329-339. The Extreme Beer Fest

Last night Ali and I went to Beer Advocate's 3rd annual Extreme Beer Fest at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama. The EBF focuses on "extreme" beers, which "push the boundaries of brewing and the palates of beer lovers." This includes beers that are insanely hoppy, very high in alcohol, and brewed with odd spices or fruits. The tickets were $20 each, and came with a 4 oz. sample cup, and five beer tickets. At the Art of Beer Festival you got ten tickets. I'm not sure if the reduction was due to the strength of the beers or due to an expense issue. Either way single beer tickets were $1 each so Ali and I bought six more. Food was provided by Sunset Grill and Tap. I had a pretty good sausage with sauteed peppers and onions served on a bun with sweet mustard.

I was feeling some palate fatigue by the end, but I think I managed to rate for smell and taste pretty well throughout. Mouthfeel and drinkability were the first criteria to suffer.

329. Brooklyn Winter Ale

Our first stop was the Brooklyn Brewery booth. Garrett Oliver wasn't at this fest, like he was at the 2004 Art of Beer Festival. I decided to try the Winter Ale. This Winter Warmer was brewed for Brooklyn's European importers to match Christmas food in Denmark. Served on tap in my 4 oz. sample cup.

Appearance: This beer pours a hazy dark amber.

Smell: This beer smells very sweet, with floral notes, fruity raisins, and a spicy cinnamon aroma.

Taste: Sweet malts dominate the front of the palate. Spices are present in the center, most notably nutmeg. There's a very low bitterness, and dryness in the finish.

Mouthfeel: This beer is smooth and light bodied. The carbonation was very tingly.

Drinkability: Nicely spiced, and smooth. Very tasty.

Overall: After waiting outside in the cold this was a great beer to start off with.

330. Allagash 10th Anniversary Ale

Next Ali and I went to the Allagash booth. I had the 10th Anniversary Ale, which is a blended Witbier, made by blending two high gravity Witbiers and aging in oak barrels. This was poured from a 750 mL bottle into my sample cup.

Appearance: This beer is a hazy golden, with a low white head.

Smell: Aromas of pepper, spices, banana, and bubblegum predominate. Upon swirling the pepper aromas become stronger, and an earthy aroma emerges.

Taste: Pepper and citrus flavors are evident in the front of the palate. Cloves and spices emerge in the center. The finish is sweet with a light bitterness and alcoholic warmth.

Mouthfeel: The beer is medium-bodied and smooth, with tingly carbonation.

Drinkability: I typically find this style to be very refreshing. This was less so than others, and is higher in alcohol.

Overall: This was a nice beer, it reminded me more of a Belgian Strong Pale Ale than a Witbier though.

Me holding the 10th Anniversary Ale.

331. Sam Adams Utopias

Given the high price and scarceness of this beer it was a must try. This beer is a monster at 25% abv. This is an American Strong Ale, which is a catch all category.

Appearance: This beer is a crystal clear orange-ruby, with no head. Appears thick and syrupy when swirled.

Smell: Very evident alcohol in the nose, smells like port. There are also strong caramel aromas. Ali described this as like a Brazil nut.

Taste: Very warm alcohol throughout. Flavors of grapes, like wine. Caramel sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and syrupy, with no carbonation.

Drinkability: Whoa! This is very strong, it's a nice sipping beer, but it's too strong to have more than a few ounces.

Overall: This was a very interesting beer. It definitely stretches the limits of what beer is.

332. Avery Twelve - Saison Ale

Next up was a Saison from Avery brewing in Colorado. According to the EBF description Twelve was brewed with "Rocky Mountain water, malted barley, imported Belgian malted wheat, sweet orange peel, lemon peel, grains of paradise, chamomile, lavender, hops, and Belgian yeast."

Appearance: This pours a slightly hazy blonde with foamy white head that diminishes to a thin layer.

Smell: I get notes of black pepper, sweet fruits like melon. This is a very nice, complex aroma.

Taste: Peppers and light malts up front, not overly sweet. Hop bitterness appears in the finish along with sweet fruits.

Mouthfeel: This is smooth and light to medium-bodied with light carbonation.

Drinkability: Light and refreshing.

Overall: I liked this Saison a lot, more complex than some of the others that I've tried.

333. Harpoon Varius Strong Ale

This beer was brewed exclusively for the Extreme Beer Fest. According to the EBF page:
Named "Harpoon Varius" because many different Harpoon brewers contributed to making this beer, which is brewed exclusively for the BeerAdvocate Extreme Beer Fest. Brewed in 10 10-gallon batches, Harpoon Varius is an experimental strong ale. Unfiltered, slightly cloudy, DANGEROUS! Rich alcohol notes mixing with earthy floral hop, thick malty sweetness in the nose. It starts off with a slight honey sweetness and transitions to a pronounced higher alcohol warmth and complex ester character. Finishes with a distinct smooth, bitter finish. Brewing with Pale Ale malt (90%), Caramel, and Victory. Hopped with Northern Brewer, East Kent Goldings, Fuggle, and Magnum. Dry-hopped with Willamette. Fermented with a Dry English Ale yeast.

Appearance: Pours a lightly hazy amberish-gold with a creamy white head.

