Cask Festival 2013

Spring Has Sprung in Seattle

logocaskI use the Cask Festival as a marker for the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. It was a beautiful sunny, cloudless Spring day in Seattle with temperatures reaching 70°F for the first time this year. So why were we all INSIDE???

Oh, ya – for the beer. This time of year marks the end of the proliferation of spiced and amped up winter warmers and the introduction of lighter brews. It’s like saying goodbye to old friends and giving a welcome to new ones.

The New Venue

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The Cask Beer Festival was held in the Exhibition Hall at the Seattle Center this year rather than Fisher Plaza Pavilion. This year’s festival was sponsored by the Washington Brewers Guild (the brewers’ professional organization) rather than the Washington Beer Commission (the group that promotes WA beer, and the consumer/fanboy club WABL – aka WAshington Beer Lovers).

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But who can complain about a bigger, brighter place to host a great bunch of breweries and their nearly 100 different beers? I thought the place was great, lots of tables, good food and a nice balcony area where photographers and people-watchers could congregate and see the whole floor.

The Process – Read, Scout, Consume, Compare Notes, Repeat

There are people who actually go to the festival to socialize and have a great selection of beers to try. Some go for their favorites from previous festivals. Some seek out new things they have never had. To do this you need your program with a map of where your next liquid quarry might be found.

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The Beers and Brewers

elysianThese festivals are notable too for who is there – and who (sometimes surprisingly) is not. But then making cask conditioned beer is an artform in itself.

The event attracted 39 brewers who tapped nearly 100 beers. It was great to see some of the newest Washington breweries showing off their stuff: Nano no more.

  • Rainy Daze Brewing, the newest brewery on the peninsula in Silverdale,
  • Machine House Brewing, the new brewery in Georgetown,
  • Bellevue Brewing, the state’s fifth largest city just got it first homegrown brewery
  • North Sound Brewing, Mount Vernon

The Beers

CaskFestRDOut of 95+ beers – with punches for 25 – I managed to reach a safe limit at 17. But then I was not doing the taste and spit technique of some of my fellow bloggers, who apparently can tell from one small mouthful if the beer is any good. I must have at least a couple sips. Usually each sip is a bit different; an initial impression that sets expectations and varying levels of confirmation on subsequent tastes whether or not I would ever buy a whole bottle or order a full pint.

My favorites ranged from rich stouts to light and refreshing fruit beers. I would recommend that you try any of the following should you find one at a bottle shop or watering hole near you:

  • Quilter’s Irish Death – Iron Horse Brewing (longtime favorite)
  • BBC Scotch Ale – Bellevue Brewing
  • Whiskey Barrel Poacher’s Porter – Bainbridge Island Brewing
  • Apple Cinnamon ESB – Diamond Knot Brewing
  • Lisa’s Chocolate Stout – Georgetown Brewery
  • Washington Apple Frog – Issaquah Brewhouse (Rogue)
  • Shakespeare Stout – Rogue Ales (Issaquah Brewhouse)
  • Sweet Oblivion Porter – McMenamin’s Brewey (Mill Creek)
  • Oak Aged SODO Brown – Two Beers Brewing
  • Cluster –F – Harmon Brewing

Unfortunately many of the beers at the cask festival are once a year brews, that you may be able to get more of at the brewery itself for a very short time. Most blow through everything they bring.

People’s Choice Award for the 1st Session:

1st Place: Silver City Brewing – Bourbon Barrel-Aged Fat Scotch
2nd Place: Red Hook Ale Brewery – Do Svidaniya Russian Imperial Stout
3rd Place: Diamond Knot Brewing – Apple Cinnamon ESB

People’s Choice Award for the 2nd Session:

1st Place: Diamond Knot Brewing – Apple Cinnamon ESB
2nd Place: Black Raven Brewing – Paging Dr. Wisdom (Imperial IPA)
3rd Place: Fremont Brewing – Pine Box Anniversary Oatmeal Stout

Seattle Fashion

In addition to people watching – and chatting – and eavesdropping on some very interesting comments about beer, politics and beer politics – notably Gov. Inslee’s crock of a plan to overtax WA beer even more than it already is (highest tax in the nation, boys and girls), there is a definite rebellious streak in what the craft beer drinker likes to wear to a festival.

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The Bold and the Beautiful

People watching is always fun at the festival. This event was particularly fun.

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As you can tell, a good time was had by all!

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Photography and content by Bob Shoemaker (bobshoemaker@hoppytrailsbeernews.com)
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