One thing successful beer fests have in common with unsuccessful beer festivals is that they involve a lot of standing in line. Another is disappointment when a coveted brew runs dry. Achieving the right balance of good beers and a good-sized crowd is crucial to making sure everyone has a good time. And even though it was Deep Ellum Brewing Company's first attempt at such an event, I'd call last Friday's Brew-B-Q at Mokah a big success.
And that's despite a few disappointments. I overheard people talking about how good the IPA was, but alas, both kegs were gone by the time I arrived around 7:30 p.m. I started with the Oaked Cherry Double Brown Stout, which was underwhelming. I got more sourness than anything else, when I expected sweet, malty and rich. But I heard others rave about it; I'm starting to wonder if there's some flavor in certain oak-aged beers that I just don't like, as often I find myself enjoying the original version of a given beer more than the oaked.
Bourbon oak is another story. Pollenator, a honeyed double bock, was excellent with a rich malty sweetness. The bourbon-oaked version was like a completely different beer, smoky, darker in color and with a sweetness almost like a scotch ale.
The St. Andrew Scotch Ale, speaking of, was also great, with even more smoky flavor -- though the name might need some workshopping. Biere From Mars had a very perfumey, floral flavor along with a sort of waxy and sour flavor I'd assume came from Brettanomyces yeast, an appreciation for which my palate has not yet achieved. I also had the blonde ale, but wasn't especially impressed by the toasty, biscuity, bready brew, which had some odd funkiness to it. Owner John Reardon later told me they thought something had gone wrong with the second keg of blonde, which wasn't a surprise.
The wit/saison hybrid was very light, herbal and earthy, and probably could have used a bit less subtlety. Then again, I drank it after the strongest, heaviest and best beer of the night, so my tastebuds could have been off.
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That beer was Darkest Hour, a rye imperial stout brewed with carob molasses and Belgian dark candi syrup. It has a touch of spiciness along with some dark-fruit sweetness and coffee bitterness. An incredibly rich, complex beer, I'd love to have it again. And that's after having tried a version not up to its full potential, according to Reardon, who said he thought it hadn't aged quite enough. There was enough left and the crowd had thinned enough by the end of the night that I just kept getting back in line for more of it until it was gone.
The longest lines were for the food. Mama Fays brought out an incredible amount of barbecue -- some smoky if slightly dry brisket that was great with the spicy sauce, sausage that tasted like the best Slim Jim ever, tasty ribs and chicken, along with a good chicken spaghetti side, sweet barbecue beans and corn. The only real problem was that after finally making it through a 20-or-so minute wait for the food, the last thing you'd want to do is go get in another line for a beer. Fortunately, taking turns in lines with a friend or spouse solved that dilemma.
Reardon was rightfully pleased with how the night went. He hopes to have an even bigger blow-out, a street festival, for his grand opening party. As for when that could be, construction started today on the space at 2821 St. Louis St., and the brewing equipment will be shipping next week.
"It'll be inside 90 days, and could be more like 60," Reardon says. Nothing set in stone for the grand opening, but it would likely be within a month or two of opening. As for now, he says with a laugh, "We're kind of out of beer for now after that party."