Fun at the Second Annual International Beer Festival

Cleveland Craft Beer Fans and Brewers Win Big at the IX Center!

The Second Annual International Beer Fest

The Second Annual International Beer Fest was Great!

By the time the second International Beer Festival wrapped up its third and final session last night, I was exhausted. I had made it through 3 four hour sessions, sampled countless delicious craft beers, and celebrated with thousands of friends old and new. While my feet were tired and my palate a bit worn-out, I was satisfied in a way that only the best beer festivals can make one feel.

The 2012 edition of the largest competition and lineup of beers in the Midwest is now in the books and a great time was had by all. The festival poured over 700 different kinds of beer and featured row after row of great stands featuring awesome brews in the cavernous IX Center. Thirsty craft beer fans from several surrounding states made the trip along with many brewery representatives, local brewers and the Cleveland craft beer fans – all agreed that the event was fun and festive.

Festival Highlights

The Real Ale Bar at the 2012 International Beer Fest

The Real Ale Bar was awesome!

The fest featured several highlights that really exceeded my expectations. Here are some of the most notable.

  • The Real Ale bar was absolutely fantastic. The amount of casks (22 on at one point) was staggering and the quality of the beer, the educated volunteers and the lounge around the area was just fabulous. Rick Seibt of Willoughby Brewing Company did a great job putting this great lineup together and many of the treatments were unique and over-the-top delicious!
  • Excellent programming ruled the day. 4 content stages featured everything from a keynote speech from Pat Conway of Great Lakes (who announced the brewery is looking to expand to a second Cleveland production location, was working on a special 25th anniversary beer and has plans to release an ancient ale with the help of archaeologists) to food pairings and tastings. The combination of Victory beer and Greenhouse Tavern/Noodle Cat Doughnuts was a personal favorite, as well as the discussion on barrel aged beers featuring some of the best barrel agers in the business.
  • The attendees were awesome! The veterans of the craft beer scene showed their maturity, helping others explore the daunting lineup while the newbies were, for the most part, really well behaved. I was impressed with the lack of idiotic behavior that can show up at festivals like this. Aside from a few overly indulgent exceptions, all the attendees deserve kudos for adding to a respectful, energetic and fun atmosphere.
  • Buckeye Martian Tap Handle at the 2012 International Beer Fest

    Buckeye Martian Tap Handle

  • Kick-ass craft beers abounded. My personal favorites included the sensational Smuttynose ‘Brett and I’ wild ale, Rockmill’s fantastic ‘Cask Aged Tripel’, Buckeye’s ‘Liquid Foodie Truckstop’, Elevator’s ‘Hot Brown’ pepper ale, Great Lakes ‘Cherry Vanilla Edmund Fitzgerald’ porter, Columbus ‘Bodhi’ and ‘Barrel Aged Uncle Rusty’ and Victory ‘Ranch S’ Double IPA. I know I forgot about some of the others – there were so many beers it was impossible to even come close to drinking a quarter of them, so no one could complain over the lack of beer choices. I revisited several old favorites and enjoyed a bunch of great new beers.
  • Local winners in the competition indicated even more upcoming success for our local breweries. Fat Heads dominated the hoppy beers as only they can and scored more medals than any other single brewery (and be on the lookout for some very big things in the near future from Fat Heads, more than just their impending production brewery; things like another high-profile collaboration and some killer new beers like a session IPA and a barrel aged stout). Great Lakes, Market Garden and Hoppin’ Frog also brought home hardware and hit for the medal cycle. Congrats to all the winners, especially Cleveland’s own.

Competition Results

How exactly did our favorite local brewers fare in the competition? You can see the full set of results here, but notable Northeast Ohio area winners included:

of Great Lakes, gives the Keynote address at the 2012 International Beer Fest

Pat Conway, owner of Great Lakes, gives the Keynote addres

Fat Heads: 5 medals

  • 3 Golds for ‘Head Hunter’ in American IPA’s, ‘Hop JuJu’ in Imperial IPA’s and ‘Kohlminator’ in Bocks
  • Silver for ‘Zeus Juice’ in Belgian Strong Pale Ale
  • Bronze for ‘Battle Axe’ in Porters and Stouts

Great Lakes: 4 medals

  • 2 Golds for ‘Edmund Fitzgerald’ in Porters and Stouts and ‘Barrel Aged Blackout Stout’ in in Wood and Barrel Aged Beers
  • Silver for ‘Elliott Ness’ in Vienna Lagers
  • Bronze for ‘Burning River’ in American Pale Ales
The Market Garden Brew Crew at the 2012 International Beer Fest

The Market Garden Brew Crew celebrates!

Market Garden: 4 medals

  • 2 Golds for ‘Pearl Street Wheat’ in Wheat and Rye Beers and ‘Trouble’ in Spiced and Flavored Beers
  • Silver for Forest City Brown Ale in Irish, Scottish and English Brown Ales
  • Bronze for ‘Boss Amber Lager’ in Vienna Lagers

Hoppin’ Frog: 4 medals

  • Gold for ‘Barrel Aged BORIS’ in Wood and Barrel Aged Beers
  • Silver for ‘Hop Heathen Imperial Black Ale’ in Specialty and Experimental Beers
  • 2 Bronzes for ‘Turbo Shandy Citrus Ale’ in Fruit Beers and Outta Kilter Scotch Red in Irish, Scottish and English Brown Ales
Willoughby Brewing Medals at the 2012 International Beer Fest

The fine brewers at Willoughby Brewing get a medal!

