The Brew Works Cask Beer Festival this past weekend was, without a doubt, one of the best they’ve thrown in terms of quality from the breweries represented. Many things about the festival were the same: the food, the crowds, etc. But this year the local breweries really stepped up and brewed some fantastic experimental beers for the event, which, in our opinion, is really the spirit of these festivals. We’ve gotten to the point in the craft beer movement where most people have had the basic offerings, and things like the cask festival gives the breweries their chance to try out some crazy beers.
The Brew Works had two casks on, one from Bethlehem and one from Allentown. The first, from Behtlehem, was a kellerbier with the hilariously inappropriate name “Helen Keller Beer.” It was fairly plain and typical for the style, but Allentown’s Liquid Sunshine brett fermented pale ale was much more complex and interesting. The fact that this was so good bodes well for the upcoming release of the triple IPA version of this.
The Colony Meadery was pouring Woofiedog, one of their dry hopped meads, Beso Exotico, a mead made with cinnamon and cayenne pepper (and one of their better, in our opinion), Straight-No Chaser (a plain mead), and a Wildflower Whiskey Mead. The whiskey mead was a barrel aged version of their Straight-No Chaser that spent a short time in barrels. This gave the mead not an overly bourbony flavor, but more of a light, smooth vanilla profile.
Flying Fish put up an astounding offering, but unfortunately we’re not sure what it was. The pourer described it as a double IPA dry-hopped with experimental hops, but didn’t seem to know anything beyond that. It seemed very different from their Exit 16 DIPA and had a massive citrus profile. Whatever it was, it was damn good.
Funk Brewing’s table seemed crowded every time we looked at it. They were offering up their Citrus IPA, which has made its way around the Lehigh Valley a bit and also seen its debut in Philadelphia. The highlight for them, however, was their as-of-then unreleased Savage sour saison, a tart take on a traditional beer. It was extremely delicious, and quite possibly one of the best beers produced in the Lehigh Valley (if you like sour beers, at least.) That Savage will be one of their regular offerings is even more exciting.
Golden Avalanche, who just saw a change in their head brewer, also surprised with their quality. Most of their beer has historically been quite mediocre by any standard, but their IPA they brought was quite flavorful and certainly not disappointment.
Neshaminy Creek also brought out the big guns. Their usually-OK County Line IPA and decent Leon Imperial Stout were both transformed into very solid beers in the one-off casks that were produced for the festival. Their County Line IPA was infused with guava and dry hopped with Sorachi hops, giving a lemony, tropical flavor. Their Leon stout was infused with toasted hazelnuts and cinnamon, complimenting its sweetness and adding a great depth and flavor that was missing from the regular version.
Round Guys, whose Kiss Off IPA was just OK, also brought Fear of a Brett Planet, a brett pale ale made with cherries, that was quite tasty. Hijinx also debuted their new Bourbon Barrel Bitter at the festival, which will hit bars throughout the Lehigh Valley soon.
Some disappointments were a generic maibock from Straub, a plain Yards ESA cask, and the lack of Weyerbacher’s Camelopardalis, which was supposed to make a showing. But overall, as always, the event delivered and this year even exceeded expectations with the experimentation and debuts made by the Pennsylvania brewers.