To Fest, or Not to Fest

That is the question. Or is it the answer? This blog has been a champion of beer festivals, being one of the rare sites to give both pre- and post-event publicity to numerous festivals. We treat the events as news stories; we post event pictures, we name the winners of the People’s Choice Awards. To what end?

entranceOrganizers of these events seem to be mostly interested in selling tickets. Once the event ends, it is if they vaporized, like any kind of beer related taste in a Budweiser. So much for covering the event as a news story. Several days later you might, after some persistence, see a Tweet from a brewer showing off the plaque/certificate/trophy they won by virtue of token/ticket counts or ballots counted. Rarely do you see a press release, or response to your email inquiry, about how many people attended, comments from people who were there, favorite beers sampled, information about first-time breweries, etc., from the event organizer.

Once upon a time there were just a few festivals. Of course at that time there were just a few breweries. Now, there is a festival (or two or three) nearly every weekend somewhere, tap tCapture4akeovers during the week, and somebody’s first, fifth, or twentieth anniversary. There is a brewery or two, or nine, in many small towns and neighborhoods. Need a fund-raiser for your organization? Have a beer festival. Or, what the hey, a Beer Week!

Many brag about how many brewers will be there. “Hundreds of different beers to sample.” It takes about two of these festivals to realize that you are going to only be able to have about 10 of these and leave the facility upright. Although, from my observations at some of these recent events, that definitely was not a concern for several basically horizontal folks who gleefully asked their designated driver to wheel them out as they gulped down yet another Triple IPA.

prositAnd the price tag for these events just keeps going up, and up. The recent Beer and Bacon Classic charged More than $60 for basically two and a half hours of standing in one long line after another at Safeco Field. I can buy a heck of a lot of beer at the local BevMo/Total Wine/Specialty Bottle Shop for what it costs to stand in line for more Manny’s, and Lucille. That is something else that has changed. More brewers are canning and bottling their creations, and pubs, heck, even convenience stores, have fresh craft beer on tap. If you want to try something “new” you’ll head to the newest nano.

Still, HTBN will continue to go to festivals, take pictures and enjoy the experience by posting them on this blog. It’s what we do. And it’s fun.

Iron Horse St Paddy’s Half K Pictures

Here are some pictures from the run today. Happy people, kids and dogs. What a great idea. I hope they do this again next year. Their push was to do something fun to raise money for the F.I.S.H. food bank that was destroyed by fire. The goal was to raise $1,000. At race time they had raised more than $2,500.

The beer was great too. Some Irish Death, Mocha Death, High Five Hefe and 509. Yes, I made it through the whole distance. No short-cutting. Did not want to miss out of the two pizza slice stations. Great pizza by the way. Almost wanted to do the course twice. Also stopped at the KIND bar station. Those things are REALLY good.

Copyright 2015 – Hoppy Trails Beer News LLC – All Rights Reserved

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Want an American Beer? Good Luck

Finding a great American beer is not that hard to do if you are a craft beer lover. However for main-streamers, it is getting much, much harder. I am going to kick-start a firestorm of debate on this but when a foreign company buys the brewery, it is not American anymore. It is a foreign beer, brewed in America (at least for the time being). We all answer to the bean counters. Your local guy sold out and is sitting under a beach umbrella somewhere.

Full Sail Brewing (Hood River, OR) Acquired by Encore Consumer Capital – 3/9/15 – Ends Unique ESOP

With the acquisition of the Bend, OR, craft brew rising star 10 Barrel Brewing  and Seattle, WA stalwart Elysian Brewing by ABInBev there is a lot of joy in the marketplace and a deep sadness from craft beer purists. Winners here are ABInBev and 10 Barrel Brewing, and countless thousands of beer drinkers across the nation who now will be treated to some of the wonders of the 10 Barrel line-up. Losers are Bend locals and current 10 Barrel consumers who shared a convivial sense of ownership in the brewery, the brewers and the brand. ABInBev? Aren’t they an American company? Sadly, not in a legal sense. Read on.

Continue reading Want an American Beer? Good Luck

Small Brewers Rule

With all the angst over some bigger microbreweries selling off all or parts of their breweries to megacorpbreweries, it is refreshing to revisit some of the small breweries around the area. This reminds me that the craft beer revolution is less about whether Sam Adams has its beer on tap in lots of places in Boston, or whether Widmer, Ommegang, Goose Island and Boulevard are still considered “craft breweries”, and more how it is about small nano-sized breweries making their mark and generating a local, almost neighborhood following.

Some are weekend only garage brewers, and some actually pay for retail space. Most do not have food – and that is fine by me – because that makes them able to be dog-friendly.

Here are a few that have had a couple anniversaries and are well worth going back to if you are out and about.

