Hopefully you got a chance to enjoy the Riverside Craft Beer Festival last weekend. The weather was perfect and there was so much beer! I set out with my beer tasting crew to conquer. It was more than even 4 people could get through!

First Coast Brews Tasting Crew, my sis aka Chacha, My Dad and the intrepid Hubby Ed.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

I've been attending for a couple of years and this was by far the largest as far as the number of breweries, reps and beer selection. The crowd was large, but manageable. I only waited in a short line for any beer taste and even the woman's restroom line was quick. That my friends is the true measure of how well the festival is organized! Plus who can knock the view???

If you have to wait for the restroom, at least the view was spectacular.  Perfect weather for the Riverside Craft Beer Festival.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

I had a couple of goals setting out. I wanted to find Hyperion Brewing, who was a late addition to the festival. I wanted to get to our other new Springfield Brewery, Main & Six Brewing, but I literally ran out of time. I also wanted to find Harris Meadery, I have been reading big buzz over their Key Lime Mead.

Along the way we tried some truly exceptional brews:

  • DuClaw Brewing: For Pete's Sake ABV 9%. This is the Imperial version of Sweet Baby Jesus, the Peanut Butter/Chocolate Porter. If you like Sweet Baby Jesus, you'll love the imperial!
  • Alltech Lexington Brewing: Bourbon Barrel Blackberry Porter ABV 8.3%. My first sip of the day. Not much I don't like from Lexington Brewing. This porter is BIG, the barrel aging mellows the Blackberry, giving it a more dried fruit note. Ed hates blackberry, but he thought it was a tasty brew.
  • Intuition: Underdark ABV 9%. There's a reason this is one of the most popular bottle releases in town. This imperial stout is rich and full of chocolate/coffee notes. I felt lucky that any was left after the VIP's went through! This was Dad's and Chacha's first sip. A great place to start.
As the afternoon went on, folks grabbed a sample and sat riverfront to listen to Grandpa's Cough Medicine.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

Interestingly enough, there were a lot more sour and Saison/farmhouse ales this year. And new to Jacksonville, botanical brewing. Forbidden Root out of Chicago, specializes in beers with unusual natural ingredients. At the festival they offered two choices, Money on My Rind ABV 5%, a Belgian Wit with Juniper, White Grapefruit juice and rind and Sublime ABV 3.8% a wheat beer brewed with ginger, Key lime juice, honeybush and lemon myrtle. If you like the citrusy notes of IPA's, you will like the Money on the Rind. Sublime was more subtle, citrus notes, but a warm spiciness from the ginger.

Not only were there statewide and regional breweries, but national ones, like Southern Tiers out of New York.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

Eventually we split into two groups, the girls and the guys. We all met up at the Harris Meadery table. Dad is a massive Mead Head. So it was no surprise that we found him smiling with a glass of Key Lime Pie Mead.

If you are unfamiliar with Harris Meadery, they are a local producer of Mead, but distribute only, no storefront. This mead has won numerous awards, including a bronze at an International Mead Festival. I noted the initial flavor of the graham cracker crust, then the creaminess of meringue and finally the tart Key Lime. This is a sweet, dessert concoction! You can find this product at your usual craft beer outlets, if they haven't sold out!

Many of the top statewide breweries were on hand, including Funky Buddha with this awesome multi-tap brew van.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

As we rolled on, I found a beer I don't have the words to describe other than YUM. Darwin Chicha Purplecorn Ale ABV 5%. It is a Peruvian Highlands Ale made with Peruvian purple corn, cassia buds, pineapple, coriander and cloves. I honestly don't know what taste cassia buds and purple corn give to this beer, but it is unusual and really memorable to me. I hope to come across this beer again.

Other favorites:

  • Playlinda Go BIG Imperial Stout ABV 11%. This brewery out of central Florida is new to Jacksonville and so far they have some killer beers. This stout is big and full of flavor. However at ABV 11%, its a sipping beer.
  • Two Brothers In The Flesh (Blueberry) ABV 4.2%. This is one of a series of sours brewed by the Illinois brewery. This is a sour ale re-fermented with blueberries. If you are looking for a sweet beer, this isn't the one to try. It was tart without the huge sugar knock that some sours provide.
  • Wicked Barley Left Leg Lager ABV 5.5%. This is the perfect lager, according to Ed. Dad directed him specifically to this beer, so it has two thumbs up in our crew.
  • Southern Tier Choklat ABV 10%. If you like dark, bitter chocolate notes, you'll love this. Its sweet, but the bitterness of the chocolate offsets the sweet. Its a good dessert beer. We also tried the Ginger Beer they offered, it was citrus and spice. Another solid brew from Southern Tier
One of Springfield's soon to open breweries, Hyperion Brewing Company on hand.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

We finally made it to Hyperion, but they had run out of the Cascara Gose, much to my dismay. However, they had three outstanding brews available. The group agreed the Peanut Butter Porter ABV 5.5% was one of the highlights of the fest. The Peanut Butter is upfront and in your face. It is smooth and really pushes the peanuts. I would drink this every time. We also tried their Coconut-Vanilla Extra Stout. It is sort of a Mounds bar, without being overly sweet. Ed loves coconut beers, so he gave this a big thumbs up. I am truly excited for Hyperion's opening. Their plan is to open only when they have their own beers ready to go. We're looking forward to that.

A large crowd enjoying the 100 plus brews available at the festival.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

Overall I'd say the Riverside Rotary gets big kudos for this festival. They offered more food truck options, far more beer selections and a great volunteer crew on hand. My only suggestion is that in the future they provide a site map, so you know where the breweries are in the RAM. I really wanted to hit the new local breweries but not knowing where they were, made it hard to find them all. For an event this big, that is the only criticism I had.

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