The fifth installment of Brewvival is right around the corner, and the beer list is incredible. This year, we talked to some of the biggest beer geeks in town and asked them what they're most looking forward to drinking. If you're planning to create a "cheat sheet" for the weekend chug fest, let us help you get started.
For now, James Bean is high on my list. Allagash Brewing from Portland, Maine does an incredible job of translating traditional Belgian styles to an American palate. One example is their Tripel, produced year-round in large bottles with a fancy cork-and-cage enclosure. True to style, it's pale yellow in color and has humongous fruity notes from the Belgian yeast. It's also quite strong at 9 percent a.b.v., which is out of my go-to range but is a welcome, occasional treat.
Allagash took a natural step in starting to barrel-age their beers, something they've arguably perfected over the years. Their first foray was putting that Tripel into Jim Beam barrels. The result is called Curieux, another large-format bottle release that is now also available year-round. Craft drinkers think of dark, roasty imperial stouts when they think of bourbon barrels, but Allagash has proven that spirit-soaked oak is color blind.
James Bean throws an even more complex and unlikely spin on the style. By adding cold-pressed coffee from Matt's Wood-Roasted Organic Coffee, also from Portland, Allagash officially breaks all the rules for non-stout, un-dark beer. Ratings tell me the result is legit, and it's limited enough that this may be our only chance to try it.
Robert Donovan, photographer,
Foothills Brewing Peabody's Blendiculous Series 2: Children of the Blue Corn
(8 percent a.b.v.)
Well, it's hard to pick just one — and I was going to say Jester King's Atrial Rubicite — but I know that's already tops on many a sour beer fan's list, so I'll go another direction. I'm really looking forward to Winston-Salem's Foothills Brewing Peabody's Blendiculous Series 2: Children of the Blue Corn — sounds like a real fucking mouthful, huh? Well, you've got a North Carolina craft beer star, Foothills, producing a super-hoppy imperial brown ale, Peabody's Wine and spirits aging it in Balcones Rumble whiskey and single-malt whiskey barrels, and a dose of tangerine oil added to give it a finishing touch. Trust me, that's a winning combination of hoppy, dark fruit, barrel-aged, spicy, tangerine goodness.
Brandon Plyler, manager at the Charleston Beer Exchange and certified cicerone,
Fullsteam 2012 First Frost
(9 percent a.b.v.)
This dark, strong Belgian Ale derives a lot of its flavor and charm from the addition of locally foraged persimmons. I've only come across this beer twice, and both times I've remarked at how the exotic persimmon fruit and spice evolved into something even more luxurious and complex than it already is. Unfortunately, finding the will power to cellar a bottle is challenging. Thankfully, the brewery saved some from the first batch.
Robbie Hafer, beverage director at
Closed for Business,
Jester King Atrial Rubicite
(5.8 percent a.b.v.)
I love sour beers. The best part of my job is when I get to introduce someone who has never tried one and completely shatter their perspective of what beer should be. Last year, when I found out that Jester King, out of Austin, Texas, was bringing their authentic farmhouse brews to the Charleston market, I was thrilled. These guys are making some of the most unique beers in the country right now. They're using water drawn from the well at their brewery and letting wild yeast from the Texas Hill Country creep into the beers to funk them up. It's simply amazing.
Atrial Rubicite will be the beer I make a beeline toward. Jester King added hundreds of pounds of raspberries from Washington state to oak barrels containing their sour brew then allowed it to re-ferment. They say the result will have all the flavor and aromas of the raspberries without the sweetness. Weighing in at only 5.8 percent a.b.v. is also very helpful, as things tend to escalate quickly during my favorite day of the year.
Robert Everett, S.C. Beer and Social Media Manager for Total Wine, @reeveret and @totalwineSC
Quest Smoking Mirror Porter w/ Bacon and Granny Smith Apples
(5.5 percent a.b.v.)
