Bradford on Beer

Festival Weekend

Posted January 24, 2009 by daniel 8 Comments | Post a Comment

It’s festival weekend in Columbia, South Carolina. Our third World Beer Festival concept. After 15 years in Durham, 5 years in Raleigh, we’re adding a third in a new state. Which means a lot of public relations time for me, leading me to this whole idea of becoming an “expert.” One reader simply asked if that’s the right term! I’m not sure what it is, but maybe that’s another thing to discover on this journey.

For example; here I am in a radio station with the local hip radio personality, the PR guy and six bottles of beer selected from the festival refrigerated trailer packed with beer. I have my nose in a glass of Sierra Nevada Torpedo and I can’t for the life of me figure out what I’m smelling.

I’ve toured the brewery several times, spending quite a bit of time with Ken and Sierra Grossman. Their beers have been a staple for nearly 30 years. I can go on about their history and the political issues that I’ve worked with Ken on, but grasping and describing the flavors?

Sure I’ve got the piney nose of the Cascade hops, or so I guess are the hops since I selected the beers for this event on the fly and I didn’t get to do any research. I also tried to explain why using whole hops is better than pellets. I talked about complexity, but couldn’t really point to anything that we were smelling or tasting. Another thing to learn.

I also included a Saranac Black & Tan, an odd beer style, but as I mentioned I was grabbing stuff from a dark truck. However, one of the jocks said he tasted amber lager! Amazing. Guess what? Turns out that’s exactly what the Matt family used to blend with their stout to make this blend.

Among the other beers was Abita Turbodog where I thought I was picking up some toasted nuts and a bit of caramel. But I couldn’t get any nose from the beer, even though the taste suggested there should be a lot. Actually, outside of the Torpedo I wasn’t smelling anything from any of the beers! I had the festival glasses and poured under 2 oz.

Something interesting however, the big hit among the 6 jocks I met with during the day was Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat. That light body with the citrusy, tangy, finish got everyone’s attention, especially when I mentioned I used it to make scrambled eggs.

I finished each interview with Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot 2009, thinking to end the brief tour with a bang. I was looking for some of those dried fruit that I associate with barley wines. However, I was immediately stopped by the exceedingly bright, sharp, hobby finish, and the delicacy of the beer, one of the biggest around, was a surprise.

Readers, I’m hitting the heart of this journey, and I’m seeing three elements. I can’t describe the sensory experience of a beer as well as I’d like to. I’d also like to give people the technology that pushes those sensory experiences. Finally, I’m seeing not just gaps, but outdated if not wrong information lurking in my memory.

This is going to be fun.

Add your commentsComments

  1. 1

    Enjoy the festival tonight. Look forward to reading more! Enjoy the journey! Turbodog is a favorite of mine. I’m hoping to carve out time for the Durham Festival this year.

  2. 2

    Hey, first, I just want to say how excited I am about this blog/adventure you’re on. I have similar aspirations and it will be nice to follow along and learn with you as you go. With Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo they are actually debuting a new hop varietal called Citra that I believe they helped (at least with funding, possibly more) with the research. According to their site, they are also using Magnum and Crystal hops. Someone from Sierra Nevada has posted some nice comments in this ( beeradvocate thread. The Citra varietal is said to have a tropical fruit, mango-like aroma. I, unfortunately, haven’t tried the beer, yet. Hopefully it has made it’s way to Georgia by now and I hope to pick up some soon. I wish you all the best and I thank you for your openness and honesty with the blog. Hopefully, one day, we will get to sit down and enjoy some beers together.


  3. 3

    This is why we love beer, isn’t it? Even beers that you know well can reveal themselves in new and unexpected ways. If it were easy to describe it wouldn’t be so continually intriguing.

  4. 4

    Hi Daniel,

    Interesting blog- I’m looking forward to your adventure.

    One suggestion is to get a few good examples of the same style of beer, and read the BJCP style categories while you’re trying these beers. Perhaps get a group of friends together and compare and contrast each beer of the same style, and look for the elements described in the BJCP guidelines. Here’s where you can find them:


  5. 5

    This *is* going to be fun! You bring such a great history and perspective to craft beer…your writing is like Pandora’s box. (Not the “novelty” store Pandora’s Box — nothing can compare to that.)

    I’ve got you on RSS now. Keep the good stuff coming.

    And congratulations on all the great things I’ve been hearing about Columbia! Cheers to All About Beer and the World Beer Festival!

  6. 6

    On the subject of the Sierra Nevada Torpedo: I have been waiting for this one for awhile. Having tasted various renditions on tap only, and admiring the groundbreaking direction the trilogy of SN Harvest ales, I scoured the Bay Area on the day it first landed.

    I must say, analyzing, judging and critiquing beer can be tough work. I see where you are coming from. In the case of the Torpedo, there is a whole lot hapenning there. I am still working on tasting notes (a week later). However, I have elected to just enjoy it for now. Just devastating, this beer.

  7. 7

    You have my respect, what you’re doing takes balls. I’m right now contemplating its parallel in my own industry. A blog exposing my thoughts (and ignorance) on a facet of my own work that I’ve always left up to those with more expertise. It is daunting.

    I’ll be reading.


  8. 8

    ‘splain this beer-based scrambled eggs thing.

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