Cleveland Brewfest

This particular Sunday morning started with drinking a cup of coffee and logging the 23 different brews I tried at Cleveland’s BeerFest the night before.

To those who follow my twitter feed, it must have seemed odd to see me hammering back so many different beers so early on a Sunday… Looking back at it, at only 5 ounces per sample (a little less than half a bottle) 23 beers is quite impressive… that equals about 10 beers for the night. Though truth be told, I had no issue not finishing my brews prior to getting a new one or flat out tossing the worse in the bunch; so my total bottle of beer count is probably closer to 5 or 6…bu still impressive for a girl my size.

Case in point, about 4 years ago at Chicago’s Beer Under Glass, I learned of the horrors of 5 Rabbits, probably some of the worse beers I had tried to that point in my life. I now try to stay very clear of 5 Rabbits, though I am hopelessly in love with their name. I figure I will give them 1 more year of isolation before I go back and give them a chance, just in case their beers have improved.And to me that is the point of places like BeerFest; to try as many brews as possible, finding the winners in the bunch, and staying away from the losers.

However, I digress, let’s get back to Cleveland’s BeerFest. It was easy to spot those who were there to get sloshed, those who were there to be cool, those dragged along by their spouse, and those who were serious about beer. The later group normally had one of the maps and beer list, and some even sported a clipboard  to take notes. I like to consider myself in this group, and though I tucked my beer list into my pocket, I definitely took notes of all the beers I tried.

There were some real winners in the tastings (Ink by Rhinegeist Brewery, Albino Stout by Cleveland Brewing Company, and North County Milk Bourbon to just name a few), some that were ok, and some that could only be described as epically bad (Magic Hat Seasonal Single Chair and Rivertown Sour).I choose brews from breweries I had not tried before, and on the few occasions I revisited a brewery, I made sure to try something entirely new. I tried to properly plan, and knew which beers I didn’t want to try (mostly IPA’s, though I did end up trying a few) and which ones I couldn’t try (I’m allergic to grapefruit). I ended up just going with the flow of the beer tasting ambia I was with. Honestly I am ok with this, as it allowed me to try even more beers and styles than I would normally choose for myself.

When it comes to rankings I have a very easy to remember scale.

  • 5- Favorite Beers
  • 4.5- Would buy and drink when I wanted to have something I wanted to enjoy.
  • 4- Good Drinkable Beer. On the list of beers I would buy at the grocery store or at a pub.
  • 3- Ok. Drinkable if there is nothing else. Would not buy a six pack.
  • 2- Not good. Would prefer to not drink. Would never spend money on it.
  • 1- Nope. Not Going to Do it. I would rather drink a Bud Light.

Here are reviews of 17 of the beers I tried at Cleveland Beerfest 2016.

Score Brewery Name Style ABV Notes
 5  Rhinegeist Brewery  Ink Stout  10% A really great solid stout. Not too bitter, not too sweet. What Guinness wants to be when it grows up. Also at 10% you really don’t need more than one or two.
 4.25  Maumee Bay  5 hole Dunkle Weizen  5.3  A solid winterstyle DunkleWeizen.
 4.25 Maumee Bay Total Eclipse Breakfast Stout Double Stout  9.1 A good smooth very hearty oatmeal stout with a good combination of lactose.
 4  Arbor Blonde Blonde Ale/Herb Spiced  5.5 A little heavy on the honey, but as I like honey I enjoyed it. A nice light blonde that would be perfect for summer drinking.
 4  Arbor Phat Abbot Tripel Trippel  10 Strong (even for a Belgian Tripel), but good.
 4  North County Station 33 Firehouse Red Red  5.5 Normally reds are not my drink of choice, but I liked the North County’s Red. As I can say it’s a red I enjoy, and that’s pretty high praise.
 2  Magic Hat Single Chair Blonde  5% Tastes like Bud Light without the flavor. Honestly, just have a glass of water.
 3  Magic Hat Raspberry Stout Stout  7.5% A little heavy-handed on the raspberry. A good stout, but I doubt you could drink more than one or two before the sweet raspberry gets too much.
 1 Rivertown Divergent Berliner Weisse  3.8% Sours are hard beers to do and you have to like sours to enjoy them. I like sours, but something went wrong in Rivertown’s sour…Like really bad. Like the whole thing turned to vinegar bad. I don’t know if that is their recipe or the batch, but there is no way I would have ever served it as it was.
 2 DuClaw Double Naked Fish Imperial Chocolate Raspberry  8% Way too bitter, even for an imperial.
 2.5 DuClaw For Petes Sake Imperial Peanut butter Porter  8% Better than the Double Naked Fish, but there is an offputting burnt (not smokey – burnt) taste to it.
2.5 Mt. Carmel Amber Ale Red Ale – American Amber / Red  6% Way too hoppy for an amber ale.
 3 Mt. Carmel Imperial Pinapple IPA Imperial IPA  9% I hate IPAs and am not a huge fan of pineapple… However, I would drink this. I would even buy it for a party knowing I might have one to two leftover in my fridge.
 3.5 Mt. Carmel Coffee Brown Ale Brown Ale  6% Good non bitter coffee flavor in a decent brown ale.
 2.5 Heavy Seas Deep Six English Porter  6.8% Way too smokey; even for a porter.
 3 Heavy Seas Double cannon American Double  9.5 Not bad. Drinkable to enjoy while watching a game.
 1.5 Old Firehouse Winterale Double Stout  9 % BAD aftertaste like the batch was infected by an odd bacteria.

Drinks (and in this case drinkers) are like books and should never be judged by its cover. Towards the later part of the night (after I stopped keeping track) I had a string of mediocre beers and really wanted to break the cycle. I figured – who knew the beers better than the people pouring them? So I asked the man behind the tap for something good that is not an IPA. He looks at me and says “you look like an amber fan” and hands me an amber, which turns out to be once again not a winner. One of the others in my group received a dark beer from them that turned out to be fabulous. I ended up going back to the server to let them know I am not an “amber” girl but the darker beer was fantastic.

My favorite beer of the night could also not be judged by its look – very light, white oat ale with subtle sweet chocolate and coffee overtones. Turns out this light ale is actually a stout- an Albino Stout from Cleveland Brewing Company to be exact. Besides being a really drinkable beer, it started a debate amongst our group on what classifies a stout. This is why this beer is my pick of the fest- a well made beer that pleases the tastebuds and ignites conversation amongst friends.