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Friday, June 06, 2008

The Session #16: Beer Festivals

Thomas over at Geistbear Brewing Blog is the host of this month's edition of Beer Blogging Friday. He's picked out a topic that is fun and should spark a few strolls down memory lane: Beer Festivals.

"As Summer approaches we are in full swing of beer festival season, so it seemed the perfect topic for the June Session. Do you have a favorite beer festival you like to attend or a particular memory of inspirational moment at a festival? Or perhaps talk about what you would like to see out of festivals or perhaps the future of them. All is fair game, I look forward to seeing where people take this topic."

During the nearly two years this blog has been active I've reported from a few beer festivals, but the memory that came rushing back to me was courtesy of a 15-year-old t-shirt from the 1993 Capital Region Microbrewers Festival. The event was held over two days in Saratoga Springs on Feb. 26 and Albany on Feb. 27. So while summer might be beer festival season, this festival was held in the dead of the Upstate New York winter in the Hudson Valley, surrounded to the north by the Adirondacks, South by the Catskills and east by the Green and Berkshire Mountains.

I recall a few things from that landmark festival. It was the first "big" tasting I had attended. I would travel to the Great American Beer Festival later that same year. Max Oswald, who now is director of sales with Wolaver's in Vermont, was an organizer of the event and asked me to speak on classic brewing styles. I can recall one of the beers we sampled as part of the presentation was McEwan's Scotch Ale because a couple of homebrewers turned the tasting into a debate about what malts were used in the brew and if the beer had a slight oxidation issue.

While the crowds packed both events and it was quite warm inside the halls, outdoors the temperature was well below zero. Just walking from the parking lot to the festival doors was hazardous duty. People standing in line waiting for the doors to open were true beer fans. I also recall that Mahar's in Albany hosted a brunch for brewers on the day between the two shows. While Mahar's is small, its beer selection is. I wondered why there was not a beer bar like this place in Syracuse, where I was living at the time. Thankfully, that situation changed.

The festival t-shirt is a real memory jogger. It is like a time capsule of early craft brewing in the U.S. The back listed the following breweries pouring at the event:

Buffalo Brewing
Arrowhead Brewing
Woodstock Brewing
Anchor Brewing
Dock Street Brewing
Catamount Brewing
Boston Beer
Mountain Brewers
Brooklyn Brewery
Old World Brewing
Otter Creek Brewing
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Wild Goose Brewing
Pete's Brewing
New Amsterdam Brewing
Queen City Brewing
Michael Shea's Brewery
Brown & Moran Brewing
Mountain Valley Brew Pub
Rochester Brew Pub
Pike Place Brewery
Stoudt's Brewery
Vermont Pub & Brewery
Rogue Brewery
Newman Brewing
Matt Brewing
Genesee Brewing
Hartford Brewing
Wild Boar
Woodchuck Cider

A good number are still around, but others have left the scene. How many brews from the defunct breweries can you recall?


Max Oswald said...

I remember those shows, I loaded all the kegs into a rent a truck and parked it in my driveway with a space heater to make sure the kegs did not freeze.
We sold tickets cash only in local beer bars and home brewshops. I was so scared the event would fail but thankfully there was great support and we ended up turning a lot of people on to what was then a new beer movement. We raised a lot of money for local charities and made some life long friends.
I remeber Arrowhead Pale ale as one of my first introductions to a really hoppy beer. @ guys from PA preaching hops I wonder if it really was hoppy?

thanks for the memeory!

Rick Lyke said...

Great to hear from you. It was REALLY cold that weekend -- like 20 below if I recall. Now that is truly ice cold beer!