Slow Beer Nation
At first, there hadn't been any plan to write anything here about Slow Food Nation, as I knew that the assembled armies of local food and drink writers would not only do it justice in words and images, but also because, despite my particularly deep love of all things foodie, my inner editor hastened to remind me that the bulk of the 50,000 square feet of display and interaction was devoted to things other than the main topic of this particular site, that being beer. Sure, I had taken the liberty of printing up a list of the breweries that were representing (of which there were around 60) and circled, highlighted, and added obligatory exclamation points next to the specific beers that were going to be available (of which there were around 150). But like I said, this certainly wasn't a beer event. It was a food event, one that just happened to have a neat little hop-adorned tent outside where you could grab a beer to enjoy alongside your wood-fired pizza (or your chutneys, or your naan, or your ceviche, or your ice cream, or your chocolate, or your tea, or your salumi).
Granted, the tent was staffed by a continuous rotation of brewers ("Tell me what you think - I made it" was a typical refrain) and brewery insiders, pouring beer from three gorgeous reclaimed bottle-glass bars - for draft, cask, and bottle, respectively - while also making the rounds at a fourth bar which was set up as a "meet the brewer" scenario, with guided tasting flights being offered from their particular brewery. And they made an effort to actually pour the beers into appropriate glassware when possible (like when Des ordered a Salvation and Bruce Paton took away her original glass and replaced it with a flute). So if you wanted it badly enough, squinted just so, and really tried hard to ignore the enormous cavalcade of comestibles looming right over your shoulder, tendrils of otherworldly aromas snaking around you like horror-movie fog, you could have pretended it was a beer event. But then it would have been even less attractive to comment upon, since beer festivals tend to bring out the complainer in me.
I won't complain, for example, that none of the top-shelf beers remained on the boards by the time the doors to the last session of the event opened, since I'm sure that next time the pavilion curator [*Cough* Ahem, you! You there in the Brookston shirt!] will try harder to control the rotation of the truly rare beers to make them available to folks coming to any one of the four events, not just the first. Fact is, even though my number one choice was long gone off the boards (along with numbers two through sixteen), I did get to taste it, thanks to the warm generosity of Stone's Dave Hopwood, who had set aside a special bottle of Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout on the first day to enjoy by himself at the end of the festival, yet offered up a healthy pour to put a quick end to my unmanly blubbering, weeping and begging.
And I certainly won't complain that the pretty price of entry ($58!) included a limited number of tasting samples, because a "taste" from the beer pavilion amounted to a full serving, meaning that while Lost Abbey's Witches Wit isn't the most robust offering of their line-up, I had a delightfully full glass of it to accompany me on the 200-yard stroll back and forth through the food and spirits pavilions, and still enough to wash down some phenomenal albacore niçoise. Which then left room for a Matilda. And a Little Opal. And a Transcontinental. And an Old Guardian.
So much for not writing about Slow Food Nation, eh? I might as well mention now that we jumped on the vermiculture bandwagon this past weekend as a way of sustainably composting the leftovers from our biodynamically resourced organic, hand-crafted, and homegrown foods. Happy now? We're total foodie dorks hiding behind the toughened veneer of beer drinking.
Good thing the worms like spent grains from brewing. Otherwise y'all might think I'm getting a little fluffy around the edges. Beer is, after all, as William Brand suggested, "one of the original slow foods."
* With education as a high point on the Slow Food priority list, the cask trailer was streamed via video to a monitor at the bar so that folks could see what cask ale is all about. Ancient brewing traditions meets Big Brother.