was the weather. This festival is popular and the line is quite long as you wait to get in, usually wrapping around a full city block. So what? Well, this year it was 15° outside with strong winds that made it feel like -2°. The organizers scheduled the festival for mid-March, so I can’t blame them, but Mother Nature really can be a bitch sometimes.
Honorable Mention #1: Shacksbury Cider may have been edged out for best in show by Citizen Cider, but they do deserve recognition for being the only cidery or brewery at the entire show to serve one of their products straight out of a barrel. Well done.
Honorable Mention #2: Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Co. in Framingham, MA. When you come to a festival like this you get a small cup or glass at the door that you use throughout the whole event to obtain your unlimited samples. Needless to say you’ll need to rinse out your cup many times along the way, and most brewers have a pitcher of water and bowl to dump the swill water into. Exhibit ‘A’ however brought an antique water squirting fountain that you merely needed to hold your glass upside-down above. A quick rinse and no nasty swill bowl. Brilliant!
After some deep reflection (sobering up), I believe this year’s festival was even better than last years. If you missed out, the folks at Drink Craft Beer have a Beer & BBQ Fest coming to the same venue on July 14th & 15th. I’ve never been to this one as I’m a notorius cheese slut, but since these guys know how to put on a beer festival, I’m sure it’s good. Otherwise I’ll just have to see you here at next year’s Beer & Cheese Fest (I’ll be the one wearing the colorful paper wristband).