Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fest Report: Parkville Microbrew Fest

Radius Brewing Co's Boysenberry Gose--my
favorite of the fest
I have corrected a major deficiency in my life--I've finally attended the Parkville Microbrew Fest! Yes--it's true--I must admit...I had never been. But now I've set my life straight. I have always heard that Parkville was one of, or the best festival in KC. However, as a Parkville virgin, I feel like I can make some unbiased observations.

The Good

There are a couple of things this festival excels at: organization and festival grounds setup. Because the festival is in the English Landing Park, they have plenty of room to spread out, making it easier to manage lines at the entry and brewery tables. They make the most of their space by arranging the brewery tables in a giant U shape in a grassy lawn bigger than a football field. There's enough space that even with 2000+ people at the fest, there's room to set up lawn chairs out in the middle of the tasting area.

The bathrooms and music stage are set up centrally to the fest, so you could hear the music all throughout and it would only take you a minute or two from any location to get to the bathroom. And with about 100 Johnny's, there were virtually no lines for bathrooms.

The professionals.
You can also easily come and go from the festival area to other parts of the park. They had vendors and food tents set up outside the tasting grounds and they also have a playground, a disc golf course, and lots of other park amenities that you could use if you (or your kid or your dog) needed a break from beer for a few minutes. And of course, the tasting area is just steps away from the MO River--It's really just a beautiful setting for a beer fest.

The Bad

There really isn't much to knock this festival for. The only two things that I could probably nitpick are the location of the fest and the parking. Location because it's a pretty long drive for me to get to this fest and probably most of you readers out there too. But you get the good with the bad--it's an amazing setting for a festival, but a long drive. Meh. 

Parking was pretty unorganized, but I think in the end I might have walked 5 minutes from my parking space to the fest entrance. It would have helped to have a few more parking attendants there to tell you where to drive to find the overflow parking. 

Blind Tiger Brewery doing it right!

The Beer

Of all the things this festival is, a beer nerd's pantheon it is not. They bring in a ton of breweries every year, but for the most part these breweries bring their more standard, year-round brews. Your whale hunting expedition is probably better served at Boulevardia or Strong Ale Fest. But with 350+ beers on the festival grounds, that's not to say there wasn't some excellent beer hiding around. (Or not hiding--the line for Perennial was about 100 people deep when I walked by. As much as I would have liked some, I had to pass.)

I did find some hidden gems though. I finally was able to try out Zip Lines brews and their IPA is fantastic. I was also surprised to find that I really liked Empyrean's Peanut Butter Porter--I've never thought peanut butter and beer should ever be put together, but this beer was pretty excellent. 

My best of show goes to Radius' Boysenberry Gose--perfect amount of acidity, great berry flavor, and fantastic color. Overall it was just the perfect beer to be drinking out on the festival grounds. 

The Bottom Line

This is my new favorite beer fest in KC, especially for the dirt cheap price tag of $30. Next year, I'm planning on showing up at 11am, spreading out the sun shade, lawn chairs, picnic blanket, and the rest of the setup and making a proper day out of it.

Check out our photo album on the Facebook page:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Stockyards Brewing Co Opens Today!

Stockyards Brewing Co opens in the West Bottoms today.
Seems like it's been a while since a new brewery opened in KC. Ok, so Crane only actually opened about 4 months ago, but at the pace we've been having new breweries open in the area, 4 months seems like a long time to me! Well, you have to wait no longer--Stockyards Brewing Co is opening down in the West Bottoms today!

If you're not familiar with the brewery, they're going to occupy about half of the former Golden Ox space right next to the Livestock Exchange building. This little area right up the street from Kemper Arena has really taking off in the last couple of years. There are a number of restaurants and bars including Voltaire, Rockstar Burgers, Genessee Royale Bistro, and the Amigoni Urban Winery among others. It's a cool backwaters of KC, and I highly recommend a visit. And now with a new brewery, you have no excuse not to go down!

The brewery is starting off with their Hefeweizen, Golden Alt, and Saison. They'll soon follow this up with a black IPA. They're also going to have a full service bar and a selection of cold cuts (a la Bier Kitchen), but they won't have all of this up and running right away. If you want to learn more details about the brewery & the folks behind it, friend of the blog Pete Dulin did a great writeup on them and an interview with the founders for Feast Magazine.

As much as it's becoming an everyday occurrence in KC for another brewery to open, you can't downplay the difficulty involved in making it happen or the dedication and sweat the founders have to put into a place like this to get it open. So many congratulations to the folks who made this happen, and best of luck!

Also, a plea for civility--please understand that the beer quality might not be at 100% on the first day of service. While I haven't tried their beer yet, and have no idea what it's going to be like, I see this scenario play out over and over and over again: Beer Snob X goes to a brewery on opening day. X tries the beer, is unimpressed, and promptly goes on the internet to rail the brewery on the internet and vows to never go again. I'm frankly just tired of seeing these ridiculous reviews.

Please realize that there are a lot of difficulties with brewing on a brand new system that are primarily out of the brewer's control. So please, CUT THEM SOME SLACK and if you don't think the beer is good, come back in a month or two once they've got the kinks worked out and try it again. If the beer remains poor quality, by all means rage away on the internet if it makes you feel better. Otherwise, maybe think about not saying anything at all if you don't have anything nice to say.

Friday, April 8, 2016

KC Beer Bloggers, Unite! (And Roughtail Brewing Tasting!)

A couple of us beer bloggers in town thought it good to meet up and talk about how we could combine our forces for the fight towards better beer. We all share the common goal of continually making KC a better place to brew, drink, and think about beer, so we thought, why not work together towards this goal. So, I give you, the More Perfect Beer Bloggers Union: Alex with Scouting the Taps, Jim with KC Beer Scouts, Sarah with KC Beer Guide, and (if you hadn't guessed) myself with KC Beer Blog.

We haven't actually figured out exactly how we're going to work together, which is why we're the More Perfect Beer Bloggers Union and not the Most Perfect Beer Bloggers Union, but for now we knew that we just needed to get together and drink some beer. So it was a great coincidence that Roughtail Brewing from OKC was hitting the streets here in KC right when we were first meeting and they sent us bloggers a few samples to try out. We all have our tasting notes on our respective blogs (or will soon), and Jim from KC Beer Scouts also made some fancy flavor waves showing all of our tasting profiles together. Tasting notes below!

Roughtail Pale Ale

The pale is decidedly hop balanced. The aroma is balanced with some bready and cookie like malt aromas and a traditional American hop character with citrus, floral, and earthy aromas. The flavor on the other hand is all hops. The hops bitterness is sharp and lingers. It's kind of like eating a hop cone. I'm not a huge fan of this styling, but if you love sharp, super bitter, lighter-bodied beers, this is for you.

KC Beer Guide Pale Ale Tasting Notes
KC Beer Scouts Pale Ale Tasting Notes

Roughtail IPA

Now this is what I'm talking about! This beer is nearly identical in character to the Pale Ale, but with much more malt flavor, residual sugars, and body to back up the bitterness. Traditional American hop character and bready, cookie, & munich malt character. Lots of bitterness, but a good round body and enough sweetness to balance it out. This is my kind of beer. 

Roughtail Hoptometrist Double IPA

Again, this is very similar to the Pale & IPA, but even bigger. The hop & malt character remain the same but the addition of the extra strength, some light fruity cherry & plum aromas come out to add some complexity. It's very very hoppy but with a good malt sweetness and full body to take the edge off. A solid DIPA that doesn't go too far on the bitterness and stays just sweet enough to balance the hops without becoming cloying. 

More than any beers I've ever had before, these three beers were nearly identical only each stronger than the last. Each beer had similar hop and malt profiles in the flavor and aroma, but with the addition of more malt & residual sugars and more alcohol, each beer had a slightly different balance. The beers were all crisp and cleanly fermented and great examples of the respective styles. If nothing else, these beers can serve as a great teaching tool for people trying to figure out the difference between a Pale Ale, IPA, and DIPA. I'll be excited to try their other offerings and hope they come visit us in KC at the festivals and to hold events around town.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Snake Bite Beer Opener--A Throwback to Simpler Times

The Original Snakebite in brown.
The enterprising folks at Snake Bite recently sent me over one of their new openers to test out. They're one of the few successful crowdfunded companies that has actually started production and is actually selling stuff. They're headquartered in St. Louis, and their products are all made in the USA from American-sourced materials. They were just a bunch of craft-beer loving dudes in StL that came up with a pretty good idea and made it happen.

That idea was the Original Snake Bite opener. Essentially, it's an update on the original chruchkey patented in 1933. I say update, and not necessarily improvement, because they're not really for the same purpose. The original churchkey was for ripping a large hole in a can (without a pop-top) and drinking out of that hole. The Snake Bite is to assist the pouring of the can out of the pop-top hole, not to make a hole you drink out of.

