Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fred Fest 2011

This past week Fred Eckhardt turned 85, and the annual traditional of helping him celebrate with a very special beer festival at Hair of the Dog took place once again at the brewery. Fred Fest is one of my favorite festivals of the year for so many reasons. The rarity of some of the beers, the intimate feel, the food, the raffle, the great crowd, and above all - the wonderful hospitality that Alan and the rest of the Hair of the Dog crew show make it a can't miss event on my calender.

This year, when I arrived at the brewery I was about 60 or 70 people back in line, despite being half an hour early. By the time the event began, it looked like all 300 ticket holders had joined us in the wait for the doors to open. I thought it was a little silly to wait in line for an event that was only open to so many people, but it proved to have been worth it. After getting in and buying my raffle tickets, I immediately made my way to the keg of 1998 Boilermaker from full sail - a beer that ran out before the last ticket holders in the line made it through the door. Let me say this: 13 years later, this beer is fantastic, and I bet it will continue to age gracefully for many years to come; a fantastic example of how much time can do for the right beer.

With all the chaos of opening the new location out the way this year, things at the fest ran a lot smoother than in the past. It was evident that a lot of time and energy was spent to make this year one of the best yet. The food was ready from the opening and there was plenty for everyone. Bottled water was available all over the brewery in plentiful quantities. The snacks were abundant and delicious. The taps were well manned, and the lines were always short-to-nonexistent, even for some most sought after beers.

Once again, the entire building was open to the fest-goers, which offered a nice glimpse into the operations of the brewery, and some of the projects that were in the works. I always love checking out the barrel aging area to try to get a picture of some of the future beer releases. This year I spotted another batch of Michael, Fred Flanders, Matt, Adam from the wood, and Bourbon Fred from the wood, as well as many other barrels just marked with cryptic symbols I couldn't decipher. In addition to the aging beers, I noted that the brewery picked up brand new fresh oak barrels to work with. I've only previously seen used wine and spirit barrels in my visits to Hair of the Dog, so it will be interesting to see what comes out of the fresh oak barrels in the future.

Once the crowd had all filtered it into the brewery, had a chance to eat, and quenched their thirsts, cupcakes were handed to each of the attendees, topped with chocolate mustaches reminiscent of Fred's famous whiskers. With cupcakes in hand, we all sang "Happy Birthday" to Fred, which was followed by a couple rounds of "For he's a jolly-good fellow". If my 85th birthday is a tenth as festive and attended as Fred's, it would be an amazing thing.

In addition to the Boilermaker, I made my way through the following beers over the course of the evening:
  • Bend Deconstructionater
  • Cascade Fredtastic
  • Deschutes Sour Saison
  • Double Mountain Fine Pimpin'
  • Hair of the Dog Peach Fred
  • Hopworks Kronan the Bourbarian
  • Laurelwood Mexican Mocha Ale
  • Lucky Lab Port aged Brown Ale
  • Midnight Sun Arctic Devil
  • New Old Lompoc Franc'ly Brewdolph
  • Prodigal Sun Neuer Morgan

Of those, there were some "hits", some "mehs", and a "miss" or two. For the hits, the Deschutes Sour Saison was near the top for me. I had heard from several people that the original keg that was on for Deschutes turned out to be the wrong one. I feel sorry for those that tried that keg and didn't revisit the tap after things were corrected. Since the original release of Dissident, Deschutes hasn't been able to impress me with a sour offering until now, and I'd go as far as saying the version I tried this weekend was their best effort altogether. Looking over some of the reviews on ratebeer, it seems like not everyone agrees, but I'll stick by my statement. Hopefully their ratings are based on the right beer at least.

Peach Fred really surprised me. I first tried it at the Matt release, and while it was better than Apricot Fred, it was still just... not that good then. With 6 more months of age on it, I'd say it's just starting to come around. Gone were the chunks from the first release. The sharp edges were rounded out, and the flavors were smoother and less hot then in the past. It was difficult for me to pick the "fred" notes out of it, but it was a delicious version none-the-less. I hope Alan has more of this stashed away somewhere to serve in another year or two.

I don't have much to say about my other top picks, as I've had them all before: Hopworks Kronan the Bourbarian is a great bourbon barrel aged baltic porter that I can never pass up. Midnight Sun Arctic Devil is one of my favorite english style barley wines of all time.

The biggest miss of the event for me was Cascade's Fredtastic. Yikes! "Aged in chardonnay barrels w/ dried Adriatic white figs and Spanish lemon peel", this one brought back unpleasant memories of Apricot Fred from six months ago... throat melting acetone. Oh well, you can't win them all, and there's no love lost between me and Cascade from this experiment.

For the second year in a row, I was successful in the raffle. My first winning ticket yielded a bottle of the 2009 Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head collaboration, Life and Limb. My second ticket awarded me with a series of every Fred Fest tasting glass made - filling in some gaps from the years I've missed.

Another year, another great event. I can't wait til celebrate Fred's 86th.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there- I work with Pyramid Breweries and want to send you some info. about a beer event next week. What's the best way to contact you?