W ashington Beer Commission’s 2nd annual Belgianfest was a showcase for Washington brewers’ skill and creativity in crafting Belgian style brews. Although last year’s inaugural Belgianfest was relatively small, this year’s boasted a bigger location, more brewers and more beer!

Belgian beer and waffles

Belgian beer and waffles

Even with a bigger location at Magnuson Park, both tasting sessions of Belgianfest 2011 sold out. It was crowded with good natured beer lovers but it was sometimes difficult to navigate the crowd without spilling precious beer. I couldn’t navigate the crowd with a walker and service dog, but I had Ed and Jonathan willing to make their way for beer on my behalf. Several brewers also stopped by my perch to make sure that I had the opportunity to taste their beer.

Beers on tap ranged from the classics like Elliot Bay van Boorian and Pike Brewing Monk’s Uncle Tripel to intriguing fruit beers like Fremont Brewery Blood Funnel Saison and Big Al Brewing Kriek. There was a diverse number of saison beers to sample, in addition to dubbels, tripels, strong ales, wits and more. Over 50 Washington beers from 25 brewers were available for sampling. Lots of big dark ales contrasted with clean and crisp light brews. Some of the beers were big and boozy, up to 13% ABV, served along side session style beers. With so many beers to try, many with high alcohol content, we sipped and shared our glasses between the three of us. We have diverse palates, but these were some of our highlights in the order tasted. Keep reading to find out which beer we weren’t willing to share.

Belgianfest 2011 Highlights

Naked City Brewery and Tap House: Gilda Wild American Ale

Don Webb Gilda ale

Don Webb showing off Naked City Gilda

I started the beer festival with Gilda and it was a delicious way to begin my day. Gilda is a Dubbel aged in a Merlot barrel for 6 months. This dark colored ale is just tart enough to be refreshing.  Tart raspberry and cherry  flavors from the Merlot barrel are blended with luscious chocolate malt flavors. The barrel tannins are subtle but give this smooth drinking ale some nice structure and a bit of bitterness to complement the hops. Complex, I gave myself some time to sit back and really enjoy this beer.

Black Raven Brewery: Seasonal Farmhouse IPA

What do you get when you put together an IPA and a Belgian style ale? If you are a Black Raven brewer you get the Farmhouse IPA with an intensely fruity nose, a clean and crisp taste and exceptional hop balance. Belgian yeast is known for fruity aromas but the secret here is that peach puree was used to feed the Brettanomyces yeast. Although the peach puree has been consumed, the peachy aromas remain as well as the skin tannins. The hop profile is similar to their award winning Trickster IPA.

Issaquah Brewhouse: Cask of Menage-a-Frog -Berry Edition

This was a favorite of the fruit beers. Pretty golden color, this tripel has been infused with marionberries. It had a surprisingly long marionberry finish that went on and on. We really enjoyed the full body and smooth mouth feel.

Elysian Brewing: Groaning Board Trappist-style Table Beer

Ed and Jonathan really enjoyed this session beer from Elysian. I got a lot of banana from the aromas through to the finish but the guys picked up a lot of additional nuances. It was a crisp, light and refreshing beer.

Scuttlebutt Brewery: Belgian Winter – Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Ed called this “Darkly delicious!”  A big and bold ale with tempting malt sweetness, tons of chocolate and accentuated with Christmas spices.

Black Raven Brewery Pour Les Oiseaux

Black Raven has switched up this recipe this year. Brewer Andy calls this “Belgian Champagne”. It is a crystal clear lemon color with a tight head. Brettanomyces in the Chardonnay and Viognier barrels used to age this beer, give it some intriguing characteristics. Bone dry yet Ed got a lot of “malto meal” notes. Slightly less lemon and pepper on this year’s version than last year’s Pour Les Oiseaux. Ed and I really liked this one but Jonathan gave it a pass.

Anacortes Brewery Dark Water Dubbel

This was a beer that all three of us enjoyed. Deep, dark and opaque, this dubbel is resplendent with caramel and toffee but not syrupy sweet. Great body and balance on this beer.

Chris Miller Snipe Mountain Brewery

Chris Miller and Louise toasting Washington Belgian Style Beers

Snipes Mountain Brewery WABL Beer

The special WABL beer for this Belgianfest was an interesting blonde ale. I am not usually a blonde fan, but this one intrigued me.  First, wasn’t blonde but amber in color. It was aged in a bordeaux barrel, giving it color, body and character. Then, Chris Miller blended it back with a Belgian blonde. He turned the volume down on his BIG beer making style so none of the components overwhelmed your palate or your brain, creating a session beer with character.

Snipes Mountain Brewery Twangzister #3

Twangzister is an ongoing project for Chris Miller and I have enjoyed tasting along with its evolution. The current version is a  strong Belgian ale aged for 3 years in bourbon barrels.  This is a bit richer and sweeter than previous Twangzisters which were unabashedly sour beers. This is more of superbly blended dark cherry sweet tart, wrapped in lush bourbon notes. The bourbon notes aren’t in your face, this is a BEER albeit a silky smooth and complex one. I’d call this a “fireplace sipper” beer.

Hales Ales Quadruppel

Hales Ales Quadruppel

Hales Ales Quadruppel

I first fell in love with this Washington Quadruppel at the Winter Brewfest last month.  This is the one beer that all three of us had to have our own glass of. All of the other beers we shared 1-2 glasses between the three of us. This Quadruppel is all about Four: four yeast strains and four sugars. Aged one year in bourbon and brandy barrels, this is like dessert in a glass. Think of a port but with molasses, anise and fig flavors. This is so smooth that you won’t guess that it has 13.% ABV until after the glass is gone. Delicious!

Check out Facebook  for more pictures from Belgianfest 2011.