I had never been to a beer festival before.
One would think, considering how much I like beer, that I would have been to one of these by now. Color me sheltered; I haven’t.
Let’s back it up a bit. I’m doing a short film with an Alabama based film group Obvious Notion. They’re a great group of twisted individuals that you should go and check out, you know, if you like awesome, original work. The short film we’re all working on together is called Engines of Destiny, a Steampunk film that will melt all your faces with awesome.
One of the cast members, Dave, notified me that on one particular rehearsal weekend, the Magic City Brewfest would be in town. Breweries near and far would be turning out at the beck and call of the Free the Hops organization, a splendid re-imagining of the Rebel Alliance, only instead of battling the Empire, they battle indecent liquor and beer laws. The whole event would be hosted at the Sloss Factory in Birmingham, AL. It took very little to sell me on this. I salivated and said I was in.
So, after our rehearsal, we tooled on over, and I thought I had gone to heaven. First of all, much love goes out to the DD of that night: Brian. Should you haul a DD out with you to the Brewfest, they will be rewarded with a cheaper ticket, and a comped meal, as well as the general glowing respect that all DDs deserve. But, yeah, if it weren’t for Brian, Dave and I would not have been able to run around, giggling with abandon as we drank aaaaaa lot of awesome beer.
A bunch stick out to me in particular. One of the first beers I tried was a beer from the Ommegang Brewery. The light color and crisp texture of the pale ale I tried left me feeling more like I had just sipped on a fine glass of champagne, instead of a beer sample.
Dave and I exchanged samples of Unobtanium Old Ale and a Lily Flagg Milk Stout by Straight to Ale. The Unobtanium was dark and smooth, with a berry finish, I want to say there were some currants mixed in that concoction. Overall, a great beer for a snowy night. The Milk Stout was unexpectedly light for a stout, and had the same smooth nip of ice cold milk.
We had to make a stop by one of my new favorite brewers: Lazy Magnolia. Based out of Mississippi, the only time I can indulge in this excellent brewer is when I head out that way for the film rehearsal. My favorite brew is their Southern Pecan, I eat it up the way our director devours peanut M&Ms by the fistful. The stuff is excellent. Now, they weren’t serving this at the festival, but I was more than satiated by a Lazy Magnolia chocolate stout that reminded me of that awesome hot chocolate the White Witch served Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (mini-series BBC version, bitches). It is a crime that I cannot get this outside of Alabama. What’s the deal, Mississippi??
The list really goes on from there, from the fantastic wheat over at the Choc, to the Ellie’s Brown Ale over at the Avery Brewing tent, no drop was neglected. Spoiling myself rotten with Tommyknocker’s wide array of samples was a self-indulgence I would not mind abusing again in the future. Luckily, I know for sure I can get my hands on those mischievous flavors back here in Georgia.
What else is better than beer? Eating food with beer, and the Magic City BrewFest was a place for local restaurants to bid for my taste buds’ attention. We blew past the stand boasting corn dogs and onion rings. Hey, I don’t turn my nose up to these sorts of food, in fact, I think that “batter” is one of the most under-rated food groups out there, but I was in the mood for something to come off a metal grate poised over smoldering coals. So, not only were we all scoping out those perfect beers, we were keeping our eyes peeled for the big one, and about halfway through the sprawl, the target was acquired.
The ribs themselves were regular pork ribs, but they sparkled, the grilled, glazed top was punctuated by white sesame seeds and flattered by green cilantro leaves. They laid over something yellow and creamy looking. It couldn’t have been a sauce, it was too thick, and it couldn’t have been mashed potatoes, it was too thin. Soon I had my answer to all this fascination: Thai spare ribs served over creamy corn grits. Brought to my still very grateful tastebuds by Zea, these ribs were sweet and juicy. The thick cloy of sugar was absent, and instead a honey (or agave?) finish left the glaze light and complimentary to the meat. The corn grits were simple and the texture was spot-on, a perfect balance between the two often unsavory grit extremes. I guessed the grits were made in creamed-corn soup, but I can’t be totally sure. In any case, those ribs were so damn tasty that we may have all gone to Zea the next day for lunch. They were tickled to hear we were there after sampling their booth at the Brewfest.
Overall, my first experience at a beer festival was mind-altering, and in the best possible way. You look around, and everyone is wearing this same expression of blushing excitement. Cheeky characters like a firetruck overflowing with beer…
just added to the surreal, boozy love-fest I had been invited to. A big shout out to the guy who made my access possible: Dave. He was an excellent guide, a towering Willy Wonka in a booze factory I had my very own golden ticket to, tattooed all too temporarily and metallic across the top of my hand. Not only have I been completely turned on to beer festivals, I have been enchanted by the Magic City Brewfest, and will definitely come crawling back for more next time.