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Monday, July 31, 2006

OBF - The Bad

Once upon a time, bad beers were common enough at the OBF--and throughout the microbrew world. (Old timers will recall when RedHook's signature characteristic was its butterscotch note, which homebrewers recognized as high levels of diacetyl.) But in the modern era, you don't go to the fest expecting to stumble across bungled or infected beers. That mostly held true for 2006 (exception below), and in this case "bad" refers to beers I personally found problematic. And even with that, there were only three.

I'll start with one of the fest's most popular beers: Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment Brewery (CA). Every time I walked past that damn line, it was bristling with people. Inevitably, I had to try it, just on the off chance it was one of those extremely rare, subtle fruit wheats with some complexity and a fidelity to the beery taste we all love. It wasn't. Overly sweet and fruit-punchy, it was the beer for the non-beer folks who were dragged by their beergeek friends (and, probably, husbands). It was perfectly well-made, but it tasted like a new product from Mike's Lemonade. [fruit wheat, 5% abv, 15 IBUs]

With all the over-the-top superhopped ales at the fest (a dozen had more than 80 IBUs), you'd figure a handful would be nastily unbalanced. I located only one: Skagit River's (WA) Scullers. The numbers pretty much tell the story--a beer with an original gravity of 1.066 and 110 IBUs. Hey guys, there's more to making a kick-ass beer than dumping a field of hops in. The beer's available in bottles, but I'd avoid it. [IPA, 7.2% abv, 110 IBUs]

Last we have the big loser, Jack Russell's (CA) Farmhouse Ale--a beer I regret having recommended. It's always a little difficult to identify off-flavors in a plastic mug (and after a couplesix pours), but this beer had 'em. The nose was sharply cabbagy and fetid (the usual suspect is DMS from wort bacteria). The palate wasn't quite as noticeably off, but I picked up a sharp, burning quality that may have come from ethyl acetate (from wild yeast) or fusel alcohols. The recipe itself had some promise, but I couldn't get past the off-notes. (It's worth noting that Ghost Dog identified Farmhouse Ale as one of his faves, and he tried the beer on Saturday. I wonder if he got a keg from a different batch?) [Saison, 6.7% abv, 20 IBSs]


  1. As one of those poor souls who were dragged to the festival by their beergeek friends, I tried the watermelon beer out of desperation and thirst. It was certainly a bizarre concoction. The watermelon sat on a completely different part of the palate from the beer. It was not good. A Mike's Hard Lemonade would have been preferable, and I'm no fan of those! But then, I don't like beer anyway. We need a bourbon-fest in this town!

  2. I tried the Jack Russell stuff at last year's Spring Beer & Wine Festival and thought it was the worst beer of the show. A little subtle clove taste can be nice, but if your tongue goes numb, um, that's a defect, not a flavor.

    I tried the Scullers IPA in bottled form once, and concluded it was the worst IPA I'd ever had. It's like it was dreamed up by someone who hates IPAs and IPA fans: "You want IBUs? Here's your damn IBUs." Blech.

    Didn't waste my tokens on either one this time around.

  3. It could just be that my notes weren't lined up correctly on my sheet. Or that I was pretty buzzed by then. Could also be that I'm a rather amateur beer reviewer. :)

  4. The Farmhouse ale tasted like it didn't have total starch conversion during its mash. It tasted like they performed a step mash, and forgot the final step up to 152 - 158 degrees.
    My son, ever the beer snob, took one sip and dumped it out.