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Area Breweries To Participate in Inaugural Noah Webster ‘Real Ale Harvest’ Festival

Justin & Stuart from Black Hog Brewing forage in Noah Webster garden for 'real ale' ingredients. Submitted photo

The Real Ale Fest will be held at the Noah Webster House in West Hartford, and at least 15 brews will be specially-crafted using at least one ingredient from the Noah Webster House garden.

Submitted by Sarah Mocko St. Germain, Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Justin & Stuart from Black Hog Brewing forage in Noah Webster garden for 'real ale' ingredients. Submitted photo

Justin & Stuart from Black Hog Brewing forage in Noah Webster garden for ‘real ale’ ingredients. Submitted photo

Hops. One of the crops Founding Father and lexicographer Noah Webster tended on his family’s 200-acre farm in rural West Hartford. When Webster’s childhood home, now a National Historic Landmark, was restored and opened as a museum in 1965, the historic garden was also recreated, hop plants and all.

These hops, as well as other plants from Webster’s garden, are on the ingredient list for the approximately 15 breweries from around New England and New York that will be participating in the inaugural Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Festival, slated for Saturday, Oct. 17, from 6-10 p.m. at the Noah Webster House. Using a traditional brewing technique, each brewery will create a cask of “real ale” for attendees to sample. The only stipulation? The brewers must use at least one ingredient from Noah Webster’s garden.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the museum’s educational mission.

Executive Director Jennifer Matos first noticed the robust hops growing in Webster’s garden when she started working there a year ago and she was determined to use them in some way.

“It seemed like such a shame to let them die on their ‘bines’,” Matos recalled. She posted an image of them on the museum’s Facebook page and offered them up to the public. A group of local brewers harvested the hops and made an India pale ale from them, which they affectionately called “Noah Hop’ster.” “From that point, I knew we had the potential to do something really cool with Noah Webster’s hops,” Matos said.

Matos took her idea to Ian Halpern, the manager of West Hartford-based Harvest Country Store and Harvest Fine Wines & Spirits, both well known in the community for their excellent selection of craft beer.

Instead of a typical brew fest, Halpern suggested the brewers be invited to create batches of real ale. Using a traditional technique that Webster’s contemporaries might have employed. Real ale is a beer that is top-fermented and matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is served. Known for its flavor and texture, real ale is naturally carbonated and served at cellar temperatures.

Halpern organized the breweries and laid down the simple ground rules. Brewers must use one ingredient from Webster’s garden, which in addition to hops includes herbs like lavender, lemon balm and lovage and plants like Jerusalem artichoke and quince. Brewers are invited to forage in Webster’s garden and take their harvest back to their own test kitchen.

“This event is like a perfect storm of beer and history colliding,” said Halpern. “We’ve got some really adventuresome brewers creating classic real ales and to have such a historic venue like the Noah Webster House is really going to make it an outstanding occasion.”

The breweries’ special batches of real ale will be presented at the festival and tasted by guests – as well as by judges. A team of celebrity judges will present the first ever “Noah Webster Real Ale” award to the winning brewery. Attendees will also have the opportunity to cast a vote for their favorite for the “Taster’s Choice” award.

Participating breweries include: Allagash Brewing Co. (Portland, ME), Berkshire Brewing Co. (South Deerfield, MA), Black Hog Brewing Co. (Oxford, CT), Broadbrook Brewing Co. (East Windsor, CT), Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. (Elmsford, NY), City Steam Brewery (Hartford, CT), Harpoon Brewery (Boston, MA), Hog River Brewing Co. (Hartford, CT), Ithaca Beer Co. (Ithaca, NY), New England Brewing Co. (Woodbridge, CT), OEC (Ordeinem Ecentrici Coctores, Oxford, CT), Olde Burnside Brewing Co. (East Hartford, CT), Park Road Brewing (West Hartford, CT), Stony Creek Brewery (Branford, CT), , Thimble Island Brewing Co. (Branford, CT), Two Roads Brewing Co.(Stratford, CT).

In addition to unique real ale, there will be food by Mercado and The Cheese Truck, music, prizes, and a pumpkin beer battle royale hosted by Harvest.

The Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Festival will take place at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, located at 227 South Main St. in West Hartford, on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 6-10 p.m. Tickets include a commemorative tasting glass and a detailed guide printed especially for the event. $35 advance purchase, $30 for members of the Noah Webster House, and $40 at the door. Tickets are limited; advanced purchase recommended and available here: www.noahwebsterhouse.org. All proceeds to benefit the museum’s educational mission.

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is a cultural destination where citizens can learn to understand and appreciate the past. The museum preserves the birthplace of Noah Webster, the Founding Father, educator, author and lexicographer who taught generations of Americans what it means to be American. This National Historic Landmark is also a repository for West Hartford history, the community that molded Webster’s future and is still thriving 250-plus years later. The historic house and exhibit spaces are open daily 1-4 p.m. For information on the museum’s extensive school and public programs, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call 860-521-5362.

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