Smoke in the Valley is one of my favorite beer festivals. There are hundreds of different beers to sample; definitely a beer for every taste. There is music, food trucks, and more. A good time; even in the pouring rain like last year.
I was humbled and honored to be selected as a guest judge for this year's Smoke in the Valley.
The requirements for my duties were complex and daunting. Uhm . . . not really. All I had to was taste beer and decide which one I liked best.
Okay, it sounded super easy. It turned out to be not as easy as it sounds.
I along with my co-judges - Seymour's first selectman Kurt Miller, fellow beer blogger Will Siss, and SITV sponsor Mountain Road Liquors' brew gurus Jeff Dirzius & Jay Maguire - were faced with very difficult choices. Judging the home brew competition was seriously anything but easy. Very tasty but wicked difficult.
We each were assigned seven brewers who had the opportunity to showcase just one of their offerings. We were then tasked with picking our favorite beer out of those selections. Then we got together and sample each judge's favorite and picked the favorite from those.
Whew! Not easy, I'm telling you. So, I started out with a bribe.
Not really - I have more integrity than that! I wasn't even judging this guy's brews. Good beer though - a yummy maple porter.
An American Brown Porter dry hopped with salemme chili peppers brewed by Blue Collar. Mildly hot and nicely hoppy.
Ooo, then a hopped hard apple cider aptly named Sock Hop - lots of hops, no socks - made by Stafford Tavern and Cidery, Sock Hop had a big Mosaic hops in a crisp dry cider. NOM!
A Scottish Ale aged with rum infused oak chips brewed by Betters Beer; a tasty twist on a classic style.
'tis the season for spiced pumpkin beer. So done to death. I would never have thought this would have been my favorite. But it was. Rich warm flavors, smooth, cream, and wonderful.
Then Irish Car Bomb stout by Man Cave Brewing. Sadly disappointing. Thin and acidic.
Finally, a wild fermented pinapple cider called Tepache. Tart, fresh, and super tasty. A close second to the pumpkin ale.
And there was more of this. Because why not?
That was my seven. I went around and sampled some other brews while I waited for the other judges to finish being judgmental.
The highlights of those were . . .
Peanut Butter Cup by Third Stage was amazing with a fantastic peanut finish.
Steiny's Last Cup of Sorrow - wowzers! Hot peppers through and through!
And Pine-Apple Bottom brewed by Nothing Sacred. Pineapply goodness!
Finally, it was time to taste the other judges' favorites. Again the decision was super difficult; they were all so very good.
First Place went to Awesomesauce an American IPA brewed by nothing Sacred. A bright, fresh, seriously hoppy brew that could compete with any of the big guys.
Second Place went to Toasted Pumpkin Brau brewed by Fermentation Faction. A nice UNspiced pumpkin beer that was nicely sweet and freshly pumpkin-y.
I sampled a lot A LOT of beer at Smoke in the Valley. Of all the beers I tasted, I can honestly say the the best of the best was in the homebrew tent. These guys and gals try really hard to make the best beer they can and they ROCK! I am so happy that I could be a part of it all and contribute my ever so humble opinion to help decide which was the very best.
I love beer. Just sayin'.