Belgianfest 2013 was a dream day for sour beer lovers. I think there was close to twice the number of sour beers than at prior Belgianfests. As a sour beer lover, I was a very happy girl.This was the 4th annual belgianfest and I think it was the Washington Beer Commission’s ‘best one yet. Previous Belgianfests were really crowded but this second year at the Bell Harbor Conference Center was a winner. It was well organized and in a great venue to enjoy special beers.
The Sour beers
Sourilicious by Big Al’s Brewing is a standard by which other sour beers can be compared. Sourilicious is wonderfully integrated and shows exceptional balance. This sour beer is a fan favorite at festivals.
Mortis-Sour Persimmon Ale was one of the eight creative Belgian beers that Elysian Brewing brought to Belgianfest. I wish that I could have tasted them all but I was really happy with the Persimmon ale. Fresh off the tap, this Washington beer was a little to cold to really shine so we warmed the glass between our hands. Upon warming, we were were rewarded with a lovely aromatic apricot nose and an almost velvety texture on this medium bodied ale. The persimmons, are often underestimated but added aroma, texture and flavor to this slightly sour ale.
Silver City Brewing had two sours on tap. One was a sour beer based on West Flanders Red, the second was a scotch ale converted into a sour from exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria. Don Spencer has been talking about this Scotch Sour for years and every time I was in the brewery, he would show me where the beer was aging. I have to admit that a Scotch Sour was hard to wrap my brain around but Don assured me it was tasting good and I would like it when he was ready. He was right! The malty scotch combined with the sour notes made a delicious sweet-sour brew.
Barrel Aged Belgian beers
Bill Jenkins, Head brewer at Lake City Elliott Bay, made a really interesting Washington beer, Funkytown Barrel-aged Belgian Brown. Bill aged this Belgian Brown ale in a red wine barrel with organic gooseberries. The gooseberries give a nice tangy finish to this brew that I really appreciate. This Washington Belgian style beer had more subtle flavors than most of the other barrel aged beers which means I could easily have a date all evening long with this one, especially at the friendly ABV of 7.5%.
Barrel aged Mystic from Triplehorn Brewing was a delicious Belgian dark Strong Ale that had been touched by two months of Jim Beam barrels. It clocked in at 11% ABV but it drank really smooth and didn’t taste too boozy. Another winning beer from one of the new breweries on the block.
The Saison beers
With such bold flavored barrel aged beers and sours, it would have been easy for the more subtle saison beers to be overwhelmed but several saisons stood out.
Valée De Poire (Pear Valley) from Snipes Mountain Brewery is a fruity yet crisp saison. It was a little too cold straight off the tap this pear saison really came into it’s own when it started to warm up just a bit, ramping up the aromatics and flavor.
If you are a beer AND wine lover like us, Ol du Vin (Beer of the Vine) may be right up your alley. This Washington beer was a collaborative effort between Triplehorn Brewing saison and Patterson Cellars late harvest Rousanne. Full fruit and clove on the nose, the Rousanne stone fruit flavors shine midpalate while never letting you forget it’s saison origins.
Ed’s favorite beer at Belgianfest was the Fuerte Brandy Barrel-aged Strong Ale from Elliot Bay Brewing. This strong ale was aged in 16 months in a brandy barrel versus the bourbon or wine barrels that aged the other beers at Belgianfest. We both really enjoyed the nuances of the brandy barrel in this barley wine style brewed with Belgian yeast.
Tied for Ed’s fave was the Cokolado Fortika from Fremont Brewing. How could he not go bonkers over a stout flavored with “chocolate juice” from Theo’s chocolate?
My favorite beer of the day was from a new Spokane Brewery, Ramblin’ Road Back Country Bourbon. This is one BIG beer. Something to be sipped slowly and savored, preferably by the fire. I appreciated how the bourbon notes accented this Belgian quad without overwhelming the beer. It was deliciously smooth and extremely well integrated beer for a new brewery. Ramblin’ Road was getting a lot of buzz on all of the beers that they poured at Belgianfest and I am looking forward to tasting their beers again.
A big surprise but a crowd favorite was a Belgian Dubbel made with Nutella from Lazy Boy Brewing. I will be honest, I don’t usually hear a lot of buzz about Lazy Boy at festivals but beer writers and perfect strangers were telling me how much they LOVED that brew.
Mathew Younts from the Seattle Beer Collective was raving about the Pike Tripel Kriek Not only was this the only Lambic style beer at the Belgianfest, Matt thought this beer was the most authentic Belgian style beer served at Belgianfest.
“Charles Finkle and Dean know and respect beer, you KNOW a Pike beer is going to be good”
Pike Brewing Tripel Kriek is based on the Monk’s Uncle Tripel, then mixed with 60 pounds of bing cherries, re-fermented with Brett and aged in Bordeaux french oak barrels.