On Saturday, August 27, hundreds of beer lovers braved the pre-Hurricane Irene rain to attend Brewfest in Webster, MA. Located a few miles south of Worcester on Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (seriously), Indian Ranch is most known for hosting concerts ranging from Leann Rimes to the Barenaked Ladies.
Throughout the day the weather alternated between drizzle and downpour, but with an abundance of flowing beer, smoky barbeque, and music from the Racky Thomas Band, there were only smiles to be seen.
Festivals are prime spots for talking with knowledgeable and passionate people. It was great to learn about beer production and how flavor profiles are developed. I sampled around 20 types of beer (there were close to 100 available) and focused on local breweries, autumn offerings, and unique brews.
I’ll start with the only summery beer I sampled. Watermelon Wheat from Canton’s Blue Hills Brewery is very refreshing, distinctly tastes like watermelon without being syrupy. I chatted with Peter Augis, Blue Hills Brewery expert, about Watermelon Wheat and Antimatter (a single malt/single hop beer, also very good).
The 50 Back American Lager was most memorable for its community involvement. Founded by Kimberly Rogers and Paige Haley, 50 Back donates 50% of their proceeds to charities that support active service members and veterans.
Of all the autumn flavors I sampled, Wormtown Brewery’s Pumpkin Ale stands out by far. With light spice flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon and a steady pumpkin finish, it’s very easy to drink and transported me out of humid August and into crisp fall. Wormtown Brewery is located in Worcester and Pumpkin Ale is available from mid-September to November.
Pig’s Ear Brown Ale from the Woodstock Inn Brewery in North Woodstock, New Hampshire is slightly bitter, smelling like espresso and finishing with a nutty flavor. Lingering flavors make it particularly memorable, especially for coffee lovers.
If you’re looking for something more intense than Pig’s Ear Brown Ale, Paper City Brewery’s Fogbuster Coffee House Ale from Holyoke, Massachusetts is a great choice. The porter is almost black in color and tastes of coffee, chocolate, and caramel.
My pick of the event was the Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer. From Edinburgh, Scotland, the beer is aged in Kentucky bourbon oak barrels, which creates a unique flavor of vanilla, toffee, slight citrus, and oak. I also sampled the limited-bottled Rum Cask finish, which was similar to the original, but a bit spicier from spending time in navy rum barrels. Grab the original if you can find it, you’ll impress your friends.
What’s beer without some quality barbeque? BT Smokehouse from Sturbridge was serving up pulled pork and beef brisket sandwiches on the sandy shore of the lake. The staff was incredibly friendly and the smoky meat was a perfect complement to beer. Worth the trip to Sturbridge!
Brewfest at Indian Ranch was a great time. It was refreshing to see so many local breweries in attendance and the beer variety was right on for a late-summer event.
If you love beer, or you’d like to love beer, I recommend attending a festival where you can sample many types without the commitment of ordering a pint.