Sociologists talk of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) and never has this feeling been more powerful than 20 minutes before the end of the Extreme Beer Fest. The event, which took place in Boston, MA, had 68 of the world’s best breweries offering 2-ounce pours of more than 300 “extreme” beers — defined simply as “a beer that pushes the boundaries of brewing”. It’s impossible to have tasted all of them, and not just because you’d die of alcohol poisoning: 2,250 people attended each of the festival’s three marathon sessions, and breweries sometimes ran out of their rare and most sought-after offerings within ten minutes.
Two GP writers, K.B. Gould and Chris Wright, were on hand at the festival. Standing in line before the doors opened, decisions needed to be made: head for KBS, or trust that Founders brought enough and go for Avery’s Tweak? Snag Firestone Walker’s Parabajava or Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA? Using their best beer judgement, Gould and Wright made beelines for the ones they wanted most, managing to try about 50 different beers between them. Here are six of their favorites.
We’re suckers for wild ales — convenient, as brewers brought them out in full force this year. Masters of Brettanomyces Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project ran out of their whole stock in 20 minutes. Luckily, fellow experimenters Allagash brought enough to quench the thirst of the masses. Among their offerings, our favorite was Avancé, an ale aged with strawberries for three years in bourbon barrels. The result is a brew that tastes of earth, bourbon and sweet strawberries; it finishes with a light, Champagne-like spritz.
Cigar City Margarita Gose
You’d be forgiven for mistaking this for an actual margarita. And yet it’s a beer, somehow. Made by the consistent Cigar City Brewing Company, based in Tampa, FL, the Margarita Gose tastes like a margarita mix somehow turned into a beer. We know that doesn’t sound good, but it is. The pinkish brew tastes of lemon, lime and pineapple, with a little dash of salt. It’s a refreshing treat that epitomizes the ethos of the Extreme Beer Fest, namely, beers that “push the boundaries of brewing by raising a fist at the norm.”
Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the 5th
We’ve featured Dark Horse’s Double Crooked Tree in our “Double IPA Roundup“. The brewery showed up big again at the Extreme Beer Fest by bringing out their killer Russian Imperial, a barrel aged version of their popular Plead the 5th called, simply, Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the 5th. On the nose, one gets aggressive vanilla and bourbon, and in the mouth, rich fudge and milk chocolate. For a beer that clocks in at 11 percent ABV, it goes down surprisingly smooth. As an aside, everyone we met that worked at the brewery had awesome hair.
Tree House Double Shot
Somewhere in Monson, MA, sits a small brewery with a sweet logo. There, head brewer Nate Lanier and co. make small batches of carefully crafted artisanal ales. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the booth, they were out of Juice Machine, their 9.8 percent ABV Double IPA (though we heard it was phenomenal), but if their Double Shot is any indication, we’re due for a road trip. It was one of the richest coffee beers we’ve ever tried, and at a (comparably) low 7.6 percent ABV, we’re prepared to drink a few.
Funky Buddha Passionfruit Berliner Weisse
The Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery is just one more reason to go visit gramps down in Boca. Though we missed out on Nano-Nano, a Funky Buddha/Dogfish Head collaboration that includes Tanzanian chocolate, oak-fired habanero and sea salt from both South Florida and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, we managed to snag a pour of Funky Buddha’s Passionfruit Berliner Weisse, an ale that pours a fluorescent yellow and explodes with passionfruit and sour, lactic funk. Highly carbonated, it hits just the right note between fruity and funky. Oh, it’s good. Really, really good. Had we tasted this, and only this, the trip still would’ve been worth it.
The Lost Abbey The Angel’s Share Grand Cru
We only have good things to say about The Lost Abbey, a brewery based in San Marcos, CA. Their Duck Duck Gooze, a 7 percent ABV gueuze knocked our socks off, so we were thrilled to get to their booth at the EBF and try The Angel’s Share Grand Cru, a 16 percent ABV American Strong Ale. A blend of both bourbon and brandy barrel-aged versions of The Angel’s Share, the Grand Cru is one of those incredibly complex beers that borders on something else entirely. It smells of dark fruit, brown sugar, bourbon and vanilla and tastes like a decadent, boozy red wine. Like many other beers at the festival, it’s an extremely limited offering, so we don’t know when we’ll get the chance to taste it again.