Last night was the night that all beer geeks in Boston have been waiting for – American Craft Beer Fest. As it’s known by it’s cult followers and hashtag users, ACBF is the East Coast’s largest craft beer fest. Put on by Beer Advocate and Harpoon Brewery, the fest boasts over 640 beers on draft from 140+ breweries and draws over 15,000 beer drinkers. It’s basically the Super Bowl of beers and it was awesome.
Although I had been to beer fests in the past, this was my first time at American Craft Beer Fest. I knew it was going to be a great night of delicious beers so I prepared accordingly for the occasion by hydrating during the day. My boyfriend and I made the standard pretzel necklaces to snack on in between tastings. This proved to be a good move, not only in terms of palate cleansing, but it also kept us from having to wait in the long line for food.
Usually a proponent for drinking local, I employed the opposite approach at ACBF and sought out breweries from out West. With over 140 breweries, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hit them all so I filtered the options based on availability in Massachusetts and the selection of beers being poured.
My short list of breweries included almost 30 “must visit” booths. I knew with all of the excitement and crowds it would be a challenge to ensure that I hit every spot, so I did the most sensible thing I could think of and customized the ACBF Map with my short list. My helpful boyfriend helped navigate and checked each brewery off as we sampled.
Public WIFI wasn’t available, or at least the password wasn’t written anywhere, which put my Untappd obsessed self into a tizzy. Thankfully this didn’t last long, as I quickly realized that the event program included an alphabetized list of breweries with each beer they were pouring and a box to rate the beers. Crisis avoided.
Best Beers of the American Craft Beer Fest
The beers were great! There was an unsurprisingly strong presence of West Coast IPAs for hop heads to sink their nose into, enough Stouts and Porters to transport you back to those cold winter days, and a surprising showing of Sour, Gose, and Wild Ales to make your mouth water. I love IPAs but I tried to steer clear of the hoppy pissing contest to preserve my taste buds. There’s nothing worse than a numb mouth at a beer fest.
I go to beer fests to try new beers but often I find myself trying the same types of beer. The sheer number of beers and breweries at ACBF enabled me to go further outside the comfort zone of my palate. My standout beers of the night were a pleasant surprise to me and included:
21st Amendment: Down to Earth (Session IPA), Anderson Valley: The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose (Gose), Anderson Valley: Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout (Stout), Bear Republic: Tartare (Berliner Weissbier), Boulevard: Ginger-Lemon Radler (Fruit), Founders: Mosiac Promise (American IPA), Four Quarters: Misery (Sour), North Coast: Puck (Saison), Rogue: Fresh Roast (Brown Ale), Shilling: Poppy Moonship (Gose), Southern Tier: Choklat Oranj (Imperial Stout), Stone: Cali-Belgique (Belgian IPA), Unita: 22nd Crooked Line Birthday Suit (Wild Ale), Victory: Sour Monkey (Wild Ale)
I was unimpressed by Fiddlehead, which was sad considering the accolades I had heard. I want to tell myself it was because I tried their Wild Ales at the end of the night but I was blown away by Schilling Beer Co.’s Poppy Moonship right after.
Although there were more than enough breweries to enjoy, I was really annoyed to find that Fort Collins Brewing Co. didn’t show up! It was on my short list of breweries to try, so I was pissed to walk up to their booth and find it empty. I hope they made a showing for the Saturday show so that others don’t share in my disappointment.
Another disappointment of the night, and likely everyone else’s favorite part, was the line for Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Spanning almost the entire width of the beer fest, it was obviously American Craft Beer Fest’s most popular brewery. I wish I had the patience to wait in line or the forethought to go to their booth first, but I don’t and I didn’t and my ACBF experience did not include Lawson’s.
I was also a little bummed at the t-shirt selection but we can’t have everything. All in all, Beer Advocate’s American Craft Beer Fest was an awesome craft beer experience and everything I wanted it to be. If you get the chance, definitely get tickets to the next ACBF—I can’t wait for next year!