Monday, November 14, 2011

BEERflections ~ 4th Annual Treasure Coast Beer Fest

Everyone loves a good beer fest, especially yours beerly, Kristyn Lier - Beer Ambassador Extraordinaire. The beauty of good beer diversity is just that, diversity, which is best enjoyed with the freedom to brew and savor as such. There is nothing else in the world as life-affirming as beer. With each sip bringing an awareness of the senses, a place of humble enjoyment grounds while curiosity swells amidst a thirst for discovery which can only be quenched by further BEERventures, both local and beyond. In the words of the great beer hunter Michael Jackson: “For every beer, a place, and for every place, a beer.”

…and in the words of the affably opinionated men of BeerWorks Charitable Foundation:
“In 2008, six individuals organized the First "Treasure Coast Beer Fest" in Historic Downtown Fort Pierce, Florida. Because of the success of that festival, Beerworks Charitable Foundation Inc. was established. Our mission is to educate people about the many styles of beer the world has to offer, and at the same time raise money for local charities.”

…and so I would like to propose and I don’t think Michael Jackson would mind, ‘For every beer, a community, and for every community, a beer.’

I’ve been involved albeit more in the background with BeerWorks for TCBF2 and TCBF3 but this time around an opportunity arose for me to be directly and intimately involved, an opportunity which I gladly accepted. In all ways possible, this year’s Treasure Coast Beer Fest was the best one yet which may sound like the usual statement of the obvious, but it really was the best one yet. If I may (and I’m going to) share a moment of selfish gushing – craft beer and the craft beer community have brought more joy, goodness, peace, hope, fun, creativity, inspiration, curiosity, and best of all, Love to my life.

Beer isn't just malted barley, water, hops, and yeast. Beer is love.


Hundreds upon hundreds of fest-goers shared this love in celebratory quaffness on October 22nd 2011 between 1pm and 5pm at the Downtown Fort Pierce City Hall Parking Garage during the best beer drinking weather one could ask for. Truly glorious. A morning chill in the mid 60s while the afternoon crested in the mid 70s definitely made a positively drinkable difference. Previous year’s had taken place in the suffocating month of September when humidity still has its death hold on all of Florida and her citizens. A seasonal climate Florida does not have unless you count slightly hot, hotter, hottest, and slightly cool as its four seasons. This year October found the Treasure Coast squarely in the slightly cool category with nary an inkling of slightly hot. With a brilliantly unfettered azure sky above, a perfect breeze, and beer eagerly awaiting their moment of tasting cup glory, the day was ripe for success.

How successful?

For the first time ever the Treasure Coast Beer Fest sold out! That’s right – sold out! Each year our cap has been 1000 patrons and this year we reached that peak and planted a flag called success on its tip. At no exact moment were there 1000 people total in the garage but from the first beer fest-goer to the last, the line of men and women of all ages and professions eager to sample some of the over 200 different beers being poured never ebbed nor waned. An easy half hour before the gates were open, a thirsty line stretched out from the parking garage entrance all the way back around inside and out, and at one point all the way out to US1. Thankfully, mom and dad did teach us not to play in traffic, beer fest or no beer fest.

But I digress…

Right into the thrilling premonition that this year’s fest was going to be epic and for once my instincts were right. From the charities (Learn to Read of St. Lucie County, Treasure Coast Hospice, and Treasure Coast Food Bank) to the volunteers to the men (and women) of BeerWorks Charitable Foundation to the breweries and distributors and vendors and sponsors that all came together in beertiful harmony – our 4th Annual was a celebratory success of craft beer diversity and of beautiful human beings.


Speaking of beautiful human beings, let me give a proud shout-out to the charities mentioned above for their fair share of selfless promotion and support; our success is a team effort and a proud one at that. In particular, I’d like to thank everyone (breweries, distributors, volunteers) for bringing generous donations of non-perishable goods to help the hungry men, women, children, and families who rely on Treasure Coast Food Bank to enjoy the simple pleasures of a meal. And once those gates opened and wave after wave of equally generous TCBF4 fest-goers brought their own non-perishable donations. As soon as one bin full of donations was carried to their truck located just outside the Downtown Fort Pierce City Hall Parking Garage, another was already filled and ready to be taken out, emptied, and brought back to be filled again and again in this beautiful circle of giving. For those kind souls who brought donations, for each item a raffle ticket was given and later during the fest many a lucky raffle ticket were redeemed for a gift basket full of tasty beers, coasters, bottle openers, and other fantastic beery shwag. One should always give just for the sake of giving because someone else out there needs help…but a little something-something in return doesn’t hurt either. And it’s thanks to JJTaylor for generously providing the beery shwag and A Picky Gourmet for providing the beer buckets that made a difference in many a beerthusiast’s day.


