Thirsty South Floridians descended onto the lawn of the Delray Beach Center for the Arts this past Friday for the third-annual Old School BeerFest, a craft-beer-leaning (but not exclusive) fundraising event for the downtown arts complex.
Hundreds braved the excruciatingly pleasant weather to enjoy samplings from some of the big names of brewing in our region: Terrapin Beer Co., Sweetwater Brewing Co., Founders Brewing Co., Cigar City Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, and Harpoon Brewery among many others.
Local participants included Delray Beach's own SaltWater Brewery, which brought in a randal (a device to give flavors to beers on the fly) to treat their Chocolate Mayday beer with coffee beans and vanilla. Brewer Dustin Jeffers remarked on their recent growth into a distribution contract with Brown Distributing. "Delray Beach is our home, so we're going to make sure the local venues here are happy," he said. "We're prepared for this." Expect to see SaltWater beers out in the wild with some introductory beer dinners and food pairings starting in mid-June. Observant fans might notice a keg here or there (like at the Lion and Eagle English Pub this past weekend) scattered through until it reaches wider distribution.
But this wasn't just about the commercial favorites. Scattered about the fringes were some of the up-and-coming groups vying to make crowd-pleasing concoctions and further their names.
The standout of the night, however, was the up-and-coming Wild Oak Artisan Ales, a funky and wood-filled project by Christopher McElveen and brewer Matt Manthe of Brewzzi in Boca Raton. The E.I.E.I.O. farmhouse saison was an especially mature and grassy beer, highlighting the style with a level of precision that shows Manthe really knows his stuff. Hit up the Brewzzi in Boca Raton for the brewmaster's selection, a rotating line of crafty recipes that are sure to touch your inner beer nerd.
Besides beer, the event featured local blues/funk/pop covers by Pocket Change and Jay Blues Band, who grooved people in a way that only a couple of hours of craft beer can provide. Social lubricant indeed.
As for the festival itself, it seemed to go off without a hitch, with brewers able to keep the taps flowing until the end, and if kegs kicked or bottles ran dry it was within minutes of last call. Food was plentiful, aromas wafting through the air, with the crowd having a good time. Events at Old School Square always surprise me with how much space there is at the center. Which is good, because nothing is worse than a crowded beer festival.
If Old School BeerFest makes it back next year for round four, make a note to attend. It's a great event for those getting into craft beers and seems to always have at least a few surprises for the beer nerds.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.
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