Wonderful Beer Wife and I have been talking about attending the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers for about three years now. Early this year, we inked it to the calendar, an indelible mark of commitment that we refused to screw up. Whether or not I collaborated with Eric on Illuminator Doppelbock and whether or not I wrote a book about it and whether or not I subsisted on it for a ridiculous number of days and whether or not Eric tossed some in a Heaven Hill Rye barrel and whether or not he entered it in the competition and whether or not I snagged an opportunity to judge at this event, I was going.
So we went.
Judging at a commercial competition was a little different than my homebrew competition experience, in that I didn’t have to fool with scoring so much as evaluating. In my first flight, I’m pretty sure I wrote more than necessary, because both of my fellow judges were done way ahead of me. I sped up for rounds two and three and I got a lot out of the experience, in part, because I was judging alongside no less a beer bigshot than Randy Mosher.
Following the morning judging, Michelle and I worked hard to get through our fair share of beer samples at the Festival itself, including Number 99 on the list, my lovely little Illuminator. This would probably be the time to talk about favorite beers of the day, but I’m not sure where to start–and all that whiskey and wood really did build up over the course of the long day. As I scan our program, I see that Michelle has smiley faces next to Three Floyds’ Bourbon Moloko, Sun King’s Mai Pappy and Surly’s Moe’s Bender. For my part, I judged the medal round of Experimental Beers, and loved the top three: Goose Island Clybourn’s XOCOLATL, Flossmoor Station’s Dark Matter Imperial Stout and Haymarket’s Steve it to Bieber. (Not sure why we didn’t spend more time tasting from the Wild and Sour beers area, but we didn’t.)
After the first session, the organizers announced the winners, and imagine my surprise when this humble homebrewer’s recipe took a silver medal!
This is a great niche-within-a-niche event, and I’m glad we took the initiative to make the trip. Toss in a medal and good times with friends and loved onest was a good day, to say the least.
(Poor blogger’s advice: You can ride the Megabus from Des Moines to Chicago for three bucks if you plan ahead and pay attention. Pull out your calendar now to make next year’s commitments; it can be worth it!)