Odin Brewing (Tukwila)  nodogsallowed32pix

Odin is in the midst of a transition. They now have a taproom/pub in Tukwila near the Southcenter Mall. Over the next year they will be moving their brewing equipment from the current 5,000 sq ft brewhouse to this new location. This will give them some 12,000 feet of expansion room for their brewing operations. Norse themed goodness in a dozen different offerings.

Odin Collage

My favorites are the Freya’s Gold (Kolsch), Northern Darkness (Baltic Porter) and the spiced Abbey Ale. The recently put on a porter and a stout that are very good.

Counterbalance Brewing (S. Park)  nodogsallowed32pix

counterbalance-logoA couple of coffee shop employees from Queen Anne Hill decided to start a new brewery in town. Head brewer and owner Frank Lawrence had been brewing beers at home for seven years. His Caffe Ladro colleague co-owner Jeff Howell, also is a homebrewer and craft beer lover. It turns out Frank had quite the knack for crafting consistently tastey and creative beers. After several years of a lot of “we should start our own brewery” chit-chat at local taprooms, they bit the proverbial bullet and DID IT.

Counterbalance 2

The “counterbalance theme” has many iterations as explained on their web site. Basically it comes down to balance – and a balanced beer is what you get there. The tap room opened in late January, 2015. They are already “packing them in” thanks to some beer tour buses and a thirsty local workforce.

I had the Abigale Blonde Ale, Counterbalance IPA, Bad Wolf Dark Ale and the Kushetka Russian Imperial Stout. I particularly liked the stout.

Brickyard Brewing (Woodinville)

Dog Friendly

Santa was good to me this year and gave me a coupon for a flight of eight Brickyard tastes and a growler fill. I had not been up that a way for quite some time, so it was good to visit again and see what was new. I run into brewer/owner/beer server extraordinaire Joe Montero at various festivals and other breweries from time to time.


Their Masonry Oatmeal is top notch, especially with the stout flavored ice cream. Stout floats! Yummm.

Flycaster Brewing (Totem Lake)

Dog Friendly

Now that Jeremy Eubanks has his Flycaster Brewing operation open and generating decent traffic, he is expanding hours and turning much of the brewing operations over to other brewers while he concentrates on – well if you go solely off his Facebook posts – fly fishing trips, vacations with the family and a love of TJack (Seahawk backup QB). He still  sandwiches a MSFT BI job in there somehow.


Usually, his beers are on the lighter side (blonde, ipa, pale, red) but on this visit they had a winter ale that was good, and a coffee porter that was really good.

Twelve Bar Brews (Woodinville) 

Dog Friendly

12BarslogoThe last time I was in owner/brewer Kirk Hilse’s music themed fine establishment, it was just him and me, separated by a counter. His side had a few taps. My side had a cement floor right next to the front door. Not even a chair. His hours were like blink and you missed it, but I enjoyed his beers at several local festivals. He celebrated his third year in operation this past October.

What a difference today. He took over a couple offices next door and has a beautiful cozy, dare I say intimate, taproom with guitars, and other musical instruments serving as an integral part of the decor. I had the Turnaround Red Northwest Ale. At 40 IBUs I was expecting a bit of a bite, but somehow he has tamed his hops. They were very flavorful and aromatic.


He bottles his bigger sellers and uses a distributor to expand his reach throughout Washington and Idaho.

Big Block Brewing (Sammammish) nodogsallowed32pix

Located in a residential cul-de-sac on the Sammammish plateau, tucked inside a large, two-car garage, is yet another Eastside nanobrewery named Big Block Brewing, in honor of the big block car engines.

Owner John Julum has been producing beer at home for about 20 years. Julum and his wife, Michele, operate Big Block Brewery, the only licensed brewery in the city of Sammamish. It’s considered a nanobrewery because of its 15-keg-per-week capacity. But bigger tanks are on the way.


The brewery and taproom take up most of the Julums’ two-car garage, although the business’s namesake, a 1967 Ford Galaxie with a big-block engine, sits out in the driveway. The Julums often have 11 beers on tap, and sell beer in growlers, kegs and pints out of their taproom. You may see them on local taps around town soon.

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thCADRNE1QYup. A store right here on this web site. Pretty cool huh? Click on the banner at the top of the page, or right here, and start shopping. Shirts, books, movies, homebrewing supplies, festival gear, with more to come all the time.

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Can You Say FWIBF?

As much as I love the craft beers from Washington and Oregon, I have to admit there are some pretty darn good breweries in other parts of the country (even California). One trip to the Great American Beer Festival will make that perfectly clear.

