A Beer Nerd And Wine Snob Share Their Thoughts On BrainDead Brewing's Inaugural Festicle.
Over the weekend, BrainDead Brewing held its first-ever Festicle, a small but mighty beer festival held in the adjacent parking lot, that also served as the launching event for the Deep Ellum brewpub's first bottled beers. Each attendee was given an allocation of two beers each for GA or three for VIP. They were the Red Wine Barrel Wiere Gardes, a Biere de Garde, and the Bourbon Barrel Hammer of the Gods, an Imperial Wheat Porter with the most badass and metal logo ever.
Not only did I enthusiastically volunteer for the assignment of checking out the spot's inaugural foray into the beer festival scene this past Saturday, I also took along new CT contributor Hannah Steiner, a self-proclaimed wine expert who is just now starting to explore the craft beer world.
Here's what we each thought:
Javier Fuentes: So let's begin with your thoughts. Out of curiosity, have you been to any beer festivals if so how does it compare?
Hannah: So, I haven't been to any beer festivals, but I'm a regular at barbecue fests and it's a similar world. Even without having been to any, I can see Festicle as the fun, more tightly-knit community answer to sprawling fests like Untapped.
Javier: Ha! I should've figured there'd be a similar vibe a barbeceue fest. Meat and beer are so closely related.
Hannah: I was at Wurstfest the weekend before, which is beer and sausage centered, so yeah!
Javier: But, I'd agree with you. Having been to more than my fair share of beer festivals, this was definitely a “quality over quantity” festival. The beers all being special or rare, or ones we usually don't get in DFW — and the who's who of the local craft beer community was also there. Also, at the beginning, I was a little surprised at the higher price for the tickets, but they definitely made it worth it.
Hannah: The free food for VIP was a nice touch, and the tasting glasses will make a good addition to any beer lover's collection. It felt like Festicle was also tailored for the weather that day with so many porters and stouts. You weren't going to find many light breezy beers at this fest.
Javier: We really needed some beers to warm us up because the wind was crazy cold!
Hannah:Yes! Thank god for BrainDead's queso.
Javier: Amen to that! So anyway, let's talk beers. As I mentioned before, this was a really good beer list and it was hard to pick beers to try. What was the first one we tried?
Hannah: First up was New Belgium's Ben & Jerry's collab, Salted Caramel Brownie. I thought it was sweet but not too sweet, with a solid chocolate flavor. I didn't taste any of the salt, but my sweet tooth made this my favorite beer of the day.
Javier: This is a beer I actually bought a six pack of last week, but I'm almost done with it. I completely agree with the sweet and chocolaty flavor. I don't remember any salt or caramel flavors, though. It is a tasty beer that feels weather appropriate, but not one of the best I tasted. It's not a diss on it, there's just some special beers there. I would give the New Belgium/B&J collab three out of five beer bottles.
Hannah: It's 4/5 for me.
Javier: So up next, is a very unique offering from the Austin-based Oasis Brewery. It's the Balcones Barrel-Aged Whiskey Early Morning Shakes which TBH, is one of my favorite beers of the festival.
Hannah: The disagreement begins! I hated Whiskey Shakes. I'm not a whiskey fan to start and, while I was initially set on finishing every tasting glass, that went out the window pretty fast. I ended up pouring this out.
Javier: Ha! I mean, this is one of the times where I totally get where you're coming from. Especially if whiskey is not your thing. Although, isn't whiskey and barbecue a thing that goes together? But for me, I love it because whenever you hear of whiskey barrel aged beers, they will always be stouts or porters or boozier beers. But this is a pale ale that clocks in at a chill 4.9% ABV. You get the whiskey flavor without the huge body that comes with actual whiskey or stouts. So what is it about it that you didn't like?
Hannah: They could at least make it boozier so it's worth getting through that flavor! I thought it was bitter, with an overpowering coffee taste. It wasn't even the whiskey that was really the problem for me, but the coffee.
Javier: Interesting — I don't remember any pronounced coffee flavor. So what would you rate this?
Hannah: I would give it a 1/5. No shame.
Javier: A side note: It is brewed with Ethiopian coffees. Man, I would give this a 4.5/5 beer bottles.
Hannah: Ha, I was right on the coffee!
Javier: Got a sharp palate there!
Hannah: Nope, just a deep hatred of coffee.
