This past weekend I helped celebrate the birthday of one of my most dear friends at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. This annual event has been going on for 16 years and has just gotten bigger and better each year. But, don’t let the name fool you, wine is not the only adult beverage featured at the festival; there is also a significant amount of beer from around the world available.
If you have never been to Epcot, let me give you a brief overview. The original concept of the park was for it to be a self-sustaining community in which people worked, lived, and played. However, after the death of Walt Disney, the plans changed to a more theme-park approach. The park is broken into two main areas; Future World, which contains pavilions dedicated to Space, Energy, The Seas, The Land, Imagination, and Test Track. The second section of the park is the World Showcase with pavilions themed to specific countries like Mexico, China, Norway, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, France, England, and Canada. It is in the World Showcase that the Food & Wine Festival is held. During this festival, other countries are represented through food and drink as well as the permanent countries.
I met my friends at 11:00 near the giant geodesic ball called Spaceship Earth in the Future World section of the park. We checked the festival guide and made our strategy for the day, deciding to attack the World Showcase starting on the Mexican side of the lagoon. The Mexican pavilion was serving Dos Equis beers, nothing spectacular, so we moved on. It was early enough in the day that the throngs of crowds had not arrived yet and we were able to stroll in a leisurely fashion from country to country. A stop was made in China for some Salt and Pepper Shrimp on Sichuan Noodles and Pork Pot Stickers. China was serving Tsing Tau beer, but I passed knowing that ahead lay the Germany pavilion and it’s Bier Garten.
We stopped at Germany and decided it was time for a few beers. The Bier Garten was sponsored by the Radeberger Gruppe, a German beer company whose goal is to maintain the traditions of German beer-making by allowing breweries to remain autonomous in their regions. This is in stark contrast to many beer conglomerates who outsource brews to the least expensive producers or opt to change traditions by using cheap ingredients. Radeberger Gruppe sees itself as a guardian of authentic German beer culture and holds the traditions of the past in the highest of esteem.
Eight beers were on offer and I first opted for the three-beer flight of Sion Kolsch, Hovels, Braufactum Roog.
As any true Kolsch should be, Sion is brewed in Cologne and because of that it is legally protected to be able to use the term Kolsch. Sion uses pale barley and wheat malts to produce a very pleasant and interesting flavor. The nose presents sweet malts and subtle hops while the texture is crisp with a pleasant fruity flavor that gives way to biscuit malts and a slight hop finish.
Braufactum Roog is a Smoked Wheat Ale that combines the flavors of a wheat ale with the smokiness of malts that have been roasted over beechwood. Not quite as smoky as a rauchbier, but the smokiness is readily apparent in its aroma. The brew pours a deep reddish-brown and rewards the taster with a smoky, almost meaty flavor with juniper and orange zest, as well as hints of banana.
Hovels is a unique beer that defies categorization. It is a top-fermented beer brewed at Hovels Hausbrauerei in Dortmund, Germany from a recipe developed in 1893. This beer pours amber red with strong citrus aromas and caramel malts. The flavor is reminiscent of caramel, bread, and dark raisins with a semi-dry finish.
After the sampler I also wanted to try the Schofferhofer Weizen a relatively new beer first produced in 1978. This tasty brew has won many awards and is often referred as the champagne among wheat beers. As a true German Hefeweizen Schofferhofer pours pale and hazy with a sweet floral aroma. The flavor is what you would expect from a hefeweizen and is rich in yeast, clove and slight lemon zest.
Finally, after hitting a few more food stands, we returned to Germany to try the Braufactum Indra, a German IPA made with wheat as well as barley malts while still adhering to the German Purity Law of 1516. This excellent brew is dark orange in color and greets you with pleasing aromas of banana and cloves as well as earthy notes. The flavor is honey, blood orange, and herbs with the bitterness typical of an IPA.
Other beers that were available at the festival were more typical of the countries they were served in. The Belgian tent was serving Stella Artois, Hoegarten, and Leffe. The Moroccan pavilion had Casa. And Italy had Moretti. England was serving the usual Guinness, Bodingtons, Bass, and Harp while Canada was serving Moosehead. There was also a Craft Beer tent serving a selection of beer like Abita Purple Haze and Blue Moon.
The Epcot Food & Wine Festival concludes for this year next weekend, so if you want to drink around the world, I suggest you head to Orlando this weekend.
Until next time,
Long Live the Brewers!