By Amanda Resche
What’s that? The sun finally came out? Well, I can’t think of a better way to welcome spring than with beer, and it just so happens that it’s almost time for the seventh annual Great International Spring Beer Fest.
Rhode Island’s first and largest beer festival returns to the Rhode Island Convention Center on Saturday, April 20, with two sessions: 1 pm to 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm to 10 pm. Close to 80 breweries and distributors will be on hand, with a greater variety of beer than ever before.
New this year will be a separate area showcasing Rhode Island brewers, hosted by the Rhode Island Brewer’s guild. If you haven’t already, this will be a great opportunity to check out Rhody’s newest breweries, including Ravenous, Bucket, Grey Sail, Foolproof, and Revival, along with the old standby, Newport Storm, pouring their new west coast style IPA, Cyclone Will. I’ve not yet met a new Rhode Island beer that I don’t like; Revival’s Double Black IPA and Bucket’s Park Loop Porter are already in my regular beer rotation.
Joining the beer fest for the first time are two new Connecticut breweries – Two Roads and Stony Creek. Two Roads’ Brewmaster Phil Markowski literally wrote the book on Farmhouse Ales, (really, there’s a book!) and their Worker’s Comp Saison is on my must try list. Stony Creek is getting ready to begin distribution in Rhode Island with their (401) IPA; an easy drinking brew with cascade hops. Another first timer is Three Heads from Rochester, New York. Between the entertaining label art and the solid Beer Advocate reviews, I have high hopes for these guys.
Among the returning breweries, expect to see familiar favorites like Long Trail, Lagunitas, Brooklyn, Ithica, Mayflower, Otter Creek, and Sam Adams, along with smaller breweries like Wormtown and Blatant – both highly recommended.
If for some reason beer alone is not enough to get you in the door, New Hampshire’s excellent Moonlight Meadery will be on hand sampling several of their meads and melomels, which are fruit meads. I couldn’t keep myself away from their table during February’s RI Brew Fest. For the cider fans, newcomer McKenzie’s will be pouring their award-winning Black Cherry Hard Cider.
Continuing with the beer-alternative theme, we have Magic Hat founder Alan Newman’s Traveler Beer Company and his fine craft shandies. While a shandy is usually lemonade mixed with beer, Traveler also makes strawberry and ginger versions with real strawberries and ginger. With their crisp taste and relatively low ABV, I expect any of Traveler’s offerings would make an awesome addition to a mid-summer picnic or bike ride.
Food vendors will be available at the beer fest, and there will be live entertainment from the The Jesse Liam Band and North East Groove. Tickets are $44, and are available in advance through www.beerfestamerica.com