Microfestivus: 100 Beers. 10 or 20 Tastings. Suggestions For The Beer Curious.

So you’re heading out to Microfestivus today?  This article is for you.  Now, I will go ahead and say that if you’re one of those people who will walk up to each brewer’s table and ask “so what do you have that’s closest to Natural Light?” I’m not sure if this blog entry will be of any help.  (I also doubt you’d be reading this anyhow.)  But event organizers have been saying for days that this year’s Microfestivus may turn out to be record setting, and not just for attendance – hopefully, not for Roanoke August temperatures either.  I’m talking about the number of beers available to taste, and at last count it was just over a hundred.  Now, for someone who admittedly would rather write than do most any math at all, while having this many beers available is a good thing – really, it is – it could also pose a slight problem for those who I try to target my blog for.  These folks are, as I am, the “beer curious”:  the people wanting more out of their beer, wanting to taste better and well crafted beer.  These are the people wanting to see what’s out there, wanting to find something new they might find just amazing; something to fuel their “beer curiosity”.  But let’s get back to the math.  Let’s see, the most tastings that you can purchase on a single ticket is twenty.  One hundred beers.  Twenty tastings.  How does the beer curious make the most of their choices?  Hmm.

But there’s another issue as well.  I could certainly try to make suggestions.  I could pick a certain group of beers, based on what I know in my own beer travels so far, with the goal that those beers would not be too much of a stretch for those just sticking their feet into the craft beer “waters”.  I could make those kinds of suggestions, but the fact is, the variation within craft beers and the various beer styles with which craft brewers work their magic is endless.  It’s a little impossible to be certain you might like a particular suggestion.  For example, while amber ales seem to be a good starting point to try something outside the “ordinary” for the beer curious, since many are fairly well balanced between malt and hop flavors, they might not work for everyone.  I could point out there will be a couple quality amber ales tomorrow – Troegs’ (PA) Hopback, North Coast’s (CA) Red Seal – but not only will they will taste different from the other, not everyone will latch onto both (or either!)  They are only a suggestion.

I could go with any of the good American Pale Ales which will be at Microfestivus.  A variation on the “original” Pale Ale from Great Britain, they are often also well balanced between malt sweetness and the flavors and bitterness which hops bring to the mix.  Blue Mountain’s (VA) Full Nelson, Foothills Brewing’s (NC) Pilot Mtn. Pale, Terrapin’s (GA) Rye Pale Ale, and Bluegrass Brewing’s (KY) American Pale Ale are just a few.

Ever had a Witbier before?  A what?  Probably not, you say?  This is where we all can admit we know what Blue Moon tastes like, since yes, that’s a Witbier.  This Belgian wheat style of beer is light, refreshing, and is always infused with something such as orange peel, coriander, the list goes on.  And truth be told, yes, you can get a Blue Moon at Microfestivus.  But since you can get one on just about every street corner, how about a Witbier from a true craft brewery.  Victory Brewing’s (PA) Whirlwind, Legend Brewing’s (VA) White, and Allagash Brewing’s (ME) White will all be there to taste the difference.

In case you’re ready for something darker, there will be brown ales.  A more heavily roasted grain (malt) can cause these beers to range from light in color and bitterness to dark with a coarser bitter flavor.  On a cool fall day, their roasted, nut like flavors can truly fit in.  Legend, Brooklyn, Olde Richmond, and Bluegrass Brewing will have theirs on hand to name a few.

There are so many others to consider that might be good starting points – Shooting Creek’s (VA) Red Tractor, Left Hand’s (CO) Sawtooth Ale, and Heavy Seas (MD) Summer Ale all come to mind.  All are flavorful and light to medium in body.  Looking for a lager among all of these ales?  Weeping Radish’s (NC) black lager, Black Radish, Brooklyn’s (amber) Brooklyn Lager, and any of the available Oktoberfest beers might taste just right to you.  This is also a good time to remember to cast aside all the common beer tasting myths too.  All together now:  Ales are not always dark, not always heavy, and many are neither.  Lagers are not always light in body or color.  Both styles can go either way.  The Black Radish I mentioned is an excellent myth buster – definitely a lager, yet black as night.

What’s important to remember is that craft brewers, while having to be, unlike myself, very good at math and science also are a bit like chefs.  They want to stand out.  As they create the “recipes” for these beers, the aim is to not taste alike, but to make their own good, well crafted beer.  From beer to beer, however, this means there may be quite a bit of variation.  This is what makes it hard to truly place a standardized label on beer styles.  It’s what also makes it a little difficult to make suggestions.  While this might make a little strain on which ten or twenty to pick with your ticket, remember, it’s also why you’re there in the first place.  It’s the variation, the attention to flavor, the attempt to put out a quality product that’s brought you here to begin with.  Take my suggestions for what they’re worth, or not at all, and take chances on your own.  Either way, the variation available is endless, which always works in favor of you and I, the beer curious.


~ by thebeerroad on August 14, 2010.

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