The first annual OctoBREWfest, held a week ago today on September 17th in Ohio, was an all-around success. Featuring a large variety of traditional fall beers such as Octoberfest, harvest, and pumpkin along with a selection of limited releases and rarities, there was something for everyone to enjoy.
What set this fest particularly apart from other fests was the sheer number of the seasonal beers. It was a great way to compare similar offerings from a number of breweries on one setting. Going by the official list of beers for the fest (which numbered almost 100 different offerings) there were 30 Oktoberfests and 16 pumpkin beers alone! Truly a fall seasonal lover’s delight.
The event was primarily sponsored by Vintage Estate Wine and Beer, organizers of the popular Big Tap In, and rated as the #1 beer retailer in the world. Those who have been to beer festivals in the past will be familiar with the set up: tables of helpful volunteers pouring as much beer as you’d like to enjoy, great music in the background, and great conversation from brewmasters and organizers. Those who have been to the Big Tap In will also be familiar with Master of Ceremony Phill Reda’s enthusiasm for the event, and the all-around fun time he makes sure everyone has.
The event was also for a worthy cause. It benefited the Alliance Firefighters Charities, a nonprofit that raises money for various organizations in need. The attendance was fair for the first year, though it was less attended than similarly sized festival in the area. It was enjoyable, and I imagine will definitely grow in popularity as word of mouth gets around for next year.
Visitors to the OctoBREWfest were greeted with 42 tables of wonderful craft beers. Live music was provided by an event band, as well as a bagpipe group that walked through the crowd regularly and put on a great and entertaining show. Sam Adams also provided some fun beer entertainment by having a stein holding contest, with the national winner receiving some fantastic prizes. The Brew Guys in attendance didn’t do so hot, but hey at least we got some great hats out of the deal!
Food was provided by area and national retailers, and included Herman’s Hot Sauce, B-Hoppy Candy (a wonderful treat!), Rude Dawgs, Tastefully Simple, Uncle Jim’s Mustard, and Primo’s Ristorante from Canton.
There was some particular winners among the lineup of beer offerings available (which you can view at the OctoBREWfest website). We were particularly impressed by the number of offerings from Germany, with a couple of them being difficult to find state-side for most people. Some winning Octoberfest beers included Brew Kettle Oktoberfest, Weihenstephaner Festbier, Victory Festbier, and (no surprise) Hofbrau Octoberfest. Each of them were great examples of the style, with a wonderful grain character from the malts which typically included Munich and Vienna malts. Oktoberfest beers and perfect for the season, and I could have spent the whole day just tasting Oktoberfest beers and been perfectly happy!
Pumpkin beer lovers rejoice! Not much makes me thinkmore of Fall than pumpkin beers. Whether it be a heavily spiced pumpkin beer or one that relies more on flavor from the pumpkin itself, there were representations of every interpretation. The ever popular Dogfish Head Punkin Ale was in attendance, with other wonderful pumpkin brews such as Hoppin’ Frog Double Pumpkin Ale, Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin (aged in bourbon barrels), and Southern Tier Pumking rounding out some of the best there. Somewhat disappointing was Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin, which we were looking forward to trying. It was very malt forward with a distinct lack of much pumpkin or spice flavor. A fine beer from a great brewery, but not a great pumpkin beer in my opinion.
There was no shortage of beers which were special releases and hard to find. Hoppin’ Frog brought along their Fifth Anniversary beer, dubbed “Barrel Aged Naked Evil BBW Belgian-style Barley Wine-style Ale”. It was a delicious, strong beer with a nice Belgian yeast character. Heavy, but not overtly sweet, and surprisingly drinkable. Sierra Nevada brewing also brought an anniversary beer, their 30th Anniversary “Jack and Ken’s Ale”, which is best described as a black barleywine. It was an excellent beer with nice dark malt character, and at a strong 10.20% ABV was unusually smooth and full of flavor. Both of these beers were only brewed once and will only ever be brewed once, so definitely give them a try if you ever get the chance.
With a nice atmosphere, good music, and great fall seasonal beer selections, I expect the OctoBREWfest to grow in subsequent years and look forward to what the next festival has to offer. I would like to offer my thanks to Phill and Sandy Reda for hosting the event, and for their wonderful hospitality at Vintage Estate and every event that they are a part of.