2011 Washington Brewer’s Fest

June 20, 2011

This year was the first time we made it to the Washington Brewer’s Festival held in the Seattle area. We went early on Saturday, which was kind of rainy and didn’t have a lot of cover. They had a lot of beer, but the cider and wine tent including Sky River Mead was the only tent smart enough to move their tables back, giving people some shelter.

My husband started to say, “If I had a blog, I would…” I don’t know what he said after that, but I told him he should guest blog on the topic for me today, partly because I’m not really a beer drinker, yet I’m reviewing a beer fest, so why not actually have a snobbish beer drinker write about it instead? Here is his review:

Although we live in Washington, we’re much more familiar with the Oregon beer scene. This was the first large Washington beer fest we’ve actually been to.

The Space: The festival grounds were large and spacious- there was much more room than at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival, which is probably the best comparison. As a result, the tents were more spread out, and when it gets busy in the evening, I still think you’ll have room to breathe.  Most beer festivals I’ve been to fill up in the evening and it’s a wall to wall crush of people- that’s one of reasons I always go early.

Glassware: Another thing that this festival did well was the tasting glasses. Instead of getting the ubiquitous octagonal plastic mug, (I probably have 20 of those by now) we got a 4 ounce plastic weizen style glass. This enabled the pourers to not spend so much time filling to a certain line, but instead right up to the brim. If you wanted a larger glass for full pours, you could get one for $5, which came with a couple of extra tasters.  In my opinion, Beer Fests are about trying as many new, different beers as you can- if you want to down pints, go to a bar.

Meet the Brewers: Another really neat thing about this festival was that many of the brewers (or at least brewery staff) were on hand pouring their beers.  If you had a question about a beer, you could probably get a decent answer.

Variety: Also, each brewery had several beers pouring, which led to an extremely wide variety of beers being poured.  There was a massive amount of beer styles represented at this fest.  In the course of 12 tokens, I tried a CDA, several wits, some Belgians, a couple of porters, an Irish red, and a couple of lagers.  Allowing breweries to bring several (most had 2-4 taps) beers made this a much more diverse fest.  The only thing they didn’t have in abundance was sours- not surprising since Washington doesn’t have a single brewery focused on sours. (If I’m wrong please tell me in the comments- road trip!)

Winners of the beer fest:

  • Foggy Noggin’s Bit O Beaver: A true English style bitter- I could drink this all day at 3.4%. When my homebrewing skills improve some, I will be attempting a clone.
  • Chuckanut Brewery’s Vienna Lager:  Chuckanut produces some really excellent clean beers, and the Vienna Lager did not disappoint.  It was clean, malty, and easy to drink.
  • Cinco Plano: This was near the end of the fest, and I didn’t take many notes on it.  Apparently it was supposed to be a Mexican Lager/Saison hybrid.  An odd beer, but very drinkable.  It was slightly tart, and had some funky brett notes. I’m guessing they used Brett C or L and didn’t let it ferment all the way- it tasted funky, but not over the top barnyard notes that you get with Brett that has been fermenting a long time. A unique beer worthy of mention and praise.

The Bad:

  • The Weather:  News Flash- it rains in Washington.  The rain wasn’t that bad however, and it did keep the crowds down.
  • The Buzz Tent: It was a small, standalone tent that was not marked on the map or with a sign. Literally it was a guy, standing in a field in front of two taps. I walked up and asked him what the tent was. They need better signs, and an “upcoming tap list” would be helpful as well. To their credit, it appeared they planned on switching out kegs every few hours instead of when the kegs died. That would give patient fans a better chance to try more beers. Posting a list online would be nice to, so that I can remember what it was I tried.
  • No Sours: A personal gripe, but since I know some breweries produce them, or are in the process (Naked City, Black Raven to name two) I would like to see some sours in the future.
  • Logistics: The logistics of this festival were interesting- because of limited parking, you had to park far away and then take a free shuttle bus in. This wasn’t a big issue, because we got there early and left early, we didn’t have to wait for a shuttle bus. I could see this being a bigger problem later in the day.
  • Cha-Ching! There’s way to say this nicely, so….  The WABL appear to be a bunch of money-grubbing bastards.  $25 buys you admission, a small plastic tasting glass, and 6 tokens. Extra tokens are $1.50 each, and admission is only good for one day. We spent 60 dollars for the two of us, and if the weather was nicer, we might have stayed and spent more money than that.  Contrast this to the Oregon Brewer’s Fest: Admission is a $6 mug, and tokens are a buck a piece. So for the same $25, that’s would be 13 more tasting tokens. I don’t know if the costs are so high because of the venues WABL chooses and the shuttles, but it’s a serious turn off, especially when money is tight. [This is probably the most expensive festival we have attended.]

All in all: Even with the steep pricing, the extra space, having brewers on hand to pour, and variety of beers make this a festival worth returning to. Although I love the Portland Beer scene, at the end of the day, this is one of the best beer fests I’ve attended.

Burtle Beer, brewing beer at the speed of a turtle signing off.

5 Responses to “2011 Washington Brewer’s Fest”

  1. shucks, it’s too bad we went on different days. at first i was worried that the whole thing was a rip off. and that six tokens wouldn’t be enough. but i was destroyed by the end of the tokens. my dad, neal, kijan and aunt all came and we shared almost everything–tasted about 32 beers and 2 ciders. neal and i went home and took a 2 hour nap after a stop off at the ranch drive in for burgers and shakes. ha. =)

  2. i have to say that my favorite was the boundary bay peach ginger beer–but not sure i could handle a whole pint of it.

  3. […] bought at gate), glass beer mug, and 6 tokens Extra Tokens: $1 Tastings: varies Kid friendly: yes Burtle’s Review Additional comments: Possibly the most expensive festival we have gone […]

  4. […] and then keep up the quality from year to year, and people will come. Sure, people like my husband Burtle might grumble about the cost, but he still traveled 3 hours and paid the $25 fee to attend. This goes to show you that a good […]

  5. […] to get the wild yeast out of the air, so they are pretty sure there was some Brettanomyces in it. Brett is actually more like a bacteria that is used to create sour beer, which my husband loves to drink. I think it was a dry yet very balanced cider. Like, even though […]

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