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Recap of the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer

January 17, 2011 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Events, Memphis

Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer

The Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer at Central Station in Downtown.

Memphis Brewfest‘s Winter Warmer beer tasting event Saturday drew a sold-out crowd of 800 beer lovers, who sampled hard-to-find craft beers and offerings from local homebrewers.

Beers brewed in the “winter warmer” style have a generally low hop bitterness and a “big malt presence, both in flavor and body,” according to Beer Advocate,  and “alcohol warmth is not uncommon.” So the festival featured a lot of full-bodied, strong winter seasonal beers and fewer IPAs, wheat beers and lagers.

Most of the beers served at the Winter Warmer are not readily available on shelves in the Memphis area, so it was a great opportunity to taste new things.

I counted more than 80 beers that were available for sampling, and tried 37 of them over a span of about three hours. At just 1-ounce, the sampling glasses were small, but helped since many of the offerings were high-alcohol brews.

Winter Warmer

A "beer volunteer" pours a sample at the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer.

The event was held at the historic Central Station in Downtown Memphis (constructed in 1914), which provided a nice, art deco-style backdrop. At times, the place seemed cramped, with 800 festival-goers plus volunteers and organizers competing for space, and it could be hard to see where the beer lines started. More tables and chairs away from the action would also have been nice.

Entertainment was provided by Susie & Bob Salley and the Memphis Raqs Bellydancers, though I was too busy sampling beers to really pay attention.

Some rare beers were auctioned off, including cases of SweetWater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale, Unibroe La Fin du Monde and Trappist Westvleteren 12. A case of Russian River Brewing Company‘s Pliney the Elder went for $185. Net proceeds benefited Cure Duchenne.

Big props to the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs, local homebrewers who served beers that included an oatmeal stout, coffee stout and a raspberry ESB. Their beers were great, and they went fast.

Sampling at the Winter Warmer

Lots of beer was poured at the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer.

Coming this week: FuzzyBrew goes all mythbusters on a famous beer quote, and the FuzzyBrew guys pick their favorite beers from the Winter Warmer.

8 Comments to “Recap of the Memphis Brewfest Winter Warmer”

  1. I thought the event was way too crowded. In fact we left early becuase it was just too much.

    They could have done a better job displaying what kind of beers were at which table. The lines moved slowly because everyone had to look at all the bottles and figure out which one they’d like to sample. It would have also been nice if the volunteers had been more knowledgable about the beers.

    • I asked the volunteers at one table if they knew what style of beer they were serving, because it wasn’t clear on the display bottle. And no one knew. So, yeah, definitely agree with you about that!

    • Sara Schmidle says:

      Agree completely about better signage. I waited in a few lines because I wanted a specific beer, and didn’t know until I got to the front of the line that I was in the wrong place.

  2. I agree they needed better signage as well.

  3. Agree with your review. The selection of beers, especially ones not available in Memphis, was among the best I’ve seen at a beer festival. I wasn’t too thrilled with the 1-ounce pours, but given that some of the beers were as high as 18% alcohol, I understand why they did it. 800 people was too many for that space. I had to wait in lines 10-15 deep at times, and there was no place to stand and talk with friends without being in someone’s way. My friend who came with me left at 5:30, less than halfway through, because he couldn’t stand how crowded it was. Good festival overall, but could have been better.

  4. Have to agree with all the comments above. The space was too crowded (it’s not the number of people, it’s the lack of space to stand out of the way). Each server should have a sign behind them displaying what they have. The empty bottles should have been available somewhere for those who wanted to read them or even collect labels (not me, but someone must).

    On the other hand, this might have seemed like a small event, but it took a lot of work to pull it off…and this is still a young event that needs to learn and grow. Let’s give credit where it’s due, too.

    If you’d like a longer version of my take on the event, see http://ssscheer.us/postings/?p=1238.

  5. My wife and I produced the WW. Thank you for all of the comments. They are well taken. Admittedly, we sold a few too many tickets. It was out first time in that venue and we had to basically guess as to capacity. Signage is a problem in that venue because the managment is fussy about taping or hanging signs in an historical building(could dange the walls). Our moving forward next year will probalby depend on securing sponsors.

    Hope to see you at the Big One in April-April 16th. Cheers!

  6. I agree with most of the above critique. The tables took up a lot of space and I saw almost no one using them. The crowd was packed into the remaining space so tight it was very difficult to move and finding the end of a line was impossible. I saw lots of people just ignoring the lines altogether.

    The signage issue could be addressed with a simple map handout.

    1 oz. pours seemed reasonable but many times I was getting something like 1/10 oz. pours. I assumed that because some beers (i.e. Pliney) were rare or costly, they were all under a “be stingy” order. Unfortunately, it made it impossible to actually taste some brews… you need like 1/2 oz. at least.

    My wife and I gave up and left after about 90 minutes and I was really, really fuming. Not sure if I’ll go to the next event (probably will) but…..


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