Saturday was the final official day of Cleveland Beer Week, and it was monstrous. From Son of BREWzilla home brew judging in the morning to the big BREWzilla event that night, it was a great way to cap off an exciting week in the CLE.
The purpose of Cleveland Beer Week isn’t just for everyone to hang out and drink a bunch of beer. It’s to put the focus on craft beers–those tasty, special recipe, hand made, small batch brews–not the yellow fizzy stuff. There is a place for the yellow fizzy stuff, (but it isn’t in my refrigerator) but not as part of this celebration. In it’s mere second year, I think Cleveland Beer Week has become an event that stands up to the best festivals in Northeast Ohio, and we’ve got a lot of those!
I was up early Saturday to get to Fat Head’s Brewery in North Olmsted for the home brew judging. I had never been there before, but I’ll be back! Looks like a great operation, and had a great vibe. I learned quite a bit in my first time judging homemade beer–I had a great lead judge, Jennifer Hermann, who is certified through the Beer Judge Certification Program. This is a rigorous course that Paul and I both want to take. There is so much to know when it comes to brewing beer–if you don’t believe me, check out that website.
As Jennifer lead us through the tasting of 10 homemade brews, she helped me gain my confidence that I was tasting what I thought I was tasting, smelling and sensing my way through each entry. We filled out our judging sheets separately and then compared notes. I was happy to see that I was very close to her perceptions of each beer as we went along. (It’s good to know I have inherited Jack’s beer sense, perhaps!)
The competition finished with lunch and raffles and the awarding of medals for each category of homebrews. It was a very enjoyable experience, and I hope to do more in the future. Paul and I also want to start doing a little homebrewing on our own–I think that’s the best way to learn.
Saturday night came, and it was finally time for the biggest beer tasting event in Cleveland. Breweries from around the country and right here in Ohio set up tasting stations inside the Galleria shopping center, and there was plenty of good food to go along with the beer. One of the best bands in Northeast Ohio, Skinny Moo, provided the entertainment.
Paul and I had a great time tasting and talking to brewers and distributors all evening. Just about every table we stopped at had a beer I hadn’t tasted before. We made sure to have plenty to eat as we went along, and merely sipped each offering–pours were plentiful.
A couple of newly-tasted favorites included the Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot, and the Victory Storm King Imperial Stout. And one of my favorite pairings was the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale with Mackenzie Creamery’s Cognac goat cheese served with fig spread. That was just amazing.
Of course catching up with old friends, fellow beer bloggers and just enjoying the enjoyment of beer was more than half the fun. If you didn’t make it this year, be sure to put Cleveland Beer Week on your calendar for 2011. It’s sure to be even bigger and better.