The annual Washington Brewers’ Festival began with the ringing of the seminary bell on a gorgeous Friday afternoon in St Edwards park. The sun was shining but the temperature was mild as patrons roamed the festival grounds in search of their favorite beers.

Beer festival

Plotting their beer strategy

Friday night varies from the rest of the festival in three ways:

  • Friday is adult only, families are welcome the rest of the weekend.
  • Only select Washington breweries are pouring on Friday. Only 35 breweries pour on Friday and there are over 60 breweries pouring on Saturday and Sunday, including breweries from Alaska, California, Colorado and Hawaii.
  • Breweries are encouraged to bring a special Friday night only cask.

Friday nights are for the Washington beer lover that wants some of their favorite old stand by brews and wants to try something unique and different. The cask Twangzister Sour Cherry Stout is definitely unique and different. Head Brewer Chris Miller of Snipes Mountain Brewery is playing mad scientist with barrels and brettanomyces, coming up with some pretty interesting concoctions involving wine barrels and produce. This is a muddy dark brew that looks slightly evil and tastes delicious.  Tart cherries, dense stout flavors and chewy wood notes all vie for your attention and they get it.  A very complex beer, it is almost overwhelming when just sipped. Chris and I agreed that this is a food beer and it is elevated to another level when paired with food. This beer won’t appeal to everyone, but I loved it. The Twanzister was a Friday only pour but there are a limited number of bottle conditioned Twanzister available at Snipes Mountain brewery. Odin Brewery was also pouring a sour stout called Thor on Friday but it is a totally different brew. Thor is inky black with lots of dry toast and roasted malt notes. It has some sour notes but is more bitter coffee than sour. You never forget Thor is a stout where as in the Twangzister you have to dig a bit to pick up the stout characteristics.

Washington Brewers Festival

Service with a smile

Since March, Jim Jamison of Foggy Noggin Brewing has been tempting me with talk of his Kastrated Dawg strong ale. Jim brought three versions on Friday: regular Kastrated Dawg, oak aged Kastrated Dawg and Lavagulin Oak Aged Kastrated Dawg. I only had the opportunity to try the oak aged Kastrated Dawg. Deeply colored and intensely flavored with clean and distinct hop, malt and wood profiles. I would be really curious as to how this would taste with a bit more age on it.  But as fast as the first two kegs sold out and with the constant line customers for Foggy Noggin beers, it will be awhile before Jim will be able to really age any of his brews.

Black Raven Brewing

Lining up for Black Raven

Speaking of lines, Friday night lines are usually pretty mild with maybe 6-8 people. The exception was the line for Black Raven Brewery. The line for Black Raven Brewery snaked around and was never less than 25-30 people. I thought the line was for their award winning Coco Jones Porter, available only on Friday but brewer Andy told me that all four beers on tap were about equally popular. Black Raven beers are worth a bit of a wait, but consider heading there early in the day for the shortest wait.

There are a couple of chili beers at the Brewers Festival this year, I tried the Lazy Boy Brewing Oscuro Con Chiles. It can be hard to make a good chili beer where the chilis don’t overpower the beer. Lazy Boy does a good job with this chili infused porter. It definitely has some heat, enough to make the lips tingle but not so much that you don’t want more. Surprisingly, the chilies integrated and smoothed a bit when I paired it with the Cajun Andouille sausage from the sausage stand.

Buzz cart

Dirty German on the Buzz Cart

New to the Washington Beer Commission summer brewfest is the Buzz Cart. The Buzz cart is a mobile cart that taps a unique beer once every two hours. The first beer was the Mystere de l’ete from Fremont Brewery. I was working the WABL brew taps when that beer was released so I didn’t get a chance to try it but people were raving over the gorgeous unfiltered blackberry lambic style brew. The second beer on the Buzz cart was Baron Brewery‘s Dirty German. This Washington beer is a dopplebock that was brewed with a smoked malt and then inoculated to make it a sour beer. Clocking in at 10% ABV, this was one hefty and complex brew.

WABL beer

Elliot Bay Triple Tree Imperial Porter

The first couple of hours of the festival, I had the honor of pouring the WABL member only beer at the Merchandise tent. This year, Elliot Bay Brewing created an imperial Porter for the WABL members. I must admit, I got more than a couple of people to sign up for WABL just so they could taste that porter!

The Washington Brewers’ festival also has a tent with wine and cider vendors. Patterson Cellars and William Church Winery are pouring their wines for two tokens a glass. Patterson Cellars is pouring a red wine and a rosé. William Church is pouring a red wine and their award winning Viognier. It is a great deal, I challenge you to find a $3 glass pour of wine in any restaurant in town! Look for the wine and cider tent at the back edge of the festival grounds.

Check out our photo album on our Facebook page for a lot more pictures.