As a Father’s Day gift this year, I decided to take my dad to the Washington Brewers Festival (Friday night only) to go and try some different offerings from our neighbors in the South. I have tried a lot of Washington beers and been to different festivals here before and they always seem to be pretty good, plus this particular night advertised a lot of exclusive beers, many barrel aged, and over 300 beers to choose from overall (see the list here). Given that we only had the one night, which was about 5 hours of tasting, we decided both divide and conquer by splitting our 5 oz samplers at the halfway point and basically go barrel and cask hunting almost exclusively sampling the barrel and cask offerings of the night.
My overall impression: I have to admit, this festival was awesome and totally blew my expectations for it which were already high. In fact there were so many good beers there, I had a heck of a time identifying the best one. The most memorable flavour was NO-LI Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout infused with chocolate and coffee as well as a Tafelbier by Naked City which at 3.5% stood up to many 10% monsters, the best named beer was Zombie Jesus Imperial Porter by Charging Hippo Brewing, and I would say the best overall brewery was Iron Goat who had 4 barrel offerings including a wicked off season Pumpkin Ale aged in whiskey barrels aptly named Punkid. The other highlight was the lack of lines anywhere, with all the beers they were offering, plus some rain threatening weather, lineups were basically non-existent. I’ll be returning next year and likely subsequent years whenever I can.
Number of beers: over 300, this is an all weekend event so if you do the entire thing you may get through a third to half if you have an iron stomach.
Cost of the event and value for money: $20 for entry (includes 6 tickets and taster glass) and extra tokens were 4 for $5 ($1.25 for a 5 oz pour). I say very high, especially for Friday with all of the exclusive offerings, well priced tokens too. We also of course had to pay for a hotel and travel, but that just goes with the trip no matter what. Staying at the nearby Marriott with the festival pricing was reasonable and about a 20 min walk away from the festival.
Best in show: Iron Goat Brewing in Spokane, all barrel offerings (brewers at the show who were happy to chat and talk about their creations). They just celebrated their second year, look for them to make an impression on the market!
Highlights of the event: as previously mentioned, no lines, cheap tokens with 5 oz pours, lots to choose from and some special offerings for Friday night guests were a huge hit. I also though they had adequate food offerings (at least 10 food trucks) and people handing out free chips, snacks and reasonably priced full bags of Maui Sweet Onion Chips. They also had special mini donuts, ice cream vendors and other great stuff all reasonably priced – no rip off pricing here. The crowd was also great, lots of friendly people willing to chat no douche bags to be seen and some free swag to be had as well. The location was a large park connected to Sammanish River Trail which is both a bike and walking friendly trail that connects to larger trail routes in Washington. Oh yeah, did I mention they had over 300 beers pouring there?
Biggest disappointments – not really, I mean they did start about 5 minutes late…that’s all I got to be honest! They had last call as advertised at 9:15 so nothing to complain about there, plus is was getting dark so people were happy to pack it in at that point.
Photos of the event: