Saturday's Untapped fest combined the best of my two favorite worlds, beer and music, by putting equal importance on both. Each was strong enough to stand on its own.
The beer selection is usually an afterthought at music fests, its only purpose to boost the revenue, while the music selection at beer fests generally consists of an inoffensive cover band or a DJ whose selection might as well be the jukebox at an SMU Boulevard bar on Sorority Night. Untapped, with a music lineup curated by Spune and a diverse lineup of more than 100 beers from about 50 breweries, drew a crowd of dedicated drinkers and fans only interested in the tunes. Some of the VIP cardholders who'd arrived right at the 11 a.m. open to taste the rare and exclusive brews were visibly baffled by Zhora's electronic Ray-Bans pop. And I ran into a friend who didn't even bother with a sample cup or drink ticket, having no interest in beer or day drinking. It was by far the youngest and most diverse crowd I've ever seen at a beer fest. If this festival turns even one PBR drinker into a craft-beer aficionado, it has done its job.
Nick Rallo kept a journal of his amber-hued impressions of the music. As for the beer, it was almost uniformly great, from my morning eye-opener of Dogfish Head 120 Minute, the much sought-after Holy Grail of IPAs, to the last foamy sip of Lawn Ranger, a fine cream ale from the area's newest brewery, Cedar Creek.
Beer fests generally don't make it easy to sniff and swirl a new beer and savor its every nuance. Hopping from tent to tent so as to try all the special fest-only casks and other rarities before they blow can make it difficult to appreciate the beer that's already in your hand. Nonetheless, they're the best way to discover a bunch of new beers and revisit old favorites in a short amount of time.
The addition of vanilla to Peticolas Brewing Company's Velvet Hammer turned the well balanced hoppy ale into a whole other beer, the very forward vanilla bringing out the sweetness of the malts. Deep Ellum Brewing Co. had a cask of its Sorachi Ace/Green Tea IPA, a smoothed-out version of an excellent refreshing lemony, earthy and balanced beer that I hope comes back around. Lakewood Brewing Co. Temptress was a great strong, smooth stout that drank like a malty cafe latte. Franconia had some of the last of its Sarah's Dark Side, a refreshing but roasty pilsner that will be discontinued until further notice, though the volunteer pouring it said that email demand could resurrect it.
Some of the relative heavyweights in the craft-beer world showed they still have some of the creativity that I usually associate with upstarts. Widmer Brothers Old Embalmer barleywine had a nice crisp, hoppy bite, clean yet strong and an interesting take on a style I usually think of as sweet and malty. Samuel Adams' New World Tripel is the first I know of the Boston Beer Company taking on a Belgian style, and they nailed it, far as I'm concerned.
Some of the more cooling, refreshing beers hit the spot as the day got hotter. Victory Brewing Co. Helios was a good fruity, bitter saison, though maybe a bit heavy on alcohol burn. Abita's rye hefeweissen, Select Roggen Weizen, had the banana and clove notes of a fresh hefe with a hint of spicy rye, a strong but refreshing afternoon drink. Sierra Nevada's Lost Guy Rye -- which The Common Table's Corey Pond had a hand in creating -- was a good, light, well-balanced brown ale that would make for a great session beer.
The sell-out fest was an outstanding success from my point of view, and hopefully becomes a recurring event. Hopefully it also encourages other beer fests to step their music game up and music fests to pay closer attention to the booze.