But what did I learn, you ask? Well, other than the fact that ciders are now in the midst of a huge, huge comeback (sales have doubled in the past year, apparently), all of my pre-existing alcohol prejudices have been mostly wrong. Hey, not everyone can be an expert like Mike "Beermaster" Conklin. In any case, besides being an afternoon of drinking and poorly Instagramming delicious autumnal booze, it was an afternoon of expanding my drinking horizons. Here are the 5 very best things I tasted:
After one too many metallic-tasting Strongbows (and brutal, sugary Strongbow hangovers), I haven't gone near a hard cider in years. The entire festival changed my mind on this point, but the hands-down winner here was Harvest Moon, and in particular, their Four Screw blend. Absolutely everything I now know a cider should be.
Ice wine has a history of making me nearly as edgy as cider, and once again, I've been totally, totally wrong. Eden's aged Northern Spy ice cider was a minor revelation. And, for what it's worth, one of the best-designed bottles in the bunch.
It wasn't possible for a Pisco to change my mind, because I had never heard of it to begin with. Apparently an ancient type of grape brandy, this was a perfect, stomach-settling change of pace after a raft of bubbly ciders and beers.
Another big game-changer: as skeptical as I tend to be about cider, I am far more skeptical about anything involving the term "steampunk." This, however, was completely delicious, and did not in any way remind me of Amanda Palmer. Solid all-around.
This one wasn't a tough sell, but was still a nice discovery. If anything promises to drag me out of my cozy IPA rut, Carton's nutty, complex ale might do the trick.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.