Sunday, October 11, 2015

Review: New Times Beerfest 2015

The New Times is a free weekly newspaper/news magazine that has been gracing various restaurants, bars, and coffee houses in South Florida since the 1980's. As a student at the University of Miami in that period—also know as The Good Old Days—I became acquainted with the publication because it was the go-to source for what was happening, in the way of culture, music, and the like. I still pick up a copy now and again, not only to see what's up but also because there are often excellent articles therein—including investigative pieces—well worth reading.

The New Times, in its role as the local kingpin of culture, holds a number of events that focus on food, drink, music, and the like. One of the best received of these—for what will soon become obvious reasons—is the New Times Beer Fest. Held at Esplanade Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale, it was a lot of fun, well worth the $30 ($40 at the door) cost of admission. And for a little more jingle, one can upgrade to Brewmaster or VIP status for some additional access and goodies.

The tasting mug
Once through the gates, you pick up your tasting mug (the size of a large shotglass) than wander through the grounds sampling all sorts beer (mostly craft and local ones, but a few well-established ones as well). Here's the list from last night:
  • 26 Degree Brewing Company 
  • Accomplice Brewery 
  • Aviator Brewing Company 
  • Bangin Banjo Brewery 
  • Barrel of Monks 
  • Beer Stream / Hollywood Brewing Co 
  • Boulevard/Ommegang 
  • Brew Bus Brewing 
  • Cigar City Brewing 
  • Descarga Brewing Company 
  • Florida Avenue Brewing 
  • Founders Brewing Company 
  • Four Loko 
  • Funky Buddha Brewery 
  • Goose Island Brewery VIP 
  • Green Flash Brewing Company 
  • Hatuey Beer 
  • Holba Beer 
  • Islamorada Beer Company 
  • Kona Brewing Company 
  • LauderAle Brewery 
  • Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery 
  • Magic Hat Brewing Company 
  • Medalla Brewery 
  • Miami Brewing Co 
  • Bud Light MixxTail 
  • Murphy’s / Estrella Damm 
  • Native Brewing 
  • Nola - Breckenridge - Hebrew Beer 
  • Ookapow Brewing 
  • Orlando Brewery 
  • Oskar Blues Brewery 
  • Palms/ Rodebach Red Hook Brewery 
  • Rekorderlig Brewery 
  • Saint Arnold Brewing 
  • Saltwater Brewery 
  • Schnebly Redland's Winery 
  • Shipyard / Sea Dog 
  • Shock Top: VIP 
  • Stella Cidre / VIP 
  • Vermont Hard Cider 
  • Victory 
  • Woodchuck Hard Cider 
  • Wynwood Brewery 
  • Tennents Lager 
These were all of the stations, but each station had multiple brews or selections available for sampling. No doubt, some of the names are familiar to anyone who enjoys craft and small brewery beers, like Magic Hat, Shipyard, and Islamorada. Similarly, beers from companies like Murphy's and Hatuey have been around for a long time, long before the craft beer revolution. Still, not everyone has had the opportunity—or taken the opportunity—to sample these brews, so it was good to see them being represented.

Given all of these choices and given that samples were all free, it's a little difficult to run down a full review of every choice. Really, it's a little difficult to imagine sampling every choice and still remain conscious...

But I'll highlight a few of my favorites. And note that as a rule, I drink darker beers, so that's what I tended to seek out and sample. Also, these are in no particular order:

1) Last Snow Porter from Funky Buddha Brewery—a lovely porter flavored with coconut and coffee, very creamy and very smooth.

2) Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale from Ookapow Brewing Co.—complex and heavy, an ale for someone interested in a challenge.

3) Irish Channel Stout from Nola Brewing Co.—a rich stout for people who like stouts, with a gorgeous head and a deep chocolate finish.

4) Breakfast Stout from Founders Brewing Co.—coffee!, that sums up this aptly-named, impressive stout perfectly.

To be sure, there were lots of other great beers of every imaginable variety (including some ciders), but these are just the ones that really stood out for me.

But if one is going to drink a lot of beer, one needs to eat something, no? The Beer Fest had this angle well-covered, as well. There were the usual festival food, course: arepas, gyros, etc. But in the VIP section, some outstanding soft tacos were being served up by the people from M.E.A.T Eatery and Taproom. Rest assured, my next trip to the keys will include a stopover at their Islamorada location.

There were also tacos to be had in the GA area, from the Agave Taco Bar. Aside from some high quality tacos, the folks at Agave also offered up some even finer quality photo ops, with a couple of lovely ladies in Mexican Day of the Dead body paint:

Me, enjoying the offerings at Beer Fest

Interestingly enough, business was initially slow for these ladies, that is until the evening wore on and people had consumed a little more beer. Then business picked up significantly...

And lest I forget to mention it, there was also live entertainment, a TV on which to watch the Miami-FSU football game, and the legendary Miss Beerfest competition (which I missed because I was still looking at the taco menu).

All in all, a worthwhile evening out with considerable bang for the buck. And most importantly, some exposure for local and small businesses looking for your entertainment dollars. Missed out and wish you had been there? Mark your calendar now for next year.

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