Thursday, August 28, 2014

#WineStudi​o Session XVI – Liquid Voices of Hudson Valley

#WineStudi​o Session XVI – Liquid Voices of Hudson Valley

August's #WineStudio featured an area I wasn't that familiar with, new York's Hudson Valley. I've been tasting the Finger Lakes region wines for a few years, so I thought I knew what to expect: good to great whites, decent to good reds. I was happy to be mistaken.

What I now know about the Hudson Valley:
  • Melting glaciers carved a deep trench, creating the valley and depositing shale, slate, schist, and limestone, perfect for growing grapes to create beautiful wines.
  • The winegrowers struggle with the weather (brutal heat and humidity in summer, freezing temps in winter), disease (black rot, powdery mildew), and competition ( agricultural uses and housing). They've overcome these problems by identifying appropriate vitis vinfera varietals along with hybrids to vinify food-friendly wines showcasing high acidity and relatively low alcohol.
Tasting Notes:

Whitecliff Vineyard (@WhitecliffVino on Twitter) - Owners and founders, Michael Migliore and Yancey Stanforth-Migliore, purchased an empty field thirty years ago and built the winery from the ground up! Establishing the vineyard has been an ongoing process since 1979. It involves years of trial and error to determine which varieties will produce good yields and quality wine, while withstanding the cold winters. The rigorous approach of science and engineering, along with a generous helping of pigheaded determination, has provided the knowledge and the strong base necessary to create a successful vineyard and winery.
White Rose 2013: Estate grown 75% Traminette-25% Gewürztraminer; fermented in stainless steel; faint lemon yellow in color; muskmelon, floral, and citrus aromas; honey, stone fruit, spice, and melon flavors into a citrusy finish; nice balance with plenty of acidity; surprisingly round mouthfeel; 12% ABV; synthetic cork closure; 7000 cases produced; SRP $18.
Brotherhood Winery (@BrotherhoodWine on Twitter): In 1810, a French Huguenot emigre named Jean Jaques purchased land in New York’s bucolic Hudson Valley and began planting grapes. By 1837, Mr. Jaques needed more land, so he purchased a plot in the quiet village of Washingtonville, NY, and planted another vineyard. By 1839, his first underground cellars were dug and Mr. Jaques fermented his first wine vintage. Those cellars, the oldest and largest in America, are still in use today at Brotherhood Winery.
“B” Sparkling Chardonnay NV: charmat method production; light golden straw color, visible small bubbles; green apple, citrus, and subtle yeast aromas; lemon, subtle yeast and melon flavors; low-key effervescence; bright acidity; ABV 12%; cork and wire closure; 1250 cases produced; SRP $11.99.
Millbrook Vineyards and Winery (@MillbrookWinery on Twitter): Millbrook is considered one of the top wineries across the Hudson River Valley and the entire state of New York. Millbrook's wine is cultivated on thirty of the vineyards' 130 acres. Current varietals include Chardonnay (13 acres) Pinot Noir (5 acres), Cabernet Franc (7 acres), Tocai Friulano (5 acres) and Riesling (5 acres). Our winemaker, John Graziano, has been crafting these high quality wines for Millbrook since 1984. He has been the only winemaker at Millbrook since its establishment. Currently, John is producing approximately 10,000 – 14,000 cases of wine annually from our own fruit, as well as fruit from across New York and our California vineyards.
Proprietor's Special Reserve Tocai Friulano 2013: No malolactic fermentation, no oak; clear and bright light yellow in color; grapefruit, starfruit, lime and white floral aromas; tropical fruit, Meyer lemon, melon, and subtle petrol flavors; very smooth mouthfeel with a great thread of acid ending in a pleasingly tart finish; on the sweeter side but nicely balanced overall; 13% ABV; 1060 cases produced; cork closure; SRP $20. Stood up nicely to a cheese and deli meat sandwich on seeded sour bread.

