Alltech Craft Brews and Food Fest

Beer Fest GlassIt was hard to decide what to do this past weekend because there were so many options for a beer lover! I wanted to attend the Upland Sour Fest in Indianapolis and I wanted to go the ValuMarket-Highlands Beer Fest. However, duty called and I went to the 3rd Annual Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fest in Lexington, KY.

John could not attend since he was in Berea, KY playing the skins with The Solid Rock’it Boosters at the Moonshiner’s Ball. He sent me on the difficult task of checking out the Alltech festivities.

I arrived about 1:00 and there was a nice crowd already. The 46,500 square foot Heritage Hall East was set up nicely for the 50+ breweries and six Kentucky distillers. As the crowd grew it became clear that the food 10+ food vendors lines were cramped and congested. The lines for beer were generally manageable but you could always tell where the special releases were when the lines grew longest.

I was eager to try beers from some of the Kentucky Breweries that do not distribute to Louisville like Ethereal and Rooster Brewing.

I assumed Paducah Beer Werks, Dry Ground, Beer Engine, Braxton, Great Flood, and Goodwood are still working things out at their new breweries and could not attend.

Ei8ht Ball from Newport, KY made the trip (they will be canning soon!). Of course West 6th and Country Boy were there and our hosts – Alltech Brewing. Louisville was well represented by Apocalypse, BBC Brewpubs, Falls City, Cumberland, and Against the Grain.

Naturally I was focused on Kentucky Beer but a visitor did catch my eye – Cigar City! I’m not sure if they were in KY as a favor or as reconnaissance for future distribution? Wouldn’t that be nice!

This Beer Fest is the culmination of Lexington’s Craft Beer Week. However, it is also the beginning of the “Alltech Rebelation” – a brewing/distilling symposium with dozens of speakers including Dr. Pearce Lyons from Alltech, Greg Koch from Stone Brewing, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and Bill Samuels from Maker’s Mark. For those in the industry Lexington is the place to be this week.

The Beer Fest itself was very well organized and spread out nicely, or so I thought until approximately 4500 people began milling about. What a crowd! I am thankful that this fest is held indoors – with Kentucky weather in May, who knows how that could have turned out.

I appreciated the well-labeled brewery booths and the clearly marked times for each special release. This allowed one to plan their drinking strategy. Having a real sampling glass (verses plastic) is a nice touch. I think you can see, smell, and taste the beer better out of glass. I only saw one broken glass all day, not too bad. The five bands were nice and never too loud.

Our friends Leah Dienes from Apocalypse and Sam Cruz from Against the Grain were at their respective booths talking about their beers. Leah was also in attendance as a judge on the panel to crown the winner of the Commonwealth Cup – a prize for the best beer submitted. There were about 350 beers submitted this year.

Neither Against the Grain nor Apocalypse entered beer this year. From the list I saw it looked as if only a few Kentucky breweries entered this international competition.

The Commonwealth Cup winner this year was a Belgian Style Golden Strong Ale called Batch #100 from Dayton Beer Company.

If a beer garnered enough points in the judging it was awarded a gold, silver, or bronze medal, respectively. Kentucky Breweries did well in medalling. Braxton Brewing Company received a gold medal for Crank Shaft, a silver medal for Storm and a bronze medal for Blown Gasket.

Blue Stallion won 4 silver medals (Oatmeal Stout, Munich Helles, Doppelbock, & Irish Red) and 5 bronze medals (Maibock, German Pilsner, Smoked Lager, Wee Heavy, & Marzen).

Country Boy received a silver medal for Barreled Jalapeno Smoked Porter and a bronze medal for Nacho Bait.

Paducah Beer Werks won a silver medal for PBW Irish Red.

Way to go Kentucky Breweries!

To me, some of the best beers available at the Beer Fest were: Rooster Brewing Company – Gone to Morocco. A black IPA with plenty of spiciness from the Grains of Paradise and lots of char and plenty of delicious bitterness.

Ei8ht Ball Brewing – Reintarnation – a Barrel Aged American Strong Ale. A smooth vanilla, bourbon sipper.

Cigar City Brewing – White Oak Peach Jai Alai IPA. So peachy, dry woodiness and gentle bitterness – yum!

Everything seemed to go smoothly and there are only a few things that could make this event better – short of having every rare beer you desire! I would hope that next year they provide recycling bins. Additionally – water dispensers verses bottled water! So much plastic going straight to the landfill is disappointing! More space would be enjoyed too. This years’ event was held in a bigger space than prior years, but I would argue that even more space might be necessary next year!

Overall I would give this event a high thumbs up! I will certainly add the Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fest to my event calendar in the future.

What's your take? Please comment below.