Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Festival: Portland, ME

Last year Shelton Brothers Importers and 12% Imports made history by establishing possibly the most incredible international craft beer gathering ever conceived, bringing together over 70 different brewers and cider makers from the ends of the earth under one roof. Rather than travel the world over, the public was given an opportunity to sample a literal world of beer, brought right to their doorstep. It was THE Festival. The second year of The Festival had some welcome similarities and some stark differences from the inaugural edition.
Excuse me, but do you know where the beer is?
This year it was held in an active, friendly, vibrant coastal city -- Portland, Maine -- gorgeous to walk through during the day, and loaded with things to do at night, as opposed to land-locked Worcester, Mass. which has two great bars and... a pile of rocks (and I think that the pile of rocks is now gone, so... two great bars?). Both cities, coincidentally enough, have American Hockey League arenas downtown! If it's held in Albany or Philly or Hartford next year, then we'll know something is up.
Portland Yacht Services... now serving beer.
In Worcester, we were treated to a wonderfully elegant venue in Mechanics Hall, which had beauty, style, comfort and grandiosity. In Portland, it was an industrial space -- a cavernous, wide open ship repair workhouse, with rust, smudged windows, flaking paint, and an uneven, (somewhat) dirty cement floor. Which is not to say one was better than the other. In fact, most of the brewers who we spoke to loved both venues for very different reasons. No problem spilling beer on the floor in Portland! In fact, while even tiny spills of water unnerved the custodians of Mechanics Hall, ice delivery at the Portland Yacht Services building meant driving a truck straight into the middle of the place and dumping a ton of ice onto the floor!
Cool truck!
Last year, it was two Saturday sessions and a Sunday session, and this year it was a Friday night session and two Saturday sessions, which we think was a better format.

Long, long line to get in.
In Worcester, hotels were inexpensive, and located a few blocks from the venue. In Portland, hotels downtown were expensive, so most of the brewers and staff stayed at economical accommodations by the airport, which was a 15 minute, $20 cab ride away, although the Festival provided free shuttle buses each day.

(Beer) school is IN!
It seems that there were more tickets sold/more people at the Portland Festival, which only makes sense, since more people learned about the event from the previous year. I'd risk a guess that there was a bigger built-in beer scene in Portland, too, a city with a number of breweries, brewpubs, and beer bars. There also seemed to be much more press and publicity this year, with even a local t.v. news crew covering the event.
School bus full of brewers.
There were some technical differences in 2013, such as the use of drink tickets (48 one-once pours per attendee) this year, as opposed to unlimited pours. This was due to the more restrictive regulations regarding alcohol in Maine, which caused other (unseen) complications for the Festival organizers. However, in the end, the technical changes didn't seem to affect the enjoyment by attendees or the brewers, and I didn't hear of anyone who felt that they were unable to try all the beers that they wanted to sample.

Quite simply, acres of some of the world's most creative, skilled and inspired brewers, manning tables that dispensed the sweetest nectar of the gods! The ability to not only sample fresh, sometimes rare, and often exclusive brews, but then to also be able to talk to the creators about them is what makes The Festival truly unique among beer fests.
The X-mas Keebler (aka Jim Barnes) made an appearance.

Like last year, there was plenty of quality, and affordable, food on hand, at the very back of the venue. There was the Bite Into Maine lobster roll truck, which served the best lobster that we had on this trip ($15 with tax for a roll bursting with fresh, sweet lobstah), served Maine-style (mayo and chives), picnic version (with coleslaw, butter, celery salt), chipotle style, curry version, etc.  There was a mobile brick oven/wood fire gourmet pizza vendor, which served the best pizza I've had outside of NYC. If you spy Pizza Pie on the Fly, you'll be remiss not to give it try! There was a decent Mexican food vendor, Hella Good Tacos, with fish tacos, burritos, etc. The Small Ax food truck seemed to be mostly about meat sandwiches -- it all looked good, but we stuck to the seafood.
I could probably cut and paste the blog post from last year's Festival, and, save for some minor details, it would remain accurate. Basically, you've got a warehouse full of serious beer aficionados of varying experience -- novice to expert -- true beer lovers all, flitting to and fro, searching for the cool, rare, exclusive, exciting, unknown bottle or keg, telling friends, "you have to try this!" and "don't do anything -- ANYTHING --  before going to this table to try that beer!" And on the other side of the tables are veritable brewing legends. Each session is a four-hour magic kingdom excursion of beer wonderment, all thanks to Dan Shelton, aka Malt Disney!

