Random Notes on the 2nd Annual Midwest Winter Beer Festival

This is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the event that took place at the Radisson Hotel this past Friday and Saturday.  I’m not sure such a thing is possible.  Carla and I were there for the Saturday afternoon session, and we had the opportunity to go in and take a look around during the evening session.

I have a real soft spot in my heart for this event.  For one thing, last year’s event started a chain of events that eventually led to this blog’s beginning.  I’m also an unabashed blues and boogie-woogie fan, so the fact that the event supports the Big Joe Duskin Music Education Foundation is a big plus.  Finally, it’s obviously a labor of love by organizer Craig Johnson and a small army of volunteers.

And let’s face it:  you had me at “beer.”

That being said, I think the event improved on its first outing last year:

  • The most visible difference was sponsorships.  Cork ‘N Bottle was most prominent, but Cin Weekly and the Radisson were both listed on the website as sponsors as well.  I hope I’m not missing anyone. I know it’s a down economy (if by “down” you mean “imploding”) but it seems to me that this event is one where a sponsor will get a lot of goodwill and a lot of eyeballs.  This is a crowd that likes the good stuff.  If you sell good stuff (of any sort), you probably ought to be there.
  • Good to see the Cincinnati Malt Infusers with a table with information on it.  Somebody hanging around to answer questions might have been better (I looked a couple of times, maybe I just missed them), but there was an awful lot of good beer just a few feet away.  How strong can a person be?
  • I think the whole thing just ran smoother this year.  Lessons were clearly learned from last year. The floor layout was better with the food spread out, and the Radisson staff seemed to be on top of things.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s all nice, but what about the beer?

  • We decided to concentrate on the draft beers over the bottled under the theory that most of the bottled beer was available anywhere.  Well, not anywhere, but anywhere that counts.
  • I’d forgotten how much I like Barrelhouse’s Boss Cox Double Dark IPA.  I probably need to have it more often.  And it was good to finally get Moerleins’s Emancipator Doppel.  We missed the tapping because we were out of town, so it was good to catch up on it.  The toffee notes make it something really special.  I vaguely remember going back for it most often.
  • I really, really missed seeing Mt. Carmel. I keep hearing that they’re switching from growlers to bottles, which has to be a huge job, so maybe they’ll be back next year.
  • Note to Dogfish Head:  It’s a three-session event.  Send enough of the offbeat stuff for three sessions, not one.  And Shiner?  As a expatriate Texan, I expected to see Commemorator.
  • It was good that the distributors were there to support the event, but it would have been nice to see a few more brewers.  That’s on them, not the organizers.

Last year there was talk of a summer event, but it didn’t happen.  I didn’t hear any such talk this year, and I think that’s fine.  Better to keep the quality of the one event than to water it down with two.

Plus, I have a feeling Craig Johnson needs to sleep sometime.

Congratulations to all on a great event.

Quickie Review: Kelly’s Public House

It’s always fun finding something unexpected.  Because Carla and I did the tasting at Party Source on Friday night and the Midwinter Beer Festival on Saturday afternoon, we decided that staying at the Radisson might just be the way to go.  We got back from Party Source and wanted food, and — go figure — one more beer for the night.  With Mainstrasse just a couple of blocks away, there’s no shortage of great places to go.  Carla had noticed, however, that the Radisson has a place that does a Pint Night on Thursdays.  Sure, we were there on Friday, but if they have a Pint Night, they must have something on draft.

Did they ever.

I’ve been in lots of just-off-the-lobby hotel pubs, but I have to say Kelly’s Public House is one of the best I’ve seen. Here’s what they have on tap:

  • Guiness
  • Smithwick’s
  • Sierra Nevada Brown Ale
  • Fuller’s ESB
  • Bitburger
  • Rogue Dead Guy Ale

I was told the lineup hasn’t changed in about a year.

In bottles:

  • Blue Moon
  • Kentucky Ale
  • Dos Equis
  • New Holland Mad Hatter
  • Sam Adams Boston Ale
  • Shiner Bock
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Amstel Light
  • Heineken
  • Bass
  • Beck’s
  • Strongbow
  • Bellhaven Scotch Ale
  • Corona
  • Newcastle

They had Bud, a couple of Michelobs, Coors Light and Miller Genuine Draft in bottles, but not on draft.

The food menu was pretty straightforward pub fare, but with one nice twist.  There were several dishes that are regional favorites elsewhere ( a Walleye sandwich, the original Club sandwich as made at the Saratoga Club in Saratoga Springs, NY) .  The one that caught my eye was “Beef on Weck,” a favorite in Buffalo and all of Western New York.  I fell in love with them in another lifetime, but it’s never gotten the love the Buffalo-style chicken wing has gotten.  It’s a roast beef sandwich served a jus on a Kimmelweck roll.  That’s basically a crusty kasier-roll with caraway and very coarse salt sprinkled on top.  The version at Kelly’s was more of a soft bun with caraway and a bit finer salt.  Not quite the same effect, but it’s better than no Beef on Weck at all.

Kelly’s Public House is a couple of cuts above your typical hotel lobby pub.  The staff is quick and friendly, and our server seemed to know her stuff.  My bet is that it doesn’t get too crowded (and it’s a good-sized space).  I think it would be a good choice on a night when you just want something good in a hurry, but for whatever reason don’t want to deal with Mainstrasse.  It’s no Cock & Bull, but Kelly’s Public House is a pretty nice little pub.

A little tour around the new place

So far I’ve been doing most of the posting because Carla has been very busy doing some of the heavy lifting behind the scenes. You’ll notice over there on the left that there’s a navigation menu broken out into a number of categories. I hope you’ve take a look around, because that’s where you’ll find the fruits of her labor: In a short period of time she’s made a great start on creating a resource that we hope you’ll find useful. Want to know what beers your favorite beer store has on tap in their growler program? We’ll have them here, updated with the most recent information we can get our hands on.

(By the way, do you own an establishment that fits into one of the categories? Let us know who you are and what you’re doing. We want this to be as comprehensive a resource as we can make it. We’re making the rounds as quickly as we can, but you don’t have to wait on us.)

The events list to the right will always show the next five events we know about, but you can get a more comprehensive view from the full Calendar link on the left.  One event that I’m already looking forward to with great anticipation is the 2nd Annual Midwest Winter Beer Festival slated for February 6-7 at the Radisson Cincinnati Riverfront in Covington, KY.  In many ways, last year’s event planted the seeds for this blog.  It’s well-organized, an incredible value and benefits an outstanding non-profit organization:  the Big Joe Duskin Education Foundation.  This event is an absolute can’t-miss.  Start making your plans.

In the upcoming week you can expect to see some reviews, including one in a category we’re calling “Yeah, We Tried It.”  That’s where we’ll review beers you’ve been curious about, but don’t want to be seen buying.  This week’s entry:  Budweiser American Ale.

Yeah.  We tried it.

We’ll also take a look at Mt. Carmel’s Copper Ale and probably a couple of others to to kick us off.  And we’ll be at Rock Bottom Thursday evening for the tapping of the Buffalo Gold Ale.

Look for us.  We’ll be the ones with the beer.