"Original" Beerfest

Misfits Homebrew and Breckenridge Vanilla Porter Among New Times Beerfest Winners

Forget the drunk fest that the New Times Beerfest used to be, with the longest lines at the light beers that have a faint flavor of something brewed. This year, the crowds seemed to seek out the craft beers, with the longest lines for Brooklyn, Shiner, and Shipyard.

And that trend was reflected in the beers that our panel of expert judges picked as the best brews at the 14th-annual Beerfest. The panel, which included brewers and restaurateurs and a pair of lucky winners, sampled many of the hundred beers to pick four overall winners:

Best Overall Beer: Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
Here's a

brew that everyone should like, from the biggest beer snobs to those

who prefer their suds to have a Super Bowl commercial. Breckenridge

Brewery infuses the Vanilla Porter

with vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea and malts that add flavors of

chocolate and caramel. Three types of hops add a bit of bitterness to a

beer that's as sweet as a root-beer float. Forget drinking it just for

dessert -- the Tap 42 booth at Beerfest saw people returning for

multiple pours of the night's best beer.

Best Florida Beer: Misfit Home-Brewers' Bust a Nut Porter

know what you're thinking: a beer with peanuts in it, right? Well, this

was an amazingly balanced beer, with a hint of peanut butter that

matched well with the chocolate and spice of the porter. The guys from Misfit Home-Brewers,

a South Florida homebrew club, clearly were having the best time of any

booth at Beerfest, with a few keg stands throughout the night, and they

also beat out some major Florida breweries to claim this award. Our

judges also gave them high marks for a refreshing Wheat-r-Melon, a

Spiced Porter, and a Black Calabasa.

Best American: Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
This was good enough that a majority of our expert panel put it down for two awards. For this award, though, it barely beat out Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and hometown brewery Holy Mackerel's Panic Attack.

Best Import: Leffe
If you read the reviews of this Belgian blond ale, you'll see words like toffee, banana, earthy tones, and citrus. But Leffe isn't

a beer overladen with flavor -- it's a highly drinkable beer fine for a

barbecue or a burger. Next time that friend comes over who drinks

nothing but Blue Moon, buy this fantastic Belgian ale instead.

Any great beers our judges missed? Anything you'd like to see at the 2012 New Times Beerfest? If so, leave your suggestions below in the comments field.

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB. Follow Eric Barton on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton