Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ohio Adventures: Akron Blues and Brews Festival

Spouse and I enjoy micro-brewed beer and we are so lucky to live in a city and state that really celebrates the culture around micro-brewing. Just in Columbus, we have:
When you widen your view to include the whole state, there are some really good, solid breweries around here. Go even farther, regionally, to Mid West breweries and WOW. Really amazing diversity of brews to fit any taste palate. 

We are also very lucky in that our state celebrates many occasions on which to drink these tasty adult beverages, in the form of beer fests. Nothing on the scale of the Great American Beer Festival, which we were lucky enough to attend in 2007, but decent fests commensurate with the size of our cities. 

In late July, we traveled up to Akron, Ohio for the Akron Brews and Blues Festival, which was held at Lock 3. We were hosted by our friends, Adam & Tracy, and also had the privilege of meeting some of their friends there too. 

The day dawned grey and rainy, and basically was the holding pattern for quite a few hours. Honestly, we didn't mind; no sun meant not having to be really worried about reapplying sunscreen + rain meant the temps were fairly comfortable, even if it meant slightly higher humidity + and it also kept crowds smallish. 

The gates opened at noon for those that paid a little extra to be in The Brewer's Circle, which amounted to two hours of tasting ahead of the public, plus a complimentary lunch. It was a really great deal and I think, worth the extra money as a few brewers ran out of beers during the public hours of 2:00-6:00 p.m., and there were noticeably more bodies during the public hours as well. 

I tried 31 beers, out of a possible 200+ choices, so it seems/seemed like a lot but man, there were a lot of beers I didn't taste. I passed by beers I've had or are more readily available to me. The majority, on my part, were not full 3 oz. pours, but 1-2 oz. I did go back to taste one offfering twice but other than that, just did one taste of each beer. The diversity was really stunning. 

My favorites,  choosing only the top 3 tiers, based on my ratings from Untappd.

Ranked at 4 stars

Ranked at 4.5 stars
Ranked at 5 stars
You can probably tell I like fruit beers and my personal favorite are hard ciders. I really enjoyed the products by Griffin Cider Works and their Strong Woman (cherry cider) was the only beverage I had two full pours. Side note: the profits for this cider go toward breast cancer research, so me having two full pours was really *philanthropic*. 

I also really enjoyed the Petrus Aged Red as it was fizzier than a regular cider beverage. Very light and crisp and very refreshing. Also cherry flavored....I'm sensing a theme....

The beers I tagged at 5-stars are really flavorful, especially the Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter. Our hosts for the fest had tried it before and knew we'd both love it - they were spot-on with that. I love porters and the addition of the peanut butter was a perfect compliment. 

One downside to the weather was there was basically no Blues to accompany our Brews. The underwriters felt it was too rainy & damp to put musicians in harm's way - electricity and water not mixing. There was a live band that played for maybe 30 minutes but it was.definitely.NOT.blues. Something more like 70s style light jazz. The rest of the time, it was music piped in and was fine. Frankly, it allowed us more time to chat and talk beer, which was really lovely. Our friends are very smart and educated when it comes to micro-brews (amongst other subjects), so was nice to be able to talk. 

After the fest, we walked across Main Street to Baxter's. Food and service were good, beer was nice and we timed things really well; just beating the crush. I had a Traveler Curious Shandy which was very refreshing and came with a stick-on mustache and commemorative pint glass. 

The best part though was hanging out with our friends. I've known Adam since college, and in a cool twist, he & Spouse are a lot alike and I adore his wife. We just get along and have similar warped senses of humor, so hanging out with them is just enjoyable even if are chilling around their kitchen island. And Spouse & I love their Kiddo so we were really happy to get to see him for a little bit before we left their home to come to the fest. 

The next day, we left their home and drove to my other college friend, John's, new place, where we were treated to a delicious brunch, made by his ladies: wife, Jenn and daughter, Miss K. Again, freaking lucky that the boys get along, I love his ladies and it's just fun to hang out and talk. Miss K isn't much of a miss anymore, closer to Ms, but as her honorary aunt, she'll just always be Miss K, even when *she's* 42. 

It's a really neat thing when you have friends you've known longer than you haven't known them (a joy of getting older - I'll give you a moment to do the math), and your Spouse just fits right in the mix. 

I started the post as an homage to beer, specifically micro-brews, but once again, the take away is good adult beverages taste a lot better when you have excellent company to share the experience. This weekend was a definite, tangible reminder of that, and one that I know will be repeated, hopefully very soon!

But if you don't live in Ohio, and you love beer, you should come for a visit. There are a number of beer fests all year long. Realizing 2013 is half over, this link isn't the most up-to-date, but still many coming up. 

Do you have a favorite festival where you live? 
Are there friends that always accompany you? I'd love to hear!

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