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Real Ale Competition Returning to West Hartford in September

2022 Cask Champion Aspetuck Brew Lab. Courtesy photo

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society will host the annual Real Ale Harvest Fest on Sept. 9.

Hops growing on the Noah Webster House fence. Courtesy photo (we-ha.com file photo)

By Ronni Newton

Brewers from throughout the region will have a chance to get creative in a unique competition – the Noah Webster Real Ale Harvest Fest – that returns to West Hartford on Sept. 9, 2023.

Beers that you won’t find anywhere else will be available for tasting at the event, which will be held at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society and also serves as a fundraiser for the museum. The event is co-hosted by Harvest Wine & Spirits.

Brewers must create just a single cask of ale for the competition, but the unique challenge is that it must include an ingredient from Noah Webster’s 18th century garden or something that would have been in the famed West Hartford resident’s pantry. There are more than 100 items to choose from, with popular choices in past years including quince, cinnamon, rhubarb, currants, honey, hyssop, and nutmeg.

More than 20 brewers are planning to compete this year, including last year’s Cask Champion – Aspetuck Brew Lab – which won with their cask of “Extra Slice Imperial Stout” which featured coffee, vanilla bean, cacao nibs, and hazelnuts.

In addition to the Cask Champion which is chosen by a panel of judges, the public has the opportunity to vote. Last year’s Taster’s Choice award was given to New England Brewing Co. for their cask, “Fuzzy Baby Ducks with Wild Fruit.”

“Votes will be counted by the official accounting team from Clark Hirth CPAs using their weighting system designed just for the event,” organizers said in a news release.

We look forward to the Real Ale Fest every year,” said Peter Cowles, co-owner of Aspetuck Brew Lab, “The format allows us to be really creative and have some fun with the beers that we are serving. Guests are treated to amazing, unique beers that are not available anywhere else.”

“Real ale” is created using a traditional technique that was commonly employed during the time Noah Webster lived on South Main Street. The beer is top-fermented and matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is served, creating a unique, complex, and (hopefully) satisfying and delicious brew. Real ale is served at cellar temperatures – warmer than most are accustomed to drinking their draft beers these days – and are distinguished by their flavors and texture.

For those whose taste buds are not quite so adventurous, most of the brewers also serve a selection of their traditional beers at the event.

In addition to Aspetuck Brew Lab and New England Brewing Co. other participants will include Back East Brewing Company, Brewery Legitmus, Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery, Counter Weight Brewing Co., East Hartford Brewing, East Rock Brewing, Hanging Hills Brewing, Kent Falls Brewing Co., New Park Brewing, Nod Hill Brewery, O.E.C. Brewing, Other Half Brewing, Oxbow Brewing Co., SingleCut Beersmiths, Thomas Hooker Brewing, Twelve Percent Beer Project, WeHa Brewing & Roasting Co., Watson Farmhouse Brewery, and Willimantic Brewing Co.

WeHa Brewing and Roasting owner Cody McCormack at the 2021 Real Ale Fest. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Noah Webster Real Ale Fest will take place in two separate sessions on Sept. 9: from 2-5 p.m. and from 6-9 p.m. Food will be available for purchase at both sessions from the Salt & Pepper Catering and Hot Taco Street Kitchen food trucks.

Each session will also feature live music. Organizers said that Connecticut’s legendary Savage Brothers will bring their “funk, rock, and rhythm” to the afternoon session, while the Blaney Brothers’ will perform their “modern take on traditional acoustic music with pub songs, ballads, and jigs with an Irish flair” for the evening session.

A limited number of tickets are available, and can be purchased online in advance at www.noahwebster.yapsody.com, where up-to-date information about the event can also be found. Tickets – which include unlimited samples in a souvenir tasting glass – are $55 each until Sept. 2, and $60 after that date. Designated drivers are welcome for $20 per person. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit museum. Guests must be 21 with and show proper ID, and no pets are allowed.

“Please drink responsibly. There will be a drop off spot immediately in front of the museum for Uber, Lyft, and designated drivers to use. This location is sponsored by Keating Agency Insurance,” the news release states.

Sponsors include ClarkHirthKeating Agency Insurance, Teplitzky & Company, P.C., American Eagle Financial Credit Union, and Cricket Press. The logo and banner have been designed by Gariphic Design.

Courtesy image

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