Royal Oak Beer Fest In Review Part 3

And now, the thrilling conclusion to the  Royal Oak Beer Fest review…

After quite a few ciders we decided it was time to change it up again and we headed over to the table for Witches Hat. The beer they brought was their Three Kord Kolsch. It was a very light beer with a slightly fruity flavor. This would be a great beer for someone who is trying to make the switch from the mainstream production beers.

Next up was Oskar Blues and they had their Old Chub in both regular and nitro. I picked the nitro version because it’s not a common thing to see come out of cans or bottles. Typically nitro beers are only found on tap at bars and brew pubs because they are served using nitrogen instead of CO2. Nitrogen isn’t something that is created by the yeasts when a beer is carbonated so usually some sort of ball or widget is in the bottle to provide the nitrogen. This nitrogen pack bursts when the bottle is opened giving it that smooth, creamy nitrogen feel. If you want to awe your friends with the cascading effect that a nitro beer has I’d recommend keeping a couple of these in the beer fridge.

Another stand out for the evening was a Sour Cherry Imperial Stout from Blue Point Brewing Company. Quite often Imperial Stouts can be very strong and over powering. Despite being over 9% ABV that was not the case with this one. It was very mellow with a malty, sweet, rich dark chocolate flavor. That combined with the slight hint of cherry made it something that even something an anti-dark beer drinker would be interested in.

In my opinion one of the worst beers of the night was the Old Brown Dog from Smuttynose Brewing. I really wanted to like this beer mainly because their sign had a picture of a chocolate lab on it, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I’ve never been a huge brown fan, this however didn’t do anything to improve that opinion. After a sip or two it went into the glass rinse pail.

The most pleasant surprise for the evening came from Leinenkugel in the form of their Big Eddy Cherry Doppelschwarz. I’ve gotten so used to seeing all of the Leinenkugel “trendy” beers like Summer Shandy that I had kind of forgotten that they made other beers. The Big Eddy series is their line of special beers. The Cherry Doppelschwarz was a very dark, almost black, malty beer with very little roasty flavors. The beer poured with a nice tan head and the cherry flavor was not over the top. I may also be slightly biased because the guy pouring gave me twice the amount for a single ticket.

After a little bit at the Leinie table we were going to call it a night. I had decided to take one last look at the beer list to make sure we weren’t missing anything because we each had 4 or 5 tickets left. Sure enough, I missed something. New Holland was listed as having their Dragon’s Milk with Raspberries. Per New Holland’s press release for the beer it is, “A different slant on the barrel-aged stout. Using the tartness of raspberries against the rich, deep vanilla notes of the stout.” I had to go try it, which meant fighting the crowd to the opposite corner of the building. However, after getting back to their table the guy tending the taps informed me that they had decided not to bring it. With that let down we headed back to the car.

All in all the event was a good time. The tickets were discounted from $90 to $70 for the two of us from Groupon. Based on the beer selections, $70 is about the max I would pay for an event like this. Coming up next month is a similar event but more centered around mac and cheese from different vendors as well as beer and in April is the spring beer fest. Since the World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth is only a couple weeks later I think we will probably be doing that instead.

Now I’m off to work on one of the latest additions to the Mighty Penguin bar…


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.

Royal Oak Beer Fest In Review Part 1

Last night we went to the Royal Oak Beer Fest. It was a good time and the weather for walking around a little in Southeast Michigan on a mid January night couldn’t have been much better.

As you might expect for an event like this the venue was crowded and some of the breweries had very long lines. We ended up getting there about fifteen minutes late and at least the lines to get in were non-existant.

The entry fee came with a nicely printed 3oz sample cup that was actually glass along with 15 sample tickets. Each taste regardless of gravity was a single ticket.

There were a few local food vendors there offering samples as well as some selling actual meals. There were also a couple vendors offering Michigan and beer themed goods like shirts and signs. We didn’t buy anything, but we did try some peanut brittle that we need to seek out in stores later.

We decided to head to the back and work our way forward. It really didn’t make much difference as it was set up more like a donut with vendors on an outside and inside ring. But anyway, that was our plan.

The first beer I tried was the Head-On Collision black IPA  from the Fenton Winery and Brewery.  It was a solid beer,  something I could easily see drinking a few of when you aren’t in the mood for that over the top, in your face hop profile of the typical IPA. It seemed to have just enough chocolate and roasty malt to offset the hop bitterness. Even when I wasn’t an IPA fan I still liked the “bipa’s”. I’ve never actually been to the FWB tap room, but that has moved up my must try list a little bit.

Next up was Rochester Mills Beer Company. We shared a sample of their Blueberry Pancake Milkshake Stout.  I’ve had the Milkshake Stout many times in the past,  but never like this.  Wow, what an amazing flavor addition to what had been just an average beer, in my opinion.  I’m very curious as to what they did to make this because not only did they get the blueberry spot on, but also the buttery, batter flavor of the pancake itself. Hopefully they have this in their tap room, I would really like to pick up a growler of it.

Our experience will continue in tomorrow’s post. There were far too many beers for just one post.  Tune in tomorrow for more, same beer time,  same beer channel.

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