Editor Note: Timperial is apparently moving to Asheville after writing this slander. Stone him at will, Seattle.
When I was in Asheville, NC last week I had the great fortune to attend the Winter Warmer Beer Fest. It was held in the Civic Center right downtown and it was a blast!
Lately, I’ve been a bit disillusioned with Washington beers fests. I feel that they are overpriced and mostly underwhelming in most cases. I feel like there is rarely a lot of new and/or exciting beers to try. Most local breweries that attend these festivals seem to be inconvenienced and just show up to show up. Most times, I feel that our breweries only provide one or two options and in many cases, those options are standard offerings that we have all had many times before or that we could acquire, outside of the event, with little effort.
Even at some of WA’s finest beer fests like Washington Brewers Festival, the only way that you can get the extreme beers that are available is by being a WABL member or by paying extra and seeking out the ever elusive Buzz Cart. Does this not seem ridiculous to you? Why are we hiding the best beers of our state? If I owned a brewery I would want to knock the socks off of everyone in the crowd and gather up some hype about my product. I’d want people to have access to my best and most exciting products at these festivals. That’s what the festivals are really about anyway – creating new customers.
Washington can learn a lot about how it should be done by checking out how the South does it. The Winter Warmer Beer Fest cost $35 to get in. Yes, I’ll admit, initially, that is pretty expensive. There is a huge “but” though. Once you get in the door, you will only have to spend more money if you choose to purchase merchandise from the vendors or breweries. You get 2, yes 2, meal tickets with entrance. There was 2 separate lines for food that you could get in to use your meal tickets. The first offered an entire plate of h’orderves and antipasto. The second was more of a “meal” and offered salad and meat and pasta. I’m not sure if I mentioned this but the 2 (!) meals are included in the $35 entrance fee. Wow!
Some breweries in the room only had 3 offerings, but most had 4 and several had up to 7 options. Nearly every brewery had at least 1 special brew. Many had rotating specialties, where they would post a schedule at their booth of when what brews would be tapped. There were probably around 6 Belgian sours, 10+ barrel aged beers, many imperials and specialty beers… it was insane. I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Oh, speaking of, did I not mention that the tasting glass that we received upon entrance could hold 8oz and that you could drink as much beer as you wanted? Yeah, that’s right. There’s no such thing as tasting tickets or tokens at this fest. You drink as many samples as you want. You determine how much they fill your glass. I’ll stop now and allow you to ponder this further on your own.
Washington, get your shit together!
***Note: I apologize for the brevity of this post, but i am fairly certain resident beer nerd Timperial Stout wants to chime in tomorrow about this lineup. I just cannot contain myself***
Brouwers Cafe’s Big Wood Festival is probably our second favorite Seattle beer festival of the year. It closely rivals, and perhaps in the eyes of many, passes Brouwer’s Hopfest. But, being as its November – its the only thing in our minds.
Big Wood is a celebration of wood-altered beers. Whether beer is barrel-aged or enhanced by wood chips, you will find it here. This year’s Big Wood is kicking off on December 3, 2009. If its like most of Brouwer’s events, it will likely start around 4 PM. I would suggest getting there around 3:30, snagging a table and ordering some fried chick peas (awesome). Hold down the fort for your buddies and enjoy the night.
In any event, this year’s beer list is incredible. We pulled a copy of last year’s list (which is being posted tomorrow on beerblotter.com) and firmly believe this year’s offerings far exceed last year’s bevy.
Firestone Walker (The Black Xantus), Port Brewing (Brouwer’s Imagination) and Fremont Brewing (BN Barrel Dry Hopped Abominable) are all offering exceptionally curious ales for the event. I cannot wait to try them.
The big review is coming tomorrow – with Timperial’s full review of the goodies. Stay tuned, but make plans to see us on December 3rd!
Reminder: Brouwers has the best beer events. The next one coming up is Hard Liver Barleywine Festival. This is a great event with 4 oz pours – allowing you to actually try the whole list (or close to it) without going to the hospital.