Yesterday, I attended the kickoff of the 2012 Big Wood – Wood Aged Beer Festival at Brouwer’s Cafe in Seattle. This annual festival celebrates the complexity and diversity of wood-aged beers (and a few ciders too). Die-hard wood-aged craft beer lovers, myself included, lined up early, in the rain, eagerly awaiting the start of the festival. The rain didn’t dampen our spirits though, as most were discussing their favorite wood-aged beers, or ones they were looking forward to trying at the festival.
When the doors were opened at 11:00AM, we all streamed in, took our seats and began looking over the selections for the festival. Some attendees had gone to Brouwer’s website beforehand, and had a list on hand with their selections marked. The list posted prior to the start of the festival, however, was ‘subject to change’ and there were a few very minor changes from that list to the final list handed out on the day of the festival (sorry – I don’t have the details on which beers were removed or added).
I started out strong with an Avery ‘The Beast’ Grand Cru (16.93%). It was pleasantly boozy with rich and complex dark fruit flavors and aromas, and a lingering finish. The wood qualities in this one were a bit subdued under the alcohol level heat and the intense dark fruits.
I was able to try a total of 10 different selections from the festival menu. Other than the Avery, I had:
- Big Time Old Sol Wheatwine aged in Dry Fly whiskey barrels (10%)
- Black Raven Mr. Kitty Blueberry Pale Ale aged in Dry Fly whiskey barrels and on nitro (5.5%)
- Cascade Black Cap Raspberry (6.5)
- Firestone Walker Parabola (12.5%)
- Fremont Oaked Darkstar with Hazelnuts, Peppercorns and on nitro (8%)
- Lost Abbey Framboise De Amorosa (7%)
- Ninkasi Oaked Single Hop 2011 (4.7%)
- Sound Brewery Noel aged in an unused, medium-toast barrel on the bartop (10.7)
- The Bruery Smoking Wood (13%)
My palate must have been in somewhat of a desert mood, because my favorite selections from this year’s festival included the Black Raven Mr. Kitty, which was like a boozy blueberry muffin in a glass. Serving that one on nitro was an excellent choice. I’m told it also has catnip in it! I also intensely enjoyed the Fremont Darkstar. That one was like desert in a glass with the intense flavor of hazelnuts, chocolate, wood and smoke. It was like drinking smoky, chocolate-covered hazelnuts.
One selection I was eager to try but wound up being rather disappointed with was the Sound Noel. I don’t know if it was intentional, but this selection had an aroma quite similar to movie-theater popcorn (diacetyl for you brewers out there) and a strong taste of butterscotch in the flavor.
A few other choices I enjoyed, to no surprise, included the Lost Abbey Amorosa, which was tart and delicious, as well as Smoking Wood from The Bruery, which was heavy on smoke and wood aromas and flavors, which I really enjoy.
The food menu also had just a few special items following the woody/smoky theme for the day, including:
- Appetizer: House-Smoked and fried string cheese sticks with habanero-apple jelly
- Vegetarian: Smoked mushroom, bean and quinoa chili with house-smoked white cheddar cornbread & sauteed greens
- Big Wood Special: Smoked Pork shouler, Alaskan Smoked Porter BBQ sauce, poblano cream cheese, baguette, citrus-cider slow
- Big Burger: House-ground Kobe beef, chopped bacon, smoked white cheddar, mushrooms, caramelized onions
After my first few beer selections, I opted for the Big Burger and it certainly did not disappoint. It was juicy and bacony and the caramelized onions and mushrooms, along with the white cheddar, made this a really great burger – served with Brouwer’s famous frittes.
If you weren’t able to attend the festival yesterday, fear not! It will keep going throughout the weekend. Just don’t wait too long, as the most popular selections, for obvious reasons, always disappear first. I may try to make it back down to Brouwer’s again myself on Saturday if I can, to see what selections I didn’t get to that might still be available.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.