Malt Disney, center.
Listed below are the breweries that were in attendance this year. Be watching for a number of podcasts to be posted from all the interviews we were able to record with the numerous attending brewers, including Kout, Yeastie Boys, Prairie, De La Senne and Freigeist.
Pink Panzer.

Shelton Brothers breweries 2013 (new attendees in bold)
8 Wired (New Zealand) ▪ Agullons (Catalonia, Spain) ▪ Amager Bryghus (Denmark) ▪ Anchorage (USA) ▪ Au Baron (France) ▪ Bad Attitude (Switzerland) ▪ Baird (Japan) ▪ Barfly/Laborotorio (Italy) ▪ Blaugies (Belgium) ▪ Brewfist (Italy) ▪ Brodie’s (England) ▪ Buxton (England) ▪ Cambridge (USA) ▪ Cantillon (Belgium) ▪ CCM (Catalonia, Spain) ▪ Celestial Meads (USA) ▪ Cidrerie Traditionnelle du Perche (France) ▪ Crooked Stave (USA) ▪ De La Senne (Belgium) ▪ De Molen (Holland) ▪ De Ranke (Belgium) ▪ Dieu du Ciel! (Quebec, Canada) ▪ Drie Fonteinen (Belgium) ▪ Freigeist (Germany) ▪ Guineu (Catalonia, Spain) ▪ Haand (Norway) ▪ Het Nest (Belgium) ▪ High & Mighty (USA) ▪ Hill Farmstead (USA) ▪ Hogan’s (England) ▪ Jester King (USA) ▪ Jolly Pumpkin (USA) ▪ Kerkom (Belgium) ▪ Kissmeyer (Denmark) ▪ Kout (Czech Republic) ▪ Lagar de Ribela (Spain) ▪ Le Trou du Diable (Quebec, Canada) ▪ Mahr’s (Germany) ▪ Marina (Catalonia, Spain) ▪ Midtfyns (Denmark) ▪ Mikkeller (Denmark) ▪ Mjodhamnen (Sweden) ▪ Naparbier (Spain) ▪ Nøgne Ø (Norway) ▪ Page 24 (France) ▪ Pays du Flamand (France) ▪ Prairie Artisan Ales (USA) ▪ Pretty Things (USA) ▪ Rappi Bier Factory (Switzerland) ▪ Renaissance (New Zealand) ▪ Ridgeway (England) ▪ Saint Somewhere (USA) ▪ Struise (Belgium) ▪ ‘t Hofbrouwerijke (Belgium) ▪ The Drunk Monk (Belgium) ▪ The Monarchy (Germany) ▪ Thiriez (France) ▪To Øl (Denmark) ▪ Toccalmatto (Italy) ▪ Trois Dames (Switzerland) ▪ Yeastie Boys (New Zealand)

12% Imports breweries 2013
Beachwood BBQ & Brewing (USA)
Evil Twin Brewing (Denmark/USA) Stillwater Artisanal (USA) Omnipollo (Sweden) Gueuzerie Tilquin (Belgium) Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal (Belgium) Hopfenstark (Canada) Brasserie Cazeau (Belgium) Local Option (USA) Brouwerij Emelisse (Netherlands) Nomada Brewing Company (Spain) Westbrook Brewing (USA)  

Local breweries 2013
Bull Jagger (TBC) Maine Beer Co.
Maine Mead Works Marshall Wharf Oxbow Rising Tide

2012 breweries
8 Wired • AeppelTreow
Against the GrainAgullonsAnchorage BrewingBad AttitudeBairdBeer HereBlaugiesBrodieBuxtonCambridge BrewingCantillonCCMCelestial MeadsChristoffelCidrerie Traditionnelle du PercheCrooked StaveDe GraalDe la SenneDevil's BrewDe MolenDe RankeDock StreetDieu du Ciel!Freigeist • Hogan'sHaandHigh & MightyHill FarmsteadHofbrouwerijkeHuvila/MalmgardJandrainJester KingJolly PumpkinKerkomKissmeyerLes Trois MousquetairesLe Trou du DiableMahr'sMiddlemissMidtfyn'sMikkellerNest/ScheldeNøgne ØOliver'sPage 24/St. GermainPretty ThingsRidgewaySaint SomewhereSixpoint SlaapmutskeStruiseThiriezTø ØlTrois DamesWeissenoheWest CountyYeastie Boys/RenaissanceLocal OptionCabinet Artisanal BrewhouseBrouwerij De Dochter Van De KorenaarEvil Twin BrewingBrouwerij ‘t GaverhopkeHopfenstarkOmnipolloHof ten DormaalStillwater Artisanal AlesGueuzerie TilquinBierbrouwerij EmelisseHuisbrouwerij Sint CanarusBrasserie de Cazeau'Proef' Brewery

