The sixth annual Strong Ale Festival was held on December 6th & 7th this year at Pizza Port, in Carlsbad, California. The event boasted 60+ beers that were each over 8 % abv.; and some with very limited availability. It was organized by Tomme Arthur, Jeff Bagby and Tom Nickel; who also host a 12-hour Belgian fest in the spring, and a "Real" ale fest, held in early June each year.
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Tomme Arthur, co-organizer and Pizza Port Solana Beach head brewer
I arrived early Friday afternoon, to attend a meeting of brewers, that was held by the Institute for Brewing Studies. We had a discussion about yeast, with Chris White from White Labs; and shared ideas and information about how yeasts work in the high alcohol environment of strong ales. When it was over, we filtered over to the beer garden, for the fest.
<P>A $15 dollar admission entitled you to a festival tasting glass, beer list and tickets for 4-four ounce samples of a multitude of massive brews! Additional tasting tickets were available for $1 dollar each. There were Strong Ales and Imperial Stouts; Belgians and Barleywines! Double IPAs and some that even defied any style!! Local breweries were all well represented here as well as others coming from across the U.S. and around the world! (Samichlaus and Maudite on TAP; Oh my!) The only festival guideline was that they be 8% abv and above! That being said…I made my way, with beer list and virgin glass in hand, up to the outdoor "beer-bar" and selected a Stone Brewing Co. 5th Anniversary IPA for my first sample. This was purely a personal choice, because it is my favorite brew that I have been involved with, since I began working for Stone. A double-IPA at 8.5% abv, and 100+IBU’s. It was still the stuff that dreams are made of after more than a year! Next I started in on the usual "suspects" from other area notables, such as an iced version of Pizza Ports FRANK. A huge double-IPA, with a 14% abv! I do love my hops and this has a beautiful aroma and the IBUs, as well as the malt balance to back it up. I had a couple from Oggi’s in Del Mar…the Big Guy Double-IPA & Colossus. An an oak-aged version of the Speedway Stout from Alesmith that was really very nice. It was popular amongst the crowd and some felt that it would be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it!
Stone Brewing head brewer, Lee Chase
As darkness approached, more and more folks showed up, and the festival atmosphere really kicked in. Food was available both outside and inside from the wonderful Pizza Port kitchen. Owner-Vince Marsaglia even whipped out the special "fest pizza"; with bratwurst, a little sauerkraut, sautéed onions and sweet peppers on a rye (beer-made) crust, and drizzled with a coarse ground mustard sauce!! It was so phenomenal, that I took an extra one home for breakfast on Sunday!
Todd, DaSilky1(l) and Marc, Marc, contemplate and note
I was able to visit with some old friends and meet many new ones throughout the evening and the next day. I met other Ratebeerians there for the first time; including User_Ex, DaSilky1 and Marc. I also got to hang out with Jcalabre there on Saturday. It’s always a special feeling when people from all walks of life come together to share a common interest, such as beer. Dr. Bill, a festival regular and brew connoisseur extraordinaire, was there and shared samples of non-fest beers he brought (including a magnum of Fred from HOD brewery!); after making his way through all of the ones on the festival list! As the event came to a close Friday evening, I found my way to a friend’s room at a local motel. No need to get a DUI here; get a room! It’s MUCH cheaper, and you are already there for…
I awoke refreshed, with no sign of a "morning-after" headache. Amazing, considering the quantity of quality beers that I quaffed! I headed back to "the Port", where Vince and the staff had breakfast waiting for us; and after putting some good grub in my belly, I ventured into the beer garden for round two.
<P>I began this time with a "Saturday only" special they had…Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout. This was their current version at 23% abv; and it is one extreme, over the top brew. An aroma of cherries and dark fruit; it exhibits brandy-like qualities. The "legs" left on the sides of the glass post sip, could almost have walked away on their own! It was one hell of a way to start off another day of big brews. It was also very limited, and those who came later missed it completely. I worked my way through a number of beers that I didn’t get to the night before; as well as re-visiting some favorites again. I especially liked a Wheat Wine from Papago Brewing Co. in Arizona and a Belgian triple called Bishop’s Tipple Triple from Main Street in Corona, California, very much and would recommend them to everyone.
<P>The beer I enjoyed most of all at this fest was Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Co. It quickly became my "back to…" beer. When I needed to return my taste buds to Neutral (and I found the need often!), I would have a "PLINY" to right myself. I would definitely proclaim it as my "best of the fest" choice.
A free-for-all ensued late in the evening...
When I’d had everything I wanted to try, I bade my good-byes; thanking Vince for hosting and Tom Nickel for organizing another great festival. This fest should be a must attend for the true brew enthusiast. I am always left looking forward to next years! To quote DaSilky1..."It was like an orgy of beer aficionados, Ratebeerians, brewers, yeast men and scantily-clad women. People were running to the taps like the salmon of Capistrano! It was <U>insane</u>!"
I wonder if heswallowed a few!
For a detailed listing of the beers that were available go to www.pizzaport.com <http://www.pizzaport.com/> and look under festivals.
<P>Disclosure: the author is an employee of Stone Brewing Co.