Ah yes, good friends, its that time of year again: March has gone out like a lamb--then April came in like a Tasmanian devil--and its NERAX season! The New England Real Ale Exhibition celebrates its 15th year this year, and was once again held at the VFW Dilboy Post in Davis Square, Somerville. The VFW is working on getting a new hall built, and NERAX will eventually move there.
Smaller turn-out this year earlier on, which may have been due to the weather. It was raw, and a little nippy for standing in line this year, but the crowd picked up later and there was a line of folks waiting to get in when we left around 8:45. The exhibition runs Wednesday to Saturday, so the last session is going on right now. Prices to get in and for a glass deposit are the same as last year. $15 at the door with a $5 deposit for a glass. I took the 20 ounce Imperial Nonic glass, and drank quarter pint samples this year. They also had a 22 ounce snifter, silk screened with the NERAX logo for $10 (purchase only) for their 15th anniversary.
According to their website, 46 firkins of the expected exhibition total of 90 were on tap last night. Here's what I tried:
Shoals Pale Ale - Smuttynose, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (ABV 5.6%)
This was a great way to start. This beer is so much better than its bottled cousin, and that's why we do this cask conditioned thing, right? Beautiful, deep honey color with a fine, pale yellow and bubbly head that lasted until the last sip. Caramel nose, smooth, light, thin and hoppy. The hops were complex and balanced nice with the sweetness. The finish was clean, with a grapefruit or lime pith bitterness. This was one of the stronger beers I tried, and it was nice to start with one that I could compare to its mass produced version.
Cribyn - Brecon, Powys, Breconshire, Wales (ABV 4.5%)
Surprisingly stinky on the nose, but not the taste. This was the case with another beer last night according to a friend I was with. The smell was light, and so was the beer. Light wheat color with a thin head. The flavors came in waves: bread, yeast, and a malty smoothness and a strong hopped up finish.
Piston Porter - Oakleaf Brewery, Gosport, Hampshire, England (ABV 4.6%)
Molasses aroma, sticky mouth feel. Chocolate predominates. This porter was hoppy and dark, but balanced nicely with a malty sweetness. When it first hit my tongue, I was reminded of the taste of fresh snow. The finish was short and slightly bitter.
Whipper Snapper - Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, New Hampshire (ABV 4%)
Pale, grass colored beer. Grapefruit, spice and floral. Very expansive flavors with a slight bitterness. The head was thin, almost white and bubbly rather than foamy. This one was good.
Dilly Dally - Butternuts Beer & Ale, Garrattsville, New York (ABV 3.6%)
I started out with a strong one, and ended with a low alcohol beer. Caramel and cranberry aroma, fruit, wheat bread, malty and sweet, with almost no head and a smooth, toasted cracker finish. A very nice way to finish. I'm going to have to look these folks up.
Another fun night! Hope to see you next year!