Javier: I can't process that statement. Coffee is life.
Javier: Which beer was next?
Hannah: How about the Van Dayum! by Blue Owl?
Javier: Yes! Such a whiplash in terms of taste.
Hannah: I loved it at first, with the slightly tart cherry flavor. But the aftertaste was shocking. I think our friend said it best when she compared it to a “College Sunday Morning.”
Javier: Right? I think there was a weird “bile” after taste hence the comparison. It was bizarre because I liked it up until the very end.
Hannah: So disappointing. It would've been in my top three otherwise. I'll give it 2.5/5 bottles.
Javier: I'd probably say a 2/5 bottles. I am usually a fan of sours and some extreme ones, and this just bummed me out.
Hannah: I love the fruitier beers, and since there weren't many at Festicle, this was especially sad.
Hannah: Then the BrewDog Paradox Smokehead was next.
Javier: And I wish we hadn't tried it. I hate to say it because BrewDog makes some amazing beers (Tokyo, Nuclear Tactical Penguin) and this was awful.
Hannah: I had heard nothing but good things about BrewDog, but as one of our friends said, it felt like licking an ashtray. It was almost like someone had taken a good, basic stout and poured liquid smoke into it.
Javier:I knew to expect something intense. This brewery is known for making some wild beers. They had the most alcoholic beer in the market for a while. They also brewed beer underwater and even made a Viagra-infused beer for the royal wedding a few years ago.
Hannah: Ha! That's awesome. I'm wondering if this was just a bad batch. I just checked out its Untappd page, and most at Festicle rated it pretty low but drinkers elsewhere typically liked it.
Javier: Well that brings up the topic of reputation versus actual quality. It seems there's names in craft beer that warrant instant praise regardless of the actual product. This is an Imperial Stout that's aged in Islay Whisky Barrels Casks. I'm not sure if it's the beer or the whiskey barrels, but it tasted like smoke and nothing else, just nasty liquid smoke like you mentioned.
Hannah: I believe there was at least one we went to taste where the pourer told us it was messed up and to try something else. 1/5 bottles for Smokehead!
Javier:I'm giving it a -1 bottles. We can do that, right?
Hannah: I didn't know we could do negatives! Changing mine to 0/5.
Javier: Thankfully, we followed it up with what could be the best beer of the festival, the Brash Brewing Cortado Abide.
Hannah: Best? I literally wrote down “no.” in my tasting notes.
Javier: Hahaha, so, so wrong. This comes from one of the new kids on the block, Brash Brewing out of Houston. I believe Chad (Montgomery, founder of Big Texas Beer Fest, a partner for Festicle) told us they were only a few months old. But this is an imperial coffee stout, and it's one of the best examples of the style.
Hannah: That's why it makes me so sad that I didn't like it! As a Houston native myself, I want to root for them. But once again, I just can't with the coffee and stout flavor pairing.
Javier: Part of the reason I dug it is that it reminded me of a chocolatey coffee with a little extra sweetness and a hint of booze. I'm giving it 5/5 bottles.
Hannah:I do agree the booziness was nice and subtle but going to stick with my 1/5.
Javier: So then, we go from a Texas newbie to a well-regarded brewery with the Jester King/Live Oak collab Kollaborationsbier. Javier: At this point, we went back and checked out Lone Pint's Yellow Rose IPA. That was the beer where the keg had some issues. Javier: Up next is the Prairie Ales/Evil Twin collab, Bible Belt. What'd you think of the BB? Javier: Well, then I guess it's means we're down to our last beer. This is the Ranger Creek Purple Rhine. It's a seasonal version of a German wheat beer, the Berliner Weisse, brewed with pears which I found surprising. I honestly thought it had more of a tart berry flavor. Javier: So that's it for the beers. Do you have any closing thoughts on the festival? Photos by Hannah Steiner and Jett Andrews.
Hannah: One of our group at the fest, Jett Andrews, has mentioned Jester King to me multiple times thinking it would be one I liked and I finally got to try it here.
Javier: Yeah, they're annoyingly difficult to get outside of their own brewery. You can only get some pretty standard stuff on shelves here.
Hannah: I thought this offering was decent. It was smooth and bright, definitely different from most of the beers there.
Javier: Yeah, this was definitely one of their better beers. It's a deliciously drinkable and smooth farmhouse ale. Like, I could drink this all day on the BrainDead patio with my dog. It's that kind of beer.
