Upon reflection – I came away from this year’s Winter Beer Fest disappointed. I entered the venue with eager anticipation. I was not disappointed when I left. But now that I have time to put things in perspective, I feel . . . disappointed.
Not in the beers – my goodness there were more good beers there than ever before. It is amazing to me how the craft beer community in the Pacific Northwest can continually come up with wonderful, wide-ranging, palate pleasing beers on such a consistent basis; and the best beers are coming from some of the newest brewers. All in all, there were 32 breweries serving over 65 beers.
Not in the overall venue. Having a beer festival inside a production brewery is a treat in itself, and with the gift shop, the food, the chocolate parings from Theo’s and the addition of oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms, there was little more you could want. Except if you are a photographer. While there were many good photo ops in the side room, there was not enough light in the main hall to capture the event effectively.
Not in the crowd – many wonderful people enjoying great beer and having a fun time doing it, albeit wrapped up in flannels or down jackets, gloves and ski hats. It is Seattle, and when it gets below 50 degrees out, the layering begins.
No – I am disappointed in me. I thought I had sampled all the beers I wanted to – but when I got home – actually the day after I got home – I was in no condition to report on the event the same day – I love designated drivers – I started looking over the list of beers that were there and realized I missed several really good ones. Or at least I think I did. I am disappointed in the fact that 10 tokens is not enough (well, it is enough) and the purchase of additional tokens is still not enough (ha, it’s way more than enough) to feel like you tried everything you wanted to.
A big part of this blog is letting you know what beers I thought were really good so you can go find them and decide for yourself. I started off with Pike Brewing Company’s Honey Moon Suite, a Belgian Honey Ale.”Ooooh,” I said with a huge smile on my face. “This is GOOD!” Convinced I had already found my People’s Choice Award winner for the day, I sauntered over to see the fine folk from Airways Brewing in Kent, WA and selected their Chocolate Mint Stout.
“Oh. This is good too,” says I, and then I remembered that Theo’s Chocolate was here pairing the beer you were holding with their assortment of chocolates. I tried a few of those and my smile got even wider.
Next up was Cozy Sweater from Iron Horse Brewing. I have been looking forward to this beer since I had it for the first time last year at this event. It met all my expectations and now I had my third favorite beer of the day.
Nearby was Port Townsend Brewing. Kim Sands brought two of my new favorites of the day, their Scotch Ale (always good) amped up a bit and called Death Don’t Have No Mercy Imperial Scotch Ale, and a Winter Ale that was completely satisfying. Okay so now I have a fourth and fifth favorite beer of the day.
Across the way was Laht Neppur from Waitsburg – where the hell is Waitsburg – the number one question they are asked (it’s near Walla Walla). My friend Tom was grinning as he came back toward me with their Laughing Boy Stout, so I tried the Waitsburg Winter Warmer. This is a delightfully spiced amber ale with orange peel, clove, cinnamon, allspice and honey (8.2% ABV).
You got it. Favorite number six. I chatted with those nice folks for a while and decided, “… why not try their Holiday Hefeweizen” – which added peach, spice and honey to a solid hefe base. Favorite number seven.
Time for a break – and some Kumamoto oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms did the trick – along with some more chocolate (thanks Theo’s).
The day went kind of like that until our ride arrived. Somewhere between Kentucky Dude from Naked City, Frosty Frog from Rogue, and Lips of Faith Chocolate Coffee Stout from New Belgium I lost track of where I was, what day it was and if planet Earth still spun on an axis. As I look over the list today, there were some great beers there that I missed. Probably just as well. But dang, you hate to let good things pass you by.
So go here and take a look a the complete list of beers. If you went to the festival you know what I am talking about. If you did not – I am so sorry – it was a fantastic time. But I am disappointed that I was not able to try EVERYTHING.
What a great way to get in the holiday spirit – with holiday spirits!
Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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