Hop’in Around: A fest to end hibernation

By on February 20, 2019

Bombadile Brett from Wicked Weed of Asheville, N.C. (Photos by Michael Upton)


Seven years ago, the folks at CrocodileDog (who bring fest fans Taste of PA and Rivertown Hops) noticed a slump in beerfest activity in the winter months. They had a logo — a Nordic-looking bear downing a couple steins — for a new fest. They put out a call for a name and Hibrewnation, a portmanteau of “hibernation” and “brewing,” was born.

“We craft our beer lists working with the individual breweries to try and bring in stuff that you can’t just get everywhere. Not everything is rare and hard to find, but a lot of it is. We pride ourselves in making a festival that we would like to attend,” said Kate Harmon, spokeswoman for CrocodileDog Marketing prior to the Saturday, Feb. 9 event.

The “not everything” was covered by imports under the Guinness brand, selections from Sam Adams, and a few Goose Island beers. It was the rare and hard to find I was after.

As I made a beeline to one of my favorite breweries, Wicked Weed (Asheville, N.C.), I stopped at a nondescript, unlabeled tent in the corner of the York Expo Center. Turns out this was “The Secret Stash,” a cooler-full of “bonus beer.” I was lucky enough to get a pour of Doppel Dinkel Bock, a collab from Deschutes Brewery and Distelhauser (Germany), which blends a traditional malt profile with hoppiness of the Pacific Northwest. It’s pretty awesome and definitely a beer not even close to being on my radar. Distraction over, I headed to the Wicked Weed tent.

Even though Brett beers may have run their course as a trend in brewing, the folks at Wicked Weed are seriously invested (literally) in the microorganisms. (Brett, short for Brettanomyces is a wild yeast strain.) I love the taste of good Brett beers, so I was eager to sample Bombadile, a Brett farmhouse ale fermented with strawberries and aged in a French oak foeder. (Foeder, pronounced food-er is essentially an oversized barrel, usually at least three times the size of a standard barrel.) Although it was refreshingly sour and bubbly, I didn’t pick up any of the strawberry flavor.

That’s a thick beer! Tattered Flag’s Mail Order Czar is a Russian imperial stout infused with Vietnamese coffee and vanilla.

Organizers provide a select number of breweries with a cask for experimental brews. Sometimes experiments go wrong. Just ask the folks at Hemauer Brewing Company in Dillsburg. Their cask of strawberry milkshake IPA exploded the night before the event, drenching their basement in liquid stickiness. However, I was able to get my lips on Tattered Flag’s Mail Order Czar, a Russian imperial stout infused with Vietnamese coffee and vanilla. This was a thick, syrupy, mouth-coating beer I probably wouldn’t want to try again. Aldus Brewing of Hanover had a Lemon Meringue Pie beer on cask, which tasted exactly like the pie; it was pretty strange. But the strangest of brews had to come from Hemauer (and was not on cask). Här Fiskig Fiskig (Here, Fishy Fishy) is Swedish Fish Berliner Weisse, which tasted like the best Kool Aid you’ve ever had!

There’s so much more to mention about this truly awesome fest, but I’m out of space. If you like great beer, new flavors, and happy brewers this is a must attend event. Oh, and I have to mention this entire event is a fundraiser for the Hopewell Fish and Game Association. Cheers and thanks for reading!

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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