Also wonderfully represented was Learn to Read of St. Lucie County, advocates of adult literacy, and Treasure Coast Hospice, advocates of human stewardship. Let us never forget that reading is anything but simple for those who struggle with adult literacy. There is not a moment of any given day where reading isn’t integral to social and economic success and acceptance both at home and at work. Founded in 1981, Learn to Read of St. Lucie County provides a safe haven where adults can embrace the joy of reading and cast off the shame of illiteracy in a warm respectable environment. And let us also never forget that death isn’t about dying but about living our later days and years in comfortable dignity. Sometimes one can do this alone and sometimes one needs help which is where Treasure Coast Hospice steps in to offer support, guidance, answers to questions both easy and difficult, and most importantly, humanity. Thank you for all you do for the community.

I know I’ve said it before and I don’t mind saying it again: BeerWorks Charitable Foundation and the wonderful world of craft beer is all about community. We know that first and foremost the heart of craft beer beats proudest in the ladies and gentlemen who run our markets, heal our sick, comfort our wounded, clothe the poor, feed the hungry, and so much more. I still think that Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head says it best with “Think global, drink local.” and local is the heart of Treasure Coast Beer Fest. It is why every year we choose local charities and why every year our educational mission to share the flavorfully diverse world of craft beer continually meets with joyous success. This success in turn cultivates further curiosity and passion to explore, learn, taste, and share. As mankind’s oldest beverage, beer has played second fiddle to the marketing genius of the wine and spirits conglomerates for far too long. Beer is equal to wine and spirits if not their better. Am I biased? Yup. But I’ve got lots of factual stuff I won’t go into here to back me up; goo-bin-hoo it for yourself. Suffice to say, since time immemorial man, woman, worker, slave, king and queen, aristocrat, politician, merchant, farmer, poet, philosopher, writer so-on-and-so-forth drank beer glorious beer and they didn’t want anything else. Beer is a milestone of humanity reclaiming its proud place in the life and times of you and me.

Don’t believe me?


How about now? Yes? Good.

With a list of far too many amazing breweries for me to list, TCBF4 topped out at just over 200 beers which sounds like a lot but as with all things tasteful, it’s not about quantity but quality and diversity and for both veteran fest-goers and newbies, the mad dash to taste as much as possible before the hour knelled was never an issue. Responsibility and fun walked cup in hand with drunkenness nowhere to be found. At the very least, nowhere I could see and nowhere that my fellow BeerWorks peeps and the fine uniformed men of the Fort Pierce police department could see either. We take pride in the fact that our Treasure Coast Beer Fest is a tasting fest and not a drunk fest. If anything, it was the most civilly organized and genuinely pleasant fest yet with merriment echoing throughout the air from set-up to tear-down. Equally echoing through the merry air was the Funky Buddha Lounge out of Boca Raton as every hour on the hour they tapped a keg of special TCBF4 brew with flavors the likes of No Crusts PB & J, Apple Cinnamon Bierbaum, Pina Colada Wheat, and more. While all of their beers pleased the ever discriminatory tastebuds of yours beerly, none really grabbed them by the bud and yelled wow! Innovative and quirky, they are more special occasion than any day quaffness. But where Funky Buddha excelled was at playing the crowd and thus the demand as evidenced by the massive hourly swarm to their table, a strategy other breweries might do well to note.


