Monday, November 9, 2015

Best of the fest: My 2015 Dallas Untapped tasting card

Image credits: Untapped Festival, Alaskan Brewing Co., Braindead Brewing,
Lakewood Brewing Co., Oak Highlands Brewery.

Due to other things taking up a lot of my time over the last year or so, this weekend's Untapped Festival at Fair Park in Dallas was a return of sorts for me, since the last Untapped event I attended was the Fort Worth get together in 2014.

While it was great to be back roaming the grounds, I have to say that Untapped has officially become unmanageable. I mean, come on, how am I supposed to drink all the beers when there are over 400 of them to choose from?! Granted, I didn't actually want to drink 400 beers (not really anyway), but there were at least a few dozen on my short list of things to try at the event this past Saturday. This is all in jest, of course, but considering the beer list, its quality of curation and...well...the strength of many of the samples I sipped, all it took was two tasting cards and I was about done. Any more than that and I would've probably been seen wandering around reciting the lyrics to Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home." 

So, what was good? Most everything I tried, really, except maybe a spice bomb or two, and another that was a little too minty fresh. Then again, there was also the beer with a purpose in life that wasn't exactly clear. It wasn't bad, but I don't know if it was an ice cream trying to be a beer, or a beer trying to be an ice cream...or maybe neither? If someone wants to check with Ben or Jerry and get back to me, that'd be great.

In any case, here are a few of my favorites from Saturday's Fair Park adventure. As always, these words are based on first impressions gleaned from a two-ounce sample, so any tasting notes are fairly basic, and it's understood that your thoughts may be completely different than mine. Cheers!

  • Alaskan Smoked Porter (2005, 2010, 2015): A great little in-festival vertical treat, after trying all three vintages I'd say the 2010 was the best. Not surprisingly, the smoked malt was most prevalent in the 2015 release, while being much less present in the bottle from 2005. The early version had some interesting sherry-like notes as well, but for me it was hard to beat the overall balance of the 2010 edition.
  • Braindead 10th Anniversary Brett IIPA: From what I understand, the anniversary reference has to do with when Braindead brew chief Drew Huerter started homebrewing (yes, no, maybe?). As for the beer, this well-balanced brew was a little hoppy, a little funky and a lotta good.
  • Lakewood Wild Manimal: Also using a bit of Brett, Wild Manimal is the brainchild of the "Manimal" himself, brewer Will Paden. It had just the right amount of fruit and funk, and while I'll need a full pour to see for myself, Lakewood founder Wim Bens said he thinks it's one of the brewery's best ever.
  • Oak Highlands Chump Change: While I'm not at liberty to discuss the details of how this beer is made, to me it's a reminder that you don't have to go beyond beer's four basic ingredients to make something interesting and unique. Billed as an imperial black saison, Chump Change seemed to bring together the funk and effervescence of a saison, with the color and dark fruit of a dubbel.

Others I enjoyed: 903 Balcones Barrel Aged Sasquatch, Deep Ellum Barrel Aged Oak Cliff Coffee Ale, Jester King Synthesis Analogous, Karbach Trigavé, Rabbit Hole Mystic Rapture.

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