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Beer Challenge Will Return to West Hartford in September

Brewery Legitimus of New Hartford won the Cask Challenge for their 'Strababerries Eloise' at the Third annual Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest. Sept. 9, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society will host the fourth annual Real Ale Fest on Sept. 8, 2018.

Third annual Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest. Sept. 9, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

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The Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest returns for its fourth year on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.

All proceeds from this one-of-a-kind brew fest will benefit the educational mission of the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society. The Real Ale Fest is co-hosted by the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society and the Harvest family of stores including Harvest Country Store and Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits.

The premise of this fest is simple: brewers are invited to create a cask of real ale just for the event. Last year, 25-plus breweries from around the region entered the competition. More than 400 people enjoyed tasting each casked creation, as well as specialty beers and sours provided by Harvest.

Hops were one of the crops that founding father and lexicographer Noah Webster tended on his family’s 200-acre farm in rural West Hartford. When Webster’s childhood home was restored and opened as a museum in 1965, the historic garden was also re-created, including noble hop plants.

Beer was a staple drink in the 18th century, but what kind of beer did Webster drink? It was likely a type of ale that did not require sophisticated machinery, thus making it easier for farmers to brew themselves.

Before beer was mass produced, it was cask conditioned. Barrels of fermenting ale were set aside to age gracefully before they were ready to tap. Real ale undergoes a second slow fermentation process in the barrel or cask, the same vessel from which it will be served.

Each brewer participating in the Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest must create a cask of real ale for the event using at least one ingredient from Noah Webster’s garden in their recipe. Past entries have included quince, thyme, lemon verbena and lavender – to name just a few!

“This is my very favorite beer festival,” said Ian Halpern, director of operations, Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits. “The ingenuity, creativity and skill the brewers must put forward and the quality of the ale produced, make this unlike any event I have ever attended.”

The specialty casks are made just for the occasion and good for one day only. A panel of judges determines the Cask Champion and attendees vote for the Tasters’ Choice Winner.

Alex Dee, brewer for New Park Brewing, hands out a sample of his Strawberry Smoothie Berliner Weisse which took first place in the Taster’s Choice competition. Third annual Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest. Sept. 9, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Brewery Legitimus of New Hartford, CT, co-owned by Chris and Christina Sayer, walked away with the Cask Champion title last year with their cask “Strababerries Eloise.” West Hartford-based New Park Brewing’s cask Strawberry Smoothie Berliner Weisse took the Tasters’ Choice Award. Runners-up included Aspetuck Brew Lab (Bridgeport) and Willimantic Brewing Company.

This year, at least 24 breweries will compete, including: Aspetuck Brew Lab; Alvarium Brewing; Armada Brewing; Back East Brewing; Black Pond Beer; Brewery Legitimus; Cambridge Brewing Company; City Steam Brewing; Counterweight Brewing; Firefly Hollow Brewing; Hanging Hills Brewing; Heavy Seas Brewing; Hog River Brewing; Mayflower Brewing; Mystic Brewing; New England Brewing; Nod Hill Brewing, Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores; Relic Brewing; Stony Creek Brewing; Thimble Island Brewing; Thomas Hooker Brewing; Two Roads Brewing; and Willimantic Brewing.

In addition, a special “Sours, Funky & Foreign Room” will feature tastings of offerings from Kent Falls, Spencer Breweryg, Brouwerij Boon, Hitachino Nest Beer, and Brewery Omer Vander Ghinste.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to celebrate the history of Noah Webster and beer,” said Ryan Keating, a 2017 sponsor and judge. “It’s even better to see a couple hundred people come out to support the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society to enjoy a day of creative competition. I’m really interested to see what these brewers enter into this year’s contest.”

Attendees may choose from two sessions: 2-5 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Each session will have live music by Sparkplug and special guests, and food will available for purchase.

Hop to it! Tickets are $50 through Sept. 6 and include unlimited samples and a souvenir tasting glass. A limited number of discounted early bird tickets ($40-$45) are available at noahwebster.yapsody.com or at any of the three Harvest locations (Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits, Harvest Country Store, and Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits Elmwood).Tickets purchased after Sept. 6 or at the door are $60. Discounted tickets will be available for designated drivers at $20.

The event is held at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, 227 South Main St., West Hartford, CT, 06107. Purchasers will receive an email confirmation with parking information.

Attendees must be 21 or over for this event. Valid ID must be presented at the gate in order to attend. Please drink responsibly.

The museum would like to thank co-presenter Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits, event sponsors including Keating Agency Insurance, Private Capital Group LLC, and Telefunken, and all participating breweries for making this annual fundraiser possible. Additional thanks to Media Sponsor Yelp and the Greater Hartford Arts Council for their continued support.

Harvest and the participating breweries donate their time, talent and beer to this annual event in order to raise critical funding for the museum. The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society has been serving the West Hartford community for more than 50 years. The non-profit organization maintains the 18th century birthplace of NoahWebster, West Hartford’s most famous resident and author of the dictionary and Blue-Backed Speller. The home is a National Historic Landmark and welcomes more than 10,000 visitors annually through tours, programs and events. Of those, the largest audience each year is an estimated 5,500 school children. Students experience quality, hands-on learning at the museum, with 20 percent attending free of charge from underserved communities throughout Connecticut. For information about the museum, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call 860-521-5362.

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