Jess here! For some reason, I have developed ridiculously good luck when it comes to winning tickets to beer festivals. Last year, I won special passes to Brewzilla, Cleveland Beer Week’s culminating event, and to start off 2014, I won VIP tickets to the Fourth Annual Columbus Winter BeerFest, courtesy of ColumbusUnderground.com! There’s nothing like waking up in the morning – wondering sleepily what the day has in store for you – and finding out you’re going to be taking a snowy road trip to Columbus to drink craft beer all night!
The event was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and ended up hosting something like 101 breweries (aka over 356 beers)! I’m sorry that we didn’t take too many pictures (well, not really sorry if you know what I mean) but this was such a fun beer fest!
Even getting there late, there was plenty of awesome to go around. There were so many fantastic people in the building and honestly, as corny as it sounds, there was a real positive vibe in the air. Also, LOTS of pretzel necklaces hanging around (which we just learned about and intend on making for ourselves for future beer fests).
These weren’t people looking to get drunk or act stupid; these were people who genuinely enjoy craft beer and were more than happy to mingle and discuss different brews with strangers! What’s even better is that the crowd was super diverse, ranging from beer-newbies in their twenties like me to these fine, festive folks who were more than happy to stop and take a photo with Blueberry Bison:
I was really impressed that even the volunteers seemed to know their beer backwards and forwards — I’m looking at you, random knowledgeable volunteer at the Blue Mountain Brewery booth! This guy knew all the right talking points for Blue Mountain’s brews and had us try their Local Species and the Dark Hollow. Local Species is a Belgian pale ale that was very unique: JP isn’t usually a pale ale drinker, but this wasn’t an overly bitter pale ale and had smooth bourbon tones. I was sold on the Dark Hollow before I realized it was a bourbon aged stout (as you all know, I’m not a bourbon gal), but Blue Mountain’s doing their barrel aging right because the charred bourbon didn’t overpower the stout at all.
We chatted with a couple of other volunteers and brewery reps at BeerFest, but we don’t have to tell you our favorite experience was with Nick from 5 Rabbit Brewery. They really have such a unique flavor and even though we chatted with 5 Rabbit during Cleveland Beer Week, there was a lot more time at this event to sample everything 5 Rabbit had on draft and talk with Nick about the ins and outs of what we were tasting. In fact, the only beer that JP gave 5 stars on Untappd that night was their Huitzi: it’s 5 Rabbit’s version of a Belgian strong golden ale and it’s brewed with specific tastes like hibiscus flower and ginger that give it a very crisp and clean finish. I personally enjoyed the 5 Lizard which, unlike traditional wheat beers, was brewed with lime instead of orange (and wow, does that open up the beer – and your taste buds!).
Cider-wise, JP was really impressed by the Honey Oak Cider from Griffin Cider Works (a true English cider company!) and the Dark & Dry from Woodchuck Cider (a company I love because, well, Vermont). Both were sweet but had a little bit of body and depth which made for very smooth, enjoyable drinking.
The underdog of the night for JP was the alcoholic ginger beer from Crabbie’s. We’ve seen it in the stores a couple of times now and have been wondering what it tastes like, so what better time to sample it than at a beer fest? While it was a bit spicy for my palette, JP picked up on some sweet flavors that he really enjoyed. For him, it was nice and smooth and would work really well as a mixer.
We picked up a few stickers and goodies from the breweries while we were there, including the Oskar Blues Brewery beer-can necklace I’ve seen at a few festivals now (and have been bummed I haven’t gotten my hands on… until Friday night!).
In addition to those mentioned, we tried craft brews and ciders from Smuttynose Brewing Co., Mt. Carmel Brewing Company, Ace Cider, Bell’s Brewery, Victory Brewing Company, Redhook Ale Brewery, Hinterland/Green Bay Brewing Company, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Buckeye Lake Brewery, Revolution Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch Brewing, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, New Holland Brewing Company, and Four String Brewing Company.
If you haven’t attended a local beer fest yet, I highly encourage you to do so! It’s a great way to sample some craft goodness you’re maybe curious about but haven’t wanted to invest a pint in and the people you meet there – from the beer drinkers to the beer reps – are awesome. Cheers!