Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Rat Fest 2013: Rise of the Rat

Written by  Patti Smith
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Rat Fest 2013: Rise of the Rat

Friends know that I am a huge fan of the HBO series “The Wire”. Like many hot blooded women, I found McNulty adorable but such a rascal! The way he drank the Jameson and the beer…it got me thinking that it would have saved the character some time (and money) if those two great tastes came together. I honestly never thought it possible until I attended the annual Rat Fest at the Corner Brewery.
Irish Car Bomb!The Rat Fest brings together homebrewing groups who schedule a day (or days) to brew on the Corner’s 10-gallon system built by the one and only manager Danny-Boy Peron. Nine groups graced the Rat Pad system this time around: Ann Arbor Brewers Guild HopHeads, Ann Arbor Brewers Guild Yeasters, Brighton Brew Club, Craft Beer in Michigan, Detroit Draft Divas, Motor City Mashers, Muskrat Mashers, Sons of Liberty and the Ugly Mug.

These intrepid brewers brewed four different beers a piece (one from a predetermined recipe) and came up with an amazing array of beers including one that combined Jameson and beer (no joke!). Here are some of my standouts:

How Did You Do That?~ One of my favorite flavors is mango. While I’ve never actually sat down and gnawed on the actual fruit, I do enjoy the taste of the juice. I have had several beers that purported to have mango flavor in them, but they have never really retained the taste. Somehow, the good folks at the Ugly Mug made a mango beer that actually tasted like mango but didn’t forget it was a beer. Well played, friends, well played.

Most unique~ Sometimes, people at festivals go overboard on being “weird”. That is not always a bad thing but can lead to some really bad beers. These groups did something different and ended up with great tasting brews, to wit:

Detroit Draft Divas’ Juniperus Zizania. This surprisingly strong (7.7% ABV) beer contained junipers which made for a tangy flavor. Well balanced and malty, this was my first beer of the day and it was extremely enjoyable. And seriously, how cool are female brewers??? Love them!

AABG Yeasters’ Pea Biryani. Brewer Mike O’Brien told me that he had heard about people using peas in the mash. He decided to combine whatever he brought back from his recent trip to India with peas and see what happened…and what happened was a delightful red ale nicely balanced with Biryani spices.

Brighton Brew Club’s Jaeger Blonde. True story: I’ve only ever been sent a drink one time in my life and it was a shot of Jaeger. I had never had it before and didn’t feel the need to have it again until I saw this beer listed. Brewed with a “herbal tincture to mimic Jaegermeister”, the beer still retained its base beer taste without having overpowering flavors of licorice.

Ugly Mug CafeFavorites: I had to pick three and man, it was a tough job but here you go!
3rd Favorite: Sons of Liberty Almond Joy Porter:

Yeah, yeah, I know…sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t and all that jazz. This beer seriously tasted like an Almond Joy bar. If ever I lose my ability to chew and I feel like the candy bar, I am going to ask them to recreate this wonderful beer.

2nd Favorite (and winner for Favorite Overall Beer):

Motor City Mashers’ Salty Dog Grapefruit Gose. As a general rule, I do not like grapefruit and will not eat grapefruit (nor, for that matter, will I drink anything containing Campari). So, I resisted this beer until Boyfriend Ken said, “You should try this, Patti” and so I did and I have to say that he was right (Boyfriend Ken has excellent taste, if I do say so myself). There definitely was tartness but the beer was extremely well balanced and refreshing. The base beer was a wheat beer that the brewers fermented with Hefeweizen and American Ale yeasts. All of these flavors combined to make a clean, zesty brew.

Favorite: Brighton Brew Club’s Bombs Away Stout:

I went back for three tasting glassfuls of this and quite honestly, if a glassful appeared in front of me right now I would not hesitate to gulp it down. This beer was amazing—a chocolate stout with the flavors of Bailey’s and Jameson Whiskey. In one mouthful, you got the chocolate and the stout and the Bailey’s and the Jameson and it all combined into a smooth, creamy, slightly minty nirvana. This birthday made me think of St. Patti’s Day (my birthday!) and all of the smooth, creamy, and slightly minty nirvana things that go along with it. It went down a lot smoother than a beer and Jameson chaser (or Jameson and beer chaser if you prefer) like they always had in The Wire…and definitely tastier. Somewhere, Jimmy McNulty is smiling.

Patti Smith

Patti Smith

Patti “TeacherPatti” Smith lives in Ann Arbor with Boyfriend Ken, her dog Buddy and her stepcats Ali and Cyrus. She is a special education teacher by day, local history buff and brew drinker by night (see the hybrid history/beer blog at www.teacherpatti.com). She also loves watching most Detroit sports on TV, boxing, brewing beer, storytelling, board games and recently wrote a middle grade/YA book that she hopes to convince a publisher to publish! Meantime, she is working on a book about the history of downtown Ann Arbor for Arcadia publishers. Her favorite beer styles include Russian Imperial Stout, pumpkin beers, Kolschs and most things with peppers in them.