Thursday, October 22, 2009

World Beer Fest - Durham

A few weeks ago I joined three friends for a trip to Durham, NC for the World Beer Festival. As we have in the past, this was an opportunity for us to get away for a weekend of fun, and plenty of good beer. Frank, Jerry, Mike and I arrived in Durham Friday afternoon, and after checking in at the hotel, headed over to Tyler's Tap Room for dinner and an evening of pool and beer.

I enjoyed several good, and new to me beers Friday evening. Starting the evening off with a bang, I ordered a Foothills Seeing Double IPA. This is a highly hopped, resiny, bold but balanced beer. I've often remarked that I'm a fan of the DIPA and Seeing Double didn't disappoint. In fact, I would revisit this one several times over the weekend. I was excited to see that Tyler's also had Terrapin Depth Charge on draft. This beer is a result of a collaboration between Terrapin Brewing in Georgia and Left Hand Brewing from Colorado. Depth Charge is full of robust dark roasted coffee goodness in a smooth, creamy milk stout. Although we ordered the beer during dinner, we all remarked that it would make an excellent dessert. After dinner, we moved into Tyler's Speakeasy and spent the evening (and early morning) shooting pool and trying out a variety of beers from their extensive menu.

Saturday was the main event, the World Beer Festival, held at Durham Athletic Park. We had four hours to try out as many beers as we (responsibly) could. I decided I would mostly focus on "dark" beers. I usually seek out the hop bombs but felt this would be a good way to try a lot of beers I'd not had before. Naturally I varied from the plan here and there. I'll mention just a few of my favorite finds.

After enjoying the Seeing Double IPA the previous evening I made a couple of visits to Foothills' booth. During one of those stops, they were pouring a barrel-aged Sexual Chocolate. Molassas and dark chocolate flavors were blended with a hint of bourbon sweetness. The timing was just right to get a taste of this limited beer before it ran out. I was happy to see Great Lakes Brewing in attendance. I enjoyed a sample of their Edmond Fitzgerald Porter. When I mentioned the beers' (non)availability in Virginia, the reply was "We're working on it." Just recently Great Lake beers made it to West Virginia, so maybe we'll see them here soon.

New Holland Charkoota Rye-Smoked Rye Dopplebock was an interesting beer. The mouthful of a name describes a mouthful of a beer. The mild smokiness mixed with the sweet malt and dark fruit very well. I'd definitely pick this as one of the best beers I tried at the festival. I'd like to enjoy it again, in more than a sample sized serving. Left Hand Smoke Jumper Imperial Porter was another smoked beer being poured. Smoke Jumper has a very woody smokiness to it that's a bit different than the "bacon-in-a-bottle" flavors of some smoked beers. I think it might appeal even to folks who say they don't like smoke flavor in a beer.

As I said, I didn't drink only dark beers at the festival. Aviator Brewing was pouring their HotRod Red through a container of fresh hops to infuse extra hop flavors into the beer. The Dry Hopped Kellerbier from Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery in High Point, NC was another notable selection.

All in all, I tried about 20 new beers, and a tasty lamb pita sandwich, during the afternoon. The World Beer Festivals are some of my favorite events. The beer selection is extensive and the events are extremely well run. I'm looking forward to the World Beer Fest planned for Spring 2010 in Richmond, VA.

I was too busy enjoying the beer to take many photos, but a few are posted here.

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