My review of Wegmans Fall Beer Extravaganza – Northborough MA 9/28/13

For lovers of craft beer, tastings and festivals offer a unique and unmatched opportunity to sample a wide variety of brews you might otherwise not try. The fine folks at Wegmans Food Markets have sweetened the deal by making their seasonal and showcase events complimentary. Hold up, go back, read that again… FREE TASTING EVENTS! Instead of the standard $25 or grotesquely inflated $60 ticket prices seen at other area beerfests, this one is free and well worth the trip. Generally speaking, there are roughly 20+ craft breweries represented, each serving a few standard brews alongside seasonals and the occasional special batch and/or pre-release offering. Wegmans is also kind enough to provide snack food in the form of samples from the store. At the most recent event this included three types of sushi, four cheeses and quite possibly the best prosciutto I’ve ever tasted. Although the stores do have an event schedule on the Wegmans’ website, I’ve never had luck finding these tastings listed. Instead, check Beer Advocate’s event calendar for updates and info, and don’t be daunted by the link to ‘the official event’ not working. It never does, I always go… and there’s always beer!

The most recent event, held Saturday September 28th at the Northborough MA store was a Fall beer Extravaganza. To enter the fest I simply showed an ID to got a wristband and a tasting card good for 20 samples. Once inside it’s a fairly typical setup with tables and brand ambassadors happy to share and discuss their tasty brew. Nearly half the breweries present were sampling an Octoberfest and probably about 25% had a pumpkin beer of some sort. Being a fan of neither style, I spent most of my time targeting IPAs and the few but amazing DIPAs and DIPLs present. I did, however, sneak in a porter and towards the end even tried a couple of pumpkin beers before returning to the hop bombs to finish out my card.

Best of show this time was a beer I’ve never tried and may not have had it not been offered at a tasting. Luckily, my hop-radar zeroed in on this one and I’m really glad it did. HI.P.A. by Magic Hat surprised and impressed this skeptic. It’s vaguely similar to my recent favorite Wormtown’s Be Hoppy, although without the added flavor nuances of Nelson Sauvin hops. Clean crisp and bitter, the hop flavors really pop and only slightly reveal the smooth caramel malt backbone. My second favorites were actually two beers that tied in score. First a long time favorite by Anderson Valley, Heelch O’ Hops. These guys are always represented and I am forever grateful to have gratis access to such a tasty DIPA. Bahl Hornin! Second in the tie was Mass Rising by Jack’s Abby. A DIPL (Lager not Ale) with a big peppery flavor profile so delicious I had to bring some of this very limited release home. Third honors went to Wachusett’s Larry, poured from the new cans that just started to appear in local stores. I’m completely on board with the craft can revolution and encourage you to hunt these down and support the movement. Fourth honors went to Mayflower’s Porter. Simple and smokey with hints of chocolate and coffee. This reminded me a bit of Otter Creek’s Stovepipe, my all-time favorite porter. Finally, a brief word on pumpkins. There were many, some good, some borderline undrinkable. Not to be faulted for trying but maybe for being trendy, this style has been expanding each year as fresh seasonals become one of the hottest trends in craft offerings. Two stood out from the pack. Per usual, I loved the Shipyard offering. Pumkinhead is the little brother of their Imperial Smashed Pumpkin and shares many of the flavor and mouthfeel elements. A bit easier to drink and noticeably less creamy/more Ale-like, this was quite enjoyable. The big surprise was the Dogfish Head offering Punkin Ale. I get a lock of flack from fellow craft lovers for not liking most Dogfish IPAs and brews in general. This, of all brews, has finally impressed my palette. Hands down the best pumpkin beer I’ve tasted to date.

Although slightly tricky to keep track of, Wegmans beer tastings are fantastic events. I’m a big fan and have really enjoyed myself each time. As I previously noted, Beer Advocate’s event calendar is the best place to track these events. See you all at the Winter tasting?


About mrhopsbeertalk
Avid homebrewer and craft beer taster. I love all the hops I can get. #hops #ipa #iipa #ipl #porter #dipa #specialtyale #saison #craftbeer western mass ·

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