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New Times Beerfest 2012 - Huizenga Plaza - March 31

Only four months removed from last year's bacchanalia of hops and malt, the 15th-annual New Times "Original" Beerfest still drew a considerable crowd to its new venue, the Huizenga Plaza on 32 E. Las Olas Blvd. Much to our chagrin, New Times is not turning this sudsy affair into a quarterly celebration. Turns out, this alt weekly simply wanted to shift Beerfest back to the springtime bash it was intended to be originally.  

We arrived two hours into the party. It was stocked with more than 100 local and international beers to savor. Armed with a five-ounce miniature mug, we had a hearty mission at hand; sample as many craft beer selections as humanly possible and ascertain a healthy buzz, all in a little over two hours. Again, not a simple task when you have only a Smurf-sized beer mug (were the mugs stolen from a Smurf's keg party?) to swish your brews around in.

Our first stop was the American Social tent, which was pouring Sam Adams' Alpine Springs seasonal lager. This citrusy and smooth lager was a refreshing way to start our quest. 

There really wasn't too much time to waste on analyzing the beer's bouquet of flavors. We made our way swiftly toward the Red Hook Brewery tent and learned that it does not brew its delicious concoctions in Red Hook, Brooklyn, as we had thought but somewhere in Washington state. 

At Starr Hill Brewery, we were poured only half a miniature mug's worth of its delicious, award-winning Charlottesville, Virginia, pilsner. Two and a half ounces of this invigorating brew was quite the tease. It was at this point when someone from Fort Lauderdale craft beer champion restaurant Tap 42 came over, saw the look of disappointment of our faces, and promised us mugs filled to the brim if we paid a visit to their tent.

While we were making our way to Tap 42's tent, our attention was distracted by the funky brass lines being dished out by legendary New Orleans ensemble Dirty Dozen Brass Band. We swerved our route directly toward the Revolution Live stage. 

The group was a full-on audible horn assault with two trumpets, baritone sax, tenor sax, trombone, tuba, and drums, all churning out deep bebop grooves. It performed a peppy, rollicking rendition of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." Most will be familiar with the sample used by one-hit wonder US3's hit "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)," the diggie diggie bop. 

These Crescent City brass wielders performed this one with three times the vigor than the original, inspiring some around us to swing-dance as if they were contests on Dancing With the Stars.

The high-octane performance continued with "Festival," a newer number, according to trumpet player Gregory Davis. With its punchy sax lead and Carnival-like whistle, it was an on-the-money crowd pleaser.

After that song was completed, Davis went up to the microphone and stated, "We gather for a good cause, to drink a lot of beer." With that mission statement, we focused back on our task at hand: savor and sip the most we could drink.

We wangled our way through a horde of what we will politely call Himmarshee regulars, toward Tap 42 to cash in on their promise. And indeed, they did pour us a kind amount of Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat. It was a cloudy, extremely fruity beer that would have done us much better served in a 16-ounce glass instead. We visited the Brooklyn Brewery tent -- and yes, this beer is made in Brooklyn -- had some easy-drinking lager there, Magic Hat, Żywiec Brewery and Sol next.

Misfit Home-brewers was where we settled down a bit. This had to be the most popular tent at Beerfest, hands down. Coming off their victory at last year's Beerfest, the group had everyone talking about its assortment of creatively crafted brews. 

We were too late to sample the much-talked-about watermelon wheat but were lucky enough to be treated with the peanut butter porter and the chocolate IPA -- definitely not the brewery for diabetics, but if you are a diabetic, you should be avoiding alcohol entirely, so forget we said that. 

This Florida home-brew club served us the most delightful, inspiring liquid refreshments of the night. We sat and shot the breeze with the guys at the tent, who were more like convivial hosts to a keg party than promoters dishing out samples at Beerfest.

Around the corner, we caught a glimpse of the Louisville versus Kentucky Final Four game from the mammoth big screen New Times had set up. We are sure this made a ton of March Madness maniacs happy. 

It was while we were catching up on some college hoops action that we ran into Ben Wood, who drove up from Doral for this festive occasion. He told us that his favorite beer of the night was one that tasted like a "Jolly Rancher." We surmise it must have been the Mistfit's' Watermelon Wheat. 

In the end, we didn't complete our mission of tasting all 100 beers. Alas, we can assure you that we had an absolute blast trying to accomplish our mission. We hope New Times will let this freelancer in next year, because we will be doubly determined to sample everything across the board.

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Alex Rendon

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