Got Beer?

The Great International Beer Fest — Meet the Beer that Could Change Your Life

Beer on tap and in your hand

The snow has finally subsided and given way to the rain that will nourish the earth from which hops and barley will burst forth. With it, public places are abuzz with people starting to come out of their months-long hibernation. Not me, though. I’ve always preferred a nice blanket of white snow to the gray, cold rain of spring. In a word, depressing. So while you people enjoy your rain and flowers, I’m going to fast forward to May, when the sun warms the earth, the rains have subsided and I’m walking in the gardens of Munich…

It was early that morning. There was a fine dew on the grass and Eddie had driven me from my bed early to explore the city. I had a breakfast consisting of a pastry and some banana-flavored milk and then headed for the municipal gardens. Wildlife was all around the small ponds in the gardens and the grass was shaded a deep green with the life waiting to appear in the coming months. It was here that I had my first Radler — shandy in American terms — though they and the beer they describe hardly do the real artifact justice. Maybe it was just being in Munich, maybe it was the combination of the right beer on the right day in spring, but there was something magical about that day. That experience of the right beer on the right day can be a game changer for any not-so-semi-serious beer connoisseur. It could be your doorway to a whole new way of life … or prayer to the porcelain god.


And what better way to try a multitude of beer than a good olde fashioned beer fest? Speaking of which (and I’ll get to the real point now), the Great International Spring Beer Fest is right around the corner. April 12, the festival returns to the Rhode Island Convention Center with its 8th installment, filled with brews from every corner of the state as well as the four corners of the earth.

Perennial favorites, Bucket, Foolproof,Grey Sail, Narragansett, Newport Storm, Ravenous, Revival, Trinity and Union Station will all be on hand serving locally made suds. Regional favorites, Angry Orchard Berkshire Brewing, Cape Ann, Cisco, Long Trail, Magic Hat, Mayflower, Opa Opa, Otter Creek, Paper City, Sam Adams, Shipyard, Two Roads, Wood Chuck and Woodstock Inn will be on hand representing New England.

It’s not just New England that’s well represented, either. Breweries large and small from all over the U.S. will be sampling their best brews. Representing the big boys are Miller, Coors, Blue Moon and Shock Top. Green Flash, and Lagunitas will represent the craft breweries of the west coast. If you love hoppy bitter beers, go to Green Flash and ask if they have Palate Wrecker; it lives up to its name. McKenzie’s Hard Cider from New York will also be on hand with some very interesting ciders.

And of course we couldn’t call it a Great International Beer Fest if we didn’t have some international breweries represented. If you’re looking for a good Stout, Guinness of Ireland will be there to fill your cup. Shepherd Neame Brewery, the oldest brewery in Britain, will have plenty of examples of British beer to quench your thirst. If stouts and bitters aren’t your thing, Heineken, Haacht and Radeberger will all be toeing the line for central Europe.

The above list is certainly not exhaustive, just a few of the highlights, so keep your eyes peeled for the breweries you’ve never tried before and go there first. There will also be a number of beer and travel related vendors there to provide some distractions.

The festival takes place on April 12 with two sessions, both lasting for three and a half hours. The afternoon session goes from 1 to 4:30pm, while the evening session goes from 6:30 to 10pm. Tickets are only $44 and can be purchased at Proceeds from this festival go to the RI Community Foodbank, the Rhode Island Horticultural Society and the Providence Rotary Foundation Charities.

I know I’ve said most of this before, but it always seems worth repeating:

* Don’t go on an empty stomach. There will be food there, but it’s a good idea to build up a good base before you start drinking.
* Get in line early. Yeah it sucks to wait in line, but you’ll get to the beer sooner than everyone else.
* Plan your attack. Find that beer you’ve never heard about and go to the brewer’s booth first.
* Pretzel necklaces are a quick way to get a bite to eat and cleanse your palate, make one beforehand.
* Don’t be afraid to talk to brewers and anyone at a booth. Tell them what you like or dislike about their beer — they love feedback.
* Pace yourself. The beer isn’t going anywhere and this isn’t a race.
* Don’t drive. The main RIPTA terminal is just a stone’s throw away and there are plenty of taxis in the city.
* Be cool. Police will be on site making sure you don’t get yourself into trouble.