Under overcast skies and threatening rain we attended the 2011 National Harbor Wine & Food Festival. What makes this event different than most festivals at National Harbor is that it utilizes the piers in addition to the parking lot so it has a more marina feel. And those with VIP tickets were able to enjoy the Belgium beer tent surrounded by water. This year we didn't have the time to hone our cooking skills; but had plenty of time to sample new bourbons and beer. The Jim Beam Bourbon tent was surprisingly sparse so we were able to quickly sample some excellent scotch from Laphroaig and Ardmore and distinguish the difference between whisky crafted in the highlands and those by the sea. The Laphraoig was smokey and salty while the Ardmore was more subtle. For the first time in 52 years Maker's Mark has released a new product, the Maker’s 46. Compared to the original Makers this bourbon is 96 proof, instead of 90 proof, fuller and sweeter at the finish. I didn't care much for this extra sweetness and definitely prefer the standard bearer. As in added attraction in the tent we watched cigars being rolled by Cortez Handmade Cigars.
As for beer, there were several nice options. The Belgiums (Stella Artois, Leffe Blonde, Hoegaarden) were at the forefront and always a good option. There was also a new Canadian entry, Alexander Keiths, from Nova Scotia. The brewery is over 190 years old but for the U.S. market it looks like production is location in St. Louis (aka Budweiser). For the domestics, we stuck with Kona Brewing Company and Chicago's Goose Island. We paired their ales with oysters from Pepper Creek Shellfish Farm. A nice combination.
Since our palettes were consumed with beer and bourbon, we didn't bother sampling the wine - but there was plenty available. Maryland wines were represented as well as some Oregon Pinot Noir, the same from Burgundy, Italian Soave, and many more. Besides the lack of bathrooms, this was an entertaining festival. Particularly when grabbing a rum concoction and sitting at the "beach" listening to Steel Dynamics.