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10 beers you must try at this weekend's Real Beer Expo

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The Rochester Real Beer Expo is scheduled to return to the South Wedge next week after a two-year hiatus.

The Real Beer Expo is the largest and most varied celebration of beer in the Rochester area and an impressive slate of breweries are lined up for it, from local favorites to heralded breweries from around the nation. This year marks the 10th festival, and will feature a larger focus on locals, with 17 breweries from the Rochester-area offering up samples of both flagship beers and one-off experiments brewed just for the expo.

The expo is the brainchild of Joe McBane, owner of The Sheffield tavern in Brighton. McBane operated the Tap & Mallet on Gregory street, which was the preeminent Rochester beer bar until it closed last winter. Throughout the years Tap & Mallet served as an informal hub for the expo.

McBane said that with pandemic restrictions waning, it’s the right time to keep the tradition of the expo alive.

“People are more comfortable making decisions that are right for them,” McBane said. “It felt like the right time to do it.”

While the festival will feature such local favorites as Strangebird, Mortalis, and Fifth Frame, it has also attracted some prestigious national acts. Notably, Hill Farmstead, the brewing compound from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom which consistently lands top of RateBeer’s best brewery in the world list, will be pouring two beers—Marie, a helles, and Edward, an American Pale Ale.



The Veil from Richmond, Virgina, will be pouring six different beers, and Queens’ Singlecut will use its boothas both a tasting stand and DJ booth, manned by owner Rich Buceta.

Andy Cook, owner of Swiftwater Brewing in the South Wedge, has been involved with the expo since the beginning.

“I think the really great part of it, especially coming out of the pandemic, is seeing all of the people you haven’t seen in years,” Cook said. “For me, that’s really the highlight.”

The Real Beer Expo will take place Saturday, June 11, on the northern end of Gregory Street. General admission tickets run $50. VIP tickets are sold out.

10 MUST TRY BREWS:

A total of 60 breweries plan to pour well over 120 beers at the Expo. That’s more than enough to confuse and overwhelm many enthusiasts. If you’d like a little help, here’s 10 must try beers you’ll find on tap.

HDHC Dream Wave Fluctuation by Equilibrium Brewing Company/Other Half Brewing
A collaboration double IPA forged using Other Half’s proprietary “High-Density Hop Charge” technique, Dream Wave Fluctuation is a hazy juice bomb jammed with hop terpene goodness.

Barrel-aged Barleywine from Three Heads Brewing Company
Three Heads’ barleywine is a triumph for the Atlantic Avenue mainstay brewery, defined by blunt notes of toffee and bourbon backed up by wisps of oak, syrup, and cocoa. No list of the best beers to come out of the Rochester region in recent years is complete without it.

Edward from Hill Farmstead
On a friend’s birthday in 2019, I served as designated driver on a pilgrimage to Hill Farmstead, with plenty of beer pit stops along the way. Meaning, I drove white-fisted into the mountains as a car full of drunks screamed over each other what Big L song they wanted to hear on the stereo. Suffice to say, the single pour of “Edward” I had at Hill at the end of the trip stands out as among the most transcendent beers I’ve ever tasted. Here’s hoping it holds up.

2021 Barrel-aged Pear Brandy Leto from Mortalis Brewing Company
This collaboration beer with Webster’s Mama Lor’s Cafe is regarded as Mortalis’s triumph, which is a lot to say about a brewery whose barrel-aged offerings are conservatively characterized as masterpieces. I haven’t tasted it. Truth be told, you probably won’t either. On the resale market, single bottles fetch up to quadruple digits. But hey, maybe you’ll get lucky.

Bird Light from Strangebird Brewing Company
Marshall Street’s Strangebird excels in many categories, but the sheer diversity of its beers may be one of its most notable qualities.. From Tequila barrel-aged quadrupels to this homage to Bud Light, the brewing team does it all. This one’s a thirst quencher. A pleasant, chuggable beer with no pretense.

Incandenza from Hudson Valley Brewing
A simple, honest-to-God, sour IPA with no jelly, jams, or fruit puree in sight? From one of the most accomplished IPA brewers in New York? With Citra and Mosaic? There is nothing more to ask for.

Local Liquid Pedersen Pils from Steuben Brewing Company
Steuben has for several years quietly pumped out some of the most skillfully made and elegant beers in New York. Their affinity for pilsners in particular is remarkable, with a consistent slate of delicate, balanced beers offering impeccably balanced bitter, toasty, and crisp notes.

Just Fruit from Frequentem Brewing
Cananadaigua’s Frequentem has marked its territory in the heavily fruited sour world with Just Fruit, a revolving series of sinful decadence. If you like fruit and not fitting into your T-shirt, this is the beer for you.

Whiskey Maple Big from Swiftwater Brewing
Landing well over the 15 percent alcohol mark, “Big” is Swiftwater’s exercise in pure indulgence. This version turns up the volume a bit by aging the imperial stout first in bourbon barrels, then in barrels that formerly held Maple syrup. I’m not your boss, but you might want to sip this one.

Yella Lambz from The Veil
A basic kettle sour with lemons to punctuate the tartness. While this may seem to be an easy-to-find brew, this sort of simple approach to sours is becoming less common. This one, in particular, comes from a nationally lauded master of the style. Drink it.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.