Not your ordinary fest

By on October 1, 2014

Homebrew contest results

Sampling the wares of Fish Brewing Co., from Olympia, Wash. (photos by Mike Shull)

Sampling the wares of Fish Brewing Co., from Olympia, Wash. (photos by Mike Shull)

For many visitors to downtown Lititz on Sunday, the Lititz Craft Beer Fest was their first experience at a beer festival. Be warned those looking for a sophomore experience, not all beer festivals are created equally. The LCBF set some high standards. The success, and uniqueness of the LCBF, can be summed up in three Bs: breweries, beers, and brews

The sheer number of breweries (plus two cideries) descending on Lititz was phenomenal (47 by the time gates opened), but what makes the LCBF stand out even more are the quality of breweries in attendance. The LCBF distinguished itself from other events by putting the emphasis on the word craft. Craft brewing &tstr; as the definition has transformed from microbrewing &tstr; is the art of creating beer with an emphasis on taste, style, and quality. At many beer festivals larger, more corporate breweries make their way into the selection. There was no Shock Top or Blue Moon (brands often misconstrued as craft, or small, but in fact are owned by global brewing giants Anheuser InBev and MillerCoors respectively). There was also a lack of breweries that are looking to quickly expand their established line of brews into new markets (i.e. Abita, Shiner). Instead, there were two of the top 10 fastest growing breweries in the country tapping beers in Lititz &tstr; Elysian and DC Brau.

There was a truly eclectic mix of breweries at LCBF. As powerhouses in the craft world, Stone Brewing Company was pouring next to a local icon, Stoudt’s Brewing. Some may make the argument of who actually brews the better beers! As national and local legends, the juxtaposition of these two breweries made for great beer tasting.

The LCBF also brought a number of breweries who may not be so easily accessible in our area, like Oxbow Brewing Company (Maine) and Dog Tag Brewing (Montana). On the local scene, nine of Lancaster County’s breweries represented themselves, with another 14 Pennsylvania breweries joining in.

LR20141002_CraftBeerFest 171_mShullPrestige, yes, but the tangible weight those brewers bring is beer. Collaboration beers sprung in popularity several years ago as some of the most recognizable names in craft brewing teamed with one another to create a one-shot beer. Some of these beers are crazy. Some are more marketable. Whatever they are, the trend in brewing collaborations is still strong. For this festival Columbia Kettle Works and St. Boniface teamed up to bring Kettleface, an Imperial red ale. The beer was brewed at each individual location and offered a unique look at the subtle differences in brewing due to different yeast, water, and equipment.

Beyond collaborations the LCBF had unique opportunities for beer fans to try limited (or never released) brews. Just for Lititz, Appalachian Brewing Company brewer Pat Gallagher introduced a Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. Lines formed early to try a limited edition brew, Quadrotroticale, from Stone’s Stochasticity Project, an experimental line of beers meant to test the normal boundaries of brewing chemistry.

And then there were the brews … home brews that is. Homebrews are something not often seen at beer festivals. Dozens of homebrewers entered into the LCBF homebrew competition, which was whittled down to 10 by a cast of judges. Of those 10 the judges chose one winner, a Smoked Chipotle Porter brewed by the team of Brian Thomas, Jason Clement, and Will Meiser. For winning, their porter will now have the honor of being brewed and offered on tap by St. Boniface Craft Brewing Company of Ephrata. During the event, visitors were allowed to taste and vote on their favorite. The people’s choice winner, a Scottish ale, was brewed by Kathy Yellets and Kelly Fedin. Yellets’ and Fedin’s ale will be brewed and offered by JoBoy’s Brewpub in Lititz. Taking home other prizes were third place winner Allen Arslanian for his Smashed Wolf, Bride of Zombie in fourth brewed by Harold Ford, and Brian Wagner’s Hibiscus Pale Ale. (Author’s note: I voted for the Hot Pine IPA by Mike Foster. I loved the fruity front and the climbing heat in the finish.)

With the success of the inaugural Lititz Craft Brew Fest organizers expect to hold the second annual event next year. Again, tickets will be limited. Many fans missed out on this year’s festivities by waiting too long to secure tickets. Here’s to next year!

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