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ENBFThis year’s East Nashville Beer Festival was a complete success! I headed over with Lauren and a few bandmates and friends on Saturday ready to be amazed, and amazed I was! This festival has become one of my favorite days of the year, and Saturday did not disappoint. Lauren has a full review of everything over at Old Red Boots, but here are my top picks, with more personal insight:

Top 5 beers at ENBF 2013:

1. Kentucky Ale: Bourbon Barrel Ale
This is consistently my favorite bourbon barrel aged beer. You get a nice woody, oaky bourbon flavor up front, then a subtle hop character comes through, finishing with a lingering bourbon sweetness. It’s a symphony of all the right flavors.

2. Starr Hill: Psychokilter
Easily one of the best Scotch ales I’ve had. This beer is all about the malt- as it should be- but isn’t overly sweet. Robust and somewhat earthy. Color me impressed!

3. Calfkiller: Classic Spider
Calfkiller has burst onto the TN brewing scene in the past few years with a vengeance. All of their beers are fermented with the same Belgian yeast blend, which gives it a distinctive fruity note that says “this is Calfkiller!” Classic Spider was a special blend of their Brown Recluse and a stout, aged in a bourbon (or maybe it was whiskey?) barrel. I’m not sure if this will become a regularly produced beer, but I wouldn’t mind if it did!

4. Rivertown: Roebling Porter
This is a vanilla & espresso infused imperial porter, and it might as well be liquid dessert. It’s chocolatey, sweet, warming and simply delicious. It’s one of their flagships, too! Sadly, Rivertown doesn’t distribute to TNUpdate: turns out Rivertown DOES distribute to TN- you can get them at Craft Brewed!

5. Yazoo: Hop Project #70 Dry-hopped with Stella hops
Yazoo is known for their creative Hop Project series, in which they use the same malt bill, but different varieties of hops at different boiling schedules for each batch. #70 is the latest batch and (from what I was told at the tap) for this cask they dry-hopped it with a unique Australian hop variety called Stella. As I understand it this was a special cask that Yazoo made for the ENBF, but Hop Project #70 used Stella hops during the boil as well, and is available in retail stores now. 

Honorable Mentions:

Deschutes: Black Butte Porter and Northwest Pale Ale
Deschutes is an Oregon brewery that sadly hasn’t made it to TN yet, so I was unfamiliar even with these two flagship beers. The Black Butte Porter has a slightly nutty character that you’d expect in a nut brown ale, but yet it’s a porter! The Northwest Pale Ale stuck out to me because they backed away from the assertive hop bitterness that most APA’s are known for, and went for a well-balanced pale ale with a nice hoppy aroma.

Left Hand: Smokejumper Imperial Porter
Reactions to this beer amongst my peers were mixed. For me it was a fine smokey, bacon-y porter. I’ve not met a smoked beer that I didn’t like and this was no exception. Some in my group thought it reminded them too much of a campfire, while others wanted more bacon flavor. 

Straight To Ale: Hellfire Quadrupel and Monkeynaut IPA dry-hopped with Citra
This Huntsville brewery produces some fine beers. Their Belgian-style quadrupel, called Hellfire, was warming, earthy, and robust. They also had a special cask of their Monkeynaut IPA that was dry-hopped with Citra hops. The tropical fuity aroma was simply blissful!

French Broad: 13 Rebels ESB
One of my favorite styles of beer is a classic English ESB, or Extra-Special Bitter. I was familiar with French Broad but hadn’t tried their ESB. 13 Rebels was an enjoyable and worthy example of the style. Well-balanced and very session-able, as an ESB should be. 

Least Favorite Beer:

New Belgium’s surprise quadrupel.
I unfortunately didn’t take note of exactly what this beer was aged in or what was supposed to be special about it. It was a quad that had (I think) been aged in some sort of wood barrels. What I do remember though, is that is was too blatantly alcoholic up front. There are 10, 11, even 12% ABV beers that still manage to not allow the boozy alcoholic flavor to overrun the character of the beer. This one though, just screamed “BOOZE” at my palate. That being said, New Belgium is one of the finest, and also largest craft breweries in the nation. Everything about them pretty much rules. 

Happy drinking and I’ll see you next year at ENBF IV!

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fix the beer taxI want take a moment to spread the word to fellow Nashvillians/beer lovers about an upcoming rally at the state capitol. As you should’ve heard by now, there is a BIG movement, called Fix The Beer Tax, in our fair state to change our absurdly high beer tax code that has been in place since the 1950’s. Brewers, beer lovers, and politicians alike have all been on the road over the past month or so building support for the Tennessee Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013.

This coming Monday, March 11th there will be a rally held downtown at The Standard (167 Rosa L. Parks Blvd), just a few blocks from the capitol, from 5-8:30pm. Sen. Brian Kelsey, Rep. Cameron Sexton, and representatives from the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association, Anheuser-Busch, other national brewers, and importers will all be present. Join the event on facebook, and if you haven’t already, GO SEND A LETTER TO YOUR STATE LAWMAKERS IN SUPPORT OF THIS BILL! The form is very easy and it only take a few seconds!

