Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Best of the fest: Untapped festival goers get 'Bomb'ed

Image credit:  Paste Magazine, Victory Brewing Co., Great Divide Brewing Co.,
Lone Pint Brewing Co., Prairie Artisan Ales, Southern Tier Brewing Co.
(click to enlarge)

With more and more beer festivals happening on a recurring basis, a recap of events that aren't in their first year basically comes down to an analysis of the venue (if new), the beer list and what you remember of the day's consumption.  Some, like the affair in question, may have a separate element with equal billing (in this case indie music), but we're just here for the beer.

For their return to Dallas, Paste Untapped selected Gilley's as the place to be, and from my perspective the choice seems to have been a good one.  There appeared to be ample parking, and the grounds themselves provided plenty of elbow room and facilities, at least for the early and mid-afternoon crowd of which I was a part.  Would it have been nice to not be able to fry an egg on your feet (for those of us in flip-flops)?  Of course, but hold this event at the same time next year and it could just as easily be 70 degrees outside.  Given the surroundings, the appropriate suggestion was to come prepared and cowboy up!

Moving on, the strength of the pre-announced beer list has been discussed at length by myself and others.  The only question left was what to drink?  Faced with the prospect of choosing which beers would make it onto your must try menu, there are any number of ways you could have gone.  Personally, I sought out brews I had yet to experience.  These tended to be market debuts from local or national brewers, ultra-rarities I had never been able to corral, or cask and one-off releases that may have been offered especially for the occasion.  As it turned out, compared to other Texas-based festivals I've attended in the past, my list of unfamiliar flavors was longer than it had ever been before.

Come next year, one-upping (or even equaling) the beer list yet again will be a daunting task.  Something tells me, though, that the powers that be will be up to the challenge.

My festival favorites:


A good Baltic-style porter is hard to find, so coming across one aged in red wine barrels must be all the more rare.  With Red ThunderVictory has taken their seasonal Baltic Thunder and let it sit for three months in spent casks from Wente Vineyards. The barrel treatment adds a burst of grapes, wood tones and a tannic finish to a beer already steeped in cocoa and dark fruit goodness.

It's the Great Pumpking, Charlie Brown

Outside of a few exceptions, I'm generally not a fan of pumpkin beers.  It's mostly a function of wanting my beer to taste like something other than just pumpkin, and many concoctions of this type are somewhat heavy-handed.  Pumpking from Southern Tier isn't that way at all.  It's like pumpkin pie in a bottle, but it goes beyond other beers that claim the same description with the added dimension of what tastes like a rich and buttery graham cracker crust. 

The Yellow Rose of Texas

Ever since products from Lone Pint started appearing on tap walls in North Texas, it seemed like the beer we heard about most was the one that wasn't here.  Only a couple of kegs of Yellow Rose have ever made it to our area, even though we've seen a handful of the brewery's other products.  Word of mouth has generated a fair amount of buzz around this beer, and after only a few sips it's easy to see why.  It's remarkably bright and flavorful, which may come as a surprise once you learn it's based on a single hop (Mosaic), single malt recipe. 

A real peach

Of all things to seek out for a bit of refreshment from the summer heat, a Belgian strong ale probably wouldn't be at the top of anyone's list.  Though, if it's a beer that tastes as fresh as Great Divide's Peach Grand Cru, I'm all for it.  Perceptions may well have been skewed after many full-bodied samples, but despite the heavy sounding style name this brew came across as a fairly easy drinker.

Prairie is the Bomb!

I walked into Untapped expecting to declare Tweak from Avery as my favorite beer of the day.  This, before I had sampled even a single brew.  How could I not?  I count Mephistopheles among my favorite beers, and the thought of a coffee addition made it sound all the more intriguing.  Plus, I had always seemed to miss it when it appeared locally, so a trip to the Avery booth was a personal priority.  Then, a funny thing happened.  I ended up taking a slight detour after it was mentioned that Prairie Artisan Ales had brought an off-the-menu brew in bottles, and it wasn't clear how much of it was left.  The beer?  Bomb!  A imperial stout aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla and chili peppers, it was like a molten dark chocolate bar with subtle infusions of the aforementioned ingredients.  It was so well rounded it made Tweak, which I had moments later, seem a little sweet.  Don't get me wrong, Tweak is still a great beer, but the day's props belong to the Bomb!

Also notable:  903 Kahlua Barrel Aged Pecan Porter, Texian Brutus (an English IPA) and Armadillo Quakertown Stout randallized with cocoa nibs, toasted coconut, cinnamon and mulling spices.


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