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More Lessons from Cincy Winter Beerfest 2013

More Lessons from Cincy Winter Beerfest 2013
Jason Behler

I have now been to two beer festivals in the Queen City both planned by Cincy Beerfest, and they do a good job of putting on an event from the two most important aspects – social and  liquid.

Kate did a wonderful job encapsulating the Friday night Cincy Winter Beerfest experience in her earlier post. The thing to remember in attending one of these is that it really is an event, which is something that people don’t understand. You basically have three kinds of patrons at these events (excluding vendors, brewers, and workers), three kinds of drinkers.

1) The connoisseur – this attendee asks questions, seeks to find out as much as they can about the beers, tries as many new things as possible, and doesn’t feel obligated to finish every beer; 2) The casual drinker – this attendee is there to have a good time, doesn’t need to learn about the beers, but may take an interest or go back for seconds if something is especially good; 3) The frat boy –  this attendee has come to get drunk, plain and simple, seeking out high alcohol beers and thinks it is a contest to see how many five-ounce samples you can put down in a 3-4 hour window.

When you attend this festival on Saturday, not only will the sheer volume of people go up, but you will see an increasing number of guests from category 3. The good news it that this festival has grown so large that their presence is merely a humorous footnote to all of the other cool things happening. I brought my wife as my companion and fellow enthusiast, and here is what we learned.

Things learned:

1. Silent Disco is a genius idea

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The concept – give everyone a pair of headphones tuned to the same song/channel, add beer, and enjoy. I mean just look at the girl getting down in the front left…amazing. The perks (besides the obvious people watching) is that there is no loud music blaring throughout the entire festival, causing guests who are not footloose to enjoy casual conversation without shouting while allowing connoisseurs to speak with brewers, distributors, and friends. NOTE: at one point there were hundreds of people doing the “Electric Slide” in unison with no audible music to those without headphones.

2. Many vineyards are dipping into the brewing business

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Two of my favorite beers of the night – Hoppy Poppy (by Cellar Dweller Craft Beers) and Black Rat Imperial Stout (by Cellar Rats Brewery) – are both products of vineyards branching out. Cellar Dweller is an offshoot of Valley Vineyards in Morrow, Ohio, and Cellar Rats is the byproduct of Debonne Vineyards outside of Cleveland. Both have extended their fermenting forays successfully, making some great beers on top of their already well-knkown wines.

3. Bigger craft brewers that aren’t local don’t usually have anything new to offer

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I like Yuengling, Goose Island, Bells, Leinenkughels, Lost Coast, North Coast, Breckenridge, Dogfish Head, and other larger craft brewers whose beers are available in about any beer retailer. They make good beers. But at these big festivals (at least in the two that I have been to) they have nothing new to offer to drinkers that they can’t buy at a supermarket. Since many of the local brewers either aren’t distributed everywhere and/or are trying to make an impression on your palette, they wheel out all sorts of great and often elusive beers. It would have been great to have a sip of North Coast’s Rasputin 15 (which I tried the night before at The Beer Trappe in Lexington), but alas they had only the typical fare, available anywhere North Coast is sold.

4.  Winter beer fests are light on wheat beers

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This may seem obvious to most, as wheats are seasonal for most breweries, and this is stout/porter season. They are not as sexy right now as IPAs, and frankly not usually as complex either. However, they are my wife’s favorite, so when trying to find things that she would enjoy (which we did find plenty), their absence was glaring.

5. Parting is such sweet sorrow

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Can’t stay all night, but we weren’t ready to leave either. Still plenty more beers to sample, people to watch, and pictures to take. Guess we will have to take in these lessons, and do better in the summer when Cincy Beerfest comes back to the friendly outdoor environs of Fountain Square.

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