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Premier Beer Challenge Will Return to West Hartford

Counter Weight Brewing Co. 2018 Cask Champion. Courtesy photo

The Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society will host the fifth annual Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest for Charity on Sept. 7.

The Sours, Funky & Foreign Room 2018. Courtesy photo

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The Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest returns for its fifth year on Saturday, Sept. 7. 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 event is co-hosted by the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society and the Harvest family of stores including Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits and Harvest Country Store.

The premise is simple: brewers create a one-off cask of real ale just for the event which must contain a flavoring from a designated ingredient list. Twenty-plus breweries from around the region are entering the competition. Real ale undergoes a second fermentation in the barrel or cask it will be served from, thus giving it a complex and sometimes creamy quality. Since it’s unpasteurized, this beer is good for this event only.

Real Ale tasting glass. Courtesy photo

New this year is an expanded ingredient list that the brewers can select from to flavor their entry. Previously, brewers could opt from any of dozens of items found in Noah Webster’s 18th century kitchen garden like quince, thyme, lemon verbena, and lavender. This year, items from a colonial pantry have also been added such as cinnamon, chocolate, rose water, and horseradish.  

“The variety of beer is stunning and each year the entries get better,” says Ian Halpern, director of operations, Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits. “The ingenuity, creativity and skill the brewers put forward and the quality of the ale they produce make this event unlike any other.”

The team from Goldburgers, Newington, will be cooking great food for purchase at the event. Like the brewers, chef Matt Crowley will be drawing inspiration from ingredients in the colonial garden and pantry. 

Music has always been a focal point of the fest, and this year, regional favorites Steal Your Funk will play both sessions.

In addition to the casks entered into the competition, attendees will sample a variety of specialty beers in the “5th Anniversary Sours, Funky & Foreign Room” hosted by Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits. Harvest will be pouring an interesting range of offerings from Brasserie BFM of Switzerland, Belgium’s Rodenbach, Italy-based LoverBeer, and many others.

The event would not be possible without the support of presenting sponsor Harvest Fine Wine & Spirits. The museum would also like to thank bronze sponsors Keating Agency Insurance, Private Capital Group LLC, ClarkHirth CPAs, and Berkshire Bank. The accountants at ClarkHirth will also lend their services by counting the votes for the Tasters Choice award using a first, second, and third place weighting system designed especially for this event.

The 2018 champions will return to defend their respective titles. Counter Weight Brewing Co. of Hamden walked away with the Cask Champion award last year, while Woodbridge-based New England Brewing took the Tasters’ Choice Award.

Breweries competing include: Alvarium; Aspetuck Brew Lab; Blue Point Brewing; Back East Brewing; Brewery Legitimus; Cambridge Brewing Company; City Steam Brewing; Counter Weight Brewing; Firefly Hollow Brewing; Greysail Brewing of R.I.; Hanging Hills Brewing; Hog River Brewing; Kent Falls Brewing, New England Brewing; New Park Brewing; OEC Brewing; Relic Brewing; Singlecut Beersmiths; Still Hill Brewery; Stony Creek Brewing; Thomas Hooker Brewing; and Willimantic Brewing. 

Tickets are available for both sessions: 2-5 p.m. or 6-9 p.m. Each session includes unlimited samples served in a souvenir tasting glass. Tickets are $50, or $60 at the door.

Attendees must be 21 or over with proper ID to attend. Please drink responsibly. Discounted tickets for designated drivers are $20 and there will be a reserved Lyft, Uber, and designated driver drop off point in front of the museum.

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

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