American Craft Beer Fest – both sides of the tap

My original plans for attending Beer Advocate’s American Craft Beer Fest in Boston had fallen through when I was offered a pass from Banded Horn Brewing Company, an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, one that allowed me to experience the festival from two different perspectives. I was able to attend the Friday night session and do some sampling, visit with brewers and reps and just be a beer geek for the night, then on Saturday I was back but in a different role, standing behind the tap handles, slinging samples of Banded Horn beer for the thirsty masses.

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If you’ve never attended ACBF it’s one to have on your radar, no matter how you feel about Beer Advocate, these guys put on a killer brewfest. This year’s festival had over 100 breweries in attendance pouring more than 600 different beers, each session is capped at 5000 attendees; this is not a small brewfest by any means. That being said, this is the best indoor festival that I’ve ever attended, held at the Seaport World Trade Center, there is more than enough room, even in the sold out sessions it never felt overly crowded, there were always short, fast moving lines and at any point you could find a quiet spot to step aside unlike many indoor festivals that feel oversold and claustrophobic.

The Friday night session was fun, I was not disappointed with the selection of beer being poured and was able to get pretty much everything I wanted, although I’ll admit I didn’t spend much time pre-planning with the beer list, trying to game plan with a list of 600+ beers would drive me insane. Food and water was available, I thought it was a bit pricey but it’s always good to have that option. There was what seemed like a small army of volunteers at this festival, they were responsible for taking care of the needs of brewers, filling water, running for ice, answer questions and whatever else might get thrown their way, the few that I talked with during the first session were friendly and helpful and appeared to be enjoying themselves.

Saturday afternoon I switched gears, I showed up early and brought ice to the Banded Horn booth, helped get everything set up before the doors opened and then spent the session pouring samples. Tough gig huh? Yes, yes it is, after standing in the same spot for nearly 5 hours filling 2oz samples and chatting with people who were eager to learn where Biddeford, Maine is located, I feel like I earned my pass to the Friday session, the people behind the taps are working , I’m not sure I’d want to do that for 3 sessions.

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Banded Horn Tap Handles

I found it interesting as I poured samples, which beers were most popular. Banded Horn was pouring four different beers, a Russian Imperial Stout, Double IPA, IPA and Pilsener, had I been placing bets on the beers that would be most popular I’d have put my money on Hops and I would have lost that bet. Banded Horn’s Russian Imperial Stout called The Mountain, a big beer weighing in at 12% ABV and the other end of the spectrum, Pepperel Pilsner an unfiltered German pilsener with a 4.6% ABV were the popular options.

I have to thank Ian at Banded Horn Brewing Company for the opportunity, I’ve attended festivals, I’ve been a volunteer but this is the first time I’ve had the chance to work an entire session in the booth, pouring samples and chatting with beer geeks. I also have to give a shout out to Brian Aldrich and Michael Meredith of the Seacoast Beverage Labs podcast, who I hung out with on Friday evening, good times.



Brian and Michael

Brian and Michael

Chad Lothian

About Chad Lothian

Chad Lothian lives in Old Town, Maine. He is a craft beer enthusiast and homebrewer. Chad has travelled to brewpubs, breweries and brewfests all over New England.