Wet whistles

With more than five dozen brewers pouring 4-oz. samples of their tastiest ales, stouts and lagers, it was easy to find a beer dear to your heart at the fifth annual Empire Brewing & Music Festival July 21 in Clinton Square.

Of course the odds also favored the likelihood of discovering some dud suds as well.

One of my favorites was the UFO Hefeweizen brewed by the Harpoon Brewery of Boston, Mass. and Windsor, Vt. The unfiltered wheat beer belies its slightly cloudy golden color with a refreshingly light body and a squeaky-clean, fruity finish. Hefenweizens orginated four centuries ago in Bavaria, and Harpoon is doing its part to keep that tradition very much alive. Prost!

On the other end of the spectrum was the Brooklyn Brewery's Blanche de Brooklyn, a Belgian-style wheat beer spiced with coriander seed and Curacao orange peel. It tasted as though someone had dumped a bag of cloves into the vat, making for a weird biere blanche indeed. Ugh!

[Belgian brews]

Nearly 5,000 festival goers paid $30 in advance or $35 at the gate to taste up to 24 of the 150 or so beers and malt liquors being showcased Friday along with New York state foods and wines and an equally varied mix of country, blues and jam bands.

Rochester groovemeisters, Buddhahood, were especially impressive, climaxing their sun-drenched set with an exciting djembe drum jam.

Not long after Buddhahood left the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que stage, the Belgian Beer Tent opened its flaps at 7 p.m. For the second year in a rown, the Beligian brews proved popular as tasters sampled beers that had been bottle-aged in caves. Brand names included Duvel, Lindeman, Westmalle and LaBinchoise, which offered a beer unabashedly dubbed Delirium Tremmens.

[Crawfish and oysters]

Food complementing the many beers ran the gamut from pulled-pork to pizza, from Liehs & Steigerwald bratwursts to Louisiana delicacies such as crawfish etouffee and jambalaya. In one corner of the Barley Garden tent Kitty Hoyne's Irish Pub & Restaurant shucked dozens of raw oysters, which, when sereved with a dab of hot sauce and lemon, were a welcome addition to the overall epicurian experience.

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