As craft beer drinkers, this is a splendid time of year for our passion. As many of you know, we are right in the middle of beer festival season! Beer fests are great for a number of reasons, but the two primary reasons are that you get to try a wide variety of beers and styles from a large smattering of different breweries that you might not usually get to try or sample, and you also get the occasional one-off or rare beer that is difficult to find or made specifically for the fest. It’s a great way to “try before you buy”, open yourself up to new styles, and broaden your palate.
As the days get longer and hotter, the craft beer festivals descend upon us in great number and frequency. It seems like there is one almost every weekend, and that’s a good thing for the craft beer drinker, and the craft beer revolution in general. In fact, one of New England’s premier craft fests is this weekend in Burlington, Vermont; the annual Vermont Brewers Festival, which highlights great craft beers from Vermont and other surrounding states. The following weekend (July 27) is the 3rd Annual Capital Region Craft Brewer’s Festival in Troy, New York. Let it also be noted that the 2012 incarnation of the Brass City Brewfest was just announced for September 8 in Waterbury, with tickets on sale now.
With the excitement of all these upcoming beer fests, I would like to reflect back on a great one I went to to kick off the festival season: Rising Pint, a great beer fest with a heart. This year it was held on May 12 at UConn’s Rentschler Field, and it drew many a beer fan from near and far. The fest offers a wide variety of craft beers as well as many of the usual suspects from the macro world, but the beer is only part of the festival’s story.
Aside from the beer, the festival has two great philanthropic causes: The Arthritis Foundation and The Folds of Honor Foundation. The Arthritis Foundation is pretty self-explanatory; Many people (myself included before this event) don’t know what The Fold of Honor Foundation is, however. What that foundation does is help families of fallen soldiers with scholarships and other assistance. A very noble cause in my opinion.
On the beer front, the fest had a lot to offer: over 250 unique beers from 70 breweries. Some were the old standby macro offerings, but there some great and unique craft beers there as well. Connecticut was well represented as the home state with many different Nutmeg breweries onthe table, including New England Brewing (Woodbury), City Steam (Hartford), Willimantic Brewery, Cavalry (Oxford), Olde Burnside (East Hartford), Thomas Hooker (Bloomfield), and Tullycross Tavern (Manchester) amongst others.
Rising Pint also had some news confirming new breweries about to start up in Connecticut. Since that time, Sixpoint (NY), Green Flash (CA), Rock Art (VT), Clown Shoes (MA) and a much more expanded line from Captain Lawrence (NY) have taken the state by storm. The biggest news, however, was the confirmation that Founders Brewing (MI) would be coming to the state, and they even had samples there to try. Founders actually hit shelves last week in Connecticut, and is available statewide with such staples as their Centennial IPA, Red Rye Pale Ale, Porter, Pale Ale, and Dirty Bastard, and of course the seasonals Cerise and Devil Dancer Triple IPA. Connecticut was also fortunate enough to get 750ml bottles of the one-off release Frangelic Mountain Brown, which is a truly amazing beer that I will be reviewing soon.
Rising Pint Brewfest was a success on all levels, and for that great credit is due to festival creator Heather Schold. Her goal is to have a festival that helps the Connecticut craft beer scene grow, and attendance tripled from last year to more than 1,000 people at the 2012 event. A lot of that was due to her bringing in Brett Hollander, who is the Hartford Distributors Inc., beer manager. Heather credits Brett with driving the fest forward and on to the next level. Together they were a great team and put on a wonderful festival for both seasoned beer geeks and novices alike, and they raised money for two great foundations while doing it. I would highly encourage all to go next year, no matter your level of beer geek-dom.
If you have any questions, comments, or want to send me samples to review here, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/nebeerhunter and on Twitter @nebeerhunter.
Also, don’t forget to check out some of the other great beer articles in The Mercurial’s Brews section.