Victoria Victorious – GCBF ’14 Best Ever


tastercupThere is a wonderful beer festival every year in Victoria, BC, billed as the Great Canadian Beer Festival, even though most of the craft beers there are from British Columbia. Neither of Canada’s larger cities, Toronto or Montreal, has risen to challenge this claim.

For people from the island, this is just a continuation of their immersion in the craft beer revolution. Victoria is loaded with quality craft breweries. A good many folk ferry in from Vancouver and its surrounding cities, too, where many mighty fine beers can be found.

Those of us in the lower 48, in particular, Seattle, take the two-hour, forty-five minute ride up on the Victoria Clipper, with hopes of seeing the occasional pod of orcas en route. If you have never been to Victoria – good – stay away – this is my own personal slice of Heaven and the fewer people who know about it the better. Just kidding. NOT!

Every year on the first weekend in September, for the past 23 years John Rowling and his dedicated crew put on this beer lovers extravaganza. There were 82 breweries pouring a record number 253 beers for the 8,000 people who attended the two-day festival.

There were no “dumpers” this year (beers that were maybe a little too creative for their own good) as Canadian brewers are getting the hang of both what their fans like and what keeps interest in the craft growing. Brewers from the USA did not have booths this year. Instead, the Brewers Association sponsored a tent with 27 beers., including beers from Michigan, and Virginia.

The Brewers

In addition to the great beers is the wonderful scenery. Creative costumes and just plain nice people make going to this festival a highlight for any dedicated Beercationer.

Creative Costumes

Beer lovers of all ages

The beers at the festival were deee-licious. Some of the more awesome ones were:

- 33 Acres of Sunshine – French style wheat ale. Lightly hopped with Styrian Golding and flavoured with orange peel, coriander seed and anise seed, brings out a fruity, spicy character.

- Hound of Barkerville – Rich and smooth, with European malts lending a sweetness and aroma reminiscent of wildflower honey.

- Rhine Stone Cowboy – Delicate, well matured Kölsch style ale.

- Bomber ESB – Light molasses and grain on the nose with a pinch of dry hopping. Hints of dried fruit with toffee & wafer on the finish.

- Glutenberg Red –The use of roasted chestnuts endows this beer with toasted nuts and caramel hints, and gives it a unique aromatic personality.

beerstyle2- Back Hand of God Stout (Organic) - This award-winning dry stout is extraordinarily smooth and mildly hopped with a distinct coffee/chocolate presence.

- Insurrection Pale Ale (Organic) - Dry hopped with plenty of farm-grown Cascade hops.

- Gael’s Blood Organic Potato Ale - This Irish “immigrant” ale is exceptionally smooth with an earthy malt flavour and body. Plenty of malt, mouthfeel and hoppy bitterness

- White Bark Witbier – Brewed with the addition of freshly ground coriander, curacao and orange peel. Hops are outshone by the wonderful floral aromas.

beerstyles- Sap Sucker Maple Porter – Made with seven malts including chocolate, black, caramel and crystal. Maple syrup is added post fermentation adding a slight maple smoothness to the finish.

- Brett IPA – At the heart of this distinctive West Coast IPA stands juxtaposition of ripe tropical fruit esters and mild Brett funk. Moderately bitter and gracefully balanced.

- Bean Me Up Espresso Milk Stout – The perfect marriage of espresso coffee and a delicate stout featuring a smooth creamy sweetness from lactose.

- Strawberry Wit – Fresh strawberries are puréed with honey and blended into a Belgian style wheat beer for a refreshing experience.

- Weathervane Vanilla Stout – Real vanilla extract from the highest quality Madagascar vanilla pods, blended seamlessly with the roast and chocolate flavours of the legendary Keeper’s stout.

There were dozens more good brews to try – beers you will only find in Canada – some only at the beer festival (and ciders from Cider Riot). Be sure to watch for this next year in mid-July when tickets go on sale. It sells out within the first couple days.

Pike Brewing Celebrates 25 Years


25-silver-starIt is hard to believe that Pike Brewing started making quality ales 25 years ago. They are still leading edge and continue to win medals at festivals and competitions, and garner accolades from the national press.

