Royal Oak Beer Fest In Review Part 2

Continuing where we left off yesterday…

One of the most interesting beers of the night came from  Leelanau Brewing, located in Petoskey, MI. Fittingly so the beer was named the Petoskey Pale Ale.  I’m including a link to their description of the beer because I don’t think I can do it justice. All I can say is that I would definitely seek it out again. Hopefully this summer will include a brewery tour to that area of the state and if so, Leelanau Brewing is on the hit list.

Sadly, I followed up a couple of the best beers of the night with one of the worst. Actually, I can’t say it was bad as in undrinkable but it came up short in holding up to the name and it was a Pumpkin Porter from Crankers. I’m sure by now you have had at least one or two of the grand plethora of seasonal pumpkin beers. Even if it’s just something from one of the larger mainstream craft breweries you should have a good idea of what to expect in a pumpkin beer. Pumpkin beers should have some sort of flavor component that defines them as such, like pumpkin pie spices, or that pumpkin or squash “gourdy” flavor. This beer had none of that, it was devoid of all defining pumpkin flavors. That being said, it wasn’t a bad beer. It just tasted like a plain old porter and would have been better had it been marketed as such.

After that sad sampling we decided to dive into the hard cider selection. Hard apple cider is something that has gained a lot of steam over the past few years with new ciders popping up seemingly weekly. This is a good thing because cider seems to be a gateway to the craft beer world for a lot of people. With brands like Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, and Redd’s pushing cider mainstream it’s easy to see that craft hard cider is coming on strong as well.

The four ciders that we tried were actually grouped together at the same table right in the middle of the room. The first cider we had was something I had tried in the past, but Kerry had never experienced. It was the Cata-Wampus from Blake’s Hard Cider.  Cata-Wampus is a dry hopped hard cider. Dry hopping is adding hops post-boil during fermentation. Dry hopping a hard cider is something I had never heard of until recently and the result is incredibly unique. The hops lend a good citrus aroma and a touch of bitterness that plays off of the sweetness of the hard cider very well. I have to say though, this is probably something that you will either love or hate, similar to a sour or smoked beer. It is something you should experience before passing judgement.

The second offering from Blake’s was their El Chavo. El Chavo is a hard cider with mango and habanero peppers. Once again, in the same spirit of the Cata-Wampus, this is a very unique flavor profile. Just like the Cata-Wampus’s dry hopping gives a citrusy bite, the habanero peppers give this a hot kick but it doesn’t seem to linger. Pairing things that really don’t seem to belong together in beers and ciders is a growing trend that I firmly believe is a great thing.

The final two ciders we tried were both from McKenzie’s Hard Cider . I had never heard of them before, but I feel that’s something that I’ve been missing out on.  While neither of their flavors were groundbreaking, they were both well flavored and just sweet enough to not taste like a dry wine. One was a Black Cherry hard cider, which I think is one of the better fruit flavored ciders that I have tried recently. The second was their Lazy Lemon hard cider. I really liked the Lazy Lemon. The lemon flavor gave it the taste of a hard lemonade while still retaining the apple cider flavor and finish. It kind of took me back to a day when Mike’s Hard Lemonade was a new and novel product. However, unlike Mike’s, this was something I think you could drink more than a couple of before feeling overwhelmed by the sweetness.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting about the most unsuspected winner along with the greatest disappointment. I’m sure you are all filled with suspense.

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