Over forty different Washington breweries were represented and the variety of beers and ales was wide at this year’s Washington Cask Beer Festival on March 27th.

Both Jonathan and I absolutely loved Big Time Brewery‘s The Big Dance Imperial Amber and rated it as our number one brew at the Cask Beer Fest. It was a sweet ale (too sweet for some) but we thought the malty sweetness was really well balanced. It was high in malt and yet retained a wonderful crispness. It also had a whopping 8.1% ABV that kept me coming back for more tastes.

Another beer that I enjoyed and found to be unique was Diamond Knot Brewing Co.’s Apple-Cinnamon ESB. Basically this is their standard ESB:

“conditioned with fresh apple cider, cinnamon sticks and a bag of fresh apple chunks”.

I think the Apple-Cinnamon ESB would be a great beer to pair with German food. Jonathan hated it but he is some kind of mutant that cannot tolerate cinnamon.

A kick in the butt beverage was provided by Matt from Scuttlebutt Brewing. This was his Mateo Loco Imperial Red Ale with a 10% ABV. The beer was very well balanced and could easily fool someone into thinking it was not as strong as it was. This particular brew was made in honor of Matt’s ten year anniversary at Scuttlebutt and it was great. As they put it,

“this beer is more than an adventure, it’s an expedition!”

Mac and Jack’s Brewing Co. from Redmond provided two beers that I enjoyed at the Washington Beer Cask. The first was Barrel Aged Bourbon Porter that speaks for itself. The other was a Bavarian Wheat.  According to the notes provided, the beer was made with Serengeti Wheat fermented with a Bavarian yeast to give it a banana and faint clove flavor…delicious.

The popular winner of the evening was Black Raven Brewing Co. It was the first place we went and were blown away by their Wisdom Seeker Double IPA. If you are into the Grapefruity IPAs this is the beer for you. It managed to be both sweet and bitter at the same time. The other fabulous concoction was their Jerked Brown Scotch Ale made with Aji Marisol pepper, ginger, thyme and allspice. I love what these guys do with fresh herbs in their brews.

I bypassed a lot of my favorite breweries that I was already familiar with, to taste those I had not previously tried. One of my pleasant surprises was from Ice Harbor Brewing Co. out of Kennewick. They were pouring a Bourbon Barrel IPA that had just the right balance between the hops and the 6 month aging process. And for a first, Jonathan actually liked an IPA! Their other excellent brew was their Irish Stout. I am psyched to get out to Eastern Washington and visit these folks.

Beers I want to try and again and re-evaluate include the Tabasco Stout steeped with cacao and aged in a tabasco barrel…interesting…oh this by Elliot Bay Brewery and also Fremont Brewing Co. Totonac B-bomb. This last was a heavy duty beer but I was blown away by the vanilla.

In retrospect I was developing an incredibly bad cold so my taste was “off.”  I was overwhelmed by several of the beers by over-flavoring.  Too much vanilla, too much tabasco, too much smoke (to be honest…don’t like smokey beers) and several that were too sour.  Our Sour Beer expert was not present but I heard rave reviews on both the WABL beer as well as Silver City Brewery‘s WTF (Wild, Tart, Fat) sour scotch ale.

Kudos go to the event planners for giving just the right amount of tokens and also to WABL for co-hosting this.  The planners did an excellent job working with the space and dividing the event into a 12-4pm event and a later evening event from 6-10pm. There was no long waiting in any one line for a tasty brewage and four hours was more than adequate to wet your whistle. Having been to too many Seattle Center Events in the past that were oversold, I was extremely happy to see that they limited ticket sales to ensure it would be a great event. This was my second year at the Washington Cask Beer fest and I am making this an annual event to attend!