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It’s almost spring again, and in East Nashville in recent years, that has come to mean BEER FEST. I’ve been to the East Nashville Beer Festival every year of its existence and it’s gotten better every time. Most of you probably know I’m a homebrewer and avid beer lover, so trust me when I say these folks really know how to put on a great beer festival. The list of breweries this year includes Deschutes, Good People, French Broad, Lagunitas, Highland Brewing, New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Rivertown, Schmaltz, Brooklyn, Southern Tier, Starr Hill, Terrapin, Straight To Ale, Green Flash, and many more including all your favorite locals such as Yazoo, Calfkiller, Fat Bottom, Turtle Anarchy, Jackalope, etc… It’s well worth the $50 price because there’s simply no other way to experience so many great beers at once, and many of the breweries have very special, limited-edition (often cask-aged) brews that you’d never find in a store or at a bar. There will also be plenty of food trucks onsite to help fill your belly with yummy snacks in addition to the beer. The list includes Biscuit Love, Wrapper’s Delight, Riff’s, Hoss’s Loaded Burgers, and the Grilled Cheeserie to name a few.

This year also boasts a very special food/beer pairing tent sponsored by Whole Foods! It does require a separate ticket for an extra $45 but I’ve no doubt it will be worth it! The ENBF is also a part of Nashville Craft Beer Week, which boasts even more awesome in-store free tastings and other specialty events, so be sure to check out the full calendar, because the madness starts on March 18th.

The festival did not increase the size of the event this year, but they’ve “…doubled our bathrooms, doubled our hand wash sinks, increased drinking water supply, upgraded glassware (6oz glass snifter), and overall will be creating the best venue possible.” If you had issues with any of those things last year, fear not- it’ll be way better this year.

SO, BELIEVE ME- HAVE YOUR FINGER ON THE BUTTON AT 9AM SHARP THIS THURSDAY. This event will sellout in less than an hour, and probably even less than 30 minutes. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out in 10 minutes. Trust me, I had an absolute blast last year with my lady Old Red Boots, and we’ll be back in full force this year. You do NOT want to miss this!

The ENBF and Craft Beer Week are all products of Rhizome Productions. Keep your eyes on these folks, because they’re doing some amazing stuff for the beer scene in Nashville, Tennessee, and the southeast in general!

*Also, don’t forget about Fix The Beer Tax! If you’re a Tennesseean and haven’t heard about that movement yet, check out my blog post about it from a couple of weeks ago (which the FTBT folks were kind enough to repost on their blog!). And then email your state legislators and help us get this archaic and ridiculous TN law changed.*

Y’all. I’m slackin’ this week. I fail at blogging. So sue me. I should have mentioned on Monday or even over the weekend that this week is craft beer week in Nashville, and it all leads up to the 2nd annual East Nashville Beer Festival in East Park on Saturday. I went last year and got soused on some amazing beer, and I’m VERY much looking forward to it this year, mostly because I now live a couple blocks from the location and can casually stroll down to it with my girlfriend. They’ve expanded everything this year, and I’m very excited about some of the specialty brews- rare/limited run beers from well-known names that you’ll probably never see anywhere other than at beer festivals such as this. The festival tickets sold out in only 2 hours when they went onsale Feb. 10th, but I’ll be you can find some on craigslist if you try really hard.

While the ENBF is the main event, there have been other fun things going on around town this week as part of Nashville craft beer week. I stopped by the Brooklyn Brewery tasting session at Woodland Wine Merchant yesterday and had their Local #1, Local #2, East India Pale Ale, and Monster Ale Barleywine. All fantastic in their own way. Tonight from 5-7 they’ll be having a Green Flash free tasting session, and Friday New Belgium will be in the store for some free tasting. There are other tastings and events going on elsewhere, so check the schedule for today and tomorrow’s festivities.

I must also take this opportunity to mention how pleased I am that we have several new local breweries popping up here in Nashville. TN’s laws are literally some the WORST in the nation for small-scale craft breweries, but it’s very encouraging to see the huge success of Yazoo and the emerging breweries such as Fat Bottom, Black Abbey, Broacast, Nashvillion, Jackalope, and Jubilee. (All of which will have beers at the ENBF.) Bosco’s and Blackstone will be there as well, but they are in a class of their own in my head- they are restaurants with breweries inside them. Their beers are a force to be reckoned with, however small-scale they may be! And Blackstone has just recently expanded their brewing to a separate facility and are bottling/distributing regionally now. I highly recommend their Chaser Pale- a Kolsch-style ale which is very light and refreshing. You don’t see Kolsch as a flagship beer from many craftbrewers, so I applaud them for doing it!

Ok, off my beer soapbox. Hopefully you have tix to this awesome event- if not, get some to the much bigger Music City Brewer’s fest in July.

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