Beer festivals, like this weekend's Dallas Observer BrewFest in Dallas, create a dilemma for devoted drinkers. There are only so many glasses you're going to fill and so many lines you'll wait in. For those of us there to catch a buzz ... oh, right, beer is supposed to be measured on its own merits, respected as a form of culinary art. But this is art with a purpose. Maybe you haven't noticed, but even lovingly made craft beer makes your head a little fuzzy and your tongue a little loose.
Where was I? Those who wanted to catch a buzz at BrewFest needed to identify and explore the strongest selections. Luckily, this year's event featured some truly high-octane beers, some of which debuted at BrewFest. The key statistic, naturally, is the alcohol by volume percentage, or ABV.
Lets geek out about ABV for just a second. The scientific definition measures the milliliters of pure ethanol present in 100 milliliters of solution at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Brewers derive this by comparing measurements of the density of the beer before and after fermentation. Savvy vendors will post the high ABVs like advertisements, or maybe public service announcements.
Bud Light has a 4.3 percent ABV and a Guinness stout about the same. That's fine for a baseball game or extended session on a barstool, but at a beer festival, something higher is needed to make each drop count toward inebriation.
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Sticking with Texas brewers and ignoring the booths offering harder stuff, the strongest beers at BrewFest turned out to be creative, distinctive and delicious. One delightful surprise was the Coconut Temptress from Lakewood Brewing Co. Its Imperial Milk Stout is a decent dark beer, but it's made better by a layer of coconut that is very present but not at all intrusive. The extra sweetness and creamy texture make this easy to drink with a hefty 9.1 percent ABV.
Who says the boozy beers have to be dark? Peticolas Brewing Co. offered an Imperial IPA called Sit Down or I'll Sit You Down. The brewers have a backstory involving Michael Peticolas’ brother Charlie, an officer featured on the TV show Cops. Apparently, the beer's name was an oft-repeated line while making on-screen arrests. The golden, floral-smelling beer uses 1 pound of hops per barrel, so you can imagine the flavor profile (assuming you're familiar with hops). At 10 percent ABV, too many could lead to your real arrest.
The champion of strong Texas beer at BrewFest was Revolver Brewery's Bourbon Barrel Anodyne Wheat Wine. Revolver brews a nice ale called Anodyne, which is oak-chip aged to give it a hint of vanilla to balance out the fruity flavors provided by German and New Zealand hops. But a Revolver Christmas party recipe gave birth to a new iteration: the Anodyne aged six months in barrels of Woodford Reserve. The result is a delicious, golden ale that is very drinkable, considering it's whopping 12.7 percent ABV. Revolver will release the beverage in early December, just in time to inspire high jinks at your own holiday party.