The last time I went to a Flying Saucer beer festival (the fall 2009 fest at the Fort Worth location), I learned that tasting the big, bad, high-gravity and high-ABV beers before trying lighter brews can throw off your tastebuds and make the latter drinks seem puny by comparison. At last Saturday's Spring Beer Festival at the Flying Saucer on the Lake location, I learned the hard way what happens when you show up late and wait till the end of the night to try those aforementioned big, bad brews: They're gone.
Somehow, I managed to have a good time anyway. As with the previous festival, in return for $15, festival-goers received a card entitling each up to 10 4-oz. samples from any of four tents: East Coast, West Coast, Texas and Captain's Picks. Four punches could be combined for a full-pint pour, though almost everyone seemed to enjoy the sample-platter approach. An additional $5 was good for a "UR Not Worthy" stamp that allowed them to sample even pricier beers from the "Out Of This World" tent. Thankfully, though, the Saucer comped my sample card and even gave it a "UR Not Worthy" stamp.
Following are my notes from the festival, plus some info on the Brew Riot homebrew and microbrew festival on N. Bishop Boulevard in Oak Cliff Saturday.
Chouffe Houblon IPA Tripel (Out Of This World)
Very pale yellow in color with a puffy white head. Complex as expected from a Belgian IPA, with a nice bracing hoppiness, and a bit sweet but thankfully not too sweet. The 9 percent ABV is imperceptible.
The outdoor setting is beautiful as the sun sets, and it's not too crowded.
Boulevard Tank #7 Farmhouse Ale (Captain's Picks)
Much sweeter than I expect from a saison, so it's not as refreshing as saisons usually are, though it still makes for a nice hot-weather drink. I have a feeling I'll be drinking a lot of saisons this summer.
New Belgium Lips of Faith Eric's Ale Sour Wheat (East Coast Tent)
No, New Belgium hasn't packed up and moved to the East Coast. Rather, this brew was chosen to sub for Dogfish Head's Festina Peche (Berliner Weisse), which ran out before I arrived. I heard it was great. Eric's Ale, my introduction to the world of sour beers, is not something I'd seek out again. It's like a tart, super-dry peach cider with a funky nose. I struggle to finish my 4-oz. sample and can't imagine drinking a full one. Cider drinkers might enjoy it, though.
At this point, I meet the Captain himself, Keith Schlabs, the "beer guru" for the Flying Saucer chain and for the Meddlesome Moth. After a few minutes of chatting, he excuses himself and comes back with a taster of Brewdog and Stone's Bashah collaboration, a black double Belgian IPA from one of the rare-keg tappings going on inside the Saucer that day. Does "black double Belgian IPA" sound like a few too many elements going on for one beer? It kind of tasted that way, too. The argument between the pungent piney hops and roasty dark malts was so loud it managed to drown out the points that the Belgian yeast was trying to bring up. It all combined to be something like a very hoppy porter with a super-sticky body. A weird mix, but not a total trainwreck. I'd certainly like to try it again without the aftertaste of a disagreeable sour ale still lingering--and I wonder how cellaring it for a year or two might smooth it out.
Anchor Humming Golden Ale (West Coast)
Very full-bodied and bright. A nice quenching pale ale without an overwhelming amount of hops.
Koenigs Quadrupel (Out Of This World)
Dammit, they're out of Maredsous Blonde and Scaldis. This replacement is way too sweet and just tastes kinda cheap to me.
Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale (West Coast Tent)
A light pillowy head and a reddish-gold body. Grainy, earthy hops and kind of mild. Not especially memorable, but a good quencher. Later research shows that this is an IPA brewed entirely with hops from, as the name would suggest, the southern hemisphere of the globe. I need to give it another shot when I haven't preceded it with so many other beers.
Left Hand Widdershins Barleywine
My friend and colleague Daniel Hopkins told me I absolutely had to try Avery Samael's Oak-Aged Barleywine, but alas, I waited too long. Instead, I settle for Left Hand's perfectly fine barleywine, which had a nicely complex malty, spicy sweetness that I imagine would be a whole lot more appealing in cold weather.
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA (Captain's Picks)
This was my most memorable beer from the previous Flying Saucer beer festival. Though Paul Hightower at Dallas Craft Beer Examiner would beg to differ, I still love it. Black with ruby highlights, it has a nice thick roasty, malty body balanced with sweet citrusy hops. It's hard to believe this and Bashah are in the same family.
The Texas tent has run out of Real Ale's Highlander, with nothing especially intriguing remaining. I notice quite a few dogs here. Here's a tip to the guys who wore kilts to the fest: Next time, bring a dog instead. They get a lot more attention from the ladies than a kilt. A kilt doesn't say much more than "Ask me about my kilt!"
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Avery Jubilation (West Coast)
Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown and Widmer Brothers Reserve Prickly Pear Braggot were both gone, and replaced with this winter warmer. Lighter in color than expected, it was nonetheless full-bodied with enough spices to make me cough. Even out of season, a good holiday beer puts me in a cheerful mood.
This has a sort of funky weird foot smell to it. I've had this beer--flavored with kola nut, poppy seeds, guarana and Scottish heather honey--and rather liked it, but not under these circumstances. It has elements of a brisk IPA, a sweet Belgian and an all-around drinkable lager. Very odd.
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Don't forget that that 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday is the Brew Riot homebrew competition outside Eno's Pizza at 407 N. Bishop Ave. This year, 11 homebrewers have entered. Unfortunately, because the competition has moved to the street, the cost has gone up from last year's $10 to $15 suggested donation. However, this year's $20 donation goes to Go Oak Cliff, a fine cause indeed, and entitles you to sample the entries as well as wares from nine participating microbreweries. The fest also includes live music, giant chess in the street and Lonestar Goldsprints stationary bike competitions. I've got to say, getting on a piece of exercise equipment is one of the last things I'd want to do after drinking beer.