26 August 2015

Et in Arcadia malter ego: Beervana 2015

I'm sorry. That's a ridiculous title for a blog post. I won't do it again*.

My wife and I attended Beervana again this year, on the Saturday (a couple of weeks back now). We went last year with our son. This year my parents were good enough to look after him, which was fortunate because since last year he's turned two and learned to say 'beer', and 'more beer'. Frankly I can't see that that would have been a good look.

It was a fantastic event. If you've not been, you should. They have beer.

Having just been to Beervana, this seems a good time to kick off a beer blog and comment on some of the beers I tried before moving on to posts about my own brewing adventures.

So, without further ado:

Cabbages and Kings, Garage Project
This was the first beer I tasted, no doubt because it was the showiest and I am nothing if not crass. It was billed as an imperial oyster and horopito stout and clocked in at a whopping 12% ABV. Cabbages and Kings was the showiest beer because, not content with brewing the beer with manuka smoked malt, Garage Project used a hand-held smoker to pump additional manuka smoke through the beer on serving. It was a beer drinking experience unlike any other. Unfortunately, I have rather enjoyed other beer drinking experiences. Full credit to Garage Project for creating an oyster beer, in which the oyster flavour comes through and isn't unpleasant. But, I found the smokiness fairly over-powering and was unable to detect horopito. Also, I think 12% is more alcoholic than I can easily enjoy in beer. I found it a bit spiritey spiritish spirit-like ... it tasted of spirits. I didn't love it, but I'm glad I had it.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Porter, Good George Brewing
This was a smooth, rich chocolaty porter. Had the words 'salted caramel' not been included in the beer's name, I don't think I'd have worked out that that's what they were going for. After a few mouthfuls I convinced myself that I could taste a faint saltiness, and there was definitely a flavour that one wasn't malt, hops or chocolate. A very nice beer which I would happily drink again.

Mama Mighty IPA, Beer Baroness
A very drinkable IPA. Smooth maltiness, nice hop aromas and a good bitterness level. This was my favourite IPA of the day, which surprised me a little, because...

Snapperhead, Rocky Nob
This was my favourite beer from Beervana 2014. I'd been looking forward to trying it again off the tap this year, but when I did, it didn't have the same impact. Still a very nice Imperial IPA, but it didn't stand out this year like it did last year.

Blanc de Houblon, North End Brewery Co
A 'Belgian IPA', which I think means in essence a high-alcohol, hoppy hefe-weizen. This was interesting, as I'd been thinking about brewing something like this myself. For my money, however, it was too hoppy to be a good wheat beer, and insufficiently malty to carry the hop load they'd given it. I note, however, that the average rating on the Beervana app for this beer is 4 out of 5, so I appear to be an outlier.

Golden Mile Dry Hopped Helles Lager, Fork & Brewer
Another of the beers I most enjoyed at this year's Beervana. Again this surprised me, as I'm not normally a big lager drinker. But it was very smooth, great hoppiness and very easy on the palate.

Beast of Baltic, Wild & Woolly
A strong, roasty Baltic porter. Rich, and, dare I say, luxuriant. The brewer claims that it's 'lightly roasty', but for me the roasted barley came through loud and clear.

Van da Tzar, Baylands Brewery
A strong, Russian Imperial Porter. 10% ABV. Rich caramely malt flavour with vanilla notes. Again, a bit more alcoholic than I prefer but in this case drinkable enough to be hazardous. This was the highest rated beer of the event, so congratulations to the gentlemen at Baylands on that score.

I tried other beers, but I won't write them all up for a couple of reasons. One, the main risk to this blog is that I never finish writing posts and two I am insufficiently endowed with adjectives to write about more than a half dozen beers without becoming very boring.

I found it interesting that the highest rated beers on the Beervana app this year were malt-heavy, rather than intensely hoppy. I wondered whether this heralds a shift in consumer preference, but I suspect that that's not it. After a few heavily-hopped beers, I felt this year that my palate had been a bit overwhelmed. I suspect that that's why I enjoyed some beers more than I expected to, and others, such as Snapperhead, less than I expected to. I'm hoping to find and drink some of these beers again and see how differently I feel about them when I've not already consumed a lot of hops.

I'm planning to make some beer this weekend, so will hopefully post on that subject shortly.

* I will probably do it again.


  1. Greetings from the UK, love the title of the blog, and the title of this post! I particularly like the phrase, 'I didn't love it, but I'm glad I had it' as that sums up a loto beer experiences for me! Interesting your malt v hop remarks, I have begun to wonder if we aren't getting too hoppy these days!

    1. Thanks! Much appreciated.

      I generally enjoy hoppy beers. I think part of the issue in this case is that hoppy beers maybe don't benefit from being lined up against each other. Or maybe I just need to put more effort into palate cleansing.