Jesse Camille’s CT Craft Brew Fest: A Pleasant Mudpie

Twenty years in craft-beer years is a lot. For anything to last since 1994 in this little world means it’s got to be special. Such is the case with Jesse Camille’s Connecticut Craft Brew Fest in Naugatuck, Conn.

The “little fest that could” still does. Tucked into a grassy corner outside of Jesse Camille’s restaurant, the modest, four-tent area was plenty of room for the hundreds of beer geeks who wandered purposely in search of the perfect quench on Saturday, May 17. The annual event not only helps kick off the festival season, but raises money for the Camille B. Perugini Charitable Trust Scholarship Fund.

The Connecticut Craft Brew Fest isn’t very large, but it has enough offerings to keep the scavenger for new beers satisfied. In the muddy field, on a bright, post-shower day, I ended up drinking samples of nine beers, and gorging on a pulled-pork sandwich.

Here’s my sampling breakdown, in order:

Rogue Beard Beer (Oregon) – This quirky curiosity is known as the beard beer because Rogue created the yeast from samplings found in a brewer’s beard. Turns out that the yeast helps create a bright, citrusy blonde ale.

Narragansett Del’s Lemonade Shandy (Rhode Island) – Total lemon bomb. The $1 pretzel necklace paid for itself as I reclaimed my palate after this one.

Evil Twin Low Life pilsener (Denmark/Brooklyn, brewed in Stratford, Conn.) – This tart little number was a perfect spring refresher.

Evil Twin Ashtray Heart smoked porter – Completely different (eeeevil?) beer paired with the Low Life. Sweet, a little smoky, and warming (alcohol-wise), this 8.9 percent alcohol-by-volume porter was dangerously drinkable.

Pies & Pints Dozer IPA (Waterbury, Conn.) – Brewmaster John Watson brings out another hop-forward beer with Dozer. He pointed out Urban Dictionary’s 7th definition for “dozer” as his favorite description: “derived from the construction-man word bulldozer, meaning ridiculously rad or outrageous, usually used in association with a legit/chill person/thing/event.”

The Hartford Better Beer Company Arch Sunshine Kristall Weizen (Hartford, Conn., brewed in Maine) – Sweet and malty with a little hop zing, a springtime winner.

New England Brewing Scrumtrulescent saison (Woodbridge, Conn.) – This was my favorite of the day; just sour enough to cleanse your palate, with funky-sweat odor, it was a delight.

Thomas Hooker Tenacious Belgian IPA (Bloomfield, Conn.) – Hooker has branched out into a Belgian-style line. This one wasn’t up to the pulled-pork in terms of robustness, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a try.

Two Roads Brewing Lil’ Heaven session IPA (Stratford, Conn.) – A wonderful way to ease out of the festival, two hours after entering it. Light, refreshing, but with enough citrus bite to earn the IPA title.

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