I thought I had done a review of this last year, but apparently I didn’t. This is the second year my wife and I have attended this festival, which is based around only stouts. Fort George Brewery in Astoria has declared February as Stout Month and hosts this festival every year in the middle of the month. Last year it was Valentines weekend, this year it was slightly later. Unfortunately it always seems to fall on Zwicklemania weekend, which means missing that event.
Last year’s festival happened during a torrential downpour and we got soaked walking from our hotel to the festival. This year the weather was much nicer, but the downside to that meant it was a lot more crowded. They rearranged some of the tap locations in an effort to manage the crowds better, but I feel like they went the wrong way and made it worse instead of better. But besides the crushing crowds and the too loud music (which we just come to expect at an event like this) everything else was top notch as usual. And of course, we’re all there for the beer!
I don’t take detailed tasting notes at an event like this, but there were quite a few that stuck out as far superior than the rest. Between my wife and I we tasted 26 of the stouts that were there. That’s only a third or so of the 63 total available. Several of the more rare ones run out fast, some we never even saw, and sadly my wife had the dubious honor of blowing two kegs. She just missed out on the Firestone Walker Parabajava and the Smog City The Nothing. I was a few people short of The Breury’s So Happens it’s Tuesday, which I knew would go fast.
Quite a lot of the beers at the Festival are barrel aged and double digit alcohol level. This is one of the few fests where I’m thankful for a 3 ounce pour, because most of these beers it would be hard to drink much more than that. Thick, rich, boozy, heavily flavored, just a “taste” is perfect.
It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but there were a handful of beers that shone above the rest. The Lagunitas Willett Whiskey Aged Stout was phenomenal, as was the Ecliptic Bourbon Barrel Aged Oort Imperial Stout. It’s a coin flip between those two for best of the fest. Also great was the 2013 Walking Man Bourbon Barrel Jaywalker, the Alesong Rhino Suit, Sierra Nevada Barrel Aged Narwhal, the Stoup Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and the Mill City Brew Werks Raspberry Tripwire.
When I’m at a festival like this, I tend to gravitate to beers I’ve never had before and beers that I can’t usually get in this area. Nothing against Boneyard’s Suge Knight or pFriem’s BA Imperial Stout, but I’ve had them before and I know they are good. This also means I didn’t try a lot of the Fort George beers, since I’ve had them before or know I can get them pretty much any time. Coffee Girl, Kentucky Girl, and Tuesday’s Lunch I know I’ve had, and the rest didn’t really look appealing. Nothing wrong with weird flavors, but I’m not sure about a stout with Candy Cap mushrooms (Subtle Hyperole) or black tea and plums (Kaiju Stout).
The exception to this was Fort George’s new Matryoshka series. Named after Russian nesting dolls, the base is a Barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout. A small batch of that was aged with cocoa nibs, and then an even smaller batch of that was aged with cocoa nibs and raspberries. A stout, within a stout, within a stout. I had a bottle of the base beer here at the house, and my wife got a taster of the cocoa version while I got a taster of the cocoa/raspberry version and they were both phenomenal. The day after the festival we went back to Fort George for lunch and also a bottle release of the Matryoshkas. I picked up a bottle of the cocoa nib and the cocoa nib/raspberry to complete the set.
Fort George sure knows how to throw a party! We have to leftover tokens to kick start us for next year. See you in 2018!