Getting Excited About Microfestivus Yet? How About A Festival Primer?

Wristbands marked with a Sharpie pen – maybe as symbolic of a craft beer festival as any official logo could hope to be.   That row of scribbled lines and x’s means that among the socializing, the laughs with friends, and a few plastic cup cheers, at least a few delicious, well crafted beers were tasted. Hopefully, the wearer of that band learned something about beer which they didn’t know before. With any luck at all, they may have even discovered a new favorite brew to be sought out long after the festival is over.  Now, while we’re not marking anyone’s wristband yet, Roanoke’s Microfestivus is just over two weeks away.  If you’re planning on going to this year’s festival, you might be at least getting curious over which breweries are coming, and probably more specifically, which beers you’ll choose to give up a mark on your wristband for.  At the most, craft beer geeks like me are already starting to flat out salivate over which ones they’ll likely try.  (And no, there is NO truth to the rumor that I have an early version of the festival map, and am using it to draw out my own invasion-like path through the event grounds like some beer festival version of Risk.)

But instead of simply including a list of the breweries and beers, I thought I’d include a few suggestions as well.  After all, sometimes it seems as if the two most common overheard phrases at craft beer festivals are:  “What does it taste like?” (asked of the volunteer pourer) with occasional follow up question, “Do you think I’ll like it?” (asked of the friend beside you, who you’re hoping can give you a little of a clue.)  Honestly, these are not easy questions to answer.  Advising someone that they’ll like one beer, no matter how much the brew is similar to one they’ve enjoyed before, can still be a risky suggestion.  Every craft beer is a little different from the next, and obviously, taste is subjective.

But even the most experienced craft beer drinkers still ask these questions from time to time.  Recommendations are always helpful, even if they come with a disclaimer.  When it comes to the variety available at festivals like Microfestivus, the idea is to branch out from what you’re used to, even if it’s just a little. The suggestions below are somewhat based upon that premise. Chances are, if you’re attending the festival at all, you’re at least somewhat curious about what’s out there, beyond what you’re “go-to” beers are now  – so dive in, there’s no better opportunity to do so than at a beer festival.  And in case these suggestions don’t help, trust your instincts.  The best research, of course, is to try the beer – if you’re curious, go ahead and jump right in for a taste.

Where you are now:  You say the word “hop” as if you’re describing an episode you had involving too many chili dogs at the state fair followed by the ride known as the “Zipper”.  Suggestions:  There will be lower hopped beers at Microfestivus, including lagers, yes – lagers – as well as some lighter tasting ales.  See: Devils Backbone’s award winning Gold Leaf lager.  If you don’t have anything against darker beers, try Legend Brewing’s malty, delicious and easy to drink Brown Ale, Devils Backbone’s Vienna Lager, Roanoke’s own Big Daddy Brewing Trail Head brown ale, or Weeping Radish’s Black Radish, a black lager.  Think all ales taste the same?  Try the Wolf Hills Honey Cream Ale.  Want to try one of the best, true to form Pilsners on the market today?  Try North Coast’s Scrimshaw Pilsner.

Where you are now:  You already enjoy some of the beers above, especially the lagers, but harbor less animosity towards ales, and occasionally catch yourself day dreaming of enjoying one in a true English pub one day.  (You might even imagine yourself watching soccer on tv while doing so, even if it’s only to fit in.)  Suggestions:  While the beers that are supposed to be present at a festival are always subject to last minute changes, if Blue Mountain does bring their Kolsch 151 ale, do not miss it.  Try it early, as to not overwhelm its light, clean taste with a more hop heavy beer.  Kolschs are indeed ales, but go through some of the same type of cold conditioning that lagers do, which mellow them out.  Good ones are just amazing, subtle experiences.  Also seek out New Belgium’s 1554 ale, a dark Belgian style beer with a light-ish body which is easy to drink but with more going on than first sip will tell you.  (In case you enjoy the 1554, travel further into Belgium with Allagash’s Black – a higher alcohol content, richer “Strong Belgian Ale”.)

Where you are now:  You find yourself inquiring about beers by asking if there’s anything around that tastes like a Blue Moon.  Suggestions:  Just know that Coors’ take on the Belgian style Witbier is not the only one out there, not by a long shot.  Try Allagash’s White, Ommegang’s Witte, and for a slightly different twist, you just might enjoy Brooklyn Brewing’s Summer Ale.  It’s not a wit, but has some similar qualities.

Where you are now:  You’re definitely interested in craft beer and all the varieties out there, and hops don’t scare you off much at all, though you still think anyone calling themselves a “hop head” proudly still might need to be institutionalized.  But at the least, you grab a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale occasionally and will try most anything, at least once.  Suggestions:  There will be some darn good Pale Ales and hoppy Blonde Ales at the festival, as always.  21st Amendment’s Bitter American packs a lot of flavor and “grassy” hop goodness into a low alcohol beer (right at 4%), an amazing feat.  Victory’s Summer Love would be another one to check out, along similar lines, and Blue Mountain’s Full Nelson is definitely one of the best Pale Ales in the state.  Think an underlying, supporting cast of malt sweetness, with plenty of pine like, fruit rind-ish hop flavor on top.

