By Andy Phelps
I was lucky enough to attend Boston's 3rd annual Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest on June 13 and 14 at The Armory in Somerville, and it was a total blast! Like last year's event, this was a fun, friendly showing of local beer, culture, food and business -- Cabot Creamery Co-op, Q's Nuts, Vermont Smoke & Cure, and Grown-up Soda (GuS) were all providing free samples of their (fantastic) food and drink; local investment companies were discussing things with potential investors for community-based startups; and, of course, breweries such as Cambridge Brewing Co., Baxter Brewing, Idle Hands, Peak Organic and Cape Ann Brewing were all pouring free, unlimited samples for fest attendees!
Though the brewery list felt like it had been dialed back from last year, the selection was still nice and featured some beers you can't usually get elsewhere. Cambridge Brewing's "Olmsted's Folly," for instance was a Japanese knotwood/cranberry hybrid wheat beer with a bit of kicking tartness and a light, sessionable body, and Idle Hands was pouring a host of interesting new brews, no doubt concocted by their new brewmaster, Ben Howe, formerly of Enlightenment Ales. They were pouring a hoppy tripel that ended up being one of my favorites from the entire session -- medium-heavy bodied with perfect bright hop additions and a touch of sweetness, with a nice, yeasty kick that typically bespeaks a well-crafted Belgian-style ale.
Similarly to last year, set-up of the fest was weirdly off in multiple ways. Though I liked the addition of a live Twitter feed beamed onto the massive projector behind the Armory's equally-massive stage, which showed a selection of what people were saying about the fest as it was going on, I thought the tables for the breweries and food booths were rather sparsely set up and nebulously defined on the floor. This was better, like last year, when you went upstairs, but that also felt very sparse as the space for several breweries last year was taken by a largely-unused seating area. Overall, it seemed like the fest was perhaps a bit less populated than the previous one, but all of the excitement and fun of trying tons of local things remained. However, it did also get more pricey, and, though it could be argued that supporters of local business will pay whatever is necessary to bolster what they believe in, the return seemed slightly less fantastic than before.
Maybe the approximate $30 price point was unreasonable due to the sheer number of pouring breweries and sample-givers in attendance in 2013, but this seemed like a slight downgrade. Though this has less to do with the organizers and more with several unnamed breweries -- bring enough beer to last all the sessions if you say you're gonna be in attendance! Not only that, you're a local business presenting a local-aware image at a local-aware festival... it just seems silly to not understand how much people want your beer. Anyway, the fest was a very entertaining experience with lots of camaraderie, enjoyment and merry-making to be had. I look forward to next year's fest to see who will pour, how organization will be, and if I'll be able to snag more limited edition Cabot cheese! Until 2015, cheers!