The Second Annual All American Craft Beer Fest’s first night took place on the evening of October 14 in the Grand Events Center of the Golden Nugget Hotel downtown. Hoisting heavy Samuel Adams (sponsor) glass beer steins, attendees were able to sample two fingers’ worth of any one of 120 micro-brewed, artisanal beers.
Friendly and fetching costumed serving girls poured samples from pitchers while guest helped themselves to displayed coasters and stickers; sometimes a brewing company’s logo glasses were available for swag-swipe.
Make no mistake, the craft in this beer fest had nothing to do with homemade holiday wreaths or hand-knit tea cozies. It was the skill of the microbrewers in assembling the elements of fermentation that produced the equivalent of an artistic masterpiece, seducing your own tongue and palate as judge, jury, and connoisseur.
A live band cranked out hits from the 70’s and 80’s like Crocodile Rock and What I Like About You. Brew masters roamed the floor ready to talk hops and malt and fermentation whenever they 1) encountered a mouth not locked into an embrace with a stein rim and 2) could be heard above the very amplified and vibrant strains of the band.
Names like Lobotomy Bock, Polygamy Porter, Arrogant Bastard and Three Philosophers Quadrupel made verbal requests fun to hear AND drink. Thirteen States presented their labels, including Alaska, Oregon, and Delaware. Finger food hors d’oeuvres were brew friendly, incorporating chicken wings, sausage skewers, and mini steak sliders into an assortment that also included a fruit and cheese ensemble and tiny cones filled with ahi tuna, chicken, avocado and beef appetizer variations.
Water bottles and rinse buckets provided a way to refresh a stein so that it could be refilled again (and again) without mingling proprietary blends together. No spit buckets here, just more swallows than even Capistrano could handle. Your humble correspondent provides the following brew classifications:
Brew 101: Beer and Ale
Beer is a fermented beverage made from grains and yeast. Two basic categories are ale and lager, a term which has come to be interchangeable with beer. Ale is brewed differently, with a yeast variation: ales are brewed using yeast that gathers on top of the cask, while lager (beer) uses yeast that ferments on the bottom.
Ale often has a higher alcohol content and a brighter, more aggressive, hoppy flavor; beer’s flavor is smoother and milder. Examples of ale include any sort of beer with “ale” in the name, porters, stouts, and many German specialty beers such as Abbey ales. Lagers include pilsners, (pale lagers) dopplebocks, (darker, extra malty beers) and Oktoberfests (smooth, malty beers with higher alcohol content). The Festival’s ale offerings included Anchor Steam Beer’s Humming Ale, Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale and Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale. The New Belgium Brewing Company’s seasonal Hoptober Golden Ale is only available in August, September and October.
These ales contain extra hops and are known as India Pale Ales. They have a citrus or pine aroma and a bitter taste that goes well with spicy food. Festival IPA’s included Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA, Speakeasy’s Big Daddy IPA, Mendocino Brewing Co.’s White Hawk IPA, and Deschutes Brewery’s Inversion IPA.
Porters and Stouts:
Brewed with roasted barley (un-malted), stout has a dry bitterness on the palate and deeper roasted notes for an aroma. Porters are usually sweeter in aroma and taste, usually in various shades of brown. Stout shades range from dark brown to black. There are exceptions and interwoven customizations with both brews, but generally they can be differentiated by the use of roasted, un-malted barley (stout). At the Festival – Wasatch Beer’s Polygamy Porter, Stone Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter, Squatters Beer’s Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout, and North Coast Brewing Company’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
Brewed beverages of every color variance could be seen being poured into and just as quickly emptied out of heavy glass steins. From light gold to licorice black with endless taste distinctions brought about by ingredient, brew process or flavoring, you could hardly run into two people with the same hue splashing around at the bottom of their glass. Citrus and pumpkin seemed to be popular flavoring agents adding either crispness or spice to the sampling.
The Festival’s second day featured a traditional Oktoberfest Pool Party sponsored by Paulaner Beer (Munich) that took place at the Golden Nugget pool, featuring its award-winning shark aquarium, The Tank. Open to the public, beer enthusiasts enjoyed 200 different international and domestic beers available for purchase to the accompaniment of an authentic German Oktoberfest band.
The crowd’s enthusiasm in hoisting a heavy stein over and over again seemed to be enduring proof of America’s love affair with all things lager, ale, porter and stout.
From a Czech Proverb, “A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it's better to be thoroughly sure.”
The attendees of the Golden Nugget’s Second Annual All American Craft Beer Fest appeared to be absolutely certain.