2010 Emerald Coast Beer Festival

September 15, 2010

Time to show my respect and admiration for the only people around more enthusiastic about beer than I am: the brewers. We’re fortunate to have at least ten local and regional brewclubs who do great justice to the classics and experiment with what could and should be the next big thing.

Before I begin on the brewers, I must first congratulate Seville Quarter on another successful festival. I don’t recall seeing as many people at the ECBF than were there this year. Good job, guys. A nice “thanks” is deserved for the attendees, too. It’s a wonderful thing when you can look around and know that everyone is there for the same thing: really good beer.

The game plan this year was for me to eschew the well-knowns and focus solely upon the home brewers. With over 200 beers to sample it would be dangerous to attempt both the big names and the homemade. Besides, we can find most of the other stuff at the store any time we like it. No, the home brewing was where it’s at. These guys have the time and space to experiment with unconventional ingredients and mix up the styles. Blueberry cider? Sure. Apricot hefeweizen? Why not? Baconater? What’s that?

He’ll have to forgive me if I’ve got the wrong name but my notes got sloshed with samples and the ink ran. Hal with the Escambia Bay Homebrewers has a smoked applewood ale called Baconater. It smells like someone put out a campfire in your glass yet has a slightly salty note of bacon at the end. Huge roasted flavors with a tiny hint of hop bitterness at the finish. Heck, everyone in the EBHB had great beer. From the Wet Nose IPA (so good-smelling you’ll stick your nose deep into the glass) to the Booty Juice (raspberry cider) and the Schwartz IPA from Cliff… I was willing to spend the entire fest at their table. Great stuff.

Meanwhile, over at the Carboy Junkies’ table, the scene was reminiscent of Animal House complete with the president of the brewclub behaving very Bluto-like. My favorite at the table was a Belgian golden ale called Banana Hammock. Very funny, very malty. Speaking of Belgians, one of the few established names I tried was Holy Mackeral’s Panic Attack. Rich, spicy and strong. I allowed myself only three other big names: Hex, Magic Hat’s fall seasonal; Stone Ruination Ale; NOLA Brewing’s 7th Street Wheat.

My personal favorite of the day was from L.A. Lagers out of Mobile. Their IPA has a nice nose of candied grapefruit and pineapple. What sold me was this amazing flavor of peanut brittle. I don’t know what he did to his grains but it was that unexpected twist in style that made it an amazing stand-out.