Proprietor's Special Reserve Cabernet Franc 2012: 95% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot estate grapes; 100% malolactic fermentation; aged in barrel 14 months; deep garnet color with light ruby edges; red currant and dusty red berry aromas; stewed prunes, earth, smoke, dark cherry, and white pepper flavors into a tart red berry finish; smooth mouthfeel, decent acidity and some tannins rounding out a wine that opens up the longer it sits; 13% ABV; 336 cases produced; cork closure; SRP $30.
If you haven't experienced Hudson Valley wines, now is the time to start searching them out. Even better, go visit - the area looks amazing and, due partly to its proximity to the Big Apple, it has an established infrastructure catering to travelers of all ilks.

About #WineStudio and True Wine Culture: The True Wine Culture message is wine education, so that we may gain a better understanding of our world through wine and our part in that world – we’re continually searching and pioneering an American cultural perspective. #WineStudio prepares us to engage our brain and palate through this interactive online wine community. Thanks to Protocol Wine Studio for leading these monthly educational experiences!

Wines provided for tasting purposes -all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NapaQuake: The Aftershocks

#NapaQuake #NapaStrong

‪After the recent terrible news of a hugely destructive earthquake that hit the Napa region, there have been some silver linings. While there was a lot of property damage, it appears that there were no deaths and injuries were less than one might expect. Want to do something to help the ‪‎earthquake‬ area businesses? ‎Napa‬ is open for business! If you can visit, go and shop and support the local economy or physically volunteer. If not, raise a glass and drink wine from Napa. Every little bit helps.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Faust Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

When offered to review this Cabernet from Faust, I was doubly excited as I had not had any Faust wines before, though I'd heard good things about them. Agustin Huneeus is a legend in the winemaking world -  for all of the wines he has produced, the underlying premise has been that great wines must be a reflection of a great vineyard. With Faust Wine, he takes a different tact -- this wine is a tribute to Napa Valley’s noblest grape. He seeks out Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from his family-owned vineyards in Rutherford and Coombsville, plus small lots from spectacular mountain and valley terroirs in Yountville, Mount Veeder, Atlas Peak and St. Helena. Crafted by Charles Thomas of Quintessa, the Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

Faust Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Tasting Notes:
78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc grapes hand-picked, double-sorted and crushed, then cold-soaked and fermented in both French oak and stainless steel tanks; after an extended maceration, aged for 19 months in 100% French oak, 30% new; deep purple in color, with ruby notes; red currant, spice, vanilla, and earthy aromas; fruit forward with similar flavors to aromas with an added undercurrent of cocoa; full body with a nice balance between acidity and tannins; 14.2% ABV; cork closure; SRP $60.
Sample provided by the winery via Fineman PR: Fineman PR unites large-agency talent, small-agency responsiveness and internationally recognized strategic direction. We are a full-service agency specializing in Brand PR and crisis communications, creating and executing award-winning public relations programs.

Sample provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Winechat: Terroirs of Riesling: Austria, Alsace, Germany

"...because the glory of Riesling is in its multiplicity of styles…
and the problem of Riesling is in its multiplicity of styles..."

Winechat last night explored three unique terroirs through three outstanding old world Rieslings from Alsace, Austria and Germany. Soil, climate and topography are the major components of terroir. Soil not only governs vine growth, but also influences the taste of the grapes and character of the wines and must have a balanced proportion of primary nutrients.  Heavy clay promotes a citrus aroma.  Rieslings produced in mostly quartz soil yield lean, aromatic, high acid/low fruit wine. 

With this background, we delved into the wines themselves. The beauty of Riesling, mentioned by many throughout the hour, is its versatility and wide range of expression. The three wines could not have been more different from each other, yet certain aspects, like the mineral, floral and citrus properties (unique in each), came across in all three wines. 

Riesling's Old World terroirs in Alsace, Austria and Germany.

Rheingau, Germany - Schloss Schönborn Riesling Kabinett Erbacher Marcobrunn 2011:

Grapes from a vineyard with loess-loam, chalk, marl and sand soils; pale yellow in color; honey, stone fruit, and floral aromas; honeyed stone fruit, melon, mineral, tropical fruit into citrus flavors; crisp acidity, nicely balanced with a creamy finish; 9.5% ABV; SRP $24.

