It’s somewhat hard to fathom that I have been descending upon Buffalo Riverworks for their annual Thawfest event each April for the past four years, but time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve enjoyed myself immensely every year I’ve been lucky enough to be invited back and this year, Thawfest 4: A New Hope (or Thawfest 4: Thaw Harder if you like), was no different. Let me say first – if you have not been to one of these Thawfest’s, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Now that that is out of the way, the fourth installment of Thawfest featured some minor tweaks, including a different layout, more distilleries and a few less breweries than in years past. If you’re planning on hitting Thawfest 5 next year, let me suggest the VIP option. Not only are there VIP-only beers, two of which made my Best Of list below, the food spread is also top notch with pizza, soft pretzels, wings, sliders and so much more among the delicious options this year. Also new this year was the layout, with all of the festival moved to the first floor and set up along the bar and two bigger ovals. This allowed for better flow for sure, and I didn’t really notice one spot getting too crowded.
Thawfest is really rounding into an event for every type of drinker. Although I didn’t partake in much liquor, outside of a shot of Single Hop Spirit with my dude Cory at Lockhouse, I can appreciate the expanded options. I did miss Gravy performing, but ManBearPig killed it with the 90’s tunes. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?
After drinking my way through most, if not all, of what Thawfest had to offer beer-wise, I came away with seven beers that stood out to me, even now, several days after the event has passed.
Thin Man Coffee Town – This brown ale dosed with shots of espresso was a VIP-only option, so I apologize ahead of time for those that didn’t get the chance to partake. It was smooth and roasty, with notes of coffee and chocolate. I had a few pours before I headed downstairs.
Brickyard Brewing Maple Bock – The other VIP-only brew was one of the most maple-forward beers I’ve ever had. It was rich, thick and syrupy without being too cloyingly sweet. This is also the first of two Brickyard beers to make this list.
Brickyard Brewing Bourbon Street Sour – This was a treat. Passionfruit, blood orange and cherry flavors played together perfectly, with a pleasant tartness to round it off. John Paul at Brickyard isn’t just brewing some of the best IPA’s in the area.
SATO Brewpub Sofishticated – Craft beer is meant to be wacky, fun and out-of-the-box, and no other beer exemplified that more than SATO’s Sofishticated, an IPA brewed with Bonito Flakes (dried, smoked tuna). Drew and Justin are doing some cool things with their Japanese-inspired beers and this was no exception. No, this didn’t taste like fish – it more resembled smoked pineapple with touches of pine.
Pressure Drop Sticky Trees – Fresh off its triumphant Wise Choice Award win at Beerology, Sticky Trees makes this list, because, well, it’s a great beer. I enjoyed a few of these as I chatted with Pressure Drop Head Brewer Karl Kolbe.
Community Beer Works Creative Chaos – Just as her So It Goes West Coast IPA made this list last year, Hydraulic Hearth’s Head Brewer Vandra Ruppel’s latest creation, Creative Chaos IPA, was a good brew. She is making some quality IPA’s that don’t always get their due. Clean, crisp and citrus-forward made this easy-drinker one of my Best Of’s.
Lafayette Brewing Gose Cuervo – This was a beer that I had wanted to try since it was released a little while back, so I was happy to get my hands on some. This batch was dosed with extra lime and salt so the flavors really popped. The tartness and sweetness were dialed in as well, making for a memorable beer.
I owe a special thanks to Chris Herr (the talented head brewer of Pearl Street, Riverworks Brewing and Lafayette Brewing if you didn’t know) for allowing me to be a part of Thawfest for another year. It has quickly become one of my favorite beer events of the year and I am not exaggerating when I say I’m already looking forward to the fifth iteration in 2020. Cheers.
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.