While snow and unseasonably cold temps linger in the forecast in the coming days and weeks, Thawfest, the annual celebration of the onset of spring through beer, wine and spirits, had me thinking of the warmer months to come. Though admittedly it didn’t work out all that well since a band of driving snow pushed in towards the end of the festival, coating walkways and roads alike, which led to some slips and falls, but we won’t name names. It’s just not gentlemanly. Still, it was warm inside Riverworks as the local adult libations flowed freely, early and often.
A lot of great beer was consumed and I, along with fellow Buffalo Beer League founder Scott, also had the chance to spend some time with some of our best beer friends, both old and new. We imbibed on some nice bottles and casks in the VIP section (we also need to mention how good the food was), in-between pours of Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year Bourbon and even some Honeoye Falls Distillery La Cascade Rouge Absinthe (yes, Thawfest’s VIP is no joke). We drank some advance previews of One-Eyed Cat Brewing’s beer (shout out to our friends Patrick and Sara) and even got the scoop on some big news for them to come (I’m not at liberty to say, I swear, just keep an eye out), and laughed over beers with SATO Brewpub’s Drew Hardin, Pressure Drop’s Karl Kolbe and Pearl Street’s Chris Herr. In short, it was a great time.
All in all we sampled just over a dozen beers, we narrowed our Best Of list to just seven, yes, seven, beers. Thankfully we took a lot of pictures and took a lot of notes. So, without any further ado…
12 Gates Brewing Pomegranate Gose (Cask): Fresh pomegranate juice with the slightest hint of tart and salt. This was refreshing.
Pearl Street Brewery Cranberry Pineapple Wild Ox Wheat (Cask): The pineapple came through very well, while the cranberry was subtle yet necessary. Overall, this was a nice, balanced beer.
SATO Brewpub Justin’s Milk Stout: A touch of smoke that was ever so slight. Sweet coffee with cream. It had a nice mouthfeel with a good roast character. A hell of a first brew from now former SATO brewing intern Justin.
Rusty Nickel Brewing / Lock Street Brewing Do You Have Anything To Declare? Maple Toffee Milk Stout: Thick maple candy flavors with a great creaminess to it. Very drinkable for the style at only 6.5%. This one would probably be great for breakfast. Don’t judge us.
Community Beer Works So It Goes West Coast IPA: The first official new beer from CBW/Hydraulic Hearth Head Brewer Vandra Ruppel, a crystal clear new school take on a West Coast IPA. Nice crisp finish with big hits of citrus and resinous pine.
West Shore Brewing Citra-Chinook IPA: This hop blend worked out seriously well. This IPA opened with bright citrus notes that led to a big dank finish. This should satisfy fans of both East Coast and West Coast IPAs.
Brickyard Brewing White Bronco New England IPA: As Scott said, ‘its amazeballs,’ and one of the best beers we had at Thawfest, hence its appearance here. This is the latest, and greatest in our opinion, batch of White Bronco – incredibly soft and bursting with all of the tropical fruit. There’s a reason this isn’t the first Best Of list that Bronco has made.
If you missed Thawfest this year, we apologize, but there is always next year, and we assume Thawfest 4 will be bigger and better than this year (if possible). And come next April, we’ll see you all in the VIP section so we can do this all over again.
Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague) and www.buffalobeerleague.com.