But let’s be fair here. One beer geek’s “hurrah” is another’s “it's alright” and Funky Buddha wasn’t the only local Florida brewery that brought their game. Of particularly personal interest and pleasure was the so brand-spankin' new they aren’t even open yet brewery which goes by the name Due South out of Boynton Beach. Pouring four beers (Red Hoptober, Southbound Brown, Caramel Cream Ale, and Honey Wheat) all of which I thoroughly enjoyed, my two favorites were the Caramel Cream Ale because I’m a sucker for a good cream ale and the Honey Wheat because I’m a sucker for anything sour. Proudly wearing a tart lactic acidity much like sourdough bread, the soft chewy mouthfeel (thank you wheat) and gentle honey essence (thank you bees) brought to mind another sour love of mine – Berlinerweisse. I hope the Honey Wheat changes not a bit (except for more sour) so that come next summer I can quaff many a glass.


Continuing my tour down Florida craft beer lane (gotta support my local) was the newly old addition of Tequesta Brewing Company. I say newly old because Matt was at TCBF3 as the proud brewmaster of Corner Café & Brewery; this year he is the proud brewmaster and owner of Tequesta Brewing Company which sits right next door to his alma matter, Corner Café. I’ve been to both and to both I shall return – good beer, good food, good people, good times. Pouring such solid standards as Gnarly Barley and Der Chancellor, Matt also brought along a few surprises the likes of Hopscotch, a Scotch Ale, and Vantober, Matt’s tastetastic twist on the classic Octoberfest. Amazingly, my biggest surprise of all didn’t involve Matt’s beers in all their yumminess but instead involved his mom and dad who are awesome. Glad to meetcha!!!


Along with Funky Buddha and Tequesta Brewing, another big draw is always Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa (not Ybor), Florida. I must say though it pains me so that while CCB brought many really good beers they didn’t really bring anything of tastebud-blowing line-forming epicness. Guava Grove, Big Sound Scotch Ale, Jai Alai IPA, and Maduro are all excellent beers readily available right here, right now…and therein lay the rub. There was nothing uber exclusive to draw endless mobs of beer geeks and beer newbs to the table to have their tastebuds blown in proper line-forming fashion. Not having the CCB Tap Van there as in beer fests past didn’t hurt but it sure as heck didn’t help either. Nothing draws attention like a big van painted in Cigar City Brewery colors with a deliciously long line of taps sticking out the side, calling one’s name to Taste! Taste! Taste! Of course, I say all this with much love for my fine peeps at CCB. I have nothing but absolute respect for their fabulous beery creations. The brewery is beautiful, tasting room inviting, staff friendly, and beers amazing. Know this: if you haven’t had a Cigar City beer yet, than your life is incomplete and such a sordid error must be corrected immediately or your life is forfeit.


Hm… Am I growing jaded in my beer tasting years? Cynical? Boorish? *gasp* Snobbish?
I hope not. I think this calls for a glass of humble…and a beer.

Florida is no longer the beer desert that it once was and continuing the Florida beer pimpage was Holy Mackerel (a truly life-changing beer) and the Florida Beer Company which suffers much cynicism but has offered me some truly tasty beers over the years: Swamp Ape, Beachside Porter, and Key West Southernmost Wheat. Beyond the professional are the amateurs (and don’t we all start as amateurs?), top of which was the Treasure Coast Brewmasters. Every year I wait until almost the end of the fest and every year I miss out on too many of their fantastic homebrews. This year I vowed would not be the same and while I didn’t taste all, I tasted many and they were delicious! Located next to the Treasure Coast Brewmasters were the brand-new upstarts Pirate Pig whose enthusiasm and merchandising skills I admire. The beers (Landlubber Ale, Cochon Brune, and Sergeant Swijn) need work. I’m not saying this to be mean or unfair but to be honest because without honest criticism one cannot improve, impress, and succeed. As Pirate Pigs stands right now, I was not impressed but I look forward to being impressed in the future. To think that Vero Beach could very well soon have its own brewery blows my mind considering the very real desert I moved back to not that long ago. Progress. I can almost taste it…

