Yesterday I rode my bike out to the NW Quimby Lucky Lab, to check out the barley wine and big beer fest.
The fest was set-up like prior fests in this location (last I attended there was Portland Cheers to Belgian Beers), with volunteers serving beers from about 30 taps in the room in the south east corner of the building.
I got there early and beat the crowds, which was nice, except a lot of the beers I wanted to try were on deck for later - it looked like they were saving some pretty solid beers for day two. I stayed for 7 straight hours though, and got to taste a lot of great stuff in that time. To battle liver fatigue, I took two breaks, once for cheese pizza at the bar, and another later for a pulled pork sandwich, which provided me my final rally before leaving for the night. Over the course of the day, I tried the following beers:
2006 Anchor Old Foghorn
2008 Beer Valley Highway to Ale
2007 Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Knucklehead
2009 Dogfish Head Olde School Barley Wine
2007 Great Divide Old Ruffian
2009 Bourbon Barrel aged Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws
2008 Hopworks Barrel Aged Noggin Floggin
2009 Lucky Lab Son of old yeller - bourbon barrel aged (x3!)
2008 New Old Lompoc Old Tavern Rat
2009 North Coast Old Stock
2008 Speakeasy Old Godfather
2008 Alameda Papa Noels -bourbon barrel aged
2008 Bend Brewing Outback X
2007 Cascade Defroster Winter IPA
2009 Double Mountain Chaos Stout
2008 Ninkasi Sasquatch
Roots Epic Surprise (blend of 05, 06, 07 Roots Epic Ale) (x2!)
As evidenced by the number of tastes I had of each, the major standouts for me were the Roots Epic Surprise, and the Lucky Lab Son of Old Yeller. After those, I thought the 2006 Anchor Old Foghorn was excellent as well.
I was convinced at first that the Epic Surprise most have been a blend of the Epic Ale with another style - like a russian imperial stout with coffee. This was something I heard from some others as well. Trying it as a blend, and seeing how much different it was from newer single vintages, really makes me wish I had attended the Epic release this year, and gotten the opportunity to do a vertical tasting of some of the older vintages alone. In any case, this was a top quality beer, and one that I feel really lucky to have tried.
The Son of Old Yeller was delicious. I thought it tasted like chewing on fresh made caramel. Of all the other barley wines at the fest, I thought this one was the most unique, and fortunately for it; it was unique in a fantastic way.
The 2006 Old Foghorn was a model for how well some beers age. All the flavors of the beer were perfectly melded and softened, and it definitely drank better than a beer that clocks in with that ABV should.
Some disappointments for me:
2009 Bourbon Barrel Aged Doggie Claws. I love Doggie Claws, and I love bourbon barrel aged beers, but something was just... off about this one. Noticeably different than regular doggie claws, but the flavors that came from this barrel weren't what I would have hoped for from the process.
2007 Cascade Defroster. I shouldn't have been disappointed with this beer. I new going into it that it was a 3 year old IPA. Truthfully, it was actually kind of nice to break up my tastings with an IPA, and it wasn't that bad, even with the age on it. The reason I was disappointed is that I would have hoped for and expected a lot more from Cascade for a big beer fest. How about some Sang Noir? That's about 10%, barrel aged, etc... a perfect match for a big beer fest. Their offering of a vintage 7.2% IPA was a bit of a let down.
Over the course of the day, the crowd started to build, but it wasn't until after 6 or 7 or so that the place really started to get packed.
All in all, I thought this was a great event. There were some awesome beers, no lines, friendly people, and everything went off without a hitch. Bonus points for the screen printed collectors glass. I hate plastic festival mugs. My only regret is that I have to work all day today, and there are some beers coming on that I didn't get to try.