Where you are now:  See the reference to being “institutionalized” above.  Hop heads, you definitely know who you are – you hold those little green hop cones in such high reverence that you have at least one t shirt that states what you are, or has a picture of one of the plants actually printed on it.  There will be plenty of beers for you, of course, and some good ones at that.  Scheduled for appearance:  Heavy Seas’ Loose Cannon, Victory’s Hop Devil, Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, Starr Hill’s Double Platinum, Wild Wolf’s Alpha Ale, Boulder Brewing’s Mojo, and the list goes on.  Plan accordingly though – all of these are still quite different from one another, as any self respecting hop head will tell you, so perhaps try still try the ones you haven’t before.  Then again, what am I saying?  You’ve probably sought out most of them already.  Revisit a favorite then.  On your way to becoming a hop head?  We hold regular meetings by moonlight, followed by plenty of chanting about hops.  (KIDDING.)  Based on personal experience, if you’re just reaching this point, the Loose Cannon is a great way to dip your toes into the waters of hopped up beers.

These categories don’t even touch the fact that fall will be here soon, signs of which will be showing up in beer form at Microfestivus as well.  There will be a couple of very good Oktoberfest beers available, as well as a few excellent pumpkin ales (Southern Tier, Williamsburg Alewerks we’re looking at you.)  Also, the beers which three very well known and respected craft breweries will be bringing – Stone, Founders, and Lagunitas – don’t seem to be quite decided upon just yet.  A festival of those three alone would be well worth attending!

The good folks who handle Microfestivus are bringing in close to fifty breweries once again this year, and claiming that at least 120 beers will be available, higher than last year.  With that kind of variety, tasting possibilities seem endless – a good problem to have when wanting to experience good, well crafted beer.  Plenty of beer curious folks will be lining up and wondering what to try, asking those same questions again – what do you think I would like?  The most important suggestion of all then just might be this one – before committing that mark on your wristband, remember to stretch out a little – try something new, satisfy a curiosity, relish the chance to do so, taste – and enjoy!  Cheers!

Below is the full brewery and beer list as I have seen it so far.  Apparently, there quite a few more to come!  Also, don’t forget to get your tickets early, through the Microfestivus website, and avoid the lines!

Williamsburg Aleworks Chesapeake Pale Ale
Drake Trail Ale
Caledonia IPA
Pumpkin Ale
Victory Brewing Summer Love
Golden Monkey
Hop Devil
Starr Hill Northern Lights
Starr Pils
The Love
Double Platinum
Legend Brewing Brown Ale
Golden IPA
Devils Backbone Vienna Lager
Eight Point IPA
Gold Leaf Lager
Heavy Seas Brewing Loose Cannon
Microfest Designed Ale – Firkin
Wild Wolf Brewing Alpha Ale
Smoked Scottish
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Shiner Shiner Bock
Ruby Redbird
Southern Tier Crème Brulee
Dominion Brewing Dominion Lager
Oak Barrel
Magic Hat #9
Elder Betty
Blind Faith
Foot Hills Brewing Hoppyum
Carolina Blonde
Cottonwood Endo IPA
Lost Rhino New River Pale Ale
New Belgium Fat Tire
River Company River Red Ale
Timber Brown Ale
Peachicot Blonde Ale
Rogue Ales Dead Guy Ale
Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout
Samuel Adams Oktoberfest
Harvest Pumpkin Ale
Noble Pils
Blue Mountain Full Nelson
Rockfish Wheat
Mandolin Triple
Allagash Allagash White
Allagash Black
Allagash Triple
Crispin Cider Crispin Original
Fox Barrel Black Berry Pear
Blue Grass Brewing Bourbon Barrel Stout
American Pale Ale
Nut Brown
Long Trail Double IPA 501
Double Bag 501
Abita Purple Haze
Boulder Mojo IPA
Hazed & Infused
Sweatty Betty
Kinda Blue
Smuttynose IPA
Summer Weizen
Breckenridge 471 Imp IPA
Vanilla Porter
Ommegang Rare Vos
Stone Arrogant Bastard
Dogfishhead 60 Minute
Festina Peche
Brooklyn Summer
North Coast Red Seal
Uinta Hop Notch
Baa Baa Black Lager
21st Amendment Bitter American
Brew Free or Die
Vermont Hard Cider Amber
Wolf Hills Brewing Honey Cream Ale
Troopers Alley IPA
Blue Moon Brewing Belgian
Roanoke Rail House Track 7
Railhouse IPA
Switch Monkey Ale
Big Daddy’s Brewing Sunshine
Virginia Creeper
Hop Dog
Trail Head
Weeping Radish Black Radish
OBX Kolsch
Jefferson Street Brwery Orange Honey Wheat
Oatmeal Stout
Laughing Dog Brewery Laughing Dog
Blue & Gray Brewing Fred Red
Virginia Hefeweizen
Classic Lager

~ by thebeerroad on July 27, 2012.

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