Philly’s got one, as do a lot of other places across the nation and now the Lehigh Valley finally got into the action. Yes, our very own whiskey festival, complete with not only loads of bourbon, but bourbon cask aged beer as well. I posted about this event before it happened and it didn’t disappoint. Although I’m a whiskey lover first, the beers really stood out for this one. When I got to the event I was fortunate enough to interview Mr. Mike Fegley of the Brew Works for an extensive piece I’m writing on the history and growth of craft beer in the Lehigh Valley. That proved interesting in itself, but we’ll save the contents of that interview for the exposé.
We’ll start first with the beer floor. There three local breweries doling out beer, two of which were sampling beer created for the event. The first, and my favorite of the event, was a bourbon barrel-aged Jefferson’s Tavern Ale from Yards Brewing in Philadelphia proved to be absolutely the smoothest, most deliciously malty thing there. Upon smelling it I immediately identified the bourbon cask as Woodford Reserve, which the rep confirmed. Excellent start. Any hops in this beer were completely mellowed out, leaving the malt to play against the bourbon flavors, resulting in a smooth, delicious beer.
Next up was Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady ESB which usually delivers a good, biting taste but with the introduction of bourbon barrel aging, mellowed out the punch and let the subtler hop flavors take over and complement the caramel and vanilla flavors imparted by the barrel. Weyerbacher was, of course, sampling their fantastic Insanity bourbon-barrel aged Blithering Idiot barleywine. Always a treat.
The Brew Works, last but not least, was serving up various takes on some of their darker beers. Black Dog Stout and Beau’s Perfect Porter (bourbonized) were both hearty, great brews. I favored the Perfect Porter over the Black Dog and wish they’d make the bourbon Perfect Porter all the time. Onto the bourbon!
Up on the third floor lots of bourbon was flowing. Four Roses hasn’t been widely available in Pennsylvania (I believe mostly through Special Liquor Order [SLO]), but I recently saw it on the shelves for the first time. This was a great chance to try that line and of course some old favorites. The full bourbon line-up is as follows:
Eagle Rare Single Barrel
Blanton’s Single Barrel
1792 Ridgemont Reserve
Maker’s Mark 46
4 Roses Single Barrel
4 Roses Small Batch Bourbon
4 Roses Yellow Label.
Wild Turkey 101
Wild Turkey Rye
Wild Turkey American Honey
The food was also fantastic. The most interesting pairing of the night was the bourbon pulled pork with mozzarella on fried plantains. I never was a big plantain fan but this worked surprisingly well for me. The cornbread was absolutely to DIE for. I could’ve had my weight in cornbread that night, topped with butter and honey, oh so good. And the shining achievement of the night? Pecan foster with raisins and apples done up in flaming bourbon set delicately on top of some really tasty vanilla ice cream. Oh yeah. And the Lew Bryson lectures? Awesome. Lew imparted so much wisdom that I had no clue about and was very entertaining, especially as he drank more and more bourbon. I must say, it seemed like he even had more inside knowledge than one of the brand reps. Remarkable stuff and I hope there’s a second version next year, or perhaps even a Lehigh Valley Scotch Festival?
Disclosure: I was admitted to this event for free as press.