The good folks at the Grandview Craft Beer Alliance put on the 2nd annual Summer Session this past Saturday. Beer festivals can run the gamut from awesome experience to shit show, but I’m happy to say that the Summer Session falls firmly into the former camp. If you were there you know what I mean, and if you weren’t make a note not to miss it next time around. Here’s my top ten list of things that make the Summer Session so superlative.
10. Nineteen Ohio breweries, no BMC
The beer list did not contain Blue Moon, Shock Top, or a string of disturbing variations of margarita flavored Bud Light. In fact all nineteen participating breweries were based out of Ohio. The list included Actual, Barley’s, Elevator, Four String, Hairless Hare, Homestead, Land Grant, Lineage, Little Fish, Maumee Bay, North High, Rhinegeist, Seventh Son, Sideswipe, Smokehouse, Warped Wing, Wolf’s Ridge, Zaftig, and Zauber.
9. Perfect weather
With a high temperature that topped out at 80 °F, sunny skies and no rain, the weather was as close to perfect as it gets in late August.
8. No lines
I didn’t go to the big Columbus Summer Beerfest the previous week, but I was told that the attendance topped 5000 people on Saturday night! Yikes, how many toilets are there at the LC Pavilion? The Grandview Craft Beer Alliance limits the attendance at their events to a reasonable number for the available beer and space, and it makes all the difference. I literally didn’t wait in line once all afternoon.
7. Play badminton like no one is watching
At least I hope no one was watching, although there is some entertainment value in watching grown men play badminton three hours into a beer festival. In fairness my racket did have a hole the size of a softball in the webbing.
6. Dueling Creamsicle beers
Take a light bodied ale, infuse it with vanilla and oranges, and viola creamsicle in a glass (click here for my own attempt to create a creamsicle beer with a Randall Jr). At the Summer Session there were two creamsicle beers on offer. With the appropriate infusions Wolf’s Ridge Clear Skies Cream Ale and Land Grant’s 1862 Kölsch become Creamsicle Cream Ale and Creamsikölsch, respectively. Tasty stuff for a summer day. If your taste in fruit infused beer runs more toward melon then you had even more choices with Seventh Son’s Wuffles Watermelon Shandy, Hareless Hare’s Watermelon Wheat, Maumee Bay’s Melon Hefeweizen, and Elevator’s Heiferweizen Super Shandy.
5. Have a beer float
The Daily Growler was on hand selling root beer floats. I love a good root beer float but when you’ve got creamsicle beers and vanilla ice cream in close proximity how can you resist the temptation to combine the two? Cindy Grote couldn’t and I was happy to be on the receiving end of her culinary creativity. It may be the best pairing since the Peanut Butter Cup.
4. Try a Zaftig session beer
Known for their high gravity creations the phrase “Zaftig Session Ale” seems like an oxymoron, but I can attest first hand that Brent and Jennie were there pouring a 5% abv session IPA. How was it you ask? Sessionable but still full bodied, if that makes any sense.
3. Drink a beer made without hops
Several beers made an impression on me. Seventh Son’s 4×4 Smash Session Ale made exclusively with Mosaic hops was a juicy hoppy treat, my first encounter with Warped Wing’s Ermal’s Cream Ale was a pleasant surprise, Lineage’s Touche de Gris is a beer any lover of sours should try, and the coffee notes of Wolf’s Ridge Clear Sky Daybreak are still lingering in my brain. However, the biggest revelation for me was the recently opened, Athens based, Little Fish Brewing Company. Their flagship Saison du Poisson is a fantastic rendition of a Belgian farmhouse ale—equal parts fruity and spicy with a dry finish (and no hint of fish). Even more interesting was the Reinheitsgewhat?!, a hopless sour wheat ale made with rose hips, chamomile, and fruit zest. If the hop shortage gets bad we’ll have somewhere to turn.
2. Local brewers aplenty
Not only was a significant fraction of the local brewing community on hand, the chilled out atmosphere of the festival had everyone in a good mood. Whether it was talking Columbus beer with Angelo Signorino (Barley’s), the Boston beer scene with Sam Hickey (Smokehouse), possible relocation plans with Craig O’Herron (Sideswipe), the finer points of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA with Brent Halsey (Zaftig), or the aroma characteristics of Mosaic hops with Colin Vent (Seventh Son) it was good stuff all the way around. Jonathan Carroll of Actual told me how low abv table beers (~1%) are replacing soda in some Belgian elementary schools. Chris Davison and Alan Szuter of Wolf’s Ridge were very enthusiastic about the new saison that was just added to their lineup. I shared pretzel bites with Fred Lee and Zach Harper of Actual, and played badminton with Mark Richards and Joe Chamberlain of Land Grant. It was like crashing the Columbus Brewers Association summer picnic.
1. Hangover free Sunday
That might be stretching the truth just a little, but I walked away relatively unscathed despite trying a boatload of beers. It’s easy to get carried away at these festivals. You start with the best of intentions but a glass of White Rajah leads to a coconut infused Bodhi, which leads to a Bourbon Meyer, then a Doris the Destroyer, and before you know it you’re throwing back glasses of Too Cans IPA like it was Natty Light. When it goes south like that the ending is not pretty. In contrast the Summer Session seemed more like a backyard party where the focus was on socializing rather than rushing around drinking white wales. Pair that with the budget friendly price tag of $25 and I think you’ve got one of the best beer festivals around.