So, I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging for the past few weeks – sorry! The Canadian and I had our first guests from the UK and had a lot of fun introducing them to the Bay Area and to American beer. It was also a great excuse (not that we needed one) to go to our first American beer festival, in Monterey.
Now, I’m a big fan of beer festivals. I’ve been to the Reading Beer Festival 9 times in a row (this year would have been my 10th but there was an ocean and 8 time zones in the way), the Great British Beer Festival once, Leeds Beer Festival twice, Newcastle Beer Festival once, Oxford Beer Festival once… and a handful of smaller events in pubs around the UK. I was definitely excited to try my first US beer festie!
First impressions of the beer festival came from the website – I was most amused by the billing of the event: with a pleasing dash of American bravado (in the grand tradition of such things as, “World Series” in sports that most of the world pays no attention to), the festival was called the “Night That Never Ends”… the event itself ran from 12:30-17:00, with no night-time involved at all!
The security on our way in was much more heavy-handed than UK beer festivals. We passed through two separate perimeters on our way to beer – the flip-side being that this gave us two opportunities to queue, which always pleases my British psyche. Into the beer festival we went, with enthusiastic cheers coming from the American crowd as we quickly filled-up the space on another gloriously sunny day in California.
The layout and format was distinct from a British affair, where you enter, receive your pint or half-pint glass and pay for a number of beer tokens, which are exchanged for beer at long tables manned by bearded, pot-bellied men guarding stacked rows of beer casks. Instead and very disappointingly, there was no beer festival pint glass! What a travesty! My cupboard is full of pint and half-pint glasses with emblems of beer festivals and the happy memories that go with them…
…but wait – there was a positive side to no pint glass, really, there was. We were given a little plastic cup, which basically encouraged small tastings of as many beers as you wanted. As the fee was paid upfront, it was an all-you-can-sample beer buffet. I tried to keep track and made notes of 17 beers, far more than I normally try at a British beer festival. For me, the stand-out breweries and beers on show were:
Hermitage Brewing: all strong beers at 8%. I particularly liked the Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout, which was dark and viscous (if too cold when poured). Strangely enough, the discerning tasters posting at Beer Advocate don’t particularly like Hermitage beers so maybe I should try a few from the bottle away from the thrill of a beer festie.
English Ales: this brewery served a wide variety of English style beer, with my favourite probably being the Black Prince Porter (my tasting notes simply say, “YUM!”…must have been some way into the festival ;-)). None of the beers were amazingly outstanding but they all stayed solidly true to their English-roots and for that I thank them.
Ass Kisser Vanilla Pale Ale – very fun but as it basically tasted like cream soda, I’m not sure if this really counts as beer!
El Toro Chocolate Stout – actually tasted of chocolate, unlike many beers that purport to!
Overall I had a fun time and look forward to my next American beer festival – cheers!