Smell: Bananas, bubblegum and a slight sourness are obvious, with a light floral hop aroma.

Taste: There's an assertive but balanced hop bitterness throughout. I get pepper, bready malts, and banana and bubblegum. There is bitterness in the aftertaste from the hops.

Mouthfeel: Light and tingly.

Drinkability: Refreshing with a nice hoppiness.

Overall: This reminded me of a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, or a Tripel, but it was much hoppier than any of the other examples of those styles that I've had, very interesting.

334. Ommegeddon

Stopping by the Ommegang booth was a must. I decided to try Ommegeddon, an American Wild Ale. Ommegeddon is brewed with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that gives a distinctive flavor. My experience with beers brewed with Brettanomyces is minimal, so I'm not sure what elements are distinctly "Brett".

Appearance: Pours a lightly hazy golden with a thin white head.

Smell: I got sweet aromas of bubblegum and cotton candy. I also caught a slight sourness, as well as a peculiar phenolic medicinal aroma (is this from the Brett?).

Taste: The beer is mildly bitter with sweet candy flavors, an acidic citrusy tartness, and a dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied with medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Light and refreshing.

Overall: This is another good beer from Ommegang, I wish I had more experience with Brettanomyces fermented beers so I could be more objective.

335. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Having stayed with beers that weren't hugely hoppy I decided to move on to some hoppier selections. I started with Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA, an American Double IPA. This was the first beer that I had after Ali stopped drinking.

Appearance: Pours a clear amber with a thin light white head.

Smell: Floral hops and light fruit.

Taste: Hoppy throughout, though sweet and bready malts emerge in the center to provide a nice balance.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, smooth and creamy.

Drinkability: I actually found this beer really drinkable despite the massive hop character.

Overall: I was particularly impressed with how well the malts balanced the hops in this beer; it was surprisingly drinkable.

336. Double Bastard Ale

I went to the Stone Booth next, hoping to get a sample of Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard, but they had run out. Instead I got Double Bastard, an American Strong Ale.

Appearance: Pours a dark, clear ruby-amber with a beige head that thins out quickly.

Smell: Floral hops and sweet caramel malts.

Taste: There are very assertive hops throughout. There's a bready and caramel sweetness in the center, with a bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, smooth and creamy. Not overly carbonated.

Drinkability: This beer is pretty hoppy and isn't as well balanced as the 90 Minute IPA, so it's a little tough to drink.

Overall: The assertive hop character makes this beer a little hard to drink, but it is pretty damn tasty.

337. Berkshire Imperial Stout

Ali was hoping to try one of the Raspberry Strong Ales at the fest. Dogfish Head was out of Fort, so I went to Berkshire Brewing to try to get the Raspberry Strong Ale, but they were out as well. I decided to try their Russian Imperial Stout instead. Ali was a little disappointed when I got back.

Appearance: Pours an opaque black with a creamy brown head that diminishes to a ring.

Smell: Dark roasted coffee with notes of bittersweet chocolate.

Taste: Espresso flavors appear upfront with a nice sweetness in the center. There's bitterness from the roasted malts in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full-bodied, smooth and creamy, with high carbonation for a stout.

Drinkability: This beer is pretty heavy, but I could have a pint or two.

Overall: A nice Imperial Stout, not the best, but pretty good.

338. Jalapeño Sunsplash Golden Ale

I saw this Chile Beer on the EBF beer list and had to try it. It has half a slice of fresh jalapeño in every can. I had intended for this to be my last beer, but the Stone Coast guy told me to keep my ticket.

Appearance: Pours a clear light golden, with a thin white head.

Smell: The only thing I can detect is jalapeño.

Taste: There are sweet malts and a light bitterness up front and in the center, with jalapeño spiciness in the center and aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, light-bodied, and a little watery.

Drinkability: Very drinkable if you can handle the heat.

Overall: I've never had a Chile Beer before. The spiciness isn't overwhelming, it's a nice focal point of the beer, but underneath there could have been some more complex malts and hops.

339. Ommegang Winter Witte

I had an unexpected ticket left after I had the Jalapeño Sunsplash so I went back to the Ommegang booth. I can't find this Witbier listed on Beer Advocate, so it may be the same as Ommegang Witte, though I'm not sure. I might send an e-mail to the brewery to see if anyone there can give me an answer.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy golden, with a thick white head that falls to a thin layer.

Smell: Fruity and spicy aromas of bananas, bubblegum and cloves.

Taste: This beer is peppery up front, with bananas and cloves in the center. The finish is dry with a low bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with fairly high carbonation.

Drinkability: Nice flavors, refreshing and easy to drink.

Overall: I was a little too drunk to remember overall impressions of this beer.

As we were leaving I noticed that the booth for The Tap was covered with dry hops flowers, so I grabbed a few:

When we switched to the Red Line at Downtown Crossing we sat across from a man who Ali described as "an overgrown leprechaun...with huge long feet and yellow socks... and long fingernails." As we sat he gave me the slow middle finger when I looked at him. I spent the remainder of the ride trying to get a good picture of him with my cell phone. We got off at Porter and I gave him the finger; he smiled and laughed in response.

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