I’ve been a homebrewer for 14 years. I’ve been a beer consumer for longer. I’ve attended more beer festivals than I can remember. But I’ve never done anything like the KC Nanobrew Fest.
A First-Timer’s Experience
The 2014 KC Nanobrew Festival landed in downtown Liberty, Missouri, a few doors down from Rock & Run Brewery, in a city parking lot. My brother, Beer Scout Dr Roxxo, came with me to help pour. We arrived late – Liberty is deceptively far from Brookside. While there were several areas available for us to set up our tent, we camped in what we later realized was the worst spot possible. Mike Sweetwood and Sweetwood Brews were just to our left and we expected others to fill in to the right. That never happened. And the sponsor tents were between us and the main tent, blocking the view of festival goers who hung out there between pours.
About an hour before the official start to the festival, the brewers could wander about tasting each other’s creations. I left my brother to man the kegs and began a stroll. I took in some very good ciders, pale ales, saisons, and lagers. After making it all the way around the lot, I was back at the KC Beer Scouts / Wagner Homemade Beer tent.
The paying public started rolling in soon after. We had a slow, but steady stream of drinkers find us in the corner. We brought two beers: a Scottish-style export (80-shilling) ale spiced with heather tips, and an imperial-strength brown ale made with toasted pecans and aged on oak. The Scottish-style was brewed specifically for the Nanobrew Fest. The brown has a long and sordid history of failed carbonation and extended aging in various vessels, but somehow, came out pretty good in the end.
I’ve never produced a beer for the public before. Friends and family tend to give high marks to my beer, but I don’t always trust them to give completely honest feedback. Judged competitions do give honest feedback; but their critique comes much delayed and veiled in pencil-on-paper. Not so here. This was a live event with only a wooden table between me and my critics.
We poured many samples of each beer for the friendly crowd. Everyone was pleasant and receptive and often wanted to discuss how I integrated pecans into the brown or what exactly heather is. Initial reactions were generally positive, and there were even some raves for the pecan brown, especially from the guys and gals at Brew Lab who kept coming back for more.
The wind and clouds, which had been ominously present through most of the day, finally gave way to rain. This reduced the steady stream of glass-filling to just an occasional pour. Some prepared folks in rain jackets or handling umbrellas – true beer scouts – made their way through the rain. Others made mad dashes out of the shelter for quick pours, while others only jumped out of the huddles in the main tents during dry breaks. With about 30 minutes before last call, the last pour of pecan brown foamed out of the tap, and we blew our first keg.
With 500 attendees sampling over 100 beers from more than 40 different brewers, both amateur and professional, the KC Nanobrew Fest is no small event. We made it out to try some other beers before the gates opened and a few other times when things got slow. Some of the notables:
- Mike Sweetwood’s Apple Ale, a very tasty cider from a deceptively simple recipe.
- The porter made with – not for – oysters from Cowtown Brew Supply. The barnacles added some briny elements to the very roasty porter.
- David Schumacher’s BBQ Porter, a smokey brown ale that included dry rub. If David was going for liquid brisket, he nailed it.
- Both the blackberry sour and Kentucky common from Justin Casey’s Weeping Angel were very good. Kentucky common, a rare tart brown ale made with lots of adjuncts, is hard to make well.
- KC Nanobrew co-founder Frank Rydzewski made a good coffee stout with a name I cannot print here.
- Cinder Block’s KC Weiss, a Berliner-style sour wheat beer was very, very good.
- Red Crow’s Belgian-style blonde, hopefully available commercially in the near future, might have been the best pour I had all day.
Did You Nano?
Did you brave the threatening weather to tastes what local homebrewers had to offer? Which was your favorite? What did you think of the festival as a whole?