The 5th annual Main Line Brew Fest was held on March 5th, 2005, at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, PA.
The event featured the following microbrewers and exhibitors:
Appalachian Brewing Company, Barley Creek Brewing Company, Bethlehem Brew Works, Clipper City Brewing, Dogfish Head, Flying Fish BC, Golden Avalanche BC, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Lancaster Brewing Company, Legacy BC, Rock Bottom KOP BC, Sly Fox, Stoudt’s, Troeg’s, Weyerbacher, Woodchuck Hard Ciders, Valley Forge BC, Victory, and Yard’s.
In addition, Cabot Vermont Cheese put out a great spread, and the Desmond had a nice selection of hot appetizers and bar foods, being served by their tuxedoed staff. The Desmond is a beautiful hotel, and this event always leaves people saying, "I really have to stay overnight here one of these days!"
The event lasted from 12-4 PM, with last call being 3:45 PM. The price rose to $40 this year from $32.50 last year, and the good doctor suspects that this was the reason that attendance was down a little.
Highlights for me were the Lancaster Hop Hog IPA (due any time in cases around PA), the Bethlehem Weizenbock, and the Lancaster Old Sourpuss. I also had a lot of good IPAs, among them Legacy Heavy-Handed IPA, Appalachian Hoppy Trails, and Flying Fish Hopfish. I also enjoyed the 3 Clipper City brews on tap (Red Sky at Night, Small Craft Warning, and Balto Marzhon). Blair, a former Weeping Radish brewer, is now at Clipper City while they re-organize, and he took good care of me during this fest.
Other info is as follows:
1) The Stoudt’s spokesman told me that ALL the Stoudt’s big beers (except Tripel, which is the same recipe, and still bottle conditioned in 12 ounce bottles) are now retired. Not only that, but their big bottles are now collectors items.
2) As for the barrel aging fad, very few PA brewers are jumping on that bandwagon. Iron Hill is committed to barrel aging, but I found no other brewer other than Weyerbacher who is on that bandwagon. The Weyerbacher rep told me to look for barrel-aged Merry Monks soon. I wouldn’t be surprised to see barrel-aged Raspberry Impy from these guys, as I see them as one of the true innovators in beerdom right now. Weyerbacher is having an open house on April 2nd in Easton, PA. Check their website for details.
3) Victory will have a Saison soon, but has no plans for barrel-aging, due to a desire not to piss people off with "limited" styles that are hard to find (I respect Victory for this).
4) Bill Moore, the former brewer at Ortleib’s, is now with Legacy. Bill is one of the great brewers, and truly nice guys, in PA brewing, and I had a nice conversation with him at this fest.
5) Troeg’s won’t be barrel-aging any time soon, but they will be drastically increasing the area for their Harrisburg Brew Fest this year in September. I was there last year, and the beer ran out an hour early, the porta-potties had 15 minute lines all night, and it was a chore to get any beer. Had I not befriended some brewers from Carlisle, I might have been high and dry. Fortunately, there ws a bar right next to the fest. Troeg’s has promised not to repeat these mistakes.
6) I spoke with Sly Fox’s Brian O’Reilly, and he is excited about this year’s IPA lineup. SF should begin bottling this summer, and they are whipping out multiple new styles for 2005. The innovation continues for Sly Fox.
7) I wore my Stone Ruination IPA black T-shirt, and it got a lot of positive comments from the peanut gallery. A guy said, "Cool shirt. I’d love to have that shirt," so I directed him to the Stone website. One hot transplanted blonde, formerly from California, but now working in Philly, struck up a conversation with me, and she asked me what was good and what Stone beers I liked, etc. She liked the Stone IPA, and I showed her around to all the good IPAs at this fest. Anyway, my conversation with her (Melissa) led to other women approaching me. It is really true that women feed off seeing men who talk to other women. I left the fest smoking a cigar and talking to 3 attractive blondes. My wife, who picked me up, asked, "Who were those 3 blondes?" I told her they were fellow beer enthusiasts, which was the truth.
In conclusion, I would recommend attending beer fests to anyone. I know no other venue where you can sample so many good beers, fill up on free bar eats, and meet people without even trying (I’m introverted, yet I always end up having to cut off conversations to refill beers at fests....I end up in a circle of talkers lol!). It’s not even spring yet, so seek out and attend those beer fests, RBers! You’ll meet great people, and you’ll even get to try beers that you may never, ever see again!