Extreme Beer Fest

by Kyle W on March 23, 2011

 On March 12, 2011 the craft beer subculture descended on Boston for the eighth annual Extreme Beer Fest (EBF). Put on by The Bros over at Beer Advocate and sponsored by Dogfish Head Brewery, the fest has become a pilgrimage of sorts where beer geeks join forces to celebrate good beer and good times over a weekend that includes two Saturday sessions, a Friday session dubbed The Night of the Barrels, and several seminars.  According to The Bros, the EBF is meant to showcase the growing craft beer movement by pushing brewers to craft innovative beers and encouraging the consumer to drink with an open mind. This year all the tickets sold out in less than 8 hours and the anticipation going into the event was high after the list of confirmed breweries was posted on the Beer Advocate message boards.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the first Saturday day session as a birthday present from my girlfriend. We left for Boston on Thursday night and spent most of Friday touring around the Sam Adams Brewery and historic Boston while gearing up for the Fest. On Saturday we woke up, had a big breakfast (thanks Matt!) to serve as a beer base, and jumped on the T to head down to the Cyclorama where the event was being hosted. Upon arriving just before 1 the line to get in was already winding its way across several blocks and it took us a few minutes to find the back of the line. However, the line quickly started moving and within about 15 minutes we were making our way inside the door and the awaiting beer heaven.

Upon walking in the venue, grabbing a program and two ounce tasting glass, and letting my eyes wander the first thing I noticed was the simple elegance of the venue itself, the cool skylights, and the brick.  Roughly circular in shape, the majority of the brewers were set up against the building’s outer wall with a few more set up in the middle near the water stations.  At the first table to the left was Dogfish Head and their charismatic founder Sam Calagione pouring beers and pumping out handshakes to an already long line. Opting to avoid the long line and come back later my group decided to check out the Hill Farmstead table and sample our first beer of the day which for me was the Ephraim (excellent DIPA).  Soon, we were jumping from table to table getting samples of great beer after great beer and generally acting like kids in a candy store. Luckily, I did manage to write down most of the beers I tried and the order I tried them in:

1. Hill Farmstead Ephraim- Imperial IPA, intensely hopped | 10.3%

2. Cambridge Weekapaug Gruit- unhopped, sweet gale, yarrow, nettles, Labraor tea, wild licorice root | 5%

3. The Bruery Pinot Lambicus

4. Ithaca LeBleu- New batch, Wild Ale w/blueberries | 4.8%

5. Sierra Nevada 1996 Bigfoot- Vintage Barleywine | 9.6%

6. Allagash Vrienden- Brett, Lacto, dandelion, elderberries | 9.3%

7. Short’s Almond Joy- Experimental | 6%

8. Stone Double Dry Hopped Levitation Ale- American amber | 4.4%

9. New England Imperial Stout Trooper- Russian Imperial Stout | 9.2%

10. New England Gandhi-Bot- Double IPA | 8.8%

11. The Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme- Wild Ale-bbl blend w/Brett & sour cherries| 10%

12. Dogfish Head World Wide Stout vs. Randall 3.0- Imperial Stout w/ JP Licks espresso beans | 18%

13. The Lost Abbey Saison Blanc- Saison w/ green raisins, white pepper | 5%

14. Dark Horse Super Juice- Quad Crooked Tree IPA | 15%

15. Wormtown Cinnamon Girl- American Amber w/ cinnamon sticks | 5%

16. Haverhill Ignoble Lager- India Pale Lager | 7%

17. Short’s The Gambler- Bourbon bbl-aged IPA w/ tea leaves | 5.5%

18. Short’s Carrot Cake- Experimental | 5%

19. Weyerbacher TCoB- Belgian-style Pale Ale/Sour, wine bbl-aged w/chamomile, bitter orange peel | 4.9%

20. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA 2008- World’s Strongest IPA | 18%

19. Shmaltz RIPA on Rye, Batch #2- Rye Double IPA, Sazerac rye bbl-aged 6 years then blended | 10%

20. Shmaltz Vertical Jewbelation- Jewbelations 8-14, Sazerac rye bbl-aged 6 years then blended | 12.5%

21. Dogfish Head Poppaskull- Brandy bbl-aged, cardamom | 10%

22. Dogfish Head Noble Rot- Botrytis infected, Viognier grape | 8%

23. Sierra Nevada Peach Pit Ale- Ale w/ peach ginger tea | 7%

24. Short’s Freedom of 78- Guava IPA | 7%

25. Bobcat Brickwall- Double IPA, 100% VT hops, dry hopped | 9.8%

26. Bobcat bil- IPA, lagered, blackened w/Sinimar | 6.8%

27. Allagash Curieux- Bourbon bbl-aged Tripel | 11%

28. Hill Farmstead Phenomenology of Spirit- Saison | 7%

29. Hill Farmstead Abner- Imperial IPA | 8.2%

30. Captain Lawrence 5 Years Later- Black Ale, hoppy | 10%

While the small pours and overall nature of the Fest made it impossible to rate the beers, it seemed some breweries really embraced the spirit of the fest while others fizzled out early. Throughout the day Short’s Brewing Company and Dogfish Head continuously impressed with the large number and creativity of their offerings, while Founder’s continuously dialed up the excitement by tapping a rare keg every hour culminating in the tapping the KBS at 4, which was probably the highlight of the Fest for many…but for me was an opportunity to take advantage of all the smaller lines at the rest of the tables.

Highlights- Hill Farmstead- loved everything I had, Short’s really brought it- tons of different beers and they were pouring the whole time, Dogfish Head- World Wide Wes vs. Randall, New England Brewing Company- why is the Gandhi-Bot not in NYC?, Waffle Cabin Waffles + beer pairings make me happy, everyone was fun to talk to especially as the afternoon moved along, awesome historic venue


Lowlights- very small pours at some stations, The Bruery Black Tuesday was gone before I even got in the door, initially somewhat crowded and disjointed- hard to tell where lines started and which brewery they were going to…but this seemed to stop being a problem once everyone got in the door and settled in, breweries running out of beer way too early- I’m looking at you Firestone Walker, long bathroom lines-they moved fast though, long line for Dogfish Head- not so bad once I figured out I could hit up Lost Abbey while in line

Overall- I really enjoyed myself at the Extreme Beer Fest and would definitely go back. The beer, organization, venue, and volunteers were all excellent for an event of that scale. I commend The Bros putting on a world class event and daring us all to think about what a beer can be…while providing us a chance to sample some of  the best that the United States can offer. 

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