Last weekend, after recovering from my jet lag for two days, I set sail for State College (Bellefonte to be more precise) to attend the State College Brewing Expo. My buddy who goes to grad school at Penn State invited a few of our high school friends to attend. I always have fun with this group, and I even ditched my Peach Festival plans to attend (it also didn’t hurt that this event was $41.00, while the $120.00 I got from the sale of my Peach Festival ticket sale covered my Irish phone bill).
Friday night we arrived and did some bar hopping in downtown state college. The Beer Expo started at 5:00 the next day which allowed a leisurely start to the day. A cab picked us up in State College at 4:30, and after a few mishaps (our friend’s girlfriend was late, some peoples’ tickets got left at the bar we were pregaming at and were rescued from the trash can in the nick of time) we made it to our destination.
The Brewing Expo was held at Tussey Mountain ski resort, a mere 7 miles outside the town. It was nicely put on. WThere were about forty different breweries present, each offering at least two beers to sample. Aside from the breweries, there were also food vendors offering both samples and sales and live music. One aspect I found cool was that VIP ticket holders had the option of riding the ski lift to the top of the mountain for some extra brews.
My two main problems with Brewfests.
1) I don’t “appreciate” good beer. I’ve discussed this before, and I’m really trying to expand my tastes, but when it comes down to it, I’m a cut and dry Coors Lights guy. Should I be ashamed I’m not ashamed? I have, in the past year, found I do like to go to breweries and brew pubs and sample the different choices offered, but normally never do so for such a lengthy period of time. Predictably, I started out adventurous, but once I found a few brews I liked, I mainly started going back to those stands repeatedly.
I discovered during a trip to Pittburgh last year that I like Hefeweizen, and it’s since been my go to “fancy beer” whenever I need to impress people. Luckily, alot of breweries have their own variations and I did get into a bit of a rut there. There was also a cider stand put on by Woodchuck and Strongbow. Strongbow tastes similar to the Magners I had been downing in Ireland so I made several trips there as well.
One stand I ended up liking immensly that wasn’t as predictable was Kona Brewing Company, a Hawaiin beer brewed on the “big island” (I just found out doing some research that they brew some of their beer in New Hampshire, which answered my “why would you come all the way from Hawaii to a tiny brewfest in PA” question). At the Kona stand they were making beer cocktails: mixing their Pipeline Porter with Wahilua Wheat (a passion fruit flavored beer) which was a great way to end the fest.
2) Drinking Casually Isn’t My Strong Suit. The original motto of the State College Brewing Expo is “Drink Less, Drink the Best.” They want to emphasize quality over quantity. The problem for me lies with the tiny 8 oz cup they give you. I’m a fast drinker in general, and not just with alcohol. I’ll chug a bottle of water in one gulp and regularly finish a pint of chocolate milk in under five minutes. It’s borderline gross. I continually without realizing it would finish my glass in two mouthfuls, or faster if I despised what was in my cup. I do well with bigger glasses, and when I’m not drinking high test beer all day.
Moral of the story: I ended up having a blast, and sampled alot of beer, I just can’t tell you a ton about the sampled goods and I felt pretty funky on Sunday.
The Sunday funky feeling could have been from the brewfest, or….
Before moving on to Tussey Mountain, I have to mention the hot sauce stand. Torch Bearer Sauces, a local hot sauce company, had a stand into between some of the breweries, which a selection of sauces with tortilla chips to try. While I’m an amateur beer sampler at best, I know a thing or two about hot sauce (especially wing sauce), and was excited to dive in.
Have I mentioned that I’m friends with mostly assholes?
My friend told me that the sauces start from mildest on the right hand side. I picked up a chip, took a big scooping of the sauce, and inhaled it. He’d lied. The hottest sauces were on the right and I ended up having a big spoonful of their Rapture Sauce, which is made from ghost chillis. It about ruined my day. I cried, my nose cleared out all over my face, my throat closed, and I was reduced to bending over in pain before inhaling a bag of kettlecorn to balance out the heat (weird choice, but only close food available).
I checked out the sauce website yesterday and they seem like a pretty cool company. I’m debating ordering a few bottles and trying out some of the recipes they offered. I especially think the habenero cheesecake sounds interesting. I like some heat in unexpected places.
I was impressed with Tussey Mountain itself. There were flyers up all over the place advertising wingfests, winefests, and the like. Here is the schedule of events at the mountain. They have a winefest this Saturday, and a wingfest in late August (I’ve never attended a wingfest, but it might just be a new fall goal). They also show movies frequently on the slopes. Aside from skiing the mountain had mini golf, go-carts etc. It definitely seems worth checking out if you’re ever in the State College area.