Schooner Exact's pirate wrapped keg
Today’s post comes to you from guest writer and friend to the Blotter, Dan Frueh. We first met Dan over a pint of Pliny the Younger. This guy knows his beer. We asked him to fill us in on the competition at Washington Cask Festival. Thanks Dan for the great post!
By: Dan Frueh
The Washington Cask Festival brings out the best in Washington beer lovers. Itʼs a room full of people, most of whom are here to dissect, explore, and be challenged by some new concoction that these Northwest breweries have brought to share. More than that however, the beer lovers are there for the intense community that happens only at these festivals, tastings, and club meetings.
Briefly, cask beer is a beer that has been conditioned in a small wooden or metal barrel instead of the huge vats used to brew the normally bottle beers. In essence, cask beer is an experiment. It enables brewers to cook beer using wild ingredients and the 2010 cask festival did not disappoint in that regard. Just as wine takes on the flavor of the container it ages in, so does beer.
Rock Bottom showed up strongly - Hop Bomb certainly is a must try
The primary experimental ingredient at cask festival was oak. Seems harmless. Brew some beer in an oak cask. Easy. Tasty. Brew some beer in a barrel that used to hold some Jack Danielʼs or bourbon. Ok now were experimenting. However those beers were still accessible such as Issaquah Brewingʼs Frosty Frog that had been aged three months in Jack Danielʼs barrels.
Now to step it up to the next level, brewers start using ingredients in the brewing process itself such as orange peel and oak chips, both of which are tasty and understandable. However, brewers often choose to go a little overboard with their ideas but thankfully allow those of us brave enough to go to cask festival to try them.
These daring brews would include the following:
Silver Cityʼs “fat woody” (scotch ale aged in white oak)
Big Alʼs Sourlicious Sour Beer (bourbon barrel aged red with brettanomyces and lactobacillus bacterias from Belgium)
Ramʼs Groovy toasted coconut porter (infused w/ toasted coconut obviously)
Diamond Knotʼs Apple Cinnamon ESB (apple cider and cinnamon sticks, with apple chunks)
Diamond Knotʼs Scottish (peat-smoked moss, heather tips, and oak chips)
Rock Bottomʼs Hop Bomb IPA (apricot, grapefruit, and peach)
Elliot Bayʼs Tabasco Stout (tabasco barrel aged stout)
So everyone comes and is challenged by new beers and to savor old favorites. Cask festival appeared to raise the nerd level a little more than just a craft beer festival might. Long discussions could be overheard about why chinook hops were a better bittering hop, or why this yearʼs version of the trickster IPA didnʼt compare with past years, or the oft-heard complaint that these wasnʼt enough water to cleanse the palate after each beer.
The champion - Black Raven's Wisdom Seeker
Despite these more esoteric conversations, I had a few conversations with strangers about how great Northwest beer is, how tight the craftbeer community is, how everyone looks out for each other because we all have the same enemy in the Bud/Miller/Coors giant. This was the best part of cask festival – sharing a love of beer with people and then moving beyond just that point of connection into making new friends.
Beer is a social lubrication tool and what better way to do that then to actively set up a venue where everyone can come together to share in that. Thanks Washington Beer Lovers.