Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winter Beer Fest 2011

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Shortly after hatching the plan for WestToast's Winter Beer Month, a friend sent me an email alluding to the Winter Beer Fest which was set to take place in Seattle this past weekend. Immediately, three thoughts crossed my mind:

  1. Winter Beer Fest!  It's Winter Beer Month on the blog (as previously mentioned), what a perfect way to kick off the celebration.
  2. How on earth had I missed the promotions for the event, taking place a nye 1 mile from my domicile?
  3. Must.  Drink. Winter Beer.

30 Washington Breweries. Over 65 craft brews. Food. I was sold.

Hosted at the Hale's Palladium in Seattle, the Winter Beer Fest is one of six craft beer tasting events annually produced by the Washington Beer Commission. That's right, there's a Commission. In fact, the Washington Beer Commission, formed in 1996, is a first of its kind commodity commission in the United States; authorized by the Washington State Legislature to promote the state’s microbreweries.  Representing the 150+ breweries in the state, the Commission is an ambassador between the local brewing community and the marketplace.

A group of friends and I decided to check out the festival relatively early in the day on Saturday, the second day of the two-day extravaganza.  Upon checking in, I received the festival program and was almost overwhelmed with the cornucopia of options.  30 different tasting stations, staffed by brewery representatives, all from Washington and all serving winter beer fare.  With only 6 tasting tokens and a car I needed to drive home, I needed a focus...and a game plan...if the afternoon was to be successful.

A few quality minutes with the program and my destiny was clear:  barrel aged beers, most with bourbon, and a couple random holiday ales.  Being a sucker for bourbon barrel aged beer, I was pleased to see a number on the menu for the day.  We entered the Palladium and were met by the sounds of happy consumers.  Of beer.  It was definitely a full house, although staff doing doing a great job of not letting the event get too full.

As I progressed through the event, the following notable brews ended up in my glass at one point or another:

  • Black Raven Brewing Gunpowder Plot Bourbon Nitro Porter:  A porter aged in a bourbon barrel with chocolate and coffee.  It poured as a classic nitro, with a nice flavor and smooth mouthfeel.
  • Black Raven Brewing Festivus Seeker:  Double IPA with cranberries, ginger, and herbs.  One of the lighter beers of the day, notes of cranberry and grapefruit are evident and who on Earth doesn't like Festivus?
  • Fremont Brewing Company Bourbon Abominable Ale "Bbomb":  Winter ale aged in 20 year-old bourbon barrels.  This brew had promise but we were tasting cold and it really needed to warm up to open up.
  • Hale's Ale Bourbon Wee Heavy:  Blended American strong ale aged in bourbon barrels.  One of my two favorites of the day, in fact, I'm sipping it as I write this post.  It shall be featured in a coming Winter Beer Month article.
  • Pike Brewing Imperial Stout:  Four hops and three malts served on cask.  Oaky and awesome.  9% ABV.
  • Redhook Brewing Cask Conditioned Spiced Winterhook:  A slightly naughty and very nice winter ale.  This beer was crisp, cool, and was a nice break to the heavier barrel aged beers.
  • Schooner EXACT Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter:  A limited release bourbon-barrel aged beer from the brewery's 100th batch.  This was tied with the Wee Heavy as my favorite, albeit boozier, beer of the day.  With a 12% ABV, it was deep, dark, and awesome.
Luckily for us, in the middle of the room, local culinary purveyors had some nice food samples available -- chocolate, peanuts, and oysters -- nicely complimenting the beer and giving us a mid-point break to digest what we were drinking.  All in all, a great event and evidently very popular based on the attendance on Saturday afternoon.  The Washington Beer Commission puts on a class act, and I've got the BelgianFest on my calendar for February.  You should too.

Six tastes was definitely enough given the gravity of most of the beer we were drinking, and we left with that warm, tingly feeling of a nice winter beer.  For the record, the man dressed as Santa seemed to be enjoying himself equally as much.  In fact, he looked a bit tipsy.

What a great start to Winter Beer Month!  Above should be enough to keep you drinking for at least a week or two.

1 comment:

  1. I am thirsty now. You should stop by my place when in the area, Gana-man. I'll treat you to some of my concoctions.