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I’m still going through withdraws. This is how Peter must have felt after leaving Narnia. Last Saturday, I was in a fantasy world, a world full of wonder and some of the rarest (and tastiest) beers ever brewed. Big Texas Beer Fest is an annual gathering of craft beer breweries (150 this year) and anxious hopheads like myself.

The day began at the Trinity Railway Express station near downtown. Two good friends of mine, including the founder of the beer blog DocHopHead, boarded with an important excel spreadsheet in hand. BTBF co-founder Chad Montgomery spilled the beans on which brews would be on tap through his website only days earlier. He told me in an interview last week that many craft beer fans like to “nerd out” on the beer release list by making custom spreadsheets. And nerd out we did.

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At the top of our list was a very limited release of Goose Island’s Bourbon County stout. Bourbon County is rare, but for the group I was in it was about as rare as Cristal is for Jay Z. As it turned out, this ale was aged in 40-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. After an hour waiting for the event to begin, we were finally freed to frolic amongst the several hundred taps and kegs. The crowd of roughly 1,000 VIP attendees calmly but deliberately moved in several directions. I stopped to say hello to beerpedelar Tony Drewry only to find myself separated from my compadres. In the short-lived diaspora that ensued, I sampled Revolver Brewing’s tangy Sangre Y Miel (Blood and Honey aged in champagne barrels) and The Collective Brewing Project’s American Sour Red. When I finally caught up with my amigos I found myself woefully behind in the Goose Island line. Luckily, I was able to sample some of what they were willing to part with — a palette warming, pleasantly woody, rich, and malty experience that was decades in the works.

OK, where to next? Each brewery was assigned a booth. Some were bigger than others. All of Fort Worth’s breweries were represented and appeared popular judging from the length of their lines. There were a few new perks this year. The event added a second day (Friday) to what was previously a one day fest. There was free catered pork riblets (braised in Revolver Blood and Honey) and pudding offered for the first time for VIP ticketholders. The food truck variety was nice, and the lines were reasonable.

We had many victories that day and a few defeats (like missing out on Jester King’s Colour Five). All-in-all, my friends and I were hard pressed to find anything to complain about. Montgomery told the crowd toward the end of the event that this fifth event felt like a first in many ways.

I agree, Big Texas Beer Fest has come into its own and become a staple of the craft beer movement for thousands of North Texans and the folks who traveled from outside the state to be a part of the experience.

On Tap this Week:

The Collective Brewing Project bottle release of Bourbon Barrel Bug Rye’d.

From Collective Brewing: The long awaited return of a previous one-off beer, Bourbon Barrel Bug Rye’d, is back in bottles. As with every beer we make, this is a limited batch and won’t last long. This is a brewery only release. Sales begin on Friday. Crowler Club members may purchase on Thursday during regular taproom hours. Don’t miss this 100 percent Brett fermented version of our Mustache Rye’d Porter aged in Bourbon barrels on tart and sweet cherries and bottle conditioned to perfection.

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