Tag Archives: GIBF

Great International Beer Festival 2009

I went to the GIBF this year for both sessions. While there seemed to be fewer booths at this one compared to the one last year (note: I did not go to the one in the spring), the quality of the breweries seemed to be a bit better. We had more smaller breweries present than in past years, though we also had some that weren’t present, most notably Smuttynose. I can’t help but wonder if their presence at Beervana had anything to do with them not coming to the GIBF. It’s probably a combination of that and the economy, considering the GIBF not only makes the breweries pay for a table but also donate the beer and their time. This is something that should not be done if you ever want to start a beer festival. Beervana, on the other hand, bought all the beer and simply requested that a brewer or brewery rep staff the tables. The breweries prefer this approach because they only have to donate their time. It also allows the festival organizers to hand pick the beers they are pouring at the festival.

Last year, I had only attended the afternoon session, which tends to be the quieter of the two sessions with more people who are really into the beer as opposed to people looking to pay $36 for an all you can drink party. I had heard some horror stories of the second session in the past. This time it seemed to be a bit more mellow. While there were a lot more people than the first session, and it was definitely crazier than the first session, there wasn’t a whole lot of screaming and chanting that I had expected. From an attendee’s standpoint, it seemed to go pretty smoothly, though they had a harder time forcing people out than we did at Beervana.

Some of my favorite brewery stops were Mayflower, Offshore, Gardner’s Ale House, Watch City Brewing, Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies, and Ithaca. They all had a great selection of beer. Even the other breweries brought some unexpected beers. Victory, for example, had Wild Devil, Golden Monkey, Baltic Thunder, and Hop Wallop (in addition to Prima Pils). I was surprised they brought so many of their bigger beers. I would have expected Prima Pils and Hop Devil. I was surprised to see that Mayflower signed up for this as well. They hadn’t been there in the past. They even brought some of their Thanksgiving Ale with them, which was quite excellent. Even Providence’s own Trinity Brewhouse had four different whiskey barrel aged beers. So even though Heineken, Corona, and Presidente were all present, the quality of beer from the other breweries was much better than last year. Dogfish Head, whom I had heard would not be coming, ended up having a table (though without their RI rep). It was expected that they would only have 60 Minute IPA and a seasonal. They actually had 90 Minute IPA, Chicory Stout, Raison d’Etre, and Indian Brown Ale. While these aren’t their top offerings, they aren’t the usual suspects either.

All in all, it was a good fest. The layout was better, spacing the rows out a bit more, allowing for easier movement around the floor. They put the stage in the far corner this time rather than at the end of one of the rows of booths. This kept it a bit quieter, though they probably should have lowered the volume of the band and raised the volume for the award ceremony. Aside from that, it was great. I still don’t think it’s worth my money for admission, but if you want a decent introduction to some craft beer available in southern New England, it’s a pretty good place to familiarize yourself with it.

Great International Beer Fest – A Review

I finally made it to my first real beer festival (though I suppose it’d be the second after Julio’s Springfest, which was free and had limited sampling).  I finally had a GIBF I could attend without something else coming up and getting in the way.  I only attended the first session.  We started our day later than we had planned, but had a good sized breakfast and then headed downtown.  We got in line right around 11:45 and met up with a couple friends in line.  Because we were there over an hour before the start, we spent a lot of time sitting there, but it was worth it.  There were a ton of people buying tickets at the ticket booth before getting in line.  I had my tickets waiting at the will call booth, which had no line.  Within the next half hour after arriving, the line filled up pretty quickly.  Being near the front, we were able to avoid lines at several tables after they let us in, but that didn’t last long.

The beer fest is setup kind of odd with breweries and other vendors mixed in with each other.  I would have preferred to have seen all the breweries together and the random other vendors in their own section.  I’ll go into the other vendors after I get through the beer.

To make the beer a bit easier, here’s the breweries we hit and what we drank (in no particular order, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some).

