June 03, 2008

This past weekend marked the second annual Magic City Brewfest, a fantastic event that brought more than 200 beers and in excess of 5,000 hopheads to Birmingham's Sloss Furnaces for two days of music, food, and potent potables.

And all for a cause. The state of Alabama has some antiquated laws on the books limiting the alcohol content and bottle size of beer, and making it a bureaucratic nightmare to import and sell it in our state. The Brewfest benefits Free The Hops, an organization working to change those laws and allow us access to high-gravity gourmet beers.

But enough politics. I tried lots of beer on Saturday that I hadn't even heard of, let alone tasted, but a clear favorite emerged. Made by the Matt Brewing Company of Utica, New York, Saranac Caramel Porter is a delicious beer that made its first appearance in Alabama at the Brewfest. It's a dark, medium-bodied beer, but not as heavy as porters usually are. But what's most remarkable about it is the caramel flavor. This beer smells like a candy bar, with a strong caramel nose and hints of chocolate and coffee. It still tastes like beer, with characteristic malty bitterness, but there's a caramel sweetness behind it that's subtle but definitely present. I loved this beer. If any Alabama beer distributors or somebody from Matt is reading this, please sell your beer in Alabama. Please.

I also have to give a shout-out to the brand-new Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham's only brewery, which had received permission from the state to sell its product about 12 hours prior to Brewfest. Good People's booth (it's second from the right in this picture) consistently had the longest line all night, and the crowd was abuzz over the possibility of locally produced beer. Good People only brought out one beer, a brown ale, and it was tasty but a bit too bitter for me. I can't wait to try the rest of their offerings.

Anybody else out there like Saranac Caramel Porter? Got any other favorite beers I should try?

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