On Saturday September 10, 2011 I volunteered for the Belgian Beer Fest hosted in Boston, MA by Beer Advocate and Allagash brewing company. This time, as compared to my time at the ACBF in June, I was able to take more photos, some of which you will see below, but I was, unfortunately, unable to take notes on the beers I tasted. Luckily, I was able to sample and enjoy a number of beers, a (very select few) I will mention as stand outs below.
Low Alcohol Beers
While there may have been other in attendance, I noticed two, very interesting, low ABV beers. First was the Beerstand Berlinerweiss from Haverhill Brewery. The beer is a Berliner Weissbier that weighs in at between 2.7-3% ABV. Through a sour-mashing technique the beer has a distinctive tartness, but also features prominent wheat malt character and a mild spiciness. A great Summer-drinking beer that's light on alcohol.
Also featured at the Fest was Magnifico from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project. Magnifico is a Summer seasonal, draft-only, Belgian-style Pale Ale. The beer came in at about 3.4% ABV, but has all the trappings of a real beer. Delicious and highly drinkable the beer has a light bodied maltiness and a dusting of hops on the finish. Magnifico is a total rarity that may be a one-off run. I'd recommend checking it out, but it might not even be possible.
Lindemans is a great Belgian Lambic brewery that has wide availability in the USA. While many of their Lambic fruit beers are easily found, their distributor, Merchant du Vin, brought Cuvée René and Faro with them to the Fest. Faro is a blended Lambic style, formerly exclusive to Brussels and still not commonly found outside of Belgium. The beer's blend also includes the addition of candi sugar and is often spiced slightly with pepper and orange peel. The addition of the sugar syrup takes away slightly from the acidity of other Lambics and makes the beer highly drinkable, although sweet.
Cuvée René is a Lambic Gueuze from Lindemans and it is fantastic. It's everything that a Gueuze should be. The beer is delicious with sweet notes and a defined fruity tartness. Grape-like components are spectacular and the carbonation dances on the tongue. A solid, solid, beer that is available in the USA, but is certainly more rare than the fruit-flavored fare from Lindemans.
Farm House and Wild
Two other stand outs from the Fest were Cellar Door from Stillwater Artisinal and Mattina Rossa from Allagash. Cellar Door was secretly available at the Fest. No sign was hung and the bottle(s) were kept hidden from plain view. However, requesting a taste gave you a nice pour and a wink. The beer is a spicy saison style oozing with freshness and yeast character. The spicing was elegant, but powerful.
Mattina Ross from Allagash is a Wild Ale style beer aged in oak and flavored through two additions of raspberries. Unfortunately, the bottle conditioning of the brew turned out a bit spotty. Some bottles refermented to produce carbonation, while others remained still (at least so far). As a result, the quality control issues prevented the beer from being offered for sale to the general market. Luckily, a few cases made it to the Fest. Delicious, tart, fruity, and spicy, this beer is a gem. I can only hope Allagash won't be deterred from trying this beer again, or following up with an even better entry sometime in the future.
Stand Out Stinker
I had a feeling, but I kept an open mind and tried this unusually flavored beer with some hope. Unfortunately, the Chapeau Banana Lambic from De Troch was just bad. The trappings of a quality Lambic were seemingly missing and the banana flavoring seemed artificial. Slight tartness was nice, but the flavors of a Lambic beer and a banana may just be destined to clash. I wouldn't recommend the beer to most people.