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Brew Review

Brews, ‘Que and You

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By Joni Williams


Lucky you, there’s another festival happening that not only offers brews but copious amounts of food. And when we say “you,” we mean us, too. Because having ample amounts of both is our idea of nirvana.


We’re talking about The 10th Annual Blues, Brews & BBQ Fest slated for Saturday, Nov. 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the picturesque HarborWalk Village. Sponsors are Leinenkugel, Sam Adams and Abita. Admission is $30 in advance, good for seven drinks and unlimited barbecue samples.


Even though under-21-year-olds can’t imbibe, they can chow down to their heart’s content with a food-only ticket for $20. VIP upgrades are $50 (advance sales only), which ups the drink count to 10. At-the-door prices are five dollars more. A discounted rate applies for military and first responders, so make sure you ask about it if it applies to you.


Now, here are some really important features of this year’s event. First, the admission fees will benefit a number of truly worthwhile charities which means you get to feel good about all the scrumptious offerings as well as being a big help to the community. Second, the tastings will feature brews (as you may have already guessed from the name) plus well-chosen bourbon samples from Timber Creek Distillery. And with seven to 10 selections at your whim, you’ll be able to sample some of each.


Most importantly, you’ll be the judge when it comes to deciding the best barbecue entry for the People’s Choice award. But you have to show up to be a part of it all. And when you do, be sure to say hello to Beachcomber Editor Chris Manson who will be a member the official panel of judges. Will he be donning his infamous, temporary dreadlocks and singing the Walton County Jail song after a couple of rounds? You’ll be the first to know…


One thing we can guarantee is plenty of eats cooked up by some of the area’s best and most creative food venues. And the beer will be flowing all day. In addition to sponsors Abita, Leinenkugel and Sam Adams, expect to see some of your favorite local brewers pouring, such as Idyll Hounds, Props Brewery and Destin Brewery.


What’s great about a beer event like this—besides the live music, views and fun crowd—is it’s the perfect way to try new brews without commitment. You know how it is. If you go to a liquor or grocery store and buy even a sixer of something new, you’re stuck with it whether you like it or not. Been there, done that, never drank more than a few. But at a festival, you’re free to flit around from booth to booth like a free-spirited, beer-drinking butterfly, and you can take some risks. And if by chance you find one that doesn’t tickle your taste buds, you can simply move on without being stuck with pricey leftovers.


One word of caution from a beer and barbecue lover. The spice in the food can throw the taste of the beer off kilter and vice versa. One way to get around that is to carry a bottle of water and sip it in between samplings to help reset the taste buds. Unseasoned bready items like a big ol’ soft pretzel will also work.


So, which brews go best with which ‘que? Though the competing eateries are keeping their entry recipes top-secret until the day of the event, we asked some of our favorite hardcore hopheads for general barbecue pairing suggestions. Smoked meats can take on heavy hitters like stouts, porters, brown ales, bocks and German dunkels. Pretty much anything goes, including chocolate, oat, coffee and milk stouts. Smoked turkey and other poultry are well complemented by fruitier varieties like hefes as well as some porters.  Smoked fish goes particularly well with citrusy varieties.


Adding sauce can be a game changer. For the white Alabama sauce that’s typically made with mayo, vinegar and a kick of horseradish, it’ll depend on how tangy it is, but often an IPA will pair well. Sweet, thick, traditional-style red sauces are bold enough to take on smoked or barreled aged brews. If in doubt, a mild pale ale, pilsner or lager will pair with just about anything.


As for us, we throw all caution to the wind and try anything unusual at least once. And Blues, Brews & BBQ Fest is the perfect place to do that.

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