It is hard for me, personally to think about this because I bought my homebrewing setup from Liberty Malt (which they owned in the early 90’s) that I still use today – well later today – after I write this blog entry.

Charles and Ruth Finkle started this wonderful enterprise (see the very interesting timeline on their web page) in 1989, but they have not owned it the whole time, which may be a surprise to some of you.

They have several events around the area that you can attend to help them celebrate, culminating with a parade and festival on October the brewery.

Tickets available online at Brown Paper Tickets .

Throughout America’s Craft Beer renaissance, Pike and its sister company, Liberty Malt Supply, has been home to some of the nation’s top craft brewers. Pike Head Brewer, Dean Mochizuki, has invited Pike alumni brewers to collaborate on a special reunion beer for the party. Participating brewers include:
  • Jason Parker, Copperworks Distillery
  • Dick Cantwell, Elysian Brewing
  • Kevin Forhan, RAM; Bill Jenkins, RAM
  • Kim Brusco, Pyramid
  • Janelle Pritchard, Spinnaker Bay
  • Manny Chao, Georgetown
  • Larry Rock, Click Distributing
  • Drew Cluley, Beardslee Alehouse, Bothell, WA
  • Skip Madsen, American Brewing, Edmonds, WA
  • Shawn Loring, Lazy Boy, Everett, WA
  • Frank Helderman, Terminal Gravity, Enterprise, OR
  • Geoff Deman, Free State, Lawrence, KS
  • Dean Priebe, Icicle Brewing, Leavenworth, WA
  • Fal Allen, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, CA

White Bluffs Brewing Prepares for GABF


2850eaa7e90a8682311caa6c2a475f9f_400x400When David takes on Goliath, we learn from an early age to root for David. Such is the case at the Great American Beer Festival each year as small brewers head to Denver in hopes of bringing home Gold, or at least getting some experience and name recognition on a larger stage.

Such is the case with White Bluffs Brewery in Richland, WA, winners of several Washington Beer Awards for their Red Alt. Brewer/owner Mike Sutherland is taking his craft beers where you can drink ales from all 50 states all in one spot.

There are a surprising number of good breweries in the Tri-cities area; White Bluffs Brewing, Atomic Ales Brewpub & Eatery, Rattlesnake Mountain Brewery, Ice Harbor Brewing in the Richland/Kennewick area, and Whitstran Brewing and Horse Heaven Hills Brewery in Prosser.

White Bluffs Brewing, however is the only one headed to GABF.

sBcBA.AuSt.13“This will be our first trip to GABF and our first exposure outside of Washington.  We have had beer in the Seattle market at the Stumbling Monk and it was well received.  We also usually participate in Seattle Beer Week at Beveridge Place and Naked City.  We have ambitious goals so this is an opportunity to engage with other brewers and craft beer lovers to get better connected and hopefully pick up on anything that might be emerging within the industry either particular beer styles or operationally,” said Mike Sutherland in a recent conversation.


They will be pouring the Red Alt, Biere de Garde, Bluffdiver IPA and either Biere de Mars or Rocktoberfest at the festival itself. White Bluffs Brewing brews on a 7 bbl system. Last year they produced a total of 237 bbl.  On their horizon is the purchase a 15 bbl system which should enable them to distribute to most of Washington state.

So for now, you can enjoy their beer at the Richland taphouse (road trip), wait for the occasional appearance on tap at other locations, or go to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this October. Hopefully Mike will be able to show off a medal or two when all is said and done.

Click here to see what other Washington breweries will be attending the GABF this year.

Artesians Invade Tumwater


eab99620b30857088230812c4cce5846This little festival kind of snuck up on me but I am pretty glad it did. I missed the Olympia Brewfest and the Everett Brewfest after I dropped a massive headboard on my toes, so catching sight of the Tumwater Artesian Brewfest was quite a nice surprise.

Twenty-four breweries brought approximately 80 beers to the festival. Several wineries, cider makers and a soon to be opened distillery also had booths.This is the second year for this festival, put on as a fundraiser by the Tumwater Visitors & Convention Bureau . Last year it was an Oktoberfest celebration, but organizers decided to rebrand it and offer it as a late summer venue, held at the driving range of the Tumwater Golf & Country Club.

