For a first effort, the Big Woody Fest made a pretty strong impression, despite some less than hopeful initial signs. The website was only part of it, as the whiskey was kept on another level entirely, either because of logistical or legal reasons, I don’t know, but an opportunity was missed. There was also a need, I think, for some food vendors instead of just samples. The beers were mostly quite strong and whiskey isn’t water. Food is good.
Despite that, the beers available were interesting, varied and mostly pretty tasty! Plus, there was a brochure that took the trouble to describe all the beers available so I was able to make some decisions about what to try. Here again: my (mostly) unedited notes. I bolded the ales that are in the photos, and special thanks to my girlfriend for holding the glasses.
Crux, Tough Love Imperial Stout- smells boozy, has an astringent finish that kinda wrecks it, nose of whiskey vanilla is wasted. This one was served quite cold but even after warmup, didn’t improve. A disappointment from a brewery that I’ve enjoyed before this.
Stone, Cali-Belgique- has a lightness, mango finish. Sour but not seriously so. I like this one, maybe with a little ice cream. I’m so used to them being hardcore IPA brewers that it’s cool to get something so different.
Ale Apothecary, SAHALIE- surprisingly good! I hadn’t heard of them before and was turned off by what I felt was a ‘head up our own ass’ product description that said their beer avoided style categorization, but I was wrong. They totally earned it with a great beer. Lighter, champagne element without the part of champagne I don’t like, the harsh finish.
Mazama, Nightside Eclipse- a great porter: not heavy at all, a light spiciness at the finish. Really well done. I don’t pick up individual notes so much as just a very drinkable beer.
New Belgium’s NBB loves Leopold- the first wave of flavors reminded me of Nerds candy. Pushes sour about a far as I can stand it. I like it and would have a small glass, but a pint is out of the question. Blueberry note but it’s all sour, no sweet.
Deschutes, 2012 Jubelale- has a plum note? Dried fruit and maple syrup too. Has the sour ale nose but that only barely registers in the finish. Really good. I like it but it is too complicated for me to pick it all up in one little taste. Recommended.
Oakshire, Brandywine- no. Just….thin, no nose, caramel, elements subdued, even an oddly strong hop presence. Just not right for the style. Maybe if it had been called something else? Names matter.
Hopworks, Boom Stick- is quite good doesn’t shy away from the bourbon at all, but still sweet, woody, just what I would expect from this. (I went back for the Army of Darkness a little later and that beer was even better).
Widmer, Downward Spiral IPL- has a nice hop to it and is a pretty remarkable achievement. There are some subtle flavors that exist and nothing is overpowering, yet this is a lager. Very good.
I had tastes of other beers, including a really good stout from Lagunitas and a surprisingly excellent barleywine from McMenamins, but I’d stopped taking notes by then. Still, the beers were good enough that I felt that should be mentioned.
Finally: I had tastes of Bendistillery’s Crater Lake Rye whiskey, which I liked and Templeton’s Rye, based on a Prohibition recipe, which I did not. I can’t really evaluate them except to say that the Bendistillery rye had a nice spiciness and the Templeton’s had a corn flavor that I wasn’t fond of.