One of the things I plan to do with my blog is to provide insights and reviews on beer-focused events – something that the beer reviewing websites currently do not offer. Tonight I thought that I’d explore the upcoming Winter Wine and Ale Festival in Downtown Cleveland next Saturday the 26th. I’ll be attending, and maybe I can convince some of you to do the same.
Apparently it is slated for 7:00, which is directly after the lighting of the Public Square Christmas Tree. What a great way to kick off the season!
The fest will be held in the lobby of 200 Public Square (the former BP building). Plan to explore various local beers and wines, all while enjoying a dizzying array of food offerings from local chefs and restauranteurs. There’s not a ton of info on precisely which foods will be served, but I am sure there will be plenty to fill you up and new and fun things to sample. Food will be provided by:
Whole Foods, Harry Buffalo, Zoup, StrEat Mobile Bistro, Bar Louie, Zachary Bruell Restaurants: Parallax, Table 45, L’Albatros & Chinato and Pura Vida by Brandt
But I am more concerned with the beer menu. Happily this info has been released, and the beer list is as follows:
1. Great Lakes: Christmas Ale, Pumpkin Ale & Edmund Fitgerald
2. Thirsty Dog: 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale, Twisted Kilt, Labrador Lager and Cerberus Belgian Trippel cask conditioned with cherries
3. Indigo Imp: Winter Soul, Gatekeeper
4. Fat Heads: Happy Holidays, Head Hunter IPA, Head Trip, Voodoo Monkey Chocolate Stout
5. Ohio Brewing: Jingle Bell Ale, Verich Gold, Warrior Pale Ale, O’Hoppy Ale IPA
6. Willoughby: Wenceslas Christmas Ale, Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter, Moonshadow IPA, and Aramis Pale Ale
7. The Brew Kettle: White Rajah, Spalt Bomb Pils, Chocolate Milk Stout and Winter Warmer
8. Cellar Rats: Festivus Ale, Rat Tail Ale
9. Lager Heads: Winter Mischief, Barnburner Lager, Half Moon Heffe
10. The Rivertown Brewing Company: Hop Bomber and Seasonal
I have highlighted the beers to really look out for. Let’s break it down…
Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale: Great Lakes produces some of the most consistent and well-balanced beers in the country. Everyone knows Christmas Ale around Cleveland, and if you don’t yet, you should know that Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the best porters in the world. No kidding. At any rate, it is one of my top 10 beers of all time if you prefer a personal endorsement. But my anticipation first peaks at their Pumpkin Ale. This brew is normally a pub exclusive, meaning if you don’t live in NE Ohio and frequent the brewery, you’ve likely never had the chance to try this beer – let alone even know that it existed. Expect a well-spiced beer with lots of nutmeg and clove aroma and cinnamon and caramel sweetness in the flavor department. Also expect this beer to showcase balance where many brewers spice their pumpkin ales to their detriment.
Cask-conditioned Cerberus Triple with Cherry: Cerberus is a Belgian style Tripel, which means you ought to be expecting something sweet, a bit boozy, with light fruit notes and strong carbonation. It is a great beer. Put it in a cask with cherries and it promises to be a very interesting beer. The cask will lend a more subtle, softer carbonation, while cherries will either add tartness or sweetness (though typically not both).
Fat Heads Head Hunter IPA & The Brew Kettle White Rajah: Simply put, these beers are in an arms race for the title of best IPA in Ohio. Their only other competition is Columbus Brewing Company’s IPA. All three beers are full of juicy sweet tropical fruit aroma (see if you can pick out melon, mango, and pineapple). In my opinion, Head Hunter is the second best of the three after Columbus IPA – but all three are among the top 25 IPA’s in the country according to Beeradvocate:
The only thing better for a hop head like myself than having a favorite IPA at a tasting, is having another of my top IPA’s at the same tasting. I am a huge fan of doing side-by-side comparisons, and I strongly urge you to compare Head Hunter to White Rajah. Decide for yourself which IPA is king.
Willoughby Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter: Just like it sounds, this beer has been garnering a lot of buzz around town this year. Expect a coffee-forward porter with pleasing undertones of chocolate malt and peanuts. This is likely to go fast, so make it one of your first pours at the event.
If anyone is unfamiliar with such events, you are typically given a certain number of tickets to exchange for beer samples. This event allots 20 tickets – which should be plenty – but if you start running out take comfort in the fact that many times the people pouring do not enforce the ticket rule very stringently.
My main recommendation for a successful and fun time is to take advantage of all the free food and drink plenty of water. When you mix a dozen or so different beer styles all together, even in limited quantities, the end result can often lead to hangover or worse.
If you’re traveling with non-beer drinkers, feel good knowing that there will be nearly a dozen Ohio wineries on had pouring their finest as well. Because I cannot speak to the wines in any sort of detail I will refrain from giving any misleading opinions.
There will be give-aways going on, as well as a silent auction for charity that will include special items from the participating brewers and vintners.
Finally, in case you are thinking of attending, here is the link to the event page: