Digileaks II: The Wrath of Brewvival Beer List Secrets (Updated with photos)

Update February 27: Above you'll find a slideshow which captures the vibe, the crowd, the pours and the personalities that made Brewvival 2012 such a great success.

Update February 25: Today's the big day folks!

If you've got last minute questions, check out the prior reports below or the FAQ page on Brewvival's website -- and as always, all hail the #brewvival hashtag Twitter stream.

The festival runs from noon to 6 at the old Navy Yard.

— Update by Ken Hawkins.

Update February 17, first reporting at the bottom: Beer postings on the official site have exploded, with nearly 80 listed so far, so it's time to wrap things up ahead of the February 25th event.

The big show is one week away, and tickets are still available, so if you haven't acted, it's time to act. Entertainment this year will come from The Local Honeys, 54 Bicycles, and Flatt City, in addition to a few presenting brewers. Stuff you face with affordable grub from Coleman Public House, Diggity DoughnutsD'Allesandro's, Roti Rolls, and Ted's Butcherblock.

Enjoy your unlimited samples in moderation, stay hydrated, and make merry. Also, keep an eye peeled for TheDigitel, we'll be on the scene shooting some fun footage!

Update February 3, first reporting at the bottom:  The folks at Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, GA love two things: beer and music.

So how, pray tell, could we use this knowledge to extract information about their Brewvival lineup? Simple. We bought a panel van, lined one of the outside walls with speakers, and blasted Yanni into the brewery until everyone collapsed, ears bleeding. Our crack team of tone-deaf PI's (including Gomez, making a return appearance from last year) found this list under a stack of Grateful Dead bootlegs that "smelled like concerts."

  • Moo-Hoo (cask) (6% ABV, 88, 97) - Moo-hoo, Terrapin's newest seasonal, is a chocolate milk stout - chocolate because it's brewed with both cocoa nibs and shells from Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company, and milk because it's brewed with lactose in the traditional milk stout (a.k.a sweet stout) style. The smooth, often creamy mouthfeel imparted by a cask presentation sounds perfect for this.
  • Big Sloppy Monster (8.75% ABV, 85, 97) - This Jack Daniels barrel-aged version of Terrapin's imperial red ale, Big Hoppy Monster, is back for the second consecutive year. Five different hop varietals are used in brewing this beast, with a sixth used for dry-hopping, and it then spends an entire 14 months getting sloppy in the barrel.
  • Cabernet Barrel-Aged Monk's Revenge (9.8% ABV) - An especially bright, hoppy take on Belgian IPA, Monk's Revenge is another scary member of Terrapin's Monster Beer Tour series. This particular version was aged in cabernet barrels from North Carolina's Shelton Vineyards. Righteous.

Update January 27:  The Digileaks are rolling in so fast that they're turning into a Digideluge.

This week we have juicy tidbits from three big-time breweries: Victory, Great Divide, and Weyerbacher. Victory and Weyerbacher are both Pennsylvania-based, but Great Divide is in Colorado, so our expense account could not cover both travel and investigative fees for these three. Instead, we just camped out behind CBX.

It's no secret that Rich and Scott actually never leave the store. Due to an ancient curse, they are forced to live out their immortal days within its walls. So when they nodded off around 2am, we sent in our highly trained surveillance mouse, Reynolds, through the air ducts. After a little remote USB transmitter action, we had the scoop.

  • Victory Baltic Thunder (8.5% ABV, 87, 96) - A thick, deadly Baltic Porter, true to the style and to Victory's level of quality. Despite its look and feel, it's actually a lager that spends months cold-aging to temper the beast within. Whole-flower hops varietals from Europe add just the right spicy hop presence to balance the dark malt depth. Draft releases of this are few and far between.
  • Victory Braumesiter Tettnang (5.3% ABV, 85, 91) - The draft-only Braumeister Pils series was originally brewed to showcase the varieties of Noble Hops at the annual Craft Brewers Conference, but more recently they've made it out into the market. Though Tettnanger is a hop varietal, the beer's name refers to the Tettnang region of Germany, where five different hops from four family farms made their way into this year's edition.
  • Victory Headwaters (cask)  (5.1% ABV, 88, 93) - If you ask me, this beer single-handedly raised the bar for American Pale Ale when it was released last year. The ABV is sessionably low. The hops are very present, but not excessive. The malt character takes a backseat, but without sacrificing body. It's as solid as they come, and should present very well on cask.
  • Great Divide Petty Theft (?.?% ABV, XX) - Like a wrestler from "Parts Unknown," this sour ale from Great Divide is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. The only information proving its existence is a single Ratebeer review. It may not even be a liquid. You'll have to try it to find out more!
  • Great Divide Old Ruffian (10.2% ABV, 94, 99)  - One of the quintessential examples of American Barleywine. A hardcore malt bomb that married an insanely bitter hop bomb, with explosive consequences. Inside you'll find all the caramel and dark fruit you'd expect from the color and style, but at 90 IBUs, it will rend the enamel from your teeth and you'll be none the wiser.
  • Great Divide 5x Yeti Horizontal (9.5% ABV, bottles) - Oh yea, that's right. Five versions of Yeti Imperial Stout will be on hand, so you can taste each to compare and contrast. That means Yeti (94, 100), Oak-Aged Yeti (94, 100), Chocolate Oak-Aged Yeti (91, 100), Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti (93, 100), and Belgian-Style Yeti (91, 99). Look at those scores and tremble accordingly.
  • Weyerbacher Insanity (11.1% ABV, 92, 98) - As bourbon barrel-aged barleywines go, this one is both delicious and generally available. Its heat is more soothing than burning, its bourbon notes (vanilla in particular) subtle, and its malt backbone sturdy. This would help you withstand a harsh winter, if we ever had one down here.

Update January 20:  Like Homey D Clown before them, the Stone Brewing crew don't play (that).

We kept their dedication to quality and aggressive approach in mind when visiting the Escondido, CA brewery.  Using the ol' Trojan Sack o' Hops trick, we infiltrated the office of the first Brewvival keynote speaker, and Stone co-founder, Greg Koch.  After Mr. Koch was lulled into a submission by our grapefruit aroma, we busted out of said sack and rifled through his file cabinet to find out what he was sending to Brewvival.  Like ninjas, we snuck out through the ventilation system before he was able to come to and #gregface us.

  • 2008 Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Russian Stout (10.8% ABV, 96, 100) - This beer's triumphant return is music to my ears.  Here you have a near-perfect example of the wonders that bourbon barrels, and a little time, can work on an already-excellent imperial stout.  With double the  age this time (the very same vintage appeared in 2010), it will be interesting to see how the flavors have melded and further developed.
  • Double Calypso Dry-Hopped Ruination (7.7% ABV) - Ruination is the world's first double IPA put on a year-round brewing schedule in 2002, and still stands on its own thanks to criminally huge hop additions that yield over 100 IBUs.  It stands to reason that a double dose of a new hop varietal could only make things better, right?  The Stone crew seems impressed, noting that Calypso's aromas include "lemons, tart apples, cherry blossoms, black pepper, bitter orange, mint, and pear" in a blog post on the subject.

Back-tracking to Bell's for a second, I'm equally pleased to announce that a cask of Hopslam (10% ABV, 99, 100) will be in attendance, a repeat appearance from last year that all but disappeared in the first two hours of the fest.  Honey-dosed, hop-blasted double IPA's don't get much better than this.  Brewvival just happens to be a few weeks after the regular release of this beer, ensuring quite a bit of freshness taboot.

Update January 7:  Everybody loves Bell's.

They are a rock solid Michigan brewery, with great year-rounds that go toe-to-toe with their one-off starlets.  So clearly, we wanted to know what they'd be bringing to Brewvivial.  We called founder Larry Bell and told him we wanted to do an interview in person.

This was, of course, an elaborate scheme to capture him, shave the middle of his head, and hypnotize him into thinking he was Larry Fine.  Mr. Bell caved after only a few minutes of questioning, thanks to a few slaps and a killer Moe Howard disguise.

  • Black Note (11.5% ABV, 99, 100) - Oh my stars and garters, this one is exciting.  To make this impossibly rare and sought-after beer, Bell's blends their Expedition Stout with their Double Cream Stout, and age the blend in first-use bourbon barrels for "months."  I'd advise getting a taste of this one early.
  • Golden Rye (6.5% ABV, 84, 68) - This is a very limited, and somewhat self-explanatory, rye ale from Bell's.  It's golden in color, with the zest that rye generally imparts to beer.  It's scheduled to be bottled as part of Bell's Eccentric Cafe series in a 750mL format, available only on-site at the cafe.
  • Raspberry Ale (6% ABV, 80, 75) - Much like Golden Rye, Raspberry Ale is a limited Bell's beer, draft-only until being slotted for the Eccentric Cafe program.  Nearly half a ton of Michigan raspberries were used to produce it, surely imparting some tart characteristics from the fruit alone.  It sounds like the base is an amber ale.
  • Sweet Potato Stout (6.1% ABV, 82, 73) - Sounds weird, but folks seem to be into this draft-only sweet stout brewed with North Carolina in mind.  When you think a bit more about it, it might actually make sense.  Sweet potatoes and brown sugar go together like...sweet potatoes and brown sugar, so if the dark malts can conjure up some brown sugar notes, it just might work!

And while we're at it, one quick tidbit from Colorado's Left Hand Brewing:

  • Oak-Aged Widdershins (8.8% ABV, 83, 94) - Here's a big ol' barleywine, 25% of which was aged in oak casks that previous held brandy.  The name is a roundabout way of hinting back at Left Hand - it's an old term meaning to go to the left, or away from the sun. 

First reporting: Brewvival 2012 is a mere two-and-a-half months away, and attendees are chomping at the bit for details on the featured beers.  Well chomp no more, friends, because the leaks are rolling in.  

Last year we employed many sneaky, questionable, somehwat unethical, and definitely illegal methods to extract information about the beer list.  Given that our jail time was light (my Mom brought cupcakes), and our fines minimal, we decided this was important enough to risk our freedom once again.

The first major, official announcement about the upcoming fest was that Rob Tod, founder of Portland, Maine's Allagash Brewing, home of the only coolship (or koelschip) in the country, will be in attendance and giving a talk.  As you can imagine, Allagash will be well-represented at the fest.  How well-represented, you ask?  After holding their barrel room hostage with needles full of Clorox, we found out!

  • Big Little Beer (5.5% ABV, B+, 97) - 2011 attendees will remember Little Big Beer, a funky wine-barrel aged joint that weighed in at 10.5% ABV.  Big Little Beer is where Little Big Beer started, a lower-alcohol Belgian Pale Ale made in collaboration with the Alström brothers, founders of BeerAdvocate, for their 2010 Belgian Beer Fest.  As opposed to Little Big, this one was fermented with a Trappist yeast strain.
  • Bourbon Barrel Black (9.5% ABV, A-, 97) - Allagash Black is a year-round Belgian Stout.  Guess what Bourbon Barrel Black is?  Your only question should be what bourbon was used, and how long did it sit in the barrel.  Jim Beam, 10 months.  'Nuff said.
  • Ghoulschip (6.9% ABV, A, 94) - Originally called Drunken Promise, when I first read the description of this it sounded like a disaster.  It's a serious wild ale, fermented with Allagash house yeast and house brettanomyces in French oak wine barrels, but brewed with scads of pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds.  Luckily I got to try it this year, and it blew me away.  Odds are against you ever seeing this on draft again.  MUST TRY.
  • Mattina Rossa (served from bottles, 6.9% ABV, A, 96) - Raspberries and wild ales go together like a horse and carriage.  That's probably why raspberry lambics have a traditional name, "Framboise" (pronounce the "s").  This guy was brewed using a half-ton of local Maine raspberries before spending 18 months in French Oak with all kinds of fun bugs.  It recently reared its sour head in Charleston as the surprise ending to the Westbrook/Allagash dinner at The Boathouse.
  • Thing 2 (7%, A-, XX) - A 2011 Belgian Beer Fest exclusive (until now), this is a Belgian Strong Ale made using traditional dark candi sugar.  With only a handful of ratings, not even enough on Ratebeer to calculate a score, this is clearly limited, and you are clearly lucky.

Stay tuned to this page for more updates as we painfully extract them from our victims, and check out our #beer landing page for other local beer news.

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