The first annual Washington Beer Commission Belgianfest took place this weekend at the Georgetown Studios Engine Room.  Belgianfest featured over 50 Belgian inspired beers crafted by Washington breweries. The event was divided into two tasting sessions. The first ran from 12-4 and the second session ran from 6-10pm. Since it was a working weekend for Ed, we attended the evening session.

I was really impressed by the diversity of Belgian style beers available to try at the the Belgianfest. There were Dubbels and Tripels, sour beers, Saisons, Krieks, Trappist Style ales, white, light and dark beers. With so many beer styles available, it is unlikely that all of them will please you  but it also almost guarantees that you will find some beer to delight you.  Ed, Jonathan and I are well known for our different tastes. The sour beers that made me purr with pleasure made Ed and Jonathan wrinkle up their noses in displeasure.  Beers with a lot of toasted malt and bitter coffee tones made my face crinkle up and put the happy face on Ed.  As different as our tastes are, there were two beers that all three of us really enjoyed.

Jonathan’s favorite was the Raspberry Dubbel from Redhook Ale Brewery.  With a 10% ABV, this is a strong Dubbel made with pureed raspberries and chocolate malt. Great balance, this is not a syrupy fruit beer.  Think of  fresh unsweetened raspberries with a bit of nut and  bitter chocolate. Ed and I really liked this beer as well. We went back for seconds on this beer to finish off our evening as our nightcap.

Ed’s favorite was the Hale’s “25” Belgian Dubbel.  This was a dreamy dark dubbel. Fantastic malt and hop balance on this beer made it a smooth drinking treat. It was a beer to savor and sip so you could truly enjoy it.  This was the second beer that all three of us really enjoyed.

BBlage-a-troisIt should be no surprise that my favorite beer was a sour beer. My favorite was Ram Brewery’s BBBLage-a-trois.  I would have loved this beer just from reading the description. You don’t have to be a microbiologist to appreciate that brettanomyces is at least one of the “bugs and critters”  in those barrels. But there is a lot of complexity in this sour brew, it isn’t just yeast on steroids. It is sour but smooth. The “bugs and critters” don’t over power the hops and malts in this beer, just make it dang interesting!  There was a fair amount of buzz about this brew. I have given up all hope of converting Jonathan to sour beers but Ed acknowledged that it was “good for a sour beer”.

Other sour beers that were getting as well as giving a buzz were:

  • Big Al Brewing Watermelon Sour which was sold out before I could get some, but I loved it when I tried it at the WABL 4th Anniversary party
  • Snipes Mountain Brewery Dark Matter was a blended sour red ale aged in bourbon and Bordeaux barrels and fermented with 60 pounds of tart cherries. This was was also sold out by the time I got to their table (Curses to Ed’s work schedule!)
  • Pike’s Tripel Kreik was still available and I was lucky to compare it to my first date with this beer during Pike Brewing’s 20th Anniversary party. It has a tantalizing sour finish and gives hint of the Mark Ryan Dissident wine barrels in which it was aged for six months. The cherry is more subtle now and the flavors are more of a complex blend, not unlike a wine as it ages.
Naughty Monk

Rockbottom Naughty Monk

Another beer that both Ed and I enjoyed was the Rockbottom Brewery Naughty Monk. This was a Trappist style brew with delicate plum and spice. The hops are subtle and the mild malt gives it some sweetness. The ABV was 8.4% but it drank easy. The spice and subtle sweetness in this beer made it seem lighter and refreshing.  I would really like to try this beer again when I can sit down and sip it slowly.

Scuttlebutt Brewing Company’s 777 ’09 Belgian Tripel was another Belgian that knows how to be big, but still subtle and refreshing. A gorgeous golden color with excellent balance. This was a great beer to soothe my palate after tasting so many funky brews. I definitely gave Matt the “thumbs up” after my first sip.The ’07 version was available the first session.

Black Raven tap

Black Raven drinking from the tap

I knew Ed was going to like the Black Raven Brewing Pour les Oiseaux, a wine barrel aged Saison. I first sampled this beer at the Bouwer’s Cafe Big Wood beer fest where it was a bit hit. I figured it might be a bit hoppy for Jonathan and I was right but both Ed and I liked the hop bite. The spice and hop bite were a great contrast to the tart fruit that infused this beer from the Chardonnay and Viognier wine barrels that aged this beer.

The hop monster, or so we were told, was Skagit River Brewery’s Watou’s Ale, named for brew master Josh Pfriem’s son. This was a Belgian Strong Dark Ale that Ed couldn’t get to, due to a crazy weekend work schedule.

I think one of the most unusual beers was from Issaquah Brewhouse.  The Polywog Grand Cru was a strong brew. It had 20% Bing cherry juice added to the fermentator then it was aged in Pinot barrels that had previously aged Rogue’s Pink Gin in them. It was the booziest of the beers that we tried. It was too boozy for Jonathan but I really liked it. It had an intense cherry flavor but not a sweet candy cherry flavor, it really did taste a bit like biting into a fresh bing cherry, followed by a booze chaser.

This is only a small sample of the beers that were on tap during the event.  Even between the three of us, we only sampled a few. We took it slow drinking these powerful beers.

If there had been more seating, we might have stayed until closing and been able to sample more beers. I have to admit the Georgetown Studios is not our favorite venue.  We try to keep things pretty positive on this blog, but the fact that we have attended two events there in two weeks AND the fact that the building is not accessible AND has limited bathroom facilities, we need to say something.  It was better for a beer event than a wine event in terms of the acoustics  but steep, narrow steps without railings are never a good idea for an alcohol related event. Check out the Belgianfest review by the SunBreak, he was there in the afternoon and got much better pictures than I did in the dark of evening.

A note to organizers: please remember that even disabled people like to get out to beer and wine events. I could not have attended this event without Ed and Ebony to support me.   There is no disabled parking, building nor bathroom access for this facility.