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Monday, April 30, 2007

World Beer Festival Provides Laid Back Atmosphere and Some Beer Surprises

The World Beer Festival had another successful run on Saturday in Raleigh. The weather was perfect and sell out crowds got to sample a wide range of great beers in park-like Moore Square. The folks at All About Beer magazine sponsor the event, with Daniel and Julie Bradford playing hosts and festival coordinator Natalie Miller keeping a huge team of volunteers running like a well-oiled machine.

I was among the speakers at the event, running a pair of "Weird Beers of the Festival" sessions -- basically a chance to gather some pretty good beers with some odd ingredients together to twist the tongues of festival attendees. I had the chance to sample a number of interesting beers along the way during two four hour sessions. Here is a round up of 10 of the beers from the Weird Beers tasting, and others I came across in the two beer tents and VIP tent:

Dogfish Head Immort Ale: This Delaware brewer pitches itself as making "Off-centered ales, for off-centered people." This brew appropriately breaks any mold you might try to peg it towards. It is an 11 percent alcohol by volume bonanza of flavor. Peat-smoked barley, with organic juniper berries, vanilla and maple syrup that is aged on oak, fermenting away with the help of English and Belgian yeasts. No absence of flavor here, with an almost Scotch like flourish.

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red Cherry Ale: The attendees at my tasting were amazed to hear that every 750 milliliter bottle benefits from a pound of Door County cherries. Aged on oak for a year, this brew is carbonated like champagne and leaves you wanting more. This brew can stand up to any Belgian fruit beer.

Alba Scotts Pine Herbed Ale: This beer from Scotland has hints of pine in the finish and is pretty well balanced. It is copper in color and fairly lowly carbonated. It drinks better than it sounds.

Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale: I believe this was my first ever beer from Mississippi. They use 20 pounds of roasted pecans in a 15 barrel batch of this brown ale. The nut flavor is fairly subtle and the beer is lightly hopped, so the malts come through. It is a nice mahogany color.

New Holland Dragon's Milk: This Michigan brew starts its life in reused Bourbon barrels, giving the dark ale a somewhat sweet vanilla tone. This is a rich beer for the end of the evening.

Capital City Fuel: What can you say about a beer that brags about using 10 pounds of Sumatra coffee per batch and delivers an almost iced-coffee experience? This is the most coffee of coffee stouts I've ever tasted. Worth taking a trip to Virginia to give this beer a try.

Atlantic Brewing Mount Desert Island Ginger: This beer benefits from having 15 pounds of crushed ginger steeped in the boiling wort. If you want a beer to match with Asian cuisine or seafood, this would be my recommendation.

Scaldis Prestige: This 13 percent alcohol by volume beer is aged on oak and is cloudy and slightly wine-like in many ways. It has some sour edges and is certainly a beer for sharing.

Dogfish Head Red and White: This is a wit beer that is seasoned with orange peel and coriander and flavored with pinot noir juice, giving it a reddish hue. It weighs in at 10 percent alcohol by volume. This is an interesting combination of flavors that envelops your taste buds. Another hit from Delaware.

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale: The Clipper City brewmasters did a nice job with this 7.25 alcohol by volume brew. Strong upfront hop flavors, amber gold color and wonderful aromas.

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