Info overload: Newport Craft Beer Festival, King of the Yahd, new Ballast Point brews, Hop Hunter arrives, and much more!

A whole lotta beer news has piled up in the last week or so. Let’s dig in:

The date for the 4th Newport Craft Beer Festival was finally announced: it will take place on Saturday, May 9 on the lawn at the Great Friends Meeting House [we guessed right about it moving to May, since the 9th Great International Spring Beer Festival usurped its last-Saturday-in-April slot]. Newport-Craft-Beer-FestivalThe fest is produced by Newport Storm and Pour Judgement Bar and Grill and features 30-plus breweries pouring during two sessions [12-3 and 4-7 pm]. And new this year: a VIB [Very Important Beers] Event on Friday, May 8 at Newport Storm HQ, with exclusive beers that won’t be poured at the Fest and the chance to chat with the brewers in an intimate setting. Tickets will be available soon; check the website and/or Facebook page for updates.

Speaking of Newport Storm and Pour Judgement, the former is releasing Rye of the Storm IPA. The 8%ABV brew is made with a huge helping of the spicy grain and a mix of Cascade, New Zealand Orbit, and German Tradition hops. Four-packs are in stores now…And Pour Judgement IPA, which is made for the bar on Broadway by the folks at Grey Sail, will be hitting the market in 12-ounce cans.

And King of the Yahd, Foolproof’s Imperial India Pale Ale [8.5%], has made its annual appearance. This year’s batch is made with Green Bullet and Southern Cross hops from New Zealand.

  Quick sips: Ballast Point’s Sculpin and Big Eye have been very well-received since their triumphant return, and more beers from the San Diego brewery will arrive next week: Even Keel, a seasonal session IPA [3.8%, in cans]; Victory At Sea, an exalted imperial porter [10%] made with coffee and vanilla beans; and Grapefruit Sculpin, brewed with grapefruit rind [if you see that one, don’t hesitate — the supply is very limited; we wrote, “The tartness of the title fruit adds another delightful component to the sumptuous Sculpin. You must try this beer”]…Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter has finally reached our tiny state. It’s a groundbreaking IPA made with steam-distilled hop oil. The aroma is a blast of hop manna, and it’s a piney taste treat. After 35 years in the better beer business, it’s even more impressive that SN continues to up its game…The latest offering in Heavy Seas’ Unchartered Waters series is Phantom Ship, a tripel aged in bourbon barrels [9.5%, in bombers]…The folks at Founders describe Blushing Monk [9.2%] as “essentially an ’Imperial Rübæus,’ [made with] four times the amount of raspberries as Rübæus and fermented with a Belgian yeast strain.” It’s the first 2015 release in their Backstage Series, which shares the Michigan brewery’s experimental brews in 750ml bottles…And mark your calendar [no foolin’]: Founders’ KBS [Kentucky Bourbon Stout] will hit stores on Wednesday, April 1…Three of Firestone Walker’s superb brews will soon be available in cans: Union Jack [IPA, 7.5%]; Easy Jack [Summer Session IPA, 4.5%], and Pivo Hoppy Pils [German Pilsener, 5.3%]…Stone’s next batch of Enjoy By4.20.15 — will be available in six-packs [!] for the first time…And CraftBeer.com, the Brewers Association’s website, has produced a Beer Styles Guide, with visual representations of the wide world of brews, a “concise and systematic” tasting sheet, a text guide with “an alphabetical list of triggers — from alcohol to yeast variety — to help describe possible characteristics of a specific beer style,” and more engaging Beer 101 info and fun.The BA folks note that “the list was pared down to 77 common US beer styles inside of 15 style families with unique information added specifically with the beer lover in mind.” Cheers!!

Beer Talk: Grey Sail, Heavy Seas, and Sierra Nevada seasonals

A few quick notes on new beer releases and events: 20141104_122710

On Wednesday [11.5], Grey Sail will celebrate “the end of political ads” with the release Dark Star, Blend #1, the second entry in its Little Swell Series [Flotsam & Brettsam debuted on October 30].  In the Beervana program, Dark Star was described as a Belgian imperial stout [8.5% ABV]. It was “fermented with three strains of Belgian yeast, then aged in fresh and used Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels for at least nine months.” The “super-limited” run of 16.9-ounce bottles [limit four per person] will be available at 5 pm at the brewery [63 Canal Street, Westerly]. heavy-seas

Also on Wednesday in South County, Hugh Sisson, founder and owner of Heavy Seas, the pride of Baltimore, MD, will be at Mews Tavern [456 Main St, Wakefield] at 7 pm to present a seminar on cask beer. Hugh is an expert on the subject, and Heavy Seas is one of the largest cask beer makers in the US.  In an essay for CraftBeer.com he wrote, “No doubt, there are some who will take issue with my assertion that cask-conditioned ale is draught beer at its best. For some, it’s flat and lacks body. For others, it’s served too warm. Perhaps many naysayers have only been exposed to cask beer that has either been poorly casked or mishandled in transit. If the beer is well-handled, fresh and properly dispensed, the subtle differences between cask beer as opposed to kegged can be profound.” Samples from a cask of Winter Storm, an imperial extra special bitter with a mix of West Coast and UK hops, will help Hugh prove his point after the talk.

New on the shelves: Founders’ Backwoods Bastard, the barrel-aged version of Dirty Bastard [10.2% ABV], is a cele-bottle-pintbracing, boozy beast which demands to be sipped over at least an hour [or two] . . . Sierra Nevada’s Snowpack is a terrific 12-pack sampler, with two new brews — Boomerang IPA [6.7% ABV], a “Yankee-Aussie” offering with floral Down Under hops, and Coffee Stout [6.2% ABV], a great blend of chocolate, caramel, and coffee flavors. SN’s rich Porter [5.6% ABV] and signature Pale Ale round out the must-get box . . . Bombers of SN’s Estate Homegrown Ale, made with organic wet hops and barley grown at their brewery in Chico, just hit shelves . . . And ’tis the season for Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, a fresh hop IPA [6.8% ABV] which is a genuine annual treat. I rarely buy 12-tracks and almost never drink two bottles of the same beer in a row, but I gladly break both of those “rules” when it’s Celebration time.