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21st Annual Classic City BrewFest

One of the best beer festivals in Georgia, the 21st Annual Classic City BrewFest took place over the weekend in Athens, GA. Organized by Brewtopia Events, LLC founder (and frequent BC collaborator) Owen Ogletree, this year’s Classic City BrewFest was once again a rousing success and a delightful paean to our favorite beverage.

The festival started at 2:30, which was about when I arrived. One of the most important parts of the event is the cask ale tent, and this year’s selection didn’t disappoint.

I made a beeline straight to the tent, which was already overflowing with imbibers, and started our rounds. The beers were organized alphabetically by brewery, so I started on the left and worked my way around to the finish.

Though a full description of the beers I sampled would probably end up being over 3000 words, suffice it to say that I discovered some luscious flavors as well as some experimental brews. A few of the highlights:

  • Creature Comfort’s Double Koko Buni – Athens’ hottest brewery, CCBC, debuted this imperial-strength version of its Coffee Porter winter seasonal at Classic City. Think of Koko Buni but richer and more decadent. Yep, it was great.
  • Terrapin Cherry Rhubarb Pie – One of Athens’ more established craft breweries, Terrapin was pouring a version of its 14th Anniversary Ale with cherry and rhubarb juice added. A complex, fruity and fun beer.
  • Coastal Empire Brewing in Savannah, GA was pouring a Gose brewed with pineapple, coconut, sea salt and pink Himalayan salt. Described by the pourer as “like a trip to the beach,” after one sip, I was sold on that description.
  • Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville, SC was pouring a version of its Deepwater Doppelbock that was cask-conditioned with –ahem– Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The earthy, nutty qualities of the peanut butter were tempered and complemented by the chocolaty maltiness of the base Doppelbock. Mmmm… Reese’s…
  • Continuing the Georgia brewery train, Eventide Brewing’s Fruit Kolsch-tail was a refreshingly light delight, featuring mango, papaya, banana, pineapple and strawberry, while Savannah’s Service Brewing’s Compass Rose IPA with organic pineapple brought a nice mellowing aspect to the IPA style.
  • Also worth noting was Cherry Street’s Belgo Ruskie Imperial Stout, which was fermented with Belgian abbey yeast and aged 11 months in rye whiskey barrels before being dosed in the cask with rum-soaked oak spirals and vanilla beans for a smooth, seemingly fifty-fifty blend of booze and beer.

Another important part of any beer festival is discovering breweries you’ve never heard of and beers you’ve never had before. Classic City was no exception.

Parallel 49 Brewing, located in Vancouver, Canada, was on hand to pour its Salty Scot, a delectable salted caramel Scottish ale (honestly one of the best brews I had) and Tricycle, a Grapefruit Radler. Both of these beers were excellently made and featured colorful and interesting can designs.

Richmond, Virginia’s Strangeways Brewing also came in hot, with my personal favorites being Woodbooger Belgian Brown, marked by notes of caramel, chocolate, dark fruit and a hint of woody esters, and Martian Spring Biere de Mars, an uncommon style done right, aged in oak wine barrels with a blast of five hop varietals and the characteristic Biere de Garde yeast, making for a unique finish.

I also stumbled upon the most pleasant surprise of the event in the form of Terrapin’s Tangerine Lemon Hopsecutioner. The fruiting further mellowed the IPA’s already quite quaffable bitterness, and to add to the occasion, it was poured from a street-legal mini-car/keg contraption. Surprisingly, one of my favorite beers of the event.

Picking my way through the crowd, I found the “Special Treats Table,” which poured some well-known whales every hour – first was AleSmith’s velvety Speedway Stout, followed by ’14 and ’15 versions of Goose Island’s classic Bourbon County series, which caused a bit of debate. ’14 was delicious, but there were rumors that the ’15 batch had been infected. Though Goose Island supposedly caught all the bad ones before they went out, these certainly tasted so. Nevertheless, the carnival of delicacies continued soon after with Founders KBS.

Continuing along to the Galleria section, Brooklyn Brewery was on hand with its flagship Brooklyn Lager as well as new year-round Red IPA, Defender IPA. Brouwerij Lindemans was represented by its classic Cuvée René, a delightfully spritzy Gueuze.

Overall, Classic City ’16 was everything one could want out of a festival – rare brews, joviality, and pretzel necklaces abounding. There were dozens, if not hundreds more worth mentioning, but as is often the case with beer, some may be best left to the imagination.

If you’re looking to tour Georgia’s beer scene, make sure to come by during one of Owen’s fests – Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting or Classic City BrewFest. For dates, check out his website here.