It’s the time of the year in Columbus when you have to look for something to do. The NHL playoffs are underway and the Jackets are clearly done playing hockey; the NBA playoffs are happening too, but even with all of talk in the 614 this week, as of yet there is no NBA franchise sharing Nationwide; even Zoombezi Bay has not turned on its water.
However, the weather is nice, the patios are beginning to open, and you just can’t help but get out there and embrace the city. Fortunately for us, we’re regular followers of Drink Up Columbus, so we often have our eye on the many events they highlight. As a nice precursor to Craft Beer Week, Barley’s Smokehouse held their 9th Annual Mini Real Ale Fest this past Saturday. This was the first year any of the Ohio-Beer team has attended, and those who did (contributors BubOhioBeer, HaleOhioBeer, and MattOhioBeer, as well as our [ed note: completely awesome and totally humble] editor, Chrissy) were all glad we did.
If you have ever been to a beer festival, you pretty much know the deal: you buy a ticket, which gives you a sampling glass and some drink tickets, and you use those tickets to get tastes of your choice of a number of beers. This event was similar with a few very important differences. For $35, each person received a collectible tasting glass and 10 drink tickets to try any of the 19 different cask ales–unfiltered and naturally carbonated—served from quarter-gallon firkins as opposed to the standard regular kegs. And because the event was held at Barley’s Smokehouse, we could order the brisket nachos — which might actually be made from unicorn meat seared by dragon’s fire (yes, they are magical). Barley’s was also generous enough to supply pulled pork sandwiches from a whole pig for only $2 a piece.
One of the biggest differences between this event and those like it was that the tasting glasses provided were probably the most dangerous tasting glasses we have ever encountered. What could make a pint glass dangerous, you ask? Even though each pint glass was marked with a fill-line of about 4 ounces—which would be a pretty hearty tasting sample regardless—the staff was very generous with their pours. There was no question that we got our money’s worth, and the tasting had us all “feeling good” much earlier than anticipated.
Of the 19 firkins there, 10 were from Ohio (eight of which were from central Ohio), and one even came across the Atlantic all the way from the United Kingdom. With 40 tickets and the generous pours to share between the four of us, we were all able to taste every beer and rank and review all of them. This top-to-bottom list (with reviews) can be found on the Ohio-Beer site.
The majority of the beers available were very good with stong flavors. Most were IPA or darker styles; this is most likely because you can dry-hop IPAs or add flavors to stouts and porters right in the firkins that they were serving from at this event. Some notable selctions from the central Ohio region were local favorites. Elevator’s Three Frogs IPA is a favorite among the Ohio-Beer team, but the version Elevator brought to this event was infused with raspberries. Adding fruit to a good beer can be a perfect way to ruin it, but the tart dry raspberry flavor played extremely well off the dry hop bitterness; the raspberry was just enough to be pronounced, but not overwhelming. Four String brought their Backstage Blonde infused with cherries. This twist did wonders for flavor and produced a beer that in our opinion should be a regular offering for this new brewery.
The beer with the highest aggregate score for us was a beer out of Ohio, the Cocoa Raspberry Stout from Lagerheads Brewing Company in Medina. This beer was unlike anything most of us had ever had before; it smelled like a raspberry Tootsie Pop and tasted a bit like one too. But even with the heavy chocolate and raspberry flavors, it wasn’t too sweet or bitter. I don’t know if this is a beer they make occasionally or if it was exclusively brewed for this event, but either way it was great.
Overall the event was outstanding and will become a staple for the Ohio-Beer crew in the years to come.
This is a guest post by MattOhioBeer from Ohio-Beer.com. Ohio-Beer was founded on the idea that great friends enjoy coming together and talking about things that they love – especially over a good beer. It is in that spirit that we decided to to extend our conversations on craft beer, especially those made in our beloved home state, to include the rest of you. You can read the Ohio-Beer team’s reviews of all of the beers from Ale Fest here.