So, if you could throw a beer festival – and invite just the breweries and beers that you wanted to be there – would you not invite any breweries in WA or OR? Firestone-Walker seems to think that is definitely doable, and so they did it.

beerlineuplogoI was struck with righteous indignation at the mere whisper of such a deed, but, I must admit, in looking over the list for the 2015 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival, happening Saturday, May 30, 2015 from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM (PDT) in Paso Robles, CA., the have managed to put together a pretty impressive group.

It is a bit of an elitist beer festival though. Admission is $80 for those five (make that four) hours, and $200 if you want the VIP treatment. What do you get for that ticket? FW says:

  • An afternoon of tasting amazing domestic and international craft beers with the brewers themselves, as well as delectable bites from the best restaurants on the Central Coast. 
  • The event will run from 12:00pm to 5:00pm, however, food and beer service will end at 4:00pm everywhere in the event except the breweries in the Frontier Concert area.   (Main Gate closes at 3:30pm, no entry after this time.  NO INS & OUTS)
  • There will be live bands playing throughout the day on the Frontier Town stage, with the headliner band taking the stage around 3:30pm.  
  • “Behind the Beer Sessions”  featuring beer tastings and Q & A sessions with the brewmasters themselves.   
  • A commemorative tasting glass
  • Complimentary Parking at the PR Event Center or Paso Robles Hotel Shuttle provided by Paso Robles Pioneer Day Committee (see transportation link)

Well – you might think – there is NO WAY that is going to be successful. I might agree – $20/hr to stand in lines for beer  is a bit excessive. We’d be wrong. Both the regular admission and VIP admissions are SOLD OUT. Continue reading Can You Say FWIBF?

It’s American Craft Beer Week


Are you drinking an American craft beer this week? Are you sure? What makes it American? Brewed by Americans? Brewed by a company that is wholly owned by Americans? Physically brewed in the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, Hawaii, or a territory/protectorate?

acbw15_fbbadge_1Once you determine it is somehow American, next you would want to verify it as truly “craft”. The Brewers Association has set some requirements for what can be classified as craft and entered into craft brewing competitions, to whit:


Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.


Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.


A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

The easy way to do this is to go to a small brewery near you. There are 3,400 of them in the United States now. If you are buying the beer at a store, ask the person who orders the stuff which beers are American AND Craft. If he/she points you to a Budweiser, run, screaming, from that store.

Here is a list of events for each of the 50 states this week. Follow this and you should have a very good chance of successfully celebrating American Craft Beer Week.


HTBN and Seattle Beer Week

sbw_logo_mainThere are literally dozens of great events planned for SBW. Too many for the HTBN crew to report on.

Here is the full list for your purview.

I don’t really understand why there is such a thing as Seattle Beer Week. It seems to me that there is something craft beer related going on somewhere pretty much every day around Seattle what with tap takeovers and brewer’s nights or a festival or two on ANY given week.

But the folks who want to promote craft beer – primarily to those people who have not made it their ultimate beverage of choice – think they need a series of events to draw newbies into the fold or spread some hype to get people from around the country to plan a trip out here. Even so, many of the events are featuring beers that are not only not from Seattle, but not from Washington either. Hmmm.

Hello Portland! HTBN Goes to the Craft Brewers Conference

HTBN logoHoppy Trails Beer News owner, internationally known writer/photographer, webmaster,  self-proclaimed craft brewing expert and homebrewer – Bob Shoemaker – will be live-blogging from the Brewers Association Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, OR, next week (April 14-17).

CBC logoThe Craft Brewers Conference is a gathering of professional brewers and brewery owners from all parts of the country and many foreign nations to trade ideas an update their knowledge about their rapidly expanding industry. They will experience trade-show displays and speakers on everything from innovations in hop varieties to marketing beers internationally.  I am hopeful that copious amounts of wonderful craft beer will also be consumed.

What is live-blogging, you ask? It is a process where someone takes a smartphone, tablet, laptop, video camera or still camera to a interesting event and immediately writes and posts images and commentary about what he/she is seeing at that particular moment. It is sort of like streaming, but not. If you want to almost be there when it happens, you follow this person on Twitter or Facebook, ask for notifications when something new hits the net and enjoy the event in abstentia.

To follow Bob at the conference, read funny, insightful prose and see outstanding pictures of the Craft Brewers Conference, find the Hoppy Trails Beer News website, Facebook page or Twitter account and Like/Follow to get updates.

Tuesday, April 14

Today at the CBC was basically a day for people to come pick up their registration packets and for exhibitors to get set up for tomorrow. There was a “welcome fete” for first-timers and a “meet-and-greet” for everybody this evening.


Hoppy Trails Beer News caught up on the Portland small brewers scene with visits to Hair of the Dog,  Breakside and Ecliptic.

breakside ecliptic hairofthedog

Copyright 2015 by Hoppy Trails Beer News LLC – All Rights Reserved

Wednesday and Thursday Posts 

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