Super happy to be writing for Complex and consulting with Jimmy Carbone on this list. Please feel free to comment (nicely, if you will) and use this list as a launching point for your own best beers list!
As a member of the fifth estate, I am offered the opportunity to attend many events. Sometimes I solicit press passes; sometimes they’re offered to me. Frequently the experience is great, but only occasionally is the event outstanding.
This past Sunday I had the great good fortune to be at an event that surpassed even my highest expectations. B. United International, a beer and spirits importer/distributor, hosted its first-ever open house at its Operations Center in Oxford, CT. Dubbed Nepenthia “after ‘nepenthe,’ a drug described in Greek mythology as banishing grief or trouble from a person’s mind,” the open house brought together not only some of the best beers in the world but also the brewers who made them.
In the house (and the order in which I visited) were:
- Toshiyuki Kiuchi (and his family) of Hitachino, from Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
- Michael Brogard of Dansk Mjod, from Vejle, Denmark
- Valter Loverier (and his lovely wife, Elena De Luigi) of Loverbeer, from Marentino, Italy
- Paolo Fontanta of Birreia le Baladin, from Piozzo, Italy
- Leonardo DiVincenzo of Del Borgo, from Bogorose, Italy
- Jerome Rebetez of Brasserie de Franches Montagnes (BFM), from Jura Switzerland
- Simon Webster & Rob Lovett of Thornbridge County Hall Brewery, from Bakewell, U.K.
- and Susi Hecht (not the brewer, but) representing Schneider Weisse, from Kelheim, Germany
The entire event was the EPCOT of beer, and I truly felt that I had been transported from Japan to Denmark to Italy to Switzerland and back to Connecticut (with brief return to England and Germany to wind up my whirlwind tour). There was not a bad or uninteresting beer in the entire line-up.
As if this weren’t enough, B. United offered beer spirits workshops, tank tastings, glassware and draught workshops for industry servers, plus they opened their Zymatore room for special pours. There were also tours of the facility, which looked more like a spruced up barn (in fact, horses were being ridden along the forested trails downhill from the facility). Add in live music and great food courtesy of Stanziato’s Wood Fired Pizza (yes, they brought their own oven), and it becomes obvious why the Bitch was Orgasmic about the entire day.
Among the five star beers I tried (and there was nothing subpar among the dozens of offerings):
- From Baladin: Nora (Pils, made with almost no hops – only included to be a legal “beer” in the U.S. – in an Egyptian style brew); Wayan (their Saison, made with nine spices and six grains); and, of course, the 2009 Xyauyu (which was off menu; had to ask for a pour)
- From Loverbeer: Beerbera – a spontaneously fermented beer made from the yeast on grapes (the brewery is in the Piedmont region of Italy, so they harken to their oenophilic roots)
- From Birra Del Borgo: Rubus Lamponi – a raspberry lambic that was not only five-star worthy, but possibly the best sour beer the Bitch has ever tasted
- From Hitachino/Kiuchi: Not counting the sake, the best of the bunch were two off-menu options: a Japanese Sour Plum Wheat and the Belgian Owl Single Malt brewed in Belgium in whiskey casks
- From Dansk Mjod: Viking Blod, a fortified mead that knocked my socks off… in a good way
- The Sinebrychoff Porter – this was served during the glass workshop; an added bonus
- and everything in the Zymatore cellar
It is my hope that Nepenthia will become an annual event for industry professionals and will only grow in popularity. I can see it rivaling some of the international festivals, becoming a two-day event (possibly with limited ticketing available to the public) and a Danbury pub tour (with overnight accommodations there).
Just as when visiting EPCOT, there was too much to do in a single day. Hat’s off to B. United for this first-ever event. The Bitch isn’t just orgasmic, she’s enthralled!