Last weekend was the 2nd annual PBS Brewfest at the Coca Cola Park, and boy was it better than last year. Twenty eight breweries were spread across the concourse of the ballpark and served up 1,000+ attendees.
Two of the main things the event improved upon this year were space/arrangement of the tables and the amount of food available. As we wrote last year, the concourse was cut off about halfway through for no particular reason (that we could tell). This year random vendors were outside of the concourse area under tents and the brewery tables were spread throughout the entire area. They also kept the tables to one side which allowed attendees to wait in line, grab a beer, and head to the back away from the lines instead of crisscrossing back and forth across the concourse to different tables. It worked out spectacularly. As for the food, quite simply, there was more of it. They had the regular stadium stands open, as well as some of the food carts (pretzels, nuts, etc) to help soak up the booze. Definitely an upgrade.
Now, about the beer. Hijinx brought their Prankster’s Porter, Hop Havoc, Earth Wit & Fire, Java Porter, Steal Your Face Stout, and a new one named Zoigl. The Java Porter was drinking spectacularly as always and is certainly the best PA-based porter I’ve had and one of the top 10 I’ve ever had. Their Zoigl, a take on a Bavarian beer, was a great beer for a hot day.
Martin’s Creek Brewery, who we’re kinda confused about because there’s nothing online about them at all (seriously, if anyone has any info on these guys, contact us?) had three beers there, a Cascade Blonde, a Saturday Night double dry hopped IPA, and Industrial Blonde Ale. None of them were particularly mind-blowing, but if this is a new up-and-coming local brewery that’s always a plus.
Round Guys, a PA brewery from Lansdale, brought their Alpha Blackback, a black IPA, and Fatbob, a rye take on a Belgian tripel. The Alpha Blackback we passed on because black IPA is a style that just doesn’t work in our eyes. Their Fatbob was OK, however seemed to lack depth in the body. We were really hoping their brought their berliner weiss, but no such luck.
The Ship Inn brought a porter, their Best Bitter, and their Killer Bee Pale Ale. More than one in our party notices a huge diacetyl presence in both the Best Bitter and the Killer Bee which imparted a particularly strong butterscotch flavor in the beers. That’s not a good thing. It’s a shame their showings were so poor as the Ship’s beer are almost consistently delicious.
Two Rivers, the new Easton brewpub, brought easily the best beers of the day. Their Gallows Hill Saison was refreshing, a little spicy, a little grassy, and completely delicious. But where they really threw down the gauntlet was with their Bourbon Blossom, an unlikely pairing of peach wheat beer fermented with bourbon-soaked oak chips. At face this sounds like a less-than-good combination, but the bright, and thankfully noticeable, peach flavor overtook the wheat, giving the beer a fresh, fruity flavor with a great wheat backbone. The bourbon-soaked oak chips provided just a mild hint of bourbon flavor that incorporated into the beer’s profile shocklingly well. This is definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve seen from Two Rivers so far, and if it’s an indicator of the type of experimentation they’ll be doing in the future, is extremely exciting.
Unfortunately we neglected to hit the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers’ table which is pretty much a cardinal sin for us. We really wanted to hit up Doylestown Brewing Company’s table since they’re new to the area and just starting out, however by the time we hit the table they seemed to be out of beer. All told, though, the event was a HELL of a lot better than last year, and we thought last year was pretty solid. The only way to make this event better is expand it to the rest of the park and invite more and more breweries that are big names in the scene. The Lansdale Brewfest was the same day and had a knock-out lineup of breweries and beers being served. If the PBS Brewfest can get to that level they’ll certainly be one of, if not THE best drinking events the Lehigh Valley has seen.
Crowd in line to get in
How could you skip the Homebrewers, they definitely had the best selections and one of the top 5 overall tables there, although there was always a line at the table so we’ll forgive you this year!
I agree that Two Rivers really impressed both with their products and their staff, i wish the place was going into Bethlehem and not center-city Easton.
Personally I’ve never been impressed with The Ship Inn, their product is blah but their marketing, beer styles and staff are great, it’s too bad they can’t brew a better beer.
Best beers of the day though for me was Hijinx as has been the case lately and worst was Prism, not sure how these guys stay in business.
The one really rough part of the festival was the total lack of water and rinsing stations. Rule of thumb is that you should have a rinse/water station for every two booths, but that’s got to be a minimum for an outdoor festival in summer. Hope they fix that for next year.
Best beer I had was definitely a sour brett pear cider at the homebrewers’ table, but it was good and exciting to get a look at the new local and quasi-local breweries.
The best thing I think I’ve had from the Ship Inn was a port wine barrel-aged porter a couple years ago at the Easton Brewfest (RIP). They seem to have dumbed down their beers since then, or at least what they bring to festivals. As for Prism…I’m not sure either. Maybe nice packaging and novelty? I usually skip right past them at festivals since I’ve had whatever they bring before and it’s not particularly tasty.
Greg, agreed about rinsing stations and water. I don’t even think I was able to rinse my tasting glass out once the whole time. There were no dump buckets either which would’ve helped disposing some unwanted extra beer.
[…] aging beer in spirits barrels, and doing sour ales. To give you an idea of the variation, at the recent PBS Brewfest they were pouring a Gallows Hill Saison and a peach wheat infused with bourbon-soaked oak chips […]