Speaking of tasting, did anybody else get a taste of the original oak cask and rum cask Innis & Gunn? Holy flavorphoria!! I’d first been teased with the prospect of Innis & Gunn during last year’s Beer Fest but it somehow managed to elude my eager lips. Thanks to the recent merging of Florida Micro Bev and Brown Distributing, Innis & Gunn was once more in my sights and finally in my hands. Success! Easily one of my favorite beers of the fest, partly for “white whale” reasons and largely because they really were that good: the Oak Aged Cask was classic vanillin caramel oak goodness while the Rum Cask Oak Aged version was pure island delights – coconut, molasses, and candied apple goodness. Yum! On the flipside, I am still amazed that Innis & Gunn (of Belhaven (Greene King)) still insists on using clear glass bottles. According to certain sources, Belhaven feels that there are so little hops (only 18 IBUs) that any potential for skunked fusels would dissipate upon the opening and pouring of said bottle. Okay…I kind of buy that but mostly don’t. Clear bottles don’t protect beer. Period. Fewer hops and thus lower IBUs may mean less chance of immediate skunkability but the beer will skunk, both eventually and sooner. This of course means I’ll just have to drink my Innis & Gunn sooner than later, a hard job but I’m willing to do it.


It doesn’t take much to make for a happy Kristyn: Love, beer obviously, and friends. Speaking of friends, there were plenty. It seemed at every flash of the camera, turn of the head, skittering of the feet, there was a friendly face with open arms ready for me to jump into. Long-lost Great Spirits beer tasting peeps, French Quarter beer dinner peeps, Town Crier Pub beer dinner peeps, Hurricane and Vine & Barley endless sea of friendship reunited. We’ve laughed, cried, argued, and celebrated together through the years and we are still celebrating, proof shared in every tasting cup brimming with beery bliss. In the world of Beer Fests, we may be a suckling babe with still much to learn, grow, and contribute, but it’s a journey through the ages I look forward to. I can honestly say myself (and others) are helping our community by drinking craft beer. It’s true. Craft and community go hand-in-hand; this relationship of familial selflessness is one of the main reasons I love craft beer as much as I do. It’s as much about the brewers who brew and the community they embody both local and beyond as it is the beer - Inseparable.

Joining our community on the Treasure Coast was the indomitable Sweetwater Brewery whose Blue is still inmynotsohumbleopinion the best blueberry beer readily available on the market. Don’t believe me? Make a trip to Atlanta, Georgia and visit their beerdacious brewpub to experience for yourself the true Blue. But why Atlanta, Georgia? Because to the best of my knowledge Sweetwater is still unavailable in Florida, the tippy top northern edge notwithstanding. Considering their deserved white whale status, it didn’t take long for fest-goers to elbow their way to the Sweetwater table to savor along with Blue such classics as their IPA, 420 Extra Pale Ale, Sch’Wheat, and Motor Boat. Yum, yum, yum, and super yum. I would like to say a big thank you to Sweetwater for finding the time in their hectic schedule to visit our humble Treasure Coast Beer Fest and another big thank you to JJTaylor Distributing for their always impeccable stewardship. You’re not just partners in craft beer prosperity, you are family. From our inaugural fest to our fourth, your stalwart support and smart dedication to the brewers and their beer continues to push the bar of success higher and higher. The Treasure Coast wouldn’t be as crafttastic as it is now without your unwavering dedication, and for that I thank you.


Speaking of distributors, since Republic National was absent this year, we had a newcomer ready and raring to take its place: Brown Distributing. If you live south of the JJTaylor Distribution Border, than Brown Distributing is your person of interest in the craft beer world. From the warehouse to your glass and everywhere in-between, Brown has been carefully supplanting macro mediocrity with craft beer superiority. Through their acquisition of FL Micro Bev and addition of an exciting new contract with Shelton Brothers, purveyors of international artisanal bliss the likes of Mikkeller, Nogne-O, Haandbryggeriet and more, craft is where it’s at and where it’s staying. But do I really need to tell you that? The craft beer explorer who has tasted the beerpiphany and thirsts for more? Of course not, and so it pleases me to auspiciously announce our intentions for many more beerpiphanies courtesy of the BeerWorks Charitable Foundation.

You heard me – the 5th Annual Treasure Coast Beer Fest will happen and considering Christmas is right around the corner, Fall of 2012 will be here before we know it. In the meantime, I fully plan on hunting, tasting, and savoring all the beers I can get my hands on between now and then. The hunt is never over. The discovery is never old. The diversity is never dull. The excitement is never ending.

To beer, to community, to memories – Slainte!
Now to have another beer, but what shall it be…

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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