Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on February 18, 2020.
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While on the smaller end of beer festivals, this one packs a punch as all beers served have been aged in barrels- our kind of niche beer festival in Pittsburgh!
The Best Part About the Good Wood Barrel-Aged Festival? The Size
Before discussing the beer, we have to talk about one of the real perks of the Good Wood Barrel-Aged Beer Festival, and that is its size.
You see, normal beer festivals are often in large venues that have hundreds if not thousands of attendees. While many are well managed and have minimal lines, this particular beer festival has a rather low volume of tickets sold and felt much more intimate.
There were hardly any lines, most of the samples were being poured by the brewers of a particular spot (not volunteers), and overall was a really relaxed atmosphere for conversation and enjoying fine beers.
For those who have attended this one in the past, the event was previously hosted at East End Brewery but was moved to Threadbare in 2020. While the space maintained the intimate vibe, spread out between the taproom and production area, it is worth noting that we thought the event was smaller overall with seemingly fewer tickets sold (by design- it sold out) and a few fewer breweries as well. That being said, we don't think this shift detracted from the experience in the slightest and we're only mentioning it for clarity as there was a notable downsize.
14 Breweries Bringing Their Game
As the name of the festival suggests, all of the beers available at this one were barrel aged. And while your first thought may be for robust, dark, high ABV beers like Imperial Porters, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the 14 breweries brought a cross-section of options.
Yes, there were a ton of bourbon barrel aged porters clocking in at 10-13% (Rhinegeist even brought one exceeding 16%), but other breweries served sours, red ales, saisons, and other lighter style beers as well that you wouldn't normally expect to be barrel aged (some created specifically for the event, too!).
This balance, coupled with the fact that most breweries had between one and three beers (East End, Threadbare, and Wigle had more samples, naturally), meant that we were able to sample the vast majority of beers with our ticket (with half pours and trading sips, at least) with room leftover for repeats of our favorites.
This all came together for a wonderful evening with like-minded beer fans, brewers we know and love, and finding an array of new favorites to watch out for in the future.
A Few Favorites to Look Out For
While we were able to sample almost every beer at the event (outside of some we have had in the past), a few stood out as the most memorable. They were:
- Grist House – BA Siberian Highway with vanilla, cocoa, coffee, cinnamon, and lactose. Our winner of the night with complex flavors rich on chocolate. This was a repeat of 2019's with a different barrel and still blew us away.
- Eleventh Hour – Mexican Brownie – An 11% Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels and conditioned on Blue Sparrow Mexican brownies.
- War Streets Brewing – Redrum – The staple Resaca Red from War Streets Brewing aged in Jamaica rum barrels.
- Bloom Brew – Grahama's – A 14% with graham cracker, cookie butter, and dark candi syrup.
- Butler Brew Works – Patience and Perseverance – An ale aged in red wine barrels with Brettanomyces.
- Four Seasons – Whiskey Sour – An ale aged in whiskey barrels with lemon and lime added.
Suffice it to say, if you ever see any of these do yourselves a favor and try them. To put it bluntly, they were astounding. (That being said, there were hardly any misses at the entire event. We may be a bit biased when we say that most local breweries do a great job with their barrel aging programs.)
Overall, the Good Wood Barrel-Aged Beer Festival is a stellar event although we'll be the first to admit that it is intimate (read: smaller) and for those who really love this style of beer. That being said, we really love the spread of styles here as the samples ran the gamut beyond the Imperial stouts you'd normally expect.
Going further on the intimate aspect, the limited crowd size offered a wonderful patron-to-brewery ratio that meant there was never a line at any vendor, and since most brew masters (or assistant brewers) were the ones manning the booths we were also able to nerd out with many renowned local brewers as well. A win in our books!
The Good Wood Barrel Aged Beer Festival takes place in the winter each year, and in 2020 occurred in mid-February.
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