"Technical doesn't taste good." Thus was I rebuked Saturday at Hair of the Dog's Fred Fest, when I asked Fred Eckhardt if the 15-year-old Saxer doppelbock being served had technically missed the mark. Burn! The author of The Essentials of Beer Style went on to say, "I don't care so much about style, but about what I like." As we learned in the Life of Brian, only the true Messiah denies his divinity. That settles it for me: from here on out I'm following Fred. If I like a beer, I'll drink it, even if it misses a particular style by a mile. Wait, I was doing that anyway. Whew! I didn't want to put that kind of pressure on Fred.
To be honest, that old doppelbock wasn't so bad, and the more I tasted it, the more I picked up the "liquid bread" flavor I would expect from a doppelbock, despite the lighter color and cloudy appearance. More sophisticated palates pronounced it oxidized, and counseled me to smell it. You could indeed pick up that slightly metallic odor of too-old beer. Still, now and then you give a really old beer a try, out of nostalgia or simply to celebrate the forbearance required to keep a beer that long without drinking it.
The other rather old beer at Fred Fest was an 11-year-old Full Sail Old Boilermaker barleywine. It also held up well for its age: deliciously bourbony; sweet and smooth, with a nice vanilla flavor. I didn't try a bad beer at the festival, but some other highlights were:
- Firestone Walker Abacus: very malty and dark, like a delicious malt-o-meal
- Lucky Lab Pennsylvania Swanky: full flavor, like a Cascadian Dark Ale
- Cascade Bain de Brugge: delicious rich, dark Abbey ale
- New Belgium/Elysian Tripel: nice and full, surprisingly hoppy
- Astoria Imperial Wit: sweetly nice, wheaty
- Midnight Sun Brewtality: perfectly smooth dark coffee stout
Here are more accounts of Fred Fest from Jeff, Derek (who has a nice picture of most of Portland's bloggers clustered around Fred), Charles, and the ever-evasive Dr. Wort. I had a great time at the fest, and I offer a heartfelt thanks to everyone involved. The ones I know to call out by name are: Alan Sprints for providing the venue and atmosphere, Lisa Morrison and Preston Weesner for organizing the fest, Sean for grilling the meat and garlic to perfection, and Fred himself for inspiring such a community. Happy Birthday, Fred!
I'll leave you with a couple more thoughts from Fred:
"My palate isn't what it was last week."
That's OK, Fred. Care to name any highlights of Fred Fest 2009?