Some might say that a food and wine festival is not a place to sample beer, but they'd be wrong, wrong, wrong! It just happens to be not a very good place to do so.
Not caring much for convention, nor for being seen as the odd man out at the festival, I grabbed my festival wine glass and made my way down the three or so blocks of Las Olas filled with food, winemongers and, luckily, the occasional beer.
Arriving in a red 1975 8-Ball-bedecked VW camper van, Cisco Brewers from Nantucket, MA showed off a pair of beers that would be refreshing to our local climate. Their first offering was the flagship Whale's Tail Pale Ale, an English style pale ale with a great crystal and Maris Otter malt base and utilizing traditional East Kent goldings hops.
It was touted at the festival as being similar to Samuel Adams' Boston Lager, but I think the comparison is unwarranted, if not inaccurate. Whale's Tail enjoys a lower hop profile and is much closer in flavor to a traditional English ale, such as Fullers.
The Grey Lady was the second brew on offer from the island brewery, which is a wheat beer brewed with Belgian yeasts. There is a lot of coriander in this one, as well as banana and a bit of lemon. It drinks almost like a saison with its apparent dryness on the palate, but there's nothing excessive about it. At 4.5% abv, this is definitely a drink to share with friends and whittle down an afternoon in the summer heat.
Fort Lauderdale favorite Tap42 was out showcasing a couple of out of town guests from Colorado, Left Hand Good JuJu and Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.
Good JuJu is a ginger infused beer, which starts off healthy on the ginger, but then fades into bland territory. There's nothing technically wrong here, it just falls into the 'average' category.
The Vanilla Porter, on the other hand, I felt was missing a lot of the vanilla flavor. It ended up light on flavor, with minimal roastiness or maltiness. Not a strong showing from the centennial state.
Down the street, Ryan Fischer from Brown Distributing was on hand to give us a sampling of the latest Samuel Smith beer to arrive to the shores of the United States, the Organic Chocolate Stout.
"This beer has only been available in the United States for two, maybe three months," he said of the British beer from North Yorkshire.
It's a sweet stout. Highly milk chocolate on the nose, with a slightly creamy roasted but sweet flavor. It is not overpoweringly cloying, which can be the case with certain chocolate stouts (I'm looking at you, Sam Adams Chocolate Stout!).
Also on hand were some samplings of a range of AB InBev product, including the recently acquired Goose Island brand, Budweiser Black Crown, and Medallia Light. Yawn.
Given that this was a food and wine festival, there were enough decent beers to make a concerted showing. Nothing compares, of course, to a good ol' fashioned beerfest.
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