The best of The Fest

By on March 8, 2017

For the most part, beer is being taken seriously by most of the world. It hasn’t reached the status of wine or standing of Scotch, but beer is well on its way to being a respectable spirit. Case in point: the beer pairing. Fifteen years ago no one was matching beer with food to accentuate the flavor of one another. Now, it’s commonplace.

That said, there is something nostalgic about the good ol’ days when a cold one was meant to wash down a hot dog at the ball park or be the basting agent for some backyard grilled bratwurst. Who remembers the beer can chicken craze? Say what you want, that bird came off the grill moist every time!

Recently I got a chance to revisit the roots of suds and sustenance when I headed up north to the Lebanon Bologna Fest.

The Lebanon Bologna Fest is an annual family event put on by the Lebanon Rotary Club every January. A couple of years ago they decided to add a beer and wine fest to the indoor winter carnival featuring kids games, a bologna sandwich eating contest (the 2017 winner, Jack Diamond, devoured 10 sandwiches in the time allotted), and food vendors like Weaver’s Bologna and Seltzer’s, of course. It’s a small event, but honest fun.

I was a bit worried about this beer festival at first. It is held inside a large, uninspired function hall at the Lebanon Valley EXPO Center (because it is held in the winter) and the number of breweries in attendance didn’t quite match the cost of admission. Only seven breweries were listed on the promo material and we had to share a space with three wineries and over 100 fanatics playing in the corn hole tournament. But organizers did something a bit creative by inviting Westy’s Beer Distributor to the tasting game — and they came to win.

Right away I recognized a familiar face and made my way over to chat with Francisco Ramirez of Mad Chef Brewing. He was offering samples of the East Pete brewery’s flagship F-18 IPA. Mad Chef was joined by Moo-Duck, Appalachian Brewing, Snitz Creek, Boneshire Brew Works, Troegs, and the Brewery at Hershey.

Francisco Ramirez of Mad Chef Brewing (Photos by Michael Upton)

Francisco Ramirez of Mad Chef Brewing (Photos by Michael Upton)

I eventually made my way to the four tables occupied by Westy’s, who had brought a slew of easy-to-find craft beers like Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, a seasonal stout from The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, and samplers from Terrapin, Voodoo, Heavy Seas, DuClaw, Slyfox, and others.

I was excited to try Saucony Creek’s Maple Mistress, which I quickly learned I could never drink more than one of — not that it is a bad beer; it’s just rich and heavy. Westy’s did bring something I’ve never seen, the Mendocino Brewing “Cast of Hawks” sampler (White Hawk IPA, Red Tail amber ale, and Eye of the Hawk Imperial ale); however, I wasn’t overly impressed with any of these beers.

Smoky pairing: Fried Godshalls’ Lebanon bologna and cheese sandwich and Snitz Creek’s Seltzer’s Smokehaus #7 rauchbier.

Smoky pairing: Fried Godshalls’ Lebanon bologna and cheese sandwich and Snitz Creek’s Seltzer’s Smokehaus #7 rauchbier.

The fest featured one of my favorite brews, Que Será, a Belgian Imperial Blonde from Harrisburg’s Boneshire. But, in my due diligence I had to pair my fried bologna and cheese sandwich with a pour of Snitz Creek’s meat-inspired rauchbier, Seltzer’s Smokehaus #7. Great, good, smoky meatiness.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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