It gives new life to the concept in the brewing world of a three-tiered system, but with brewers, volunteers/organizers, and craft beer lovers as the pillars of strength here.

tumolycan“It’s the Water” was the familiar reprise as Oly made its way back to the taps, along with many new breweries springing up in the South Sound. Olympia Beer was famed for its purported use of artesian drinking water. A new brewery, Three Magnets Brewing is selling beer in kegs around Thurston County and will open a tasting room/pub in a few weeks in Lacey. Also, Top Rung, another new brewery in Lacey was on hand to showcase their fine beers – really like that Raspberry Wheat Ale.

The festival was fantastic. Lots of great beer and great fun, with giant Jenga blocks, giant beer pong, mug holding competitions, hole-in-one competitions. The volunteers were enthusiastic and very helpful. And live music.

Some brewers made the trip and talked up their creations to the appreciative crowd. Others – who are not to be named – sent a couple kegs and relied on volunteers to pour it for them. That was a bit disappointing, since Washington beer festivals are among the best because of the interaction you can have with the brewer/brewery staff.

The Brewers and Volunteers

The Craft Beer Lovers

tumfan11The Beer Stein Holding Competition was very entertaining as contestants strained against gravity to hold a full stein parallel to the ground.

Oh, and I must do a shout out to the food vendors. Yay! Excellent food to help absorb the liquid refreshments.

I’ll mark this one down for a must-see event in 2015. Great job.

Hit Rock Bottom in Bellevue


Rock Bottom BellevueBiting at the lure of winning $5, $15 or $300 in Rock Bottom rewards, I ventured out to the busy metropolis of Bellevue, WA to see what I’d won. To  my delight, they are brewing at full production and offered up a sampler of six exceptional brews made on-site by Brewmaster Sara Luchi.

When I worked in Bellevue, I was a regular at the then, exciting, new Rock Bottom Brewery near Bellevue Square. But that was a few years back, now, and other than the occasional release party, my beer travels have taken me to many other places instead. I enjoyed many of the beers created by former brewmaster Brian Young.

RBB beers

Sara took the reins nearly two years ago. I am pleased to report that she is making some equally delightful brews, which this day included a Kölsch, a Wit, an IPA, a summer honey, a red and the current dark beer, a CDA. All were good, and spot on for style. The IPA was on the moderately hopped edge but still with that Northwest bite.

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Capture4Once again the Great American Beer Festival sold all 70,000 tickets to the three-day event in a matter of minutes during yesterday’s Members Only sales and today’s General Public sale. Many of the tickets were snatched up by opportunists who are now trying to resell the tickets at 45-110% more than the original price. Once again, many hard-working, craft beer loving people who wanted to go to the festival will not be going because of this.

There are some solutions to this situation. First and foremost is becoming an American Homebrewers Association member and buying the tickets during the Members Only sale.

However the culpability in the quest for fair play now falls to the consumer. Do not be intimidated by the ticket sharks. Do not pay more than face value. This is called aiding and abetting the bad guys. Wait them out. You do not need the ticket until the day of the event anyway. The scalpers can’t sit on thousands of unsold tickets. At some point they will drop the prices. If you don’t score the tickets, there are more than a gillion beer-related things to do in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins during that week.

Hoppy Trails Beer News will be there, reporting live and direct from the convention center floor. Come back and visit here often for stories about local brewers as they prepare for this prestigious event.

Upcoming “Don’t Miss” Beer Festivals


September 2014

October 2014

Bremerton Summer Brewfest 2014


Q.  What do you get when you gather up 30 breweries, more than 100 very different beers and put them in the downtown area of the home to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 100 degree heat? Besides cooked festival goers.

The Bremerton Summer Brewfest

To say the West Sound brewers are creative would rank as one of the world’s greatest understatements. It should be no surprise, since they are the ones largely responsible for the success of the Strange Brewfest in January each year.

It’s an easy 60 minute ferry ride from Seattle to Bremerton, made especially enjoyable by the great weather all day long. The festival was just a few blocks from the ferry terminal, the beautiful harbor and nearby shipyards.

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