Julio’s Spring Beer Fest

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Ahhh, spring was in the air this past weekend in central Massachusetts. My lawn is overrun with dandelions, there’s a half-inch coat of pollen on my car, a garter snake made me scream like a 2nd grader, and most importantly: Julio’s Liquors hosted its annual Spring Beer Fest! If you don’t know Julio’s: it’s my favorite local beer store with a selection that’s on par with any store in the greater Boston area. And if you don’t know about the Julio’s Spring Beer Fest: it’s a collection of free samples of 200 craft beers from 50 breweries. Do I have your attention yet? I thought so.

The timing of this year’s Spring Beer Fest could not have been better. It’s the first spring in 4 years when my daughters didn’t have soccer games, so I was free and clear. I also had my sister and her boyfriend in town for a family event. They love craft beer and were excited to check out the selection. 

We arrived at Julio’s around 1:05pm, 5 minutes after the doors opened. The line stretched from in front of the building around the corner. I didn’t mind the wait because it allowed me to formulate and refine my game plan. Those who have attended beer festivals can probably relate to my mindset. 200 beers is too many to possibly try every one. You might have to wait in line at some of the more popular stations. It can get crowded in there and you probably don’t want to stay for 2 or 3 hours. That’s why I thought it might be useful to share some tips for attending a beer fest:

  1. Make a top 3 list. Most festivals will distribute a list of the beers in attendance. Go through and circlethe 3 that you must taste before leaving. 
  2. Get outside your comfort zone. I’m a hophead and could easily drink IPAs-only when I go to a tasting. But what fun would that be? I tried to limit my IPA tastings to 3 or 4 beers so that I could branch out into other styles. Similarly, I avoided the breweries that I was already familiar with. Let’s just say I didn’t attend the beer fest to drink Samuel Adams Boston Lager (no, really… they had it at their table!)
  3. Honor the tasting limit. The Julio’s Beer Fest organizers distributed a 10-punch bracelet to limit beer consumption. Some brewery representatives consistently collected the punches, a
    nd some didn’t. I gave my punch cards regardless of whether they asked me. Not because I worried about over-consuming, but because I wanted to force myself to be selective.
  4. Respect your fellow attendees. The brewery reps are naturally inclined to engage you in conversation about the beer. The conversation is great, but stay aware of the fact there may be folks standing in line behind you while you chat. Try to move off to the side a bit to allow those folks to get their samples while you chat with the rep.
  5. Eat. These events normally have good snacks to enjoy while you drink. I’d advise you to eat them, especially if those samples you’re drinking have a high alcohol content. At least the bland stuff like pretzels & crackers. Avoid spicy foods that will impact your taste buds.

I had a great time at the event and got to sample some truly excellent beers. My favorite sample was High & Mighty’s Divine Brown. The style was listed as a “Coffee Brown Ale”, and I found the coffee flavor to be present but well balanced. My least favorite sample (and biggest disappointment) was Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger. I had heard great things and very much enjoyed the hop aroma, but it was all downhill from there. Were my expectations too high? Perhaps.

The biggest surprise for me was Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA. It’s a fusion between a traditional Belgian white and an IPA. I tried it on a whim while I was waiting for my sister to catch up to me, and it really hit the spot. I found it to be very refreshing. Seems like a great pick to bring to a pool party this summer.

Julio’s put on a great tasting and raised over $1,000 of donations for Pink Revolution, a breast cancer charity. I’m already looking forward to next year’s beer fest. I’m also curious to know what you think of the tips I listed above. Agree/disagree with any of the ones I listed? Have any to add? Feel free to leave a comment and perhaps we can crowdsource our own community beer fest tip list!

 

2 comments on “Julio’s Spring Beer Fest

  1. I have a few questions/comments. First of all, it sounds like a great event. I still haven’t been to Julios, but I’ll make the pilgrimage one of these days. Maybe once I get the invite to watch a sporting event at Chez Chad? :-)The biggest question I have is around what you do after a tasting like this. Saturday afternoon tastings leave me ready to go home and take a nap, but with young kids that’s not really in the cards. How do you manage that (or are you just better able to handle ten tastes than I am)? I’m actually really surprised with your pick for favorite of the tasting. I just looked it up and High & Mighty fell off my radar in January 2011 when Matt and I tasted, and drain poured, their Two Headed Beast. I haven’t gone back. Perhaps this makes the case for continued exploration, but it’s so hard to make that case when you’ve had a #drainpour from the producer. They really need to earn my trust back. Is the Divine Brown that good?

  2. Thanks Jim! I think your first trip out here should begin at Julio’s. We can do some pre-game shopping before the big game at Chez Chad.I agree that afternoon tastings are less than optimal when it comes to being productive for the rest of the day. Although I must say: this tasting didn’t hit me hard at all. We were there for nearly 90 minutes and I sampled a good balance of ABV’s so it wouldn’t feel like I just drank a 10.2% bomber. I’ve heard horror stories about other "tastings" where they gave out the samples in pint glasses and people lost track of how much they drank. I didn’t have that problem here. We left, I drank some iced coffee and resumed my lazy Sunday without issue.A couple points regarding the Divine Brown:1. I’m a sucker for any beer with good coffee flavor.2. I should have toned down my little review snippet above. It was my favorite from the tasting by default because I don’t think I sampled any truly great beers. I gravitated toward a couple of "available at the brewery only" offerings that didn’t pan out. I’d give the taste on this one a solid B, nothing more than that. Don’t rush out to buy any.

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