Cloudy skies didn’t dampen the mood at the 13th Annual Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers’ Festival held this past Saturday, May 18. Over 1,200 beer lovers gathered along State Street and the parking lot alongside Iron Hill in Media, quenching their thirst with a wide variety of beers from 35 of the best craft brewers.
Kevin Finn from Iron Hill Brewery was thrilled with the turnout. “It’s a great day. Thank God the rain has held off,” he said as he looked up to the sky. “It’s an exciting day for beer and also what we do for the Media Youth Center. Over $150,000 has been raised for the youth center over the years. It’s great to be able to do something for the community.”
One of the beloved traditions of this festival is the Pouring of the Methusalems. Iron Hill Media’s Head Brewer Bob Barrar appeared on a platform holding up a giant 6-liter bottle of their Bourbon Wee Heavy and the crowd surged forward as if at a rock show. Barrar slowly and carefully poured this amazing beer into the cups of the throngs of waiting beer fans. This year, Barrar poured the Bourbon Wee Heavy at 2:30 p.m., and a Bourbon Tripel at 4 p.m. I was lucky enough to sample the Wee Heavy, and it was a stellar full-bodied brew.
Bill Moore from Lancaster Brewing Company took a break from pouring his Strawberry Wheat Lager to chat about the fruit beer and the festival. “Ours is an American wheat lager that we add the flavor too. You get a little strawberry on the palate. It’s subtle, it’s a very drinkable beer.” Looking around at the smiling faces sipping beer, Bill proclaimed, “I love this festival. I’ve been here every year. Last year, somebody from the youth center came around and thanked everyone.” With a smile, he noted, “It’s beer season!”
Around the corner, Sam Hoff from Twin Lakes Brewing was greeting beer lovers with a big smile. “This is an amazing little festival,” he told me. “What I really like about it is, it’s intimate. Here you have some of the great breweries along the East Coast. Iron Hill has 15 different beers on tap, which is amazing! This is fun just to come out and taste them. This is the one event we try to do every year, because it is more intimate and it is for a great cause.”
Last year, Pinocchio’s Beer Garden’s tent featured Ship Bottom Brewery, a true micro brewery started in Rob Zarko’s garage in Wallingford, Pa. This year, Ship Bottom had their own tent and served up their classic Barnacle Bottom Stout. The taste of chocolate and coffee floated off my tongue on this one. Rob told me he has had a busy but productive year. “We got full licensing in January. We have about 10 beers that are legal,” and he noted several Delco bars are now serving Ship Bottom on draft.
As mentioned earlier, Iron Hill had a wide variety of beers for sampling throughout the day. I shared a Triple Sec with the Town Dish’s Amy Strauss and Photographer Allison Benford. This was another killer beer at 9% ABV, a tasty citrus ale with a spicy taste of plums and bananas.
One beer surprised me more than any other. As I stood at the Iron Hill tent, a gentleman named Mike saw I was eyeing up the kegs behind the table and asked if I wanted a sample. Sure, I replied. He poured me a sample of the Bourbon Logan, a full-bodied colonial ale that had been aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans. At 9.7% ABV, this beer had it all. The sweetness from the caramel malts balanced with the bourbon and vanilla. One amazing beer.
Brew festivals are about discovering new beers and breweries, and there was plenty to sample throughout the event. A few of the more interesting tastings on the day were:
- Prism Brewing Company served up Blonde is Evil, an ale made with the strange combination of strawberries and jalapenos. It was a beer that was smooth on the first sip, but the jalapeno kick creeped up afterwards.
- Stewart’s Brewing Company served a smoked porter that had been brewed with smoked beechwood malt. While smoked beers aren’t my thing, it was interesting to sample this.
- Philadelphia Brewing Company served up their Newbold India Pale Ale, an intense and hoppy IPA.
- Tired Hands Brewing Company kicked one keg quickly, but we caught a sample of their Black IPA. This is a beer where the sight of the black beer is at odds with the hoppiness within, but it is a refreshing brew.
- Victory Brewing Company surprised us by serving up their fall classic, Moonglow Weizenbock. One of my favorite all-time beers.
- Flying Fish Brewing Company was sampling their Red Fish Ale. This red ale was a good strong beer that is very smooth and drinkable.
- This year, the Pinocchio’s tent served up a variety of beers from Bullfrog Brewery, a micro-brewery based out of Williamsport. Bullfrog’s Op Tight was a very satisfying Belgian-style coffee stout.
Late in the day, a light drizzle fell for a few moments before passing over. By that time, fest-goers were all in good spirits, comparing tasting notes and making new friends. The 13th Annual Brandywine Craft Brewers’ Festival was coming to a successful close and folks made their way to many of Media’s fine restaurants for a meal before heading home. We’re already looking forward to next year!