Hannah: Agreed! It'll be the perfect springtime weather beer — or pretending it's springtime weather beer. I'm giving it a 3.5/5
Javier: I'm actually right there with you, 3.5/5.
Hannah: Fuck yeah, finally on the same page.
Hannah: Now I'm not a big IPA fan to start, so I was a bit weary. I generally think they taste like grass, and Yellow Rose didn't do much to change that, but I did like the floral citrusy notes among the grass.
Javier: While the Yellow Rose totally has citrus notes, I think that it's, honestly, more of a dank and hoppy beer than anything. I wanted some Doritos after sniffing and drinking this beer.
Hannah: Oh yeah! This was the one we thought smelled like weed!
Javier: But it was still a tasty IPA, very drinkable and smooth. It's got a reputation of being one of the best IPAs out of Texas, and I agree.
Hannah: It may not be what I reach for at home, but I can see why it's got that standing. Gonna say 3/5 for the Yellow Rose.
Javier: I'd say a 4.5/5.
Hannah: The Bible Belt was surprisingly smooth in my opinion. They pulled off the smokey taste where Smokehead failed, with the flavor subtle and full-bodied instead of shocking.
Javier: Yay! You like a dark beer! And that sucker was aged with coffee also chili peppers, vanilla and cocoa nibs.
Hannah: I'm so glad the chili pepper wasn't too in your face. Spicy drinks have never been my thing so that was the main reservation I had before trying it. Going to say 2.5/5
Javier: That's a nutty rating! I'm leaning to 4/5. This is a fun stout. I've noticed that, as good as it is, it's pretty inconsistent over the years. There's some times where I taste more of the coffee or more chili pepper flavor. This time was much more of the coffee and stout flavors.
Hannah:Remember my prejudice against dark beers? Especially with coffee flavoring? The coffee taste is the reason it's not getting a higher rating for me personally.
Javier: Oh, I know! But I thought you liked it much more when we first had it.
Hannah: I don't think I made it through the whole glass, unfortunately, but definitely my favorite dark beer next to the Ben and Jerrys!
Hannah: So the Purple Rhine was with prickly pears. I'm a fan of the Shiner Prickly Pear beer so I went in expecting a similar taste, but I agree that it leaned more towards berries. It was pretty dry, but ultimately easy to drink.
Javier: It honestly tasted like a cider. That's why it stood out for me.
Hannah: Exactly. It had that kind of dry palate and that's why I liked it.
Javier: Despite being a summer seasonal fall it's actually good for the fall, too. I could picture myself having it during Thanksgiving dinner this week.
Hannah: That's because it's not as sweet as many shandies. It's just tart enough to give it year round appeal. Going to say 3.5/5 for this last one!
Javier: Mmm, I'd give it a 3/5. It's pretty good, just nothing mind-blowing.
Hannah: I'm hoping it returns again next year. I liked the smaller feel as it was a lot less intimidating for a beer newbie like me, and I liked how everyone seemed to know each other. Chad from Big Texas Beer Fest definitely knows what he's doing, and pairing with such a fun community brewery like BrainDead gives it extra appeal.
Javier: Very much agreed. It wasn't a flashy affair like Untapped, but despite its smaller size, this didn't feel like some new festival. Everything ran smoothly. We should mention that this was also a celebration for BrainDead as it released its first beers in bottles this weekend. It seems that there were enough beers for everyone to get more than enough. While the beers themselves were a little pricey at $20, I'm glad to support this awesome brewpub.
Javier: So then, we go from a Texas newbie to a well-regarded brewery with the Jester King/Live Oak collab Kollaborationsbier.
Javier: At this point, we went back and checked out Lone Pint's Yellow Rose IPA. That was the beer where the keg had some issues.
Javier: Up next is the Prairie Ales/Evil Twin collab, Bible Belt. What'd you think of the BB?
Javier: Well, then I guess it's means we're down to our last beer. This is the Ranger Creek Purple Rhine. It's a seasonal version of a German wheat beer, the Berliner Weisse, brewed with pears which I found surprising. I honestly thought it had more of a tart berry flavor.
Javier: So that's it for the beers. Do you have any closing thoughts on the festival?
Photos by Hannah Steiner and Jett Andrews.