The best fest rolls out the barrel-aged beers, and much more
No hype, just fact: Beervana is the Main Event, the annual Big Night Out in our little corner of the craft beer world. There are 36 tables featuring more than 70 breweries pouring more than 150 beers, including an astounding array of rarities and only-at-Beervana offerings, repped by brewers, distributors, and other experts who are passionate about their work and their wares.
The Beervana brain trust — Nikki’s Liquors co-owner Mike Iannazzi, Julian’s co-owner Brian Oakley, and former RI Distributing beer guru Dan Keating — are flexing a bit to celebrate their fifth year, and borrowing a page from the wedding anniversary tradition of giving wood gifts for the fifth anniversary. Their liquid gifts to you include 75-plus barrel-aged beers, including Founders’ KBS and Backwoods Bastard; Goose Island’s Bramble Rye and Vanilla Bourbon County Stouts and 2010 Madame Rose; Revival’s 2013 Anniversary Double Black IPA; Allagash’s James Bean (a Belgian strong ale infused with coffee); Cantillon St. Lamvinus (“wine meets lambic”); Sam Adams’ Utopias; Brouwerij de Molen’s Hel & Verdoemenis (“Hell & Damnation”) aged in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. . . . Overwhelmed yet? Well, there are only 140 more choices to be made (it’s time to look into cloning). Check out the entire list (with detailed descriptions) HERE. Make a note of at least 10 must-tries — it’s good to have a game plan.
Beervana prides itself on “craft beer enlightenment,” and you can learn from virtually everyone under the roof at Rhodes-On-the-Pawtuxet. But you can get schooled at the seminars. This year’s esteemed speakers are Rob Tod, the founder and brewer of Allagash Brewing Company (who also spoke at the first Beervana), and Dan Shelton, one of three Shelton Brothers whose MA-based company imports some of the most revered brews in the world. We asked Dan a few questions, and got a whole lot of craft beer enlightenment in return (which has been edited and condensed).
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN THE CRAFT BEER WORLD SINCE 2008? In the last five years the world has become a much safer place for craft beer — however that term is defined. I personally don’t like to use that term, because it now seems to cover too much. And that’s the downside to the recent growth in interest in beer that actually tastes like beer. Everyone, from Anheuser-Busch on up, makes a beer with more flavor that they call “hand-crafted.” (I prefer the simpler and more subjective phrase, “good beer,” but I suppose that one would just be co-opted too.) In many ways this is a good thing, but there are dangers, too. A wide gap is opening up between mass-produced “craft beer” and the more characterful and inventive craft beer made by smaller, passionate brewers. I hope that drinkers will understand the difference, and seek out the really good stuff that’s out there now, and not settle for just a higher level of mediocrity in their choice of brew. But overall the future seems pretty bright, because more and more people seem to want to know where the beer they’re drinking came from, and why it tastes that way.