Kamptal, Austria - Brandl Reserve Riesling 2011:

Grapes farmed without the use of chemicals from the Heilingenstein vineyard - sandstone and siltstone soils; vinified in stainless steel; palest straw color; floral, mineral, and subtle citrus aromas; mineral, green apple, spice, melon, and white pear flavors; nice acid within a balanced framework; touch of sweetness on a lingering luxurious finish; 14% ABV; twist-off closure; 3350 bottles produced; SRP $34.

Alsace, France - Paul Blanck & Fils Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2010:

Grapes from the Schlossberg slope at 200-300m in elevation - granite soils; vinified in stainless steel; aged on lees in large wooden foudres for 12 months; aged in bottles for 2 to 3 years; pale straw color; citrus, herb, and white floral aromas; mineral, lemon, melon, honey, stonefruit, into tart grapefruit flavors; round, plush mouthfeel; bright acidity into a sweetish abrupt finish; 13% ABV; cork closure; SRP $35.

Riesling is an entry wine for many drinkers, as at its most basic it is a fruity and sweet wine that pleases all palates. The beauty of Riesling is that even the most basic wines have an acid backbone that pushes them beyond other basic whites. Riesling is also one of the most food-friendly wine s available, with the acidity, balance, and range of sweetness options making it a good fit for almost any cuisine. These three wines showed just a small range of what Riesling is capable of, and it was great fun to delve into the beauty of this grape across three very different terroirs.

Thanks to Teuwen Communications for providing samples. Teuwen Communications is a full-service public relations agency that specializes in marketing and brand strategies for the food, wine and spirits industries. Thanks also to Wines of Germany US, Austrian Wine USA, and Wines of Alsace for sharing your wines and passion with us.

These wines were provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Snooth Vouvray Virtual Tasting

I was lucky enough recently to participate in a Snooth Virtual Tasting, focused on Chenin Blanc, from Vouvray in the Loire Valley of France. I received samples of the Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvee Silex 2012 and the Sylvain Gaudron Vouvray Brut 2011. Two other bottles, the Domaine du Margalleau Vouvray Sec 2011 and Champalou Petillant Brut NV, were also discussed. As usual, the dialogue was fast and furious, the live action with Gregory Dal Piaz and Christy Canterbury MW was casually informative and educational, so the evening was a blast. Check it out on Snooth.

The wines were a pleasure to drink, well-balanced with a nice acidity, and a focus on the minerality that the area is know for. These were tasty on their own, but would pair with plenty of food options - get a bottle or two and have some fun finding optimum complementary or contrasting flavors!

Snooth Vouvray Virtual Tasting

Tasting Notes:
Sylvain Gaudron Vouvray Brut 2011:

Pale yellow with tiny bubbles; mineral, stone fruit, and citrus aromas; focus on minerality, with subtle nut and chalky flavors; ABV 12.5%; cork and wire closure; SRP $22.

Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvee Silex 2012:

Biodynamic grapes grown on flint and clay soils; lovely straw color; apple, pear, quince and citrus aromas; fruit forward, mineral, and subtle saline flavors; balanced, medium body; cork closure; SRP $24.
These wines were sent for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Michel Chapoutier’s Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

I recently received three tasting samples from Michel Chapoutier’s Domaine de Bila-Haut, their property in Roussillon. The name refers to an old farm villa which was built high into the mountain slopes , among some old vineyards. The Domaine comprises 75 hectares of land cultivated under bio-dynamic farming techniques almost 150 meters above sea level. The Roussillon vineyards are located on terraces with stony soil, with black and brown schist, gneiss, limestone and chalk.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Tasting Notes:
Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc Côtes du Roussillon 2013: 
Hand-harvested Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris, Vermentino (Rolle) and Macabeu grapes; vinified in stainless steel; pale yellow color with green tints; lemon, floral, and stone aromas; citrus, melon, floral, and mineral flavors with a subtle saltiness; ABV 13.5%; cork closure: SRP $13.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rosé Pays d’Oc 2013: 

