On Friday night, I had the distinctly fat and drunk pleasure of attending Drink Craft Beer's Boston Cheese and Beer Fest. The pleasure was provided by the obvious means—one of the cheeses had cumin seeds right inside it! the beers were mostly good and occasionally excellent!—and also via some less obvious routes.
For one thing, there was a meat-pie cart; for another, I got free tickets, because I am a goddamned celebrity, and also because it's become well known around town that I will write a glowing review of your event in exchange for a refillable Dixie cup of beer and a pat on the head.
But for real, the Drink Craft Beer crew puts on good festivals. I even paid out of pocket to attend one last spring! (Note to DCB: That won't be happening again soon, you dig?) It was called something something Hyper-Local, and I loved it because it was in a cool old armory and because it wasn't overly crowded. I am a man of the people when it comes to typing beer stories for the people. I am not a man of the people when it comes to being in a room full of the people.
The Drink Craft Beer events tend to sell out, but the organizers resist the urge to print those last 50 tickets that make them a quick couple grand while turning the event itself into an overpopulated sweatfest of cranky, chubby drunks frantically sloshing into each other as they try to secure their precious shot of whatever the evening's trophy beer happens to be. The trophy-hunting savagery is further limited by DCB's general focus on local breweries. There are always several new beers, as well as hop-swapped and barrel-bred iterations of familiar ones, but nothing super-rare or eXtreme to the extent that it invites bad behavior.
I like this focus on local breweries because it keeps the big-game hunters at bay; if your sole purpose in beer life is to get limited-edition Pliny the Middle-Aged or Headier Topper on the opposite coast—or heaven forbid, in between coasts—then local beer fests are not your bag. And I like local beer for all the usual hippie-type reasons, too, plus the self-interested reason that it tends to be fresher and therefore better than the stuff that sits on trucks for days before it even reaches the distribution center, never mind my gout-hole. But, all that said, I'll be damned if the finest beer I've had all year isn't Oklahoman.
I've seen Prairie Artisan Ales for sale around Massachusetts for a little while now, but I hadn't bought any due to the aforementioned local angle and also because the shit is very expensive. But I finally caved and paid $14 for a 16.9-ounce bottle of their Prairie Hop. This one came highly recommended, and I love the idea of a saison done up with Simcoe and Citra—I think Belgian yeast and American hops work great together—but 90 cents an ounce is a bit steep. So this is going to be one of those deeply-ungratifying-for-everyone reviews that ends with me saying, "Is Prairie Hop worth the price? I dunno, man, you got kids in college?" Anyhow.
Prairie Hop smells fantastic: peach, mango, and pineapple dominate, with lesser doses of black pepper, dirt, and pine. The saison yeast comes through more clearly on the palate, as the pepper deepens and stands up to the fruit to provide ideal balance. It's so spicy that I wouldn't be surprised if there were some rye mixed in with the barley. Hell, my new favorite beer comes from Krebs, Okla., so I guess I wouldn't be surprised by anything anymore.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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