And the beer! Such a tour de force of style variability and virtuosity. Uncharacteristically, I managed to stick pretty close to my list, and had few duds (Oppigårds Well-hopped Lager was murky and indistinct when it should have been clarion and crisp, and Mikkeller USAlive was an interesting effort but not a wildly pleasant beer. It was akin to a soured IPA; two good flavors that don't go well together.) It was too difficult to implement the hefeweizen taste-off, but individual pours proved satisfying. Fantome Pissenlit didn't make it, nor, apparently did the sherry-cask-aged JW Lees (anyway, I could never find it). The others varied from good to great, and I'd especially highlight these:
Fruit beers are something we want to love. Brewers brew lots and we try lots, but mostly we end up disappointed. Birrificio Montegioco Quarta Runa is the kind of beer we hope for. The fruit is subdued and in harmony with the beer, and the yeasties have done their job, leaving it quite dry and tart. Maybe my fave beer at the fest, and surely a world-class beer.Derek has a rich discussion of PIB at Beer Around Town if you hanker for a bit more discussion.
PIB managed to get ahold of a batch of six-year-old Le Coq Imperial Stout, and they only charged three tix apiece. For this modest price, you were offered a lush, plummy stout that was just at its prime. Oxidation was minimal, but the age shone through like a fine port.
It's a little hard to praise Reissdorf Kolsch in the same glowing terms because it is a modest little wallflower among rare orchids. Yet in the manner of Zen brewing--brewing a beer of perfect naturalness--I couldn't help but marvel. Word is that the Germans are dialing back the kolsch style, Budweisering it, but Reissdorf's was clean and crisp and had quite a nice bouquet of hops--and more than a little peppery zip. I don't imagine it would taste anywhere near as fresh in a bottle.
Finally, Dupont Avril was a masterpiece of beer haiku. Just 3.5% to work with, and yet it was so flavorful. Cloudy and effervescent, zesty and well-hopped with earthy, spicy hops (Goldings?), it was like a spring morning. I could live adequately on this beer alone for the rest of my life.