Fest hails hoppy times; Brew Woo at DCU.
WORCESTER -- Microbrewed beer is an "art form,'' a beverage turned into a hand-crafted product meant to be imbibed and savored by all.
Kate Steblanko of Worcester used that term to refer to a sample of beer in her hand inside the DCU Center Saturday. She works as a "beer scientist'' at Jack's Abby Brewing in Framingham and oversees quality control there. She said being at the Brew Woo original craft beer festival, the DCU Center's fifth annual event, was an opportunity to explore exciting trends out in the field, and to try some flavorful beers created right here in Worcester County.
"It's an art form because it's really exploring how other people's tastes affect what they brew,'' she said. "You can't put out a bad beer ... especially in this day and age, you can come up with anything.''
Ms. Steblanko was one of several Worcesterites at the event Saturday. Many in the large room recognized the emerging microbrew scene locally as a major coup for the city.
Archie Bellos, 24, a graduate of College of the Holy Cross and Worcester native, said he sees new breweries setting up shop in the city and region as a reason for college students and graduates to keep it local.
"This is fantastic. I think a lot of young kids are going to want to stay here because of events like this,'' he said. "This is more appealing to a younger crowd.''
Brew Woo -- which offered two three-hour sessions for patrons to drink up to 20 samples of beer at a time -- presented more than 60 brewing companies in the downtown facility. Local businesses showcasing there included Worcester's Wormtown Brewery, now with a tap room and brewery on Shrewsbury Street; Spencer, a Trappist ale brewery located in that community, and Wachusett Brewing Co., the popular business based in Westminster.
David Fields, co-owner of Wormtown Brewery, said it is an "honor'' for his business to be located in Worcester. He added he is thrilled to see new microbreweries setting up in town, as well -- 3cross Brewing Co., on Cambridge Street, opened most recently, and this summer Dave Richardson, of the Gardner Ale House, is moving to Wormtown's old location on Park Avenue with a new establishment called Flying Dreams, Mr. Fields said. He added he expects that business to open sometime mid-summer.
"I think Worcester is just on the verge of becoming a very cool beer-centric market,'' Mr. Fields said. "You always have your college students and beer drinkers in this market, but now we have a second brewery, 3cross, and Dave Richardson is ready, (too).''
While Saturday was an opportunity for visitors to sample exotic beers -- the bright grapefruit-infused ales, the rich chocolate stouts, the boozy hard ciders -- it was a chance for those in the trade to talk some shop.
The major trend in hand-crafted beer nowadays? Extra hoppy beers and those in the India Pale Ale, or IPA, style.
A new flavor on the horizon? Bready beers brewed with brettanomyces yeast, yielding a taste like that of a horse blanket, according to Ms. Steblenko.
Popular items for this summer? Fruity beers, according to Wachusett's Director of Sales and Marketing, TJ Morse.
The Wachusett brewery, founded in 1993, gets a significant portion of its sales from its famous Blueberry Ale, Mr. Morse noted. This year, though, he said the group will come out with its first-ever lagers, including a pilsner in the fall. The first new lager, to be labeled Olabrau, will come out in May, he said.
Brew Woo also housed several vendors Saturday, including the New Bedford-based South Coast Beard & Mustache Guild. The booth hosted a few competitions throughout the day among urban beardsmen -- those with hefty facial tufts were challenged to see how many beer caps they could stick inside their beards.
After a few seconds in the afternoon, Behzad Bakhshandeh, who goes by "Bear,'' emerged victorious with seven caps in his hair. A group shrieked with excitement when he found an eighth lodged deep inside. Mr. Bakhshandeh, 24, of Grafton, said having something like a beer festival in Worcester brings vibrancy to the community he is already glad to belong to.
Contact Samantha Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SAllen_89.