Beerman for July 26, 2012

Perusing Brews-a-Palooza

For Weekly SurgeJuly 24, 2012 

After we shook hands, Mike Shank of Festival Promotions asked me if I had tried the bourbon-barrel aged Gaelic Ale from Highland Brewing Co. in Asheville, N.C.

Gaelic Ale has been around for a long time, but the wonderful thing about beer fests – like Brews-a-Palooza at The Deck at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach last Saturday (July 21) – is the opportunity to try special versions of beers.

Shank was only able to get one keg of the bourbon-barrel aged Gaelic Ale for Brews-a-Palooza, which turned out to be a smooth, mellow, and boozy twist on the regular version.

Kristi (my wife) and I were only able to spend an hour-and-a-half at the House of Blues beer fest, but I’d be willing to bet the barrel-aged Gaelic Ale was one of the first to tap out.

The late-afternoon weather was mild with a nice breeze, not even close to mid-July hot, so I almost forgot to get cranky about the Michelob Ultra umbrellas covering the tables on The Deck.

Such advertising for The Beer Substitute seemed out of place at a festival with 50 gourmand-worthy beers, but hey, people who drink Michelob Ultra look better than me.

The Deck was the right setting for a beer fest. Tables with samples were spaced at reasonable distances. During the first hour, a free buffet of chicken wings with blue-cheese dressing and multi-colored tortilla chips with heavy dips was set in a covered section of The Deck.

With only an hour-and-a-half, I still got to try several beers. But before I tell you about them, I’d like to make an appeal to those of you who are not beer snobs like me.

Why craft beer?

The flavors of these craft beers are broader than inexpensive domestic lagers such as Budweiser. If you haven’t tried many craft beers, sure, some might strike you as bitter or tart, but others will seem sweeter, spicier, fruitier, nuttier, mellower or even lighter than cheap aluminum six-pack beers.

That’s why beer fests are so great – you can sample a lot and find a couple of new favorites. With a little luck, those new favorites won’t be seasonals or special releases, and you’ll be able to find them locally on a regular basis.

Furthermore, many craft beers, like the ones at Brews-a-Palooza, have higher alcohol content than inexpensive beers.

So you might just find a craft beer that tastes better than your old standby, and you could get more booze for your buck. That’s a win.

Sampling time

After the Gaelic Ale, Kristi and I got in the buffet line, and I noticed one of my former students serving beers on the other side of the railing. She passed me Grand Teton Persephone Pils – a peculiar beer, in a good way. Imagine the body and crispness of a pilsner with the hopped-up flavor of an India Pale Ale and 8.76 percent alcohol by volume.

With our food, we found a free table under a Michelob Ultra umbrella.

Kristi, who I mercilessly had dragged into coffee addiction while we were in college, was willing to try Founders Breakfast Stout, which is made with prized Kona and Sumatra coffees. Kristi’s not a beer drinker, but the coffee sounded appealing.

But something funny happened.

Her Founders Breakfast Stout was bright and orange. I tasted a lot of hops. Turns out the tap for Foothills Hoppyum (6.3 percent) shared a cooler unit with the Founders Breakfast Stout tap, and the server had accidentally pulled the wrong one.

Well, the more, the merrier. Kristi was impressed I had identified the hoppy character of the Foothills brew (made in Winston-Salem, N.C.), and we were compensated with a sample of the nearly black Founders (8.3 percent), an outstanding blend of coffee and stout flavors and certainly my idea of breakfast.

Shank also encouraged me to try Founders Frangelic Mountain Brown (9.6 percent), which is made with hazelnut-flavored coffee. But hazelnut has never been one of my favorite coffee flavors, which is probably why I didn’t like it as much as the Breakfast Stout.

One more before departing: Maredsous Triple (10 percent), a yummy Belgian ale with a finish of maraschino cherries and acute alcohol.

If you also went, let’s demand Festival Promotions and House of Blues make Brews-a-Palooza an annual event.

Woodchuck Summer

At the house, Kristi and I have been drinking Woodchuck Hard Cider’s summer seasonal.

This limited release has proven far better than Woodchuck’s spring seasonal, which was weighed down with maple syrup and brown sugar.

The summer seasonal is light, sweet, and infused with blueberries. If you like cider, you’ll like this one. Chill it and sneak it to the beach.

Contact Colin Burch at and visit his blog at

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