You use the Snake Bite to punch a hole on the other side of the pop-top hole to vent the can and allow for a much quicker and smoother pour. If you did this to a modern aluminum can with an old-school churchkey, you'd practically rip the top of the can apart. I tried it out and it really works well as advertised. You can dump a full can of beer in a glass in about 2 seconds and get a perfect head on it. The Snake Bite also opens bottles (shocking!), with ease.

The opener feels extremely solid and well built--actually probably overbuilt. I'm going to lose this thing long before it wears out. The metal is thick and solid with well cut, sharp edges on the business end. The cover is also thick and feels like quality leather. It's like a vision of the past when your grandpa carried a leather briefcase to work and ripped open beers in steel cans afterwards while he watched your parents run around the perfectly groomed lawn. It really is a thing of beauty.

My only real complaint about it is the size. I have limited real estate in my pockets, and this opener is pretty large. It's about twice the size of a regular key chain bottle opener or key. For some of you this may not matter, but you skinny-jeans-wearing people out there--this probably isn't the opener for your pocket.

Bet this guy wished he had craft beer in a
can and a Snakebite opener to vent it.
Now the real question: is it worth it? The Original Snake Bite costs $22. I've never paid more than $10 for a bottle opener, and that was an awesome antique cast iron fish bottle opener that weights about 3 lbs. Most of the bottle openers in my collection were free or about $1 at a flea market or garage sale.

Also, for just $30 you can get a Swiss Army Knife that will get you to the beer just as well as the Snake Bite, do a bunch of other stuff, and will also last a lifetime. You also have to think--do I really  need to pour my beer out of my can in under 2 seconds? I could just take 10 seconds to get the perfect pour and save my $22.

So, I'd say if you're buying for functionality, forget it. But if you want a connection to a (maybe anachronistic) 1950s American Dream past with a solid, American-made opener that will outlast you, then the Snake Bite is for you. You can also get Snake Bite openers fully customized with monograms or company logos. Although they are pricey, a customized Snake Bite opener would be a pretty sweet gift.

Friday, March 18, 2016

KC Biermeisters Competition Roundup & Pictures

KC Bier Meisters put on another great competition this year. It turned out being the largest competition they've ever put on with 543 entries from 20 states. All of the results of the competition are posted on the competition website. The top honors went to Brad Ebinger in beer for his English Brown Ale, Scot Shaar in mead for his Habenaro/Hatch Pepper Mead, and Elliott Lillard & Belinda Kocen in cider for their English Cider. I think it's an amazing testament to the integrity of the Beer Judge Certification Program that out of 500+ beers, with plenty of sours, stouts, super IPAs, and barrel aged everything, that a mild mannered English Brown Ale can take the top spot at the competition. Bravo, judges.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Parkville, HopFest, Boulevardia, Oh My!

The festival season is almost upon us! This was going to be a post about how the three best beer festivals in town are on sale right now, but then Boulevardia sold out in like 45 minutes again. So, this post is about the three best beer festivals in town, two of which have tickets on sale. Well, you can technically still get Boulevardia Taps & Tastes tickets, but we'll get to that later. So, I give you, the festivals:

Parkville MicroBrew Fest - The Naturalist's Festival

As I'll write a lot in this post, this is a great festival, and one that is not to be missed this year. This is especially true if you live north of the river, since this is the closest you're going to get to a northland festival in the spring.

I say it's the naturalist's festival because it's set in just the most idyllic setting you can imagine on the banks of the MO. The English Landing is a great place to hang out on any average spring day and watch the river roll by, but even better when you're sipping some top flight beers. In addition to this, the festival is super laid back, with plenty of room to roam, short lines, and rock solid organization (they're in their 13th year!), which makes you and (very importantly) the people pouring the beer happy so everyone has a great time! The festival is also an absolute steal at $35/ticket.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Stouts & Oysters & Barleywine

Seems like it's that time of the year to drink a bunch of big ass beers and eat oysters. While I can whole-heartedly support drinking the big ass beers, I can't personally recommend oysters. The only times I've had them, it was kind of like eating gelatinous gym socks. So based on my experience, I can't really see why you'd go out of your way to eat them, but it sure seems like a whole lot of people think they're the greatest food on Earth. So, being the equal opportunity man that I am, I'm going to throw the oyster fests out to you along with the other great events coming up in KC soon!

(And, as usual, I'll mention that there's a whole bunch of other beer events besides these going on in KC that you can find over on our calendar page!)