Willoughby Brewing Company: 4 medals

  • 2 Silvers for ‘Rusty Rail’ in American Pale Ales and ‘Moonshadow IPA’ in American IPA’s
  • 2 Bronzes for ‘Hopnotic’ in Imperial IPA’s and ‘Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter’ in Spiced and Flavored Beers

The Brew Kettle: 4 medals

  • Gold for ‘Jackhammer’ in Imperial Stouts and Strong Ales
  • Silver for ‘Four C’s’ in America Ales
  • Bronze for ‘Summer Soulstice’ in Belgian Farmhouse Ales
Thirsty Dog Crew at the 2012 International Beer Fest

The friendly folks at Thirsty Dog

Buckeye Brewing: 2 medals

  • Gold for ‘Martian’ in Vienna Lagers
  • Bronze for ‘Cleveland IPA’ in American IPA’s

Thirsty Dog: 2 medals

  • Silver for ‘Whippet Wheat’ in Wheat and Rye Beers
  • Bronze for ‘Labrador Lager’ in Dark European Lagers

Lager Heads: 2 medals

  • 2 Bronze for ‘Wild Banshee’ in Imperial Stouts and Strong Ales and ‘Tyranny’ in America Ales

Looking Forward to Next Year

The complete International Beer Festival experience improved from the first year, but, like any other event, there are some opportunities to improve for next year. I’m sure some of these points will be addressed and next year can be even better.

An Angry Leprechaun at the 2012 International Beer Fest

An Angry Leprechaun, must be drinking Bud Platnum

  • Beers like Bud Light Platinum and Yuengling Bock have zero business in the VIP room. While the food in the VIP and the overall luxury were amazing this year, there were a few choices like that example that don’t align with what a beer drinker is looking for when spending $75 for a ticket. I don’t even mean that the beers have to be super rare, but non-craft that can be found in any local gas station cooler doesn’t belong in the VIP. Still, the upgraded experience was worthwhile especially because of the never-ending buffet of food and the excellent beers from Smuttynose, Victory, Great Lakes, Thirsty Dog and Goose Island!
  • Many of the volunteers this year were well educated, but some didn’t know anything about the beer they were pouring. Furthermore, there were paid employee bartenders in the VIP area who also had little passion for craft beer. Perhaps enlisting the support of the educated groups in the area like the Home Brew Organizations and the Cleveland Craft Beer Community Facebook group would put better qualified people in place to help educate as people select their beers. It broke my heart when I heard people ask bartenders about a beer only to hear back ‘I didn’t taste it because I don’t like beer’. Also, there was a bit of confusion over how much beer should be poured per sample. The website and event management said 2 ounces, but the plastic tasting glass had a line at 1 ounce. This lead to confusion by volunteers and some short pours. However, with tons of tickets, I got my fill!
  • The “Mixology” bar has got to go. While people who don’t like beer may be drawn towards these beer cocktails, they don’t help the legitimacy of a festival and have no place in a craft beer event in my opinion. If a restaurant wants to provide an interesting twist on a mixed drink by incorporating craft beer that’s one thing, but, With 800 beers, cider and mead, there’s just no reason to need to provide such a safety zone for the unadventurous at an event of this size.
  • Bagpipers and Drummers at the 2012 International Beer Fest

    The Festival opened with a Bagpipe and Drum Band!

  • Such emphasis on the number of beers and breweries leads many to think of the “Sunday Sunday” commercials. While I know this event is huge and the promoters should be proud of its size, the emphasis should always be on quality over quantity. I am always disappointed to see Budweiser being poured at a festival, and I’d be happy to see BMC not participate in the future if the festival really wants to connect with the craft beer crowd. That being said, there were so many great beers it more than made up for the fizzy yellow stuff.

Overall, I can’t emphasize enough how much fun this weekend was! If you were thinking of attending and didn’t, you missed out! So don’t let it happen again! Next year’s event will be even better, so plan on being there! Thanks to the people at the IX Center for providing me media passes to review the festival. It was great seeing so many of you there. What a great start to what’s sure to be an epic summer craft beer season in Cleveland! Cheers!!

PS – check out my Flickr Gallery for all my photos!

2012 International Beer Festival Photo Gallery Photos and Photo Gallery

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Join the Discussion

  • Anonymous

    Excellent write up Bobby!  I had many of the same observations as you in that I wasn’t happy to see the BMC at the festival.  I thought it was appropriate to find the Miller booth unmanned, but I didn’t like the display of Wild Blue and Shock Top as if they were craft beers.  I did get to ask the InBev rep where the Blue Dawg Brewery was located but of course he couldn’t provide me the location of a mythical place.  Pathetic.

    I do know that the had a few beer experts provided from the local brewers clubs in the VIP area to help the hired bartenders with explaining beers.  I agree though that they didn’t do enough.

    I did see a difference in attitude this year from the IX center staff that took over the policing of beer pouring.  I was speaking with a brewery rep from Sam Adams about a unique beer they had and during explanation a patron asked for a sample, the brewer poured it without a thought, only to be yelled at by an angry women holding a clip board.  It made everyone uncomfortable and I can’t find a violation of law that says a brewer can’t pour his own beer.

    They had trouble getting enough volunteers this year to work the event and I think it may be worse next year as they are not offering admission to another IX session as a result of donating time as they did last year.

    Enough with the bad though.. it was a great event.  I will add to your favorites and say that I loved the Widmer Bros Nelson Sauvign IPA and the melt in your mouth Vanilla Espresso Porter from Rivertown Brewing.


  • Bqrc

    As always, a great review! It sounds like the organizers improved upon the strong start they received last year. Hopefully, this festival continues to grow and better itself!

  • Nathaniel Southwood

    Wow. This sounds amazing. And just wow, Adnams beers across
    the pond. Adnams are pretty much the brewery I grew up drinking because they’re
    very local to me!


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