Spring is a wonderful time of year for fans of craft beer. It's the time when we start to transition from the heavy beers of fall to the lighter beers of summer. It's also the beginning of the hop growing season. In an effort to celebrate spring and all of the wonderful brews it brings, the minds behind Drink Craft Beer organize a beer festival called Springfest. Known as "A Celebration of Hops," Springfest is held once a year to remind us of the many wonderful things that hops can do.
My first experience at one of Drink Craft Beer's fests was as a volunteer at Springfest 2013. Everyone who attends the fest will tell you that, without the volunteers, Springfest would not be nearly as successful as it has been. Volunteers help the brewers in many ways, whether they need more ice for their kegs, their dump buckets emptied out, or one of many other things. The volunteers make sure that things run smoothly (and cleanly) so that the fest attendees have a great experience.
The key to the success of Springfest has really been the efforts of those who put it together. Drink Craft Beer co-founders Devon and Jeff, along with head of volunteers Sarah (shown above assigning the volunteers their duties), make sure that everything is organized, the brewers are happy, and that everyone is having a good time. It is their hard work and dedication that really makes all of the Drink Craft Beer fests some of the best fests of all.
This year I attended Springfest's Friday night VIP "Hoppy Hour" session, not as a volunteer but to write about the event for Drink Craft Beer. Attendees were given their fest guides and sample cups upon entering, along with a gold coin in each cup. These coins were for each person to vote for who they thought the best brewery at the "Hoppy Hour" session was. At the end of the night, whichever brewery collected the most gold coins was to be crowned the Champion of Hops.
It wasn't just the awesome belt that made the VIP session special, though. All 25 breweries featured a VIP-only brew, each very unique in terms of flavor. One of the best parts about attending the VIP session was being able to try something entirely new or more familiar brews with a twist to them.
One of the special brews that I tried was a dry hopped Belgian Strong Pale Ale from Idle Hands called Bug Juice #2. It was crisp and fruity with a subtle hop character that gave it a nice balance. Though they're known more for their Belgian-style brews, both Idle Hands and Enlightenment Ales brought something hoppy to the table. Being part of Springfest meant that each brewery had to offer something that showcased hops in some way, and showcase hops they did...even some of the ciders were infused with hops!
Slumbrew's VIP beer was particularly interesting to me. They called it Metal Coil as a funny way of saying spring (waka waka!). Now, Slumbrew currently brews 13 different beers, 7 of which are IPAs. The next IPA in their line-up will be called Mountain Day. Metal Coil was a test batch for Mountain Day, brewed in order to see what people thought and to try out the recipe. What I tasted was light yet flavorful, perfect for the warmer months. Slumbrew truly has an IPA for every occasion, and I hope to see this one in bottles soon. I am sure we’ll be seeing much more from Slumbrew this year, especially with their new brewery and taproom set to open in Somerville in October. Located near both Bantam Cider and Taza Chocolate, I have no doubt people will be flocking to it.
Friday night also featured several cask conditioned beers. I had the chance to taste Declaration, Backlash Beer's Belgian-style IPA, on cask dry hopped with Citra hops. What was already a refreshing brew with great fruit flavors was made even better by an extra burst of citrus. With most of the brewers dry hopping their beers, many of them had an enhanced hop aroma and flavor. It was a hop lover's dream!
There were plenty of session beers at Springfest, but Notch stole the show. A local favorite, their Session Pils is low in alcohol but high in flavor. It was their Left of the Dial Session IPA, though, that really shined. Just released in cans this week, Left of the Dial is smooth and satisfying with a nice grapefruit flavor. The hops have been adjusted from last year’s bottle release, but there’s sure to be the same pleasant bitterness that makes this IPA so wonderful. The fresh hop character is apparently preserved longer in cans, so there will be no more bottles of Left of the Dial. Not to worry, though, as cans will be available in both 6-packs and 12-packs. I’m looking forward to opening a few cans of Left of the Dial myself. I could drink an entire Glaskrug full of it!
One of the coolest things about Springfest is the giant TweetBoard. Throughout the night attendees and brewers alike got engaged through social media. They sent out tweets on the brews they were drinking along with everything that was happening at the fest in real time. Everyone was tweeting about hops!
Of course, hops weren't the only thing being showcased at the fest. Two Roads Brewing Company from Connecticut brought a rich and malty brew known as Henry's Farm Doppelbock. Aged in rye whiskey barrels, this one was a nice break from all the hoppiness. Sometimes it really is nice to take the road less traveled!
As always, the fest was full of beer lovers excited to sample from over 100 beers brewed by 25 of New England's best craft brewers. Like Drink Craft Beer's other fests, Springfest was more intimate and personal than your average fest. It's a small affair with short lines and an amazing atmosphere. Those that attend are truly passionate about craft beer. They walk from table to table sampling brews and appreciating their flavors. They talk to the brewers about how their beer is made, and the brewers are more than happy to tell them about it. People did more than just drink at Springfest. They became even more engaged in the craft beer community.
Voting for the best brewery continued as the night went on. There were several strong contenders, and as the hours passed I could see boxes filling up with gold coins. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and truly enjoying both the beer and the food (which included delicious fare from Roxy's Grilled Cheese, Union Square Donuts, Q's Nuts and Grillo's Pickles), but one question remained: who was going to be the Champion of Hops?
Finally, the winner was announced. High Horse Brewing out of Amherst, Massachusetts was voted the best brewery by Springfest attendees!
After the announcement I had to go over to High Horse's booth to see the belt being worn. Matthew Steinberg, High Horse's brewer and co-founder, struck a pose while wearing the belt proudly. Afterwards I tried one of High Horse's hoppiest brews, Satisfaction IPA. There was pine and citrus in both the aroma and the flavor that was nicely balanced by a solid malt backbone. It made me feel like I was a champion too!
I ended the night by thanking Jeff and Devon for putting on such a great event. I heard nothing but good things about Springfest all night from the attendees. Drink Craft Beer has done so much for the craft beer community in Boston and beyond, and their fests continue to be some of the best around. It just goes to show that when you are passionate about something (like craft beer) great things can happen. Keep an eye out for Summerfest, a celebration of Farmhouse Ale, sometime in July. Until then, remember to Drink Craft Beer!