Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Weed Beer Festival at Lake Quassy Amusement Park (Pt. 1)

Last weekend was busy.  So busy, in fact, that I’m only now getting around to writing about Sunday, which was by far the more exciting of the two days.  But I didn’t want to start writing about Sunday until I had time to sit down and do it all justice, so…  
Well, sorry for the delay; hopefully it’ll be worth it.
So.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sally and I ran a race on Saturday.  After that, we kind of just laid around, not really doing a bunch.  Then we got up Sunday and did a little housework before taking the kids to Lake Quassy Amusement Park.  They were having the first (hopefully) annual Weed Beer Festival, and we’d bought  tickets in advance with the idea of riding some rides and then drinking some beer.  And that is just what we did.

The day was great because it was overcast and maybe a little rainy, and as a result, not a lot of park-goers showed up.  We walked right up to the Wooden Warrior, Quassy’s big wooden roller coaster, climbed aboard, and went around straight-away.  Hannah and I sat in the back together and let the thing whip us about like rag dolls, both of us screaming our heads off the entire time.  
The kids and me on the Fall-In.

After that, we hit the big swinging ship ride and the Fall-In, and then Sally and the girls rode in the spinny swing-thing, and then we headed to the water park and rode all of the water slides.  There were barely any lines anywhere, to the point where, frankly, I felt blessed.
Sally in the Swings (via Instagram).
In particular, I have to say that Quassy has done a great job with their water park.  They have this big inner tube slide thing called the Bullet Bowl that’s just excellent.   You slide down and around, through a big ramp, and into a giant bowl, basically like a toilet bowl.  You hit that thing at speed and swirl around a time or two before finally slowing enough to get flushed down the hole at the center, where you tumble down into a pool at ground level and out.  Excellent ride.  There are a couple of other good water slides, but that one’s the best thing at the park if you ask me.
After all of that we headed over to the beer festival, sponsored by Weed, which is a new Connecticut-based beer company.  Their beer is called Weed Amber Ale, named after the family that owns the brewery.  But they’re using the slogan “Try Legal Weed”, which if you ask me makes the marketing message a little mixed.  Personally, I’d have bought one of their shirts, but they didn’t have one that said simply “Weed Amber Ale”, and that whole marijuana pun didn’t appeal to me.  Which is a shame because the beer itself, taken on its own merits, is terrific.
The Weed Beer Festival (again via Instagram)
Anyway, the beer festival had maybe twenty or so breweries represented, all laid out in rows and handing out free samples.  Most of the brewers were physically, personally present, and I geeked out big time with it, taking notes and lots of pictures as I went through samplings so that I could write up the whole experience in as much detail as I can manage.  Overall, it was a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I was glad for the time and effort I’ve spent learning about beer over the past year or so because otherwise it would’ve been tough to appreciate fully all that was going on.
The first brewery we visited was Thomas Hooker, one of Connecticut’s larger and more successful craft breweries.  They make my favorite everyday drinking beer, Hop Meadow IPA, but of course, I wasn’t there to taste beers with which I was already familiar, and in any event, the Hooker guys were only there to promote their other, presumably less well-selling beers—their Watermelon Ale, Munich-Style Lager, and Irish Red.  I’d had that Watermelon Ale before (it’s not one of my favorites), so I let them pour me a half-glass of the Munich Lager and the Irish Red.
Beer from Thomas Hooker.
I tried the Munich-Style Lager first.  It struck me as light and maybe a little fruity, well-carbonated but still malty and smooth.  I liked it, but considering its color and the fact that it’s got “Munich” written right on the side of the bottle, I was kind of expecting more of a hop-forward pilsner, and that’s not what this is at all.  This tastes more like what I think Americans traditionally tend to think of as “beer”, albeit at the very highest end of that particular taste spectrum.  I could appreciate the craftsmanship here, but my own personal palette tends to run in a different direction.  The Munich-Style Lager is much more my wife’s kind of thing, and in fact, Sally said that she liked it quite a bit.
The Hooker Irish Red was much more my thing.  Well-malted with a strong caramel-forward flavor and plenty of carbonation, this is a beer that I think will appeal to a wide swath of the beer-drinking public.  Personally, I would have liked just a hint of bite in it, but for folks who don’t particularly care for hops, this is the kind of thing that ought to really appeal.  I’m thinking, for example, of our neighbor Gretchen, who loves strongly-flavored beer but complains every time I try to introduce her to anything that’s even slightly hop-forward.  Fact is, we live in an over-hopped world, but not everyone likes bitter beer.  For those folks—and they may even be a majority beer enthusiasts—Hooker’s Irish Red is an excellent choice.
From there, Sally and I wandered over to the Weed Amber Ale table.  The Weed folks, I have to say, were super-nice.  I don’t remember who exactly we met, but I got the feeling that it wasn’t just some sales associate, that we met someone from the family who was enthusiastic about their product.  That kind of thing was, by far, my favorite part of this experience.  Meeting beer folks and talking with them about what I know has to be a labor of love for most of these guys… that was what made this whole thing really great.

Weed Amber Ale.
As far as the beer is concerned, Weed Amber Ale was a real winner.  It was a manly, hop-forward ale, very flavorful—exactly my favorite kind of beer.  They could have easily called this one an India Pale Ale (IPA), brewed more in the West Coast style than some of the other offerings that we saw at the festival, but it seems like it might have been a little lighter in color than your typical IPA.  Or maybe they decided to call it an “amber” as a way of trying to differentiate from what has become a crowded field of craft IPAs regionally and nationally.  Regardless, the beer had a beautiful dark amber color, gorgeous and cloudy; it was a pleasure to experience, really.  I’ll definitely pick up a six pack of Weed Ale next time I see it out at the store.
We tried lots more beers Sunday, but I don’t want this post to become a kind of one-stop encyclopedia of the Connecticut beer scene.  So I’m gonna break my write up over the next few days and hopefully give each of these brewers plenty of time to shine.  Fact is, when you’re talking craft beer, it’s a sin to gloss over the details.  
Tomorrow we’ll look at Cottrell’s Old Yankee Ale1757 GW Beer, and Connecticut’s newest craft brewer, Dawley.  Trust me, you won’t want to miss any of those.

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