Ahhh, spring was in the air this past weekend in central Massachusetts. My lawn is overrun with dandelions, there’s a half-inch coat of pollen on my car, a garter snake made me scream like a 2nd grader, and most importantly: Julio’s Liquors hosted its annual Spring Beer Fest! If you don’t know Julio’s: it’s my favorite local beer store with a selection that’s on par with any store in the greater Boston area. And if you don’t know about the Julio’s Spring Beer Fest: it’s a collection of free samples of 200 craft beers from 50 breweries. Do I have your attention yet? I thought so.
The timing of this year’s Spring Beer Fest could not have been better. It’s the first spring in 4 years when my daughters didn’t have soccer games, so I was free and clear. I also had my sister and her boyfriend in town for a family event. They love craft beer and were excited to check out the selection.
We arrived at Julio’s around 1:05pm, 5 minutes after the doors opened. The line stretched from in front of the building around the corner. I didn’t mind the wait because it allowed me to formulate and refine my game plan. Those who have attended beer festivals can probably relate to my mindset. 200 beers is too many to possibly try every one. You might have to wait in line at some of the more popular stations. It can get crowded in there and you probably don’t want to stay for 2 or 3 hours. That’s why I thought it might be useful to share some tips for attending a beer fest:
- Make a top 3 list. Most festivals will distribute a list of the beers in attendance. Go through and circlethe 3 that you must taste before leaving.
- Get outside your comfort zone. I’m a hophead and could easily drink IPAs-only when I go to a tasting. But what fun would that be? I tried to limit my IPA tastings to 3 or 4 beers so that I could branch out into other styles. Similarly, I avoided the breweries that I was already familiar with. Let’s just say I didn’t attend the beer fest to drink Samuel Adams Boston Lager (no, really… they had it at their table!)
- Honor the tasting limit. The Julio’s Beer Fest organizers distributed a 10-punch bracelet to limit beer consumption. Some brewery representatives consistently collected the punches, a
nd some didn’t. I gave my punch cards regardless of whether they asked me. Not because I worried about over-consuming, but because I wanted to force myself to be selective.
- Respect your fellow attendees. The brewery reps are naturally inclined to engage you in conversation about the beer. The conversation is great, but stay aware of the fact there may be folks standing in line behind you while you chat. Try to move off to the side a bit to allow those folks to get their samples while you chat with the rep.
- Eat. These events normally have good snacks to enjoy while you drink. I’d advise you to eat them, especially if those samples you’re drinking have a high alcohol content. At least the bland stuff like pretzels & crackers. Avoid spicy foods that will impact your taste buds.
I had a great time at the event and got to sample some truly excellent beers. My favorite sample was High & Mighty’s Divine Brown. The style was listed as a “Coffee Brown Ale”, and I found the coffee flavor to be present but well balanced. My least favorite sample (and biggest disappointment) was Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger. I had heard great things and very much enjoyed the hop aroma, but it was all downhill from there. Were my expectations too high? Perhaps.
The biggest surprise for me was Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA. It’s a fusion between a traditional Belgian white and an IPA. I tried it on a whim while I was waiting for my sister to catch up to me, and it really hit the spot. I found it to be very refreshing. Seems like a great pick to bring to a pool party this summer.
Julio’s put on a great tasting and raised over $1,000 of donations for Pink Revolution, a breast cancer charity. I’m already looking forward to next year’s beer fest. I’m also curious to know what you think of the tips I listed above. Agree/disagree with any of the ones I listed? Have any to add? Feel free to leave a comment and perhaps we can crowdsource our own community beer fest tip list!