It took me quite a while to get into Belgian beers. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them – more that I just didn’t know them. I was so accustomed to drinking regular, American ale styles like Pale Ale, IPA, Brown Ale, Stout, etc. that I wasn’t accustomed to leaving my regular comfort zone with my beer choices.
Sometime in the last decade or so, however, I realized this limitation and forced myself to start branching out and start drinking a wider variety of beer styles, including Belgians; and I’m so glad I did. Now, Belgian beers are some of my favorites to enjoy. There are a wide variety of Belgian styles to choose from as well, with a wide range of flavors and aromas from musty, hay-like farmhouse ales, to the citrus, clove or bubblegummy aromas and flavors in many Saisons, Belgian Pales or Belgian Golden ales and more.
The qualities imparted to these beers by the various Belgian yeasts used are distinctive and unique. The full range of Belgian beer styles includes: Witbeir, Belgian Pale Ale, Saison, Biere de Garde, Belgian ‘Specialty Ale’, Belgian Blond Ale, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Tripel, Belgian Golden Strong and Belgian Dark Strong. Also, sometimes included at Belgian beer festivals (though, strictly speaking, not Belgian beers – they are sours) are: Berliner Weisse, Flanders Red Ale, Flanders Brown Ale, Lambic and Gueuze. With such a wide variety, most everyone should be able to find at least one Belgian style beer they’ll enjoy.
Several local breweries have fully embraced many of these Belgian styles and do a great job of producing some truly delicious Belgian ales. Belgianfest is designed to showcase the best Belgian beers local breweries have to offer. According to the Washington Beer Commission:
Belgianfest highlights the fascinating beer culture of Belgium by showcasing 60+ Belgian-style beers crafted by Washington breweries. Featured beer styles include Tripels, Dubbles, Saisons, Wits, Abbeys and Lambics. All of the beers will be brewed with Belgian yeast.
This year’s Belgianfest takes place on Saturday, February 2nd at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center (Pier 66) in two sessions:
Session 1: 12:00-4:00 pm
Session 2: 5:30-9:30 pm
A few of my favorites from last year’s Belgianfest included:
Bourbon Barrel Aged La Petite Mort – Black Raven
This one was the star of the 2012 festival. Even if it doesn’t garner the highest praise of all the offerings there, its popularity speaks for itself. The line for this one went halfway across the festival hall!
Hale’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Gold
I’m a sucker for anything bourbon-barrel aged, so I had to give this one a go. The extended oak aging (it was aged in oak for “most of 2011”), was pleasantly apparent in the flavor and aroma. Combine that oak/whiskey flavor with a wonderful Belgian yeast, and this one was a pleasure to drink; another one of my favorites of the day.
Abbaye de Schooner Dubbel – Schooner Exact
I’ve really come to appreciate Abbey style Belgian Ales more and this offering from Schooner Exact didn’t disappoint. It had a complex malt character with toasty caramel malt tones and subtle hoppiness with a good Belgian yeast flavor. I hope it makes another appearance this year.
The list for this year’s festival has not been released yet, but be sure to check back. I’ll update this post with the full taplist for Belgianfest 2013 when it becomes available. Tickets for Belgianfest 2013 can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets and cost $35 per person per session ($37.22 including service fee) or $40 at the door. Each ticket includes a souvineer tasting glass and 10 taster tickets. All pours are 4.5oz. A seperate ticket is required for each session. I’ll see you at Pier 66 on February 2nd.
UPDATE. The list of participating brewers for this year’s festival has been announced. The breweries that will be at this year’s Belgianfest include:
- American Brewing, Edmonds
- Anacortes Brewery, Anacortes
- Big Al Brewing, Seattle
- Big Time Brewery, Seattle
- Black Raven Brewing, Redmond
- Boundary Bay Brewery, Bellingham
- Diamond Knot Brewing, Mukilteo
- Dicks Brewing, Centralia
- Duvall Springs Brewing, Duvall
- Elliott Bay Brewing, Seattle/Burien
- Elysian Brewing, Seattle
- Engine House #9, Tacoma
- Flyers Brewery, Oak Harbor
- Fremont Brewing, Seattle
- Georgetown Brewing, Seattle
- Hale’s Ales, Seattle
- Hilliard’s Beer, Seattle
- Issaquah Brewhouse, Issaquah
- Justice Brewing, Everrett
- Lazy Boy Brewing, Everett
- McMenamins, Seattle
- Naked City Brewery, Seattle
- Paradise Creek Brewery, Pullman
- Pike Brewery, Seattle
- Ram Brewery, Seattle
- Ramblin’ Road Brewery, Spokane
- Redhook Brewery, Woodinville
- Reuben’s Brews, Seattle
- Silver City Brewery, Silverdale
- Snipes Mountain Brewing, Sunnyside
- Snoqualmie Falls Brewing, Snoqualmie
- Sound Brewery, Poulsbo
- Wingman Brewers, Tacoma
- Yakima Craft Brewing, Yakima
The full beer list for the festival has been released. You can find it here:
I’ll see you at Pier 66 on the 2nd.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.