What a year it’s been. We’ve had to deal with political madness, various ongoing marches and protests across the nation, mask mandates and lockdowns that have hurt and even destroyed so many businesses and forced so many onto unemployment, sports teams playing without any fans in the stands, and more. Thank God for beer, right? It provides at least a bit of joy in these dark and uncertain times.
As I’m sure most of you know, during this latest lockdown, I encourage all of my readers to do their part in supporting our local craft breweries, craft bottle shops and craft beer bars (at least those who are able to still serve right now because they have outdoor seating). They need our help to survive and we want them to still be around when things finally get back to normal – or whatever the new normal will be. Just be sure to always wear your mask and practice proper social distancing when picking up your beverages from your favorite places.
As I get a bit older (Nooo!), I’m not as much of a fan of Winter as I used to be, but I am indeed a fan of several of the craft beer festivals that come around in the Winter months. Just last month was the Big Wood Fest at Brouwer’s Cafe and, of course, the IPA Cask-O-Rama at Beveridge Place Pub. Also coming up next month is the 16th Annual Hard Liver Barleywine Festival at Brouwer’s and the Hop Mob Triple IPA Roadshow – coming to multiple locations. I’ll provide more info on those events as they draw closer.
Before indulging in all those barleywines and triple IPAs, however, how about a quick trip to Belgium? I’d love to take a real trip to Belgium but, for now, I’ll settle for attending the 9th Annual Belgian Fest, which is coming to Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion on Saturday, January 27th. Presented by the Washington Beer Commission.
Are you a homebrewer? Even if you aren’t, but you are a craft beer fan, I’m willing to bet you know at least a few people who are homebrewers. I myself first started homebrewing well over 20 years ago (but I’m between systems right now, which is killing me!) and back then, just like today, many homebrewers started out by trying to recreate some of their favorite craft beers at home.
Back in my early days, when craft breweries were few and far between, the holy grail for many homebrewers was to successfully reproduce or ‘clone’ beers like Sierra Nevada Brewing‘s Pale Ale. If you could do that as a homebrewer back in the early 90’s, then you really knew your stuff. The challenge was that you pretty much had to come up with the recipe on your own. The homebrewing community was much smaller, there were few helpful recipe guides and there was no brewing software like BeerSmith or Brewtarget to help you out.
Each year, the Washington Beer Commission puts on several different festivals to celebrate the diversity and excellence of Washington craft beer. These festivals are a great way to discover new Washington breweries and to explore different craft styles that you may not be as familiar with.
It may still be a full month away, but tickets are already on sale for one of my favorite Washington Beer Commission hosted festivals: Belgian Fest 2017. Set for 2 sessions on Saturday, January 28th, Belgian Fest 2017 will feature well over 100 different Belgian style beers from over 40 different Washington State breweries. Featured beer styles include Tripels, Dubbels, Saisons, Wits, Abbeys and Lambics. In keeping with this unique style, all of the beers are brewed with Belgian yeast.
Sometimes, which breweries you tend to frequent will depend as much on location as it does on beer quality. This is one of the reasons I don’t get to a few of my favorite Seattle breweries as often as I’d like to. I work somewhat odd hours and live in the South end. So visiting any Seattle breweries that are farther North in the city requires a bit of effort on my part, largely due to our craptacular traffic.
One of Seattle’s North end breweries that I don’t visit nearly as often as I’d like to is Naked City Brewery & Taphouse in Greenwood. Owner and head brewer, Don Webb, really enjoys his work, and it shows in the quality of beers Naked City continually puts out. I’m particularly fond of The Big Lebrewski, their award-winning White Russian Imperial Stout.
Whenever I’m asked what my favorite beer is, I don’t really have a good answer. Sure, I’m a Hophead (and s Stouthead, and a Sourhead) but I really enjoy all styles of beer. So selecting just one favorite from the vast ocean of choices out there is a rather daunting, if not impossible task. My ‘favorite’ beer is the freshly poured one in front of me, which I’m enjoying at this very moment. Beyond that, I really don’t think declaring a favorite matters much.
That doesn’t mean I don’t prefer certain styles over others. In general, I’m much more of an Ale drinker than a Lager drinker. That can probably be said for most craft beer fans too, since the vast majority of craft beers out there are Ales (though there are some very fine craft Lagers out there too). I’m starting to wonder if that attitude isn’t becoming more prevalent across the nation as well, as evidence by Budweiser’s falling sales and craft beer, for the first time ever, reaching double digits in market share.
There’s never a shortage of craft beer festivals here in great Northwest. The Washington Beer Commission hosts several different craft beer festivals throughout the year in various locations around the Sound and one of my favorites, Belgianfest, is right around the corner. I love a good Belgian beer, but often don’t seem to get enough of them. Dubbles, Triples, Abbey Style, Saisons, Lambics, etc., I love them all and Belgianfest is a great way to sample a wide variety of locally-brewed Belgian style beers all in one place.
Set for next Saturday, January 31st at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center (Pier 66), Belgianfest will be held in two sessions: noon – 4 PM and 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM. Tickets will run you $35 in advance or $40 at the door – separate tickets are required for each session. I don’t suggest taking your chances with buying your tickets at the door, however, since Belgianfest usually sells out before the doors open. Tickets have been on sale since mid November, but the festival isn’t sold out quite yet. Don’t delay.