The Winter Beer Festival, a WABL event of legendary proportions, attracts more people every year. So much so this year that I would seriously encourage the Washington Beer Commission to seek out a bigger venue.
Don’t get me wrong – I love going to Hales Ales for this event – especially having a delicious lunch upstairs before the doors out back open up. But it is getting crowded way too early in the day. There was a time when you could be among the first in line and get through your list of “gotta-have-this” beers long before the crowds started arriving. Not this year. See for yourself!
Part of the problem too is there are too many darn good breweries serving an ever increasing number of really fine brews. Add to that more publicity, veteran festival goers bring guests and a growing consciousness about the craft beer movement, and you have a need for someplace like Fisher Plaza (like they do for Cask Fest – which is also getting a bit on the crowded side mid-session).
Still, it was not difficult to get a beer once you made it through the crowd to a serving station. And the people at the festival are really nice folks and fun to be with. From a photographic perspective though, it is really hard to get good candid shots when you can only see the head and shoulders of people standing next to you. They aren’t too happy with you when your wide angle lens is six inches from their nose.
Okay, so 99% of the people there did not have that kind of concern.
The really nice thing about the Winter Beer Festival is having the chocolate parings courtesy of Theo Chocolates. I had some amazing pairings I would have never considered – and ate chocolates that I never thought I would ever try.
As you can see from some of the pictures I was able to squeeze off – elbows in, arms raised high above my head – people were having a marvelous time, brewers and tasters alike.
So what was so great about the beers? Glad you asked. First of all there were lots of them – more than 30 brewers – 70 beers. They ranged in ABV from 5% to 11.4% and IBUs from 16 to 100+. Everyone should come away with a favorite from this one.
I particularly enjoyed these beers:
Pike Auld Acquaintance – Pike Brewing Company
Winter treat, infused with Curacao and sweet orange peel, cassia bark, nutmeg
and coriander. 32 IBU. 5.00% ABV
Cozy Sweater – Iron Horse Brewery
Vanilla Milk Stout 4.5% ABV
Bourbon Barrel Aged Wee Heavy – Hales Ales
Smooth, creamy and rich
Christmas Duck – Foggy Noggin Brewing
A mouthful of sweetened roasty flavors that linger as a roasty dryness. 6.6% ABV
Broadsword Scottish Ale – Anacortes Brewery
Strong Scottish ale has robust malty flavors with subtle smokiness and a balanced
bitterness from Perle, Cascade and Mt Hood hops. Broadsword is made with Black
Patent, Caramel, Chocolate, Munich and Peat smoked malts for a dark color and rich
flavor. 8.3% ABV 35 IBU
Nut Warmer – Big Al Brewing
A take on the classic & traditional PBDA (that would be a Peanut Butter Dark Ale for
the non-beer geeks out there) 7.5% ABV
Emasculator – Slippery Pig Brewery
Dark and malty Doppelbock. Brewed with local blackberries. 10% ABV
Black Frog Irish Oatmeal Stout – Snoqualmie Falls Brewery
Creamy and smooth, a classic nitro stout with chocolaty flavors and a satisfyingly dry
finish. 4.8% ABV
Stratofortress Belgian Strong Ale – Wingman Brewers
Aged on black rum soaked cedar. The familiar smell of cedar fills your nose as you
breathe in the toasted wood aroma of this ale. Then strong flavors of fig and fruit give
way to a sweet rum and spice finish. 11.4% ABV (I only had a half pour)
Gunpowder Plot Bourbon Nitro Porter – Black Raven Brewing
A Porter aged in a bourbon barrel with chocolate and coffee. 6.2% ABV
Daybreak Breakfast Stout – Flyers Restaurant and Brewery
A rich black oatmeal stout infused with coffee from Fidalgo Bay Roasting Co..
SnowBockalypse (Doppelbock) – Icicle Brewing
Deep brown lager with ruby highlights. Heavy, rich, and sweet malt notes carry this
beer, with a slight warming sensation at the finish . 21 IBU. 7% ABV
Chuckanut Dunkel – Chuckanut Brewery
No details available – but it was wonderful
Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker
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