  • Trinity Brewhouse – Imperial Brown Ale, Scotch Ale
  • Blackstone Valley Brewing Supplies (a homebrew shop serving homebrews) – Barrel Aged Scottish Ale (cask), Porter (cask), ESB (cask), Irish Stout, English IPA, Altbier
  • St. John’s Brewers – Virgin Islands Mango Pale Ale
  • Gardner Ale House – Oktoberfest, Chocolate Porter
  • Milly’s Tavern – Porter, Pumpkin Ale
  • Woodchuck – Oak Aged Cider, Dark and Dry Cider
  • Harpoon – 100 Barrel Series Rauchfetzen
  • Saranac – Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, Root Beer (non-alcoholic)
  • Paper City – Batch 108 Coffee Stout, Cabot Street Wheat
  • Watch City – Beejesus BPA, Bombed Blondeshelle Tripel, Kingpin Imperial Stout
  • Brooklyn Brewery – Local 1, Black Chocolate Stout
  • Newport Storm – Rum Barrel Oktoberfest
  • Offshore Ales – Nutbrown Ale, Hop Goddess
  • Pennichuck – The Big O Oktoberfest, Wassail Lager (cask)
  • Woodstock Inn & Brewery – Autumn Brew, Pemi Pale Ale
  • Shipyard – Barleywine
  • Olde Burnside – Ten Penny Ale, Dirty Penny Ale
  • Otter Creek – Wolavers IPA, Winter Ale
  • Haverhill Brewery – HaverAle, Eve’s Apple Ale
  • Rapscallion – Blessing, Honey
  • Sierra Nevada – Anniversary Ale
  • Spaten – Optimator
  • Berkshire Brewing – Cabin Fever
  • B&C Liquors (a store I believe) – Belhaven Scottish Ale

Most of those beers represent beers I have never tried.  My goal was to drink lots of beer that I’ve never had before (or can’t get).  I accomplished that, though I did have some beers I’ve had in the past.  The standout breweries were Watch City, Paper City, Gardner Ale House, and, even though it’s technically not a brewery, Blackstone Valley.  My favorite beers of the night were Cabin Fever, Gardner’s Chocolate Porter, everything I tried from Watch City, Shipyard’s Barleywine, and pretty much everything from Blackstone Valley.  Of course, I passed on some favorites while going booth to booth, but I was trying to avoid getting too drunk (and in that case, I was successful as I was not drunk).  The only brewery I had wanted to hit, but missed because we never walked by them in our 3.5 hours there, was Buzzard’s Bay.  I’ll have to plan a brewery trip some weekend.

In the course of the afternoon, we stopped by some other booths.  The Cabot Creamery booth was a nice break from beer and I love their cheese.  A company called Gerb’s Pumpkin Seeds had some good pumpkin seeds (I liked the roasted red pepper ones).  We got some food from Jersey Mike’s and Pizza Pie-er with a donation to the RI Food Bank (or something like that).  And we spent a lot of time (and money) at the Yankee Brew News table, mainly because we knew the people there (and bought 2 shirts a piece).

What I didn’t like… intermingled with the beer tables were Skoal, Gina’s Cigars, Port-o-pong (beer pong stuff), some random beer-related tshirt booths, the food I mentioned before, Capitol Billiards, HJY radio, and a basement finishing company (that was the only real oddball).  While I can understand having some of these places there (especially the food), I feel like they should have been place elsewhere in their own area.  Keep all the breweries together, put all the beer-related stuff nearby (Ale Street News and Yankee Brew News, for example), but put everything else somewhere else.  It was a distraction from the beer, which is what this show should have been about.

I also didn’t like the fact that there was a lot of empty space.  This could be a real first class beer event in our little state.  There was a row of port-o-johns on one wall, but no beer tables facing them even though there was a ton of space.  There were also some rows of booths that could have been extended.  This could have been done if more breweries were present.  I was disappointed that Mayflower Brewing wasn’t present, even though they were listed on the website.  The other disappointment is that breweries can enter their beers in the competition without actually being present at the show.  It would have been nice to try the beers that were announced as winners, but some of them weren’t there.  There were also a lot of “macros” present… Coors, Miller, Corona, Presidente, Diageo (Guinness)… and they all had some crazy games, causing the frat-ish boys to all yell, causing everyone else to yell.  That was a bit obnoxious.  Finally, the lines were all 20-30 people deep at the height of the show.  More breweries means shorter lines.  Shorter lines means easier access to the beer.

Overall, I enjoyed myself.  I got to try a lot of beer that I wouldn’t normally be able to try.  I was able to try a bunch of beer that I will likely now look for in my local liquor stores.  Finally, I got to hang out with a bunch of friends and chat beer with the reps and brewers.  It was a fun day, though we were exhausted and felt like it was much later when we got home.  Next year, I’m going to see if I can be a judge.  It’ll require me taking a day off from work, but I’d get into the fest for free and take a more active part in the beer world.