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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weird Beers at the Festival

If you attend a beer festival and don't learn anything about beer, it's your own fault. That is especially true during the World Beer Festival , where you can sit and have great beers brought your way by volunteers while speakers give you information about each beer, brewery and style that you tasting. At the Durham Festival, author Maureen Ogle talked about her Book Ambitious Brew while beers from brewers covered in the history of American brewing were poured. Beer writer Gregg Glaser ran attendees through a tour of classic beer styles. All About Beer's Julie Bradford did two separate tastings, pairing beer with chocolate and then beer with cheese. I hosted an evening tasting under the title "Weird Beers at the Festival," tasting a series of six beers designed to shake people's taste buds out of the routine lager, IPA and stout doldrums.

Here's the beer line up attendees enjoyed during my session and some comments about each.

Fraoch Alba Scots Pine: This brown ale has a spruce aroma and hints of trees throughout. The flavor is not overpowering, thanks to a nice firm malt base. At 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, this is a hearty brew. The crowd at the tasting gave this beer a mostly thumbs up response.

Bison Organic Gingerbread Ale: With a porter as its base, this brew from California is made with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. It is 6.8 percent alcohol by volume. The spices combine nicely to build a smooth, mellow flavor. This brew had about 70 percent of the crowd giving it a thumbs up.

Cottonwood Pumpkin Ale: This North Carolina brew has plenty of spice characteristics, with the pumpkin in the background. It received a pretty solid thumbs up from the crowd.

Pyramid Apricot Weizen Ale: This unfiltered wheat ale has a full apricot aroma and flavor, and is smoother than most wheat beers you will try. It is 5.1 percent alcohol by volume. This beer received a high rate of approval from the crowd.

Thomas Creek Vanilla Cream Ale: Using an American cream ale base, the South Carolina brewers flavor the beer with vanilla extract creating a smooth and slightly sweet product. It is 4.5 percent alcohol by volume. The reaction to this beer was mostly a thumbs up.

King Mocha Java Stout: If you like coffee, the Michigan brewers behind this beer have created something you will love. Plenty of roasted coffee flavor and a smooth stout base. The reaction to this beer was split among the audience, but those whole liked it said it might have been their favorite of the group.

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