Gossip Column Blur: Music City Brewers Festival

The Country Music Hall of Fame's piano keyboard windows look down on the crowd at the 13th Annual Mafiaoza's Brewers Festival
The Country Music Hall of Fame’s piano keyboard windows look down on the crowd at the 13th Annual Mafiaoza’s Music City Brewers Festival

If I don’t get this down while the blur is still fresh in my mind even more of it will slip away.

Last Saturday evening I attended Session B (and they don’t call it a session without reason) of the 13th Annual Mafiaoza’s Music City Brewers Festival downtown.  Thousands? (I don’t have any actual numbers but it was crowded) of folks attended the event which included representatives from most local breweries, many from out-of-state, and a few from other countries: more than 60 in all.

The four hour session began at 6 p.m. and went by quickly for me, and though I came away feeling like it was perhaps not the ideal atmosphere in which to taste a lot of different beers (if you’re trying to pay attention to what you’re doing), it was a terrific atmosphere in which to meet people.  As we all know, once you have a few under your belt, conversations with folks you don’t know become a bit less inhibited.

However, I was not as comprehensive in either my note-taking or my photo-taking as I would have liked, and after going over my notes, have concluded that I’m not able to post much more than what one might read in a gossip-column report on who was seen with who at a particularly fabulous social event.  Which is pretty much what it was.  So here goes.

top: Carl Meier & Ben Martin of Black Abbey; bottom: Jackalope's Bailey Spaulding & Steve Wright
top: Carl Meier & Ben Martin of Black Abbey; bottom: Jackalope’s Bailey Spaulding & Steve Wright

Most local breweries had a tent.  I didn’t get to spend time at all of them as 1) there are a lot of them now and 2) some of them were mobbed when I went by.  Crowds came between me and the Turtle AnarchyTennessee Brew Works, and Bosco’s booths.  The tent in the center was home to several local breweries as well as festival sponsor Mafiaoza’s and I started the session out there at the Black Abbey booth: Carl Meier poured me a particularly delicious Potus 44 – their coffee porter – which was sitting on cocoa nibs in the keg.  It was a great way to kick off the night.

The festival held several surprises for me: one I found at the Peroni/Pilsner Urquell/St. Stefanus booth.  I didn’t know St. Stefanus would be there; as far as I know they were the only Belgian artisanal brewery represented (Stella Artois doesn’t count).  A lovely woman named Chenoa was pouring samples of St. Stefanus Blonde and Grand Cru.

clockwise from top: the Peroni/Pilsner Urquell/St. Stefanus tent; Chenoa pours St. Stefanus Grand Cru; bottles of Grand Cru just chilling
clockwise from top: the Peroni/Pilsner Urquell/St. Stefanus tent; Chenoa pours St. Stefanus Grand Cru; bottles of Grand Cru just chilling

I’d had the Blonde recently so I “settled” for trying the Grand Cru – a fabulous Belgian Tripel that reminded me a lot of Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde.  I had a pour of Pilsner Urquell too but it was “only” on keg and not on cask like those lucky European beer bloggers got to enjoy last month – so, I moved on…

I strolled past numerous out-of-towners and stopped for a pour of Bridgeport IPA – still one of my favorites from the west coast although now tame by current IPA trends.  You could easily session this IPA (I might have done at one point) and it’s not a “session IPA”.  A lot of the out-of town tents were manned (or womanned) by representatives of local distributors or by volunteers, so I didn’t have the opportunity to discuss any fine points with an out-of-town expert.

I stopped by the Jackalope booth and drank some Bearwalker Maple Brown Ale while I chatted with brewers Bailey Spaulding and Steve Wright for a bit before wandering across the way to the Music City Brewers tent.

Music City Brewers (clockwise from left): Justin Martineau preparing a hop rocket; Steve Johnson; Chris Allen & Leah Bergman
Music City Brewers (clockwise from left): Justin Martineau preparing a hop rocket; Steve Johnson; Zea Miller & Chris Allen

Music City Brewers is Nashville’s home brewer’s club, and they had more beers on tap (7 or 8, I’m not sure exactly how many now) than any other booth I went to, and all I tried were excellent.  Brewers of local fame Linus Hall (Yazoo) and Ken Rebman (Czann’s) both were club members before they went pro and from talking with the members who were there it is clear that the club is very active and thriving.  I tried several of their beers including Pale Blue Dot (a pale ale), a New Zealand amber ale, and a terrific Dunkelweizen.  It was also my first chance to taste a “$12” batch of cream ale spiked with Sorachi Ace hops and Celestial Seasonings Lemon Ginger herbal tea stuffed into a hop rocket by the enthusiastic Justin Martineau: unique, tasty, and memorable.

It is at this point that my notes become more cryptic and my handwriting becomes less comprehensible. I visited with Ken Rebman of Czann’s in the booth next to Music City Brewers and tried one of his beers which I remember enjoying, but I didn’t write down what it was and now I can’t remember.  We talked about his taproom, which just opened this summer, and he told me the story of how his brewery got it’s name (it’s a contraction of two family names) and logo (inspired by Cezanne’s The Drinker).   And it’s pronounced Zahn’s.

I dropped by the Fat Bottom tent and they poured me a delicious belgian style golden ale named Ida while I chatted with Aric Carroll there.  At the Little Harpeth tent I met Michael Kwas and Bobby Harl and got in only  a few words with them – their booth was slammed and it was also close to the end of the lines from the portalets, which were long and loud by this time.  They were enthusiastic about their beers – craft lagers, folks! – and I enjoyed their Stax Schwarzbier very much.

clockwise from top left: Danielle Atkins & Jaime herman at the Yazoo tent; Chris Cooper & Kent Taylor of Blackstone; the crew of Mafiaoza's rushes to get the pizzas out for last call
clockwise from top left: Danielle Atkins & Jaime Herman at the Yazoo tent; Chris Cooper & Kent Taylor of Blackstone; the crew of Mafiaoza’s rushes to get the pizzas out for last call

The night was winding down – I had a sip of Flat 12‘s Galaxy-hopped Walkabout Pale Ale on my way to the Yazoo tent.  At this point I was beyond winding down – I was wound down – and made no more notes on any beers, although I did get a few email addresses and a couple more photos.  I enjoyed meeting Blackstone owner Kent Taylor and hope I get to talk with him again soon in more conducive circumstances – Blackstone beers have been a favorite of mine since I moved to town more than ten years ago.

Now it was nearly time to go.  All taps closed at 9:45 and the festival was officially over at 10 p.m., although as I left it seemed like many of the patrons were just getting started, and would still be there a while.  Oh! there was live music too throughout – at first a band that sounded like straight-ahead jazzmen soloing over a succession of smooth jazz grooves, who were followed by a more mainstream ensemble of the hiphop variety.  The dance area in front of the bandstand was vacant most of the night, although it did start to fill up toward the end.

20140720-093916-34756462.jpg

All in all, a fun night.

~ phirx

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