Quest is a very new brewery from Greenville, S.C. that'll be statewide as of Brewvival. I am personally stoked to have their brews available in Charleston. Specializing in Belgian-style brews, Don Richardson and Andrew Watts have crafted some excellent barrel-aged and sour brews in a very short time, and all of their Brewvival beers will be a treat.
I am truly thrilled to be able to sample their cask brew, Smoking Mirror Porter with bacon and granny smith apples. This beer, handcrafted by Don himself, will be no slouch despite the average a.b.v. Brewed with different malt varieties, including a peated malt to give it some smokiness, it'll hold a slightly chocolaty, roasted malt base with a touch of sweetness and smoke that will make you crave barbecue. As if that wasn't enough, the men of Quest Brewing have cask-aged it and floated it on top of baked granny smith apples, cinnamon, honey, and bacon from Greenbrier Farm in Easley, S.C. If you have ever had barbecue pork smoked with apples, then you know how amazing this combo can be. And since this is a one-off cask, do not miss the chance to try this beer.
Brannon Florie, executive chef/owner at The Granary, @brannon_florie
Riverdog Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-aged Quad
(11 percent a.b.v.)
The name alone gets your attention, and Riverdog's description hits home for me: "This is not for the faint of heart. A big and burly beer loaded with flavors of raisins, molasses, and coffee. Very smooth and deceptively light for such high gravity. Excellent beer for campfires or big juicy steaks."
Big and burly — that's me. Molasses and coffee are both a huge part of my life at the moment. At the Granary I have been using a lot of molasses in the food, and I've been drinking a shit load of coffee to keep up with 90-100-hour work-weeks. This beer just screams food pairings. As soon as I have a day off, I would like a huge prime beef steak with this beer. Hell, I may bring my grill to Brewvival.
Brian Tanner, chef and owner of Coleman Public House, @colemanpubhouse
(13.5 percent a.b.v.)
Allagash is one of my favorite domestic producers of Belgian-style ales and barrel-aged varieties. In Winslow, they've upped the ante with their already-delicious Odyssey, a Belgian dark strong ale, and traded rum barrels for their typical oak barrel aging process. Call it a hunch, but I think the already present dark fruit flavors will be nicely complemented by the rum. Taking the a.b.v. from 10.4 percent to 13.5 percent, the four-ounce Brewvival tasting glass should be perfect to allow me to enjoy this puppy without sacrificing my happiness the following morning.
Rob Davis, owner of House of Brews, @houseofbrewsmtp
Allagash Mattina Rossa
(6.9 percent a.b.v.)
To most of you festival-ites, Mattina Rossa is a household name by now, considering the frequency in which it appears at the more heralded beer events. An American Wild Ale brewed in August of 2008 and aged for two years in red wine barrels, in which a total of 540 pounds of raspberries were used during the fermentation and aging processes, this beer is one that I will seek out whenever and wherever possible. Aside from the fact that it has not been commercially available to anyone since its bottling in late 2010 due to carbonation issues, I have never had a disappointing bottle pour, un-carbonated or otherwise. Even the less bubbly "mistakes" are highly complex, drawing enough tannic quality from the wine barrels to keep the sweet acidity of the raspberries and funkiness of the lactobacillus and brettanomyces in check, much in the same way that Hanssens Artisanaal purposely render their offerings.
Eric Doksa, food and beer writer for the Charleston City Paper, @edoksa
Holy City/Wicked Weed Holy Weed
(9.4 percent a.b.v.)
Holy City Brewing Company is amping it up this year by brewing four new beers in collaboration with four different regional breweries. I'm stoked about the Holy Weed double IPA, a beer brewed in collaboration with newly popular Wicked Weed Brewing out of Asheville, N.C. Five out of five craft beer lovers will say that Wicked Weed Brewing is a must visit when in Asheville. I'm one of them. Wicked Weed has won the hearts of so many craft beer folk by brewing bold and funky brews. This particular beer is a double IPA brewed with green tea leaves from Charleston Tea Plantation. You can expect this to be a hoppy, herbal affair.