Cinsault and Grenache grapes; vinified in stainless steel; pale salmon color; floral, blackberry, and stone fruit aromas; subtle strawberry, melon, and citrus flavors; ABV 13.5%; cork closure; SRP $13.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2012: 
Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan grapes; vinified in concrete vats; dark ruby in color; plum, blackberry, and earthy aromas; blueberry, mocha, and stewed plum flavors; ABV 14.5%; cork closure; SRP $13.
Trailer Fac & Spera from GFILM on Vimeo.

All three wines are distinctive, tasty on their own, but really come alive with food. Grab some bottles, invite some friends, and create a vibrant menu to showcase these wines. Great QPR to boot!

These wines were provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cheese and Beer [Book Review]

There are endless discussions about food and wine pairings, including the best wines to go with various cheeses. Now, there is a growing movement, tied to the craft beer renaissance I believe, to discuss beer and food pairings, including cheese. I have to admit, that I never really ponder beer with food - if it tastes good, I'm happy. Same for cheese and beer. That's definitely changing now.

Cheese and Beer book cover

When I got a copy of Janet Fletcher's Cheese and Beer (2013, Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing), I was intrigued. Nay, inspired. With so many choices, both for beer and cheeses, it's hard to know where to start. Fletcher divides the beer world into categories and styles of beer, with the caveat that one brewer's IPA may not match anothers. Ditto for Cheddar cheese. Still, there are accepted notions of what each style of beer or cheese should taste like, so removing the outliers gives you something to work with.

Fletcher states that the most pleasant matches come from the contrast or complement between the beer and cheese. Things to take into account are the texture, intensity, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, alcohol level, and aroma. Making sure that the cheese and beer complement or contrast these elements should provide for the best matches. The book is largely a discussion of beers from around the world matched to cheeses from around the world - can't wait to track some of these pairings down. The real fun, in my opinion, is using the table "Which Beer With That Cheese?" Picking a random six pairings, it was time to shop.

Beer and cheese pairings

We invited some friends over, went shopping, and here's what we ended up with:
  • Saison paired with Brie - we all enjoyed the beer and the cheese separately, but not together. We'll try again with a different Saison.
  • IPA paired with aged goats cheese - one of the evening's favorites, the tanginess of both the beer and the cheese were enhanced by the pairing.
  • Amber Ale paired with Manchego - another favorite, but really, what would Manchego not pair with? :)
  • Porter paired with Smoked Cheddar - perhaps too much going on with the smoke aspect, but otherwise a good pairing - wanted this cheese because it was a local.
  • Stout paired with Gouda - another good one, deep flavors of both the beer and cheese enhanced each other.
  • Dubbel paired with blue cheese - sweetness of the Dubbel was a great contrast to the piquant spiciness of the blue cheese.
So much fun to do that, neat to see how the pairings worked (or didn't). My suggestion? Get a copy of Cheese and Beer, get some suggested craft beer and cheese pairings and get ready to be wowed.

About the Author: "I live, cook, garden and write on a quiet street in Napa Valley. My house is not large but my kitchen is…and my sunny garden is bigger yet. Here, I develop and test recipes for cookbooks and magazine features; evaluate cheeses for my classes and columns; and prepare dinner nightly with my winemaker husband. In my garden—a terraced landscape of roses, fruit trees and raised vegetable beds—I find inspiration for daily cooking and an antidote to deadline stress."

This book was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis

A few weeks ago, I was in Minneapolis for work, so I decided to check out the Town Hall Brewery, part of the city's burgeoning craft beer scene. Since it's also a brewpub, I could get dinner while tasting a beer or two (or three), making it a win-win. By the way, if you need a hotel suggestion in downtown, the renovated Hyatt Place is pretty remarkable, and well-located to boot.

Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis

Since my plan was to eat and drink to excess (maybe), I decided to hoof it over, as it was just over a mile, and walking is one of my favorite ways to see a city. Downtown Minneapolis is undergoing some major changes, with Downtown East, a $400 million mixed-use development, going up next to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. It's a five-block project: office towers, parking garage, retail space, 193 apartments and a four-acre urban park. Hope it works for them!

The Town Hall Brewery sits in an old, attractive building, with a beautiful patio for outdoor seating during clement weather. Since it was so busy and I was hot from walking, I opted to sit in the darker, cooler, interior. There are some interesting decorative pieces to adorn the otherwise spare space, featuring seating at the bar, at tables, or in booths.

Town Hall has many, many options for beer, so going with a flight seems the prudent thing to do. If you're still thirsty after a flight, order another or a pint of your favorite. The beers were all tasty, with many having a subtle unique flavor twist - I generally could not identify what made their IPA, for instance, different than other IPAs, but all the beers have their own taste, which is pretty cool. Maybe it's the water.

Food seems to be somewhat of an afterthought, based on the smallish menu and only 2 dessert offerings. I got a burger and fries and the plate came unadorned, looking pretty naked without a garnish or extra side. Still, it was tasty, as were the fries. The two dessert options didn't inspire me to order them, so after beer and dinner, I headed back to the hotel on foot, on the lookout for dessert and possibly an after-dinner drink.

Good, unique beers, great patio, classic bar, decent food, and friendly service make this a good option should you find yourself in Minneapolis. Good craft beer and pub food just can't be beat sometimes.

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery on Urbanspoon

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery on Foodio54

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Good Vines Wine

“Do Good. Drink Me.”

Good Vines Wine

Good Vines Wine is on a mission to save the world with good wine! They donate 5% of sales to local children’s charities and work with local artists, who design the labels. The founders, Carlos Quimbo and Sean Thomas, wanted to build a business that made a positive difference. Carlos learned the importance of sustainability and the significance of wine within the farming community working for his family wine company. Sean learned the importance of giving back at an early age from his grandfather, Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy's). Good Vines' major partnership is with Common Threads, a nationally recognized non-profit organization founded by Chef Art Smith and Jesus Salgueiro, that teaches underserved kids how to cook wholesome meals.

Good Vines provided me with bottles of two wines, their Marzemino and Tai-Pinot Grigio, both sourced from a farmer cooperative-owned vineyard that is 70% solar powered, located in Veneto, Italy. The Marzemino is a light fruity red, slightly frizzante, and on the sweeter side. We drank this well chilled as a desert wine. (An unexpected benefit is the fact that Marzemino is an unusual grape variety and thus, added to my Wine Century Club list as I head to 200 varietals!) The Tai (Tocai Friulano) - Pinot Grigio is a light, refreshing white wine with a nice balance of fruit and acid, paring well with a light pasta dinner. Good Vines also bottles a Cabernet Sauvignon (also from the Veneto region). The 2013 label honors artist, Jesus Salgueiro, who designed the infamous patchwork symbol of Common Threads - he created an original piece of art for Good Vines that was used to inspire the new collectible label. The 2012 label was created by Pop artist Michael Balasis.

Good Vines Wine Video

Good Vines wine is available mostly in the greater Chicagoland area or online through their website. Buy wine or get more information via the website, Facebook, and Twitter.

These wines were provided as media samples - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#Winechat with Soléna Estate

Soléna Estate Wines

Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus Montalieu purchased an 80- acre estate in 2000, naming it Soléna Estate.The vineyard is densely planted at 2400 vines per acre and is farmed with biodynamic principles to encourage a healthy site that will then fully express its terroir. After harvest, the grapes are hand-sorted, then move on to an array of small vessel, temperate controlled, fermentation tanks. The gravity flow winery system allows the wines to gently flow into the below-ground barrel room, where they age for over a year in a range of French oak barrels.

