Winter beer festivals are a sure way to increase the number of designated drivers on the roads. The Pacific Northwest has two festivals – on the same weekend; one in Seattle and one in Portland. So, how do you decide which festival to attend?
Both festivals will have far more great beers to sample than you can possibly consume and live to tell about it. I always leave a winter beer festival happy with what I have tasted, most of which I have never had before and a great many of which I will never be able to taste again. Then I look at the list of beers available and find a dozen or more that I wish I could have tried.
Winter beers are not your mainstream IPA. They are malty, dark concoctions high in ABV and deliciously decadent. These are not to be consumed while munching on pizza, although I have discovered that they do go well with roasted chestnuts. No, these are sitting around the fireplace listening to music (preferably jazz, blues, new age) kinds of brews.
Many are aged in oak barrels that previously contained something like whiskey, rum, Cabernet, bourbon.
So – which one Portland, or Seattle?
I suppose it depends on where you live as you read this. Thanks to AMTRAK, getting to Portland from Seattle is like they scheduled the train specifically for this festival. The morning train gets you into Portland about 11:05. The festival starts at 11:00 and the venue is just a few easy walking blocks away. It leaves at 6:50 pm, giving you a full day to experience the festival. The nice thing about the Portland festival is that one admission fee gets you into every day of this five-day event (Wed-Sun). If you live in or around Portland, this is a no-brainer. You can arrive early and have a few great brews and leave before the lines start to get long as people swing by after work. You can stay overnight at a hotel if you prefer. There are several great breweries for dining within walking distance or a short cab ride.
For $35 you get a tasting glass, 12 tickets, and more than 50 great beers to try, and eleven hours to spend doing it (open from 11 am to 10pm). Additional taste tickets are $1. Remember that $35 admission is a one time charge. Wear your wristband and bring your 2015 tasting mug and you can get in all the other days too. That’s 50 hours of beer tasting merriment.
Seattle hosts a similar event out in an old airplane hanger (Sand Point) in Magnuson Park. For $30, you will get 10 tickets and a souvenir glass for four hours of tasting on Friday (5-9 pm) or one of the two sessions on Saturday (12-4 pm & 5:30-9:30 pm). Each four-hour session costs $30. You will have around 160 different winter warmers, barleywines, stouts and such. No word on what extra taste tickets will cost, but in the past they have been either $1.50 or $2 each.
Hoppy Trails will be going down to Portland on Wednesday, then going to the Seattle event on Saturday.