At Infinity brewpub.
L-R: Jean Cantillon, Jason Perkins, Rob Tod, Tom Peters, Yvan De Baets, Stephane Mahrs.
Infinity brewpub.
The harbor.
Oysters and beer at Eventide.
Lunch at Eventide, after Friday afternoon set up.
Probably hauled b'tatahs back in the day. Ayyuh.

Ice is nice.
Sour at Infinity.
Transwesteit, De Struise collaboration, at Infinity.
Infinity brewpub, the Thursday before The Festival began.
Lunch at Portsmouth Brewery, on the way up.
Chase from Prairie on the left.
A true Prairie home companion!
This looks shadey... what are you up to, Andrew?
Room #2.
Far right, Urbain from De Struise.
Ron of Jester King on the right.
The men from Mahr's with Miss Maine -- Mahr's needs women...?
In room #2.
100 barrels of beer on the wall, 100 barrels of beer... at Allagash.
Choose your Allagash Coolship poison.
Duck pond next to Allagash.
Beneath Allagash's massive fermentors.
Post Festival at Novare Res.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mikkeller At MBAS Meeting

Jacob Gram Alsing, the Operations Manager of Mikkeller, was the guest of the Malted Barley Appreciation Society homebrew club in June 2013 at Mug's Alehouse. Jacob, who works at the company headquarters in Copenhagen, was passing through town and gave us the short history of the company, as well as insight into some new developments.

How did it all start? Mikkel Borg Bjergsø was a high school physics teacher in Denmark who, in the early 2000s, began homebrewing 13 and 26 gallon batches with his pal Kristian Keller (Mikkel + Keller = Mikkeller). He figured that with his science background he should be able to make better beer than what was then domestically available in Denmark. In 2005 he began selling his homebrewed beer though his brother Jeppe's bottle shop and entering his creations in competitions. 
Hangin' with the homie...brewers. Photo Warren Becker.
Apparently, he was able to brew better beer, as the awards and accolades began to roll in! Since founding the company in 2006, Mikkeller has won the Danish Brewery of the Year award three times -- in 2006 and 2008, and in 2009 sharing the honor with Hornbeer.
The Mikkeller empire has expanded to include the Mikkeller Bar, Mikkeller And Friends bar and the Bottle Shop, all in Copenhagen. They're also in the process of launching a Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco, due to open on July 4, 2013, and one in London, England. Additionally, they've begun to make and sell spirits, including a "beer brandy" made from distilling the 17% Mikkeller Imperial Stout called Black. If that's not enough enterprise for you, Mikkel and company also organize the best international beer fest in Denmark on the first weekend of May -- an annual fest that began in 2012.
Beer brandy.


Most folks familiar with Mikkeller know that the operation is a "gypsy brewery", meaning, they don't own a brick & mortar facility. They brew their beers at various breweries around the world, though brew most often with a few trusted facilities, such as De Proef in Belgium. Mikkel specifies the ingredients, brewing process, target volume, etc., makes his own artwork, and pays the contract brewery wholesale price for the end product. That then gets shipped off to distributors and importers around the world. Jacob said that the U.S.A. was the biggest market for Mikkeller, but recently Sweden has been taking over.
Photo W.B.
In 2012 the brewery made 8500 hectoliters (9,700 bls) of beer, with 91 different new beers, currently selling in 42 countries.

For those lucky to be in attendance, Jacob poured draught samples of Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter and 1000 IBU. He also shared two different bottles from the "educational wood series" Mikkeller released, Forêt Limousine barley wine, aging a single batch of beer in various different types of barrels, to illustrate how different barrels can impart drastically different characters to a single brew. This is similar to the other series that Mikkeller has released, such as the hops series and yeast series. Learn more by listening to Jacob's complete address on the podcast.

Forêt Limousine barley wine aged in wood.

Pour, pour Bob.  Photo W.B.
1,000 IBU.
Jacob, Bill Coleman and Bridget of Nobel Experiment. Photo W.B.

  [link to podcast page]