This past weekend, Gneiss Brewing Company was lucky enough to be invited to pour at BeerAdvocate’s Extreme Beer Festival in Boston. EBF is one of the most well-known festivals this side of the Mississippi, and with good reason. It is a festival where some of the best breweries in the country come together to celebrate beer that pushes boundaries and redefines what a beer can be.
With that in mind, we chose to pour three of our sour “Beryl Program” beers (Hadean, Himbeere and FunkObsius) and one of our stronger, high-wheat seasonal beers (Impact Crater). Our lineup was right at home among the many sours, wild ales, imperial stouts and other big, bold and out-there brews that make up the list at EBF.
Attendees at each of the three three-and-a-half-hour sessions of EBF were treated to over 250 beers from over 70 different breweries from all around the country. Breweries in attendance ranged from smaller operations like Barreled Souls and Relic Brewing to larger, regional favorites like Avery and Dogfish Head, and everyone brought their “A” game.
While I spent the majority of my time manning the Gneiss booth and handing out samples to the many thousand happy attendees over the three sessions, I was able to venture out at times and grab a sample or two. A couple of my favorite sips of the weekend were Taste The Rainbow by Liquid Riot Brewing in Portland, which was a sour ale that literally tasted like Skittles (in a good way). Also on my standout list was Country Funk from 2 Roads in Connecticut, who cultured wild yeast found at the brewery and created this golden wild ale that was both refreshing and complex at the same time. Finally, I have to include the Bourbon Barrel Aged Worldwide Stout from Dogfish Head, which clocked in at an impressive 18% ABV and tasted like a boozy vanilla bean in the best way possible.
Beyond the big flavors and the high alcohol levels, the thing that stood out to me most at this festival was the camaraderie among brewers. There is something about a festival where the goal isn't necessarily to bring out the crowd-pleasers, but instead to think outside the box and bring something new and unique that pushes the boundaries of what beer can be.
BeerAdvocate has done an excellent job over the 14 years they have been running this festival of curating an environment where brewers are encouraged to explore the fringes of the trade, and attendees expect to taste things they have never had before. Where some brewfests can be about scouting the list and racing around to try all of the “whales” (read: rare and hard to find beers), EBF is purposefully overwhelmed by said whales; so much so that drinkers usually just default to drinking what sounds most interesting to them … and that’s the way it ought to be.
To anyone who may be disillusioned with, or just generally tired of, the normal brew festival experience, I highly recommend taking the plunge and heading to Boston for one of BeerAdvocate’s festivals - aside from EBF, they also host the Microbrew Invitational in May and in addition to that, they have recently announced a Wood-Aged Beer festival to be held this fall in Portland (More on that later).
Brothers Jason and Todd Alström have long used the tagline “Respect Beer” for BeerAdvocate; EBF truly drives that sentiment home. I know I have a renewed sense of respect for not only the beer but for the brewers as well as the larger community that supports craft beer around the country. EBF was a celebration of that very community, and we are very pleased to have been invited.