Despite the wide range of styles available to craft beer drinkers, it’s impossible to deny that the IPA is still king. In fact, just last year, the Brewer’s Association‘s annual craft sales figures showed that at least one out of every five craft beers sold in the U.S. is an IPA. Even though I try to vary the styles I drink as much as possible, I’m definitely a big IPA fan too as are most other craft beer drinkers I know.
That popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down either. In fact, it almost seems to be expanding. Even with the incredible influx of new IPAs that are constantly hitting the market these days, most manage to find their audience and sell out, making way for the next IPA(s) coming down the pipe. I say, keep ’em coming.
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.
I’m guessing that most of you don’t get down to Seattle’s South Park neighborhood very often. Then again, maybe you do. After all, back in May Loretta’s Northwesterner (quite possibly the best dive bar in all of Seattle) was honored with the title of 4th Best Burger In America from Thrillist. There are only a few breweries in the South Park area: Burdick, Lowercase and Tin Dog. Back when they all first opened the South Park bridge was still closed, making launching a brewery there a somewhat risky endeavor. Despite the challenges though, all 3 South Park breweries still exist and are doing well. You’ll even find their beers on tap at Loretta’s from time to time.
Tin Dog Brewing is situated in the Cloverdale business park, between Highway 509 and Highway 99 (W Marginal Way South). They specialize in Belgian styles so you’ll often find a Saison or two on tap, along with a Belgian Dubbel or Tripel and perhaps a Wit or White IPA.
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.
Collaboration beers have become quite popular in the craft beer World. When some of your favorite breweries team up, it’s always exciting to see what new creations they’ll come up with. This year’s 3-Way IPA from Fort George Brewery for example (brewed in collaboration with Reuben’s Brews and Great Notion Brewing), is so popular it’s been rather difficult to find this year.
As I’m sure most of you already know, Seattle Beer Week kicks off next Thursday, May 4th. Exactly one week later (but still during Seattle Beer Week, which continues until the 14th), Seattle’s premiere artisan-focused restaurant, Lark, will be hosting a gourmet beer dinner, featuring their own artisan cuisine and beers from two of Seattle’s newest and hottest breweries: Cloudburst Brewing and Holy Mountain Brewing.
This is just one of several dinners you’ll find listed on the events page for Seattle Beer Week, but this is the only one where you can enjoy Chef John Sundstrom’s gourmet offerings of locally-produced and organic cheese, charcuterie, vegetables, grains, fish, and meats, all prepared in season, as well as beers from both Cloudburst and Holy Mountain.
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, saying goodbye to an old friend can be difficult. While selecting just one beer as