The last beer festival I attended was in 1999. We tailgated for the Decatur Beer Festival. Tailgating was Chik-Fil-A (before we knew they were evil), not beer. The event started pretty early, 9 a.m. from my recollection. We were at a burrito joint trying to soak it all up four hours later.
Was I more prepared the second go-round? I created a Google drive spreadsheet that listed every beer at the Atlanta Winter Beer Festival, along with a “no/yes/maybe” column. There was an extraordinarily small map in an email that the Festival send attendees. You could get a full-sized one at the event, but what fun would that be?
We arrived at the Masquerade about 15 minutes into the fest. I know, I left beer on the table, so to speak. We smartly ate a high-starch lunch to get the stomach prepared for what was to come later. My friend Brad ordered a Guinness. I don’t think he understood what he was in for. Outside there was a little tent with a couple of breweries represented and a couple of food trucks. Those food trucks were going to make a mint.
I started with an Eventide Stout. The festival tried to highlight Georgia breweries, and business is good. The volunteers were a bit heavy with their pours, a tough thing when there were about 140 beers to sample. We had to pour some of our first beer into the trash. We went inside and found Hell. Masquerade is set up like so. There’s Hell downstairs, Purgatory in the middle and Heaven up top. You couldn’t tell what beer was where until you got close and saw the taps. I could see what brewery was represented and look up my document to see what styles they had and if there were any maybes on the list. I had a Wild Heaven Imperial Brown Ale, a brown ale with coffee. That was a little heavy on the coffee.
Purgatory upstairs was kind of a weigh station. There were beers to the left but the taps were unmarked. I got a Jailhouse Misdemeanor Amber, nothing special there but something to help me as we walked outside.
There was a small area with tables leading to a giant tent that was the largest space in the fest. Before the tent, there was a cigar offering and Naked Doughnuts. The food choices were appropriate to the day.
We had to make our way through a long tent to get to our hoppy reward. There was a league of men who played football in three-piece suits. I steered clear. One of the biggest dilemmas of the day was whether I should drink beer that I had already tried. That was kind of a rhetorical question/situation.
Outside there was a large tent with about 20 taps. There was Terrapin, Mother Earth, Ommegang, and New Holland. AKA, outside was my heaven. I tried a Terrapin Moo Hoo, chocolate milk stout that was dark as my soul. And delicious. My cohorts fell in love with Goose Island 312, and I had a brief affair with Magic Hat #9.
We wandered upstairs to Heaven. Unlike the rest of the joint, that had beer from taps, upstairs was almost exclusively from the bottle. I passed by Highland since I know I like the Gaelic Ale and tried out a Chocolate Orange IPA, which tasted like an IPA. I was excited about Three Taverns because it’s a local joint in Decatur that opened up about a year ago and has a Belgian brewmaster. I had the Imperial Stout, maybe a bit too heavy after a dozen or so samples. They were out of Victory Golden Monkey so I went with the Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA. I’m not an IPA guy, and I can appreciate that it’s good for the style, just not so good for me.
We had finished making our one tour of the fest. It was time for seconds. Sadly, by the time we got back to the outdoor tent, they were almost shut down. I did have a Fascist Pig Ale from Finch’s in Chicago. One more fast tour of the building made it clear that things were closing down and beers were in short supply. The Sweetwater tent was a madhouse and I got an Audible Ale from Red Hook, notable mainly because it’s a partnership with Dan Patrick (I’m guessing he assisted with the name). My poor friends were down to Bud Lite.
It’s true that we checked our BAC about two hours in and I scored the lowest, a .04%. It’s also true that I sampled the doughnuts, a cone of fries, and a meat-laden pizza before I was officially done for the evening.
I can’t say that I discovered a new favorite on this journey. The Terrapin Moo Hoo was probably my favorite first-time beer of the day. It was fun to try a lot of beers even if my taste buds may have been obliterated at a certain point.
Oh yeah, I guess I’m supposed to say something about turning 40 today. I’ll tell you something, it’s better than the alternative.