What did you do yesterday? Well, I attended the third annual Midwest Beer, Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds and it was awesome.
The festival attracted throngs of people who lined up to sample more than 200 products- many made in Missouri.
The fair puts this on and from year one, attendance has more than doubled and it’s easy to see why. It was an incredible opportunity to sample as much I wanted and discover new products. I’ve fallen in love with beers I would never have ordered at a bar or restaurant, and tried locally produced food that I will now seek out.
While there was wine and beer, it definitely felt more beer-centric.
My only complaint were the lines were very long everywhere I went and it could 10 minutes to get to a booth. But in true Ozarks fashion, some people would pass samples back down a line if it was stagnant, which was nice.
To my amazement, with this many samples, there wasn’t anything I disliked but there were definitely standouts. Here were some of my favorites that are definitely worth trying, if you haven’t already:
Springfield’s White River Brewing Company’s Copper Creek IPA was exceptional. This English-style ale is hoppy and aged in charred oak barrels which gives this beer an incredible flavor with hints of caramel, butterscotch, and a fruit finish. This was my favorite beer of the day. http://www.whiteriverbrewingco.com/beers/
The Chocolate Thunder from Mother’s Brewing Co., in Springfield, uses nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide in the brewing process, lending the beer a creamier mouthfeel. The full-bodied American porter style, has a rich chocolate taste, almost to the depth of a brownie. http://mothersbrewing.com/
I had to stop at The Traveler Beer Co., because I am a traveler and loved the name, but I found the beer was fantastic, too. The grapefruit, yes grapefruit, was exceptional and perfect for spring. The lemon shandy was also excellent and will be on my list this summer. You seriously taste the fruit in these beers but it’s fresh and natural tasting, not a fake chemical flavor. It’s so refreshing. I picked some up at Harter House on my home and my husband’s initial thought was “grapefruit?” But he loved it, too. This is not a Midwest product, it’s out of Burlington, Vermont, which is an incredible city if you’ve never been. http://travelerbeer.com/
Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling in Ste. Genevieve had a nice blackberry cider and the best Missouri-made sparkling pink Moscato I’ve ever had. It was light, bubbly, fruity (particularly with strawberry notes), sweet and retails for about $16. If you like Moscato, give this a try. http://www.crownvalleywinery.com/
Wenwood Farm Winery out of Bland, Mo., wins the award for best Missouri red. The Century Farm Red is a dry red made in the tradition of Pinot Noir and it tastes like a Pinot. It’s very fruit forward and smooth. I’d never heard of this winery or Bland, Mo., so this was a nice surprise. I went on the website and it looks so quaint. I want to visit this place http://wenwoodfarmwinery.com/
Cloud’s Meats Inc., out of Carthage, Mo., has been in business since 1959 and it’s easy to see why. The family-owned business produces smoked meats and other sausages, which were delicious. Summer sausage and similar products can be too greasy, or overly garlicky, but this was just right. I particularly liked the cranberry sausage and the buffalo sausage. Although this is what they offered at the tasting, if you visit the website, you see there’s so much more for sale from bratwust to ribs. They also custom process deer and other meats. http://cloudsmeats.com/
Crazy Uncle Dave’s Beef Jerky out of Branson is homemade, all natural, and it’s one of the best beef jerky’s I’ve ever sampled. It has an intense smoky flavor and doesn’t taste processed at all. It was great. This is all I could find for a website, although the man serving the jery said the product is or will be available at Silver Dollar City. http://www.crazyuncledaves.com/~shop/crazy-uncle-daves-beef-jerky/252631/
The Branson Craft Mall served up incredible, warm, cinnamon-kissed candied pecans and almonds. The pecans were outstanding; sometimes candied nuts have a hard coating or the coating is as thick as the nut, but these were softer and just the right amount of candy coating. I will go to Branson just to visit this place. It has free samples daily of other products and lots of crafts and work from local artists. I love that type of thing. http://bransoncraftmall.com/
Cake Pop Co., served up a moist stout cake with a bourbon buttercream frosting that was heavenly. This Springfield company has national business and it’s wonderful to see its success. http://www.cakepopco.com/
Panera Bread Co.,’s chocolate croissant was buttery but light and had a delicious chunk of chocolate tucked inside. I love Panera but always eat lunch there, so this was my first time sampling something sweet for breakfast. https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/home.html