More recently, Danielle and Laurent added the spectacular 100-acre Hyland Vineyard to their portfolio, allowing them to showcase fruit from the McMinnville AVA. They now produce Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and a late harvest Riesling from select vineyard sites around Oregon and Washington.

Tasting Notes:

Pinot Gris 2013
96% Pinot Gris, 4% Gewurztraminer; each lot fermented separately in stainless steel; aged sur lees; no malolactic fermentation; light straw in color; white floral, pear, citrus blossom and vanilla aromas; pear, vanilla and mineral flavors into a midlength citrusy finish; 13.4% ABV; synthetic cork closure; 5000 cases produced; SRP $20.
Pinot Noir Grande Cuvée 2012
Aged for 10 months in 20% new French oak barrels; ruby red color; forest, red berry, dark cherry and violet aromas; dark fruit, spice, and earthy flavors; medium body, moderate tannins and acidity; midlength finish; 13.5% ABV; 6200 cases produced; synthetic cork closure; SRP $25.
Pinot Noir Hyland Vineyard 2012
100% own-rooted, old-growth Pinot Noir from the Hyland Vineyard; bright ruby red color; tart red berry, herb, and floral aromas; bright berry, herb, and cream soda flavors; lingering finish;13.6% ABV; cork closure; SRP $50.
Pinot Noir Domaine Danielle Laurent 2012
From the vineyard Domaine Danielle Laurent, planted with clones received as wedding gifts; darker ruby color; black cherry, oregano, and earth aromas and flavors; medium body with a lingering finish; 13.9% ABV; cork closure; SRP $50.
About Winechat: #winechat is a weekly, Twitter based discussion about something dealing with the world of wine.  Generally, each week’s chat session deals with a specific theme and is lead by an “expert” in that area.  This is generally a nice way to learn about a region, winery, type of wine, etc.

These wines were provided for #winechat - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beer Camp Across America - Midwest Edition

Beer Camp Across America - Midwest Edition

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. invited every craft brewery in the country – more than 2,700 – to take part in a multi-weekend traveling beer festival this summer. Beer Camp Across America is a celebration for the entire craft beer community, bringing together brewers and the fans who have buoyed their success. The Midwest Edition took place on July 27th, on Navy Pier, under a full sun and blue skies. Partly indoors, partly outside, this was a well-designed event that, while crowded, never felt uncomfortable. It was awesome to be able to walk in and out as desired. Food trucks parked at the end of the Pier offered lunch with a view and plenty of opportunities to try a variety of beer and food pairings.

A lot of people make fun of me when I say that, while a blast, there is a certain amount of stress involved in attending a huge tasting. By my Untapp'd record, I tasted 19 beers, which was literally a small drop in the bucket of availability. FOMO? You bet! Initially I randomly sampled beers, but then decided it made more sense to visit the booths of breweries that were either very small, very far from me, or offered a beer or two that was unlike anybody else's. This served me pretty well, but even at the amount I tasted I missed out on a bunch I wish I had the fortitude to try. Hopefully they'll do this again in coming years.

Beer Camp Across America - Midwest Edition

That's the other aspect that's tough - you can taste at these events, but you can't really drink, unless you want to find yourself sleeping it off at a picnic bench or waking up in an ambulance. Around the hall were large plastic tubs for dumping excess beer - a shame in that it was a total waste, but their use meant a lot of people were in fact tasting and not just imbibing.

In conjunction with the festivals, Sierra Nevada partnered with a dozen exceptional craft breweries to create 12 different beers for one mixed 12-pack – including 10 bottles and two cans – another first in the craft beer world.

Beer Camp Across America - Midwest Edition Video

I will say that this was one of the most pleasant events I've visited. A gorgeous location was (happily) enjoyed with near-perfect weather. Amazing beer from all over was tasted, friendly brewers were chatted with, attendees were happy and not pushy. Small details were not overlooked - tubs for excess beer, water (though that ran short at times), and recycling were all part of the package. Nicely done.

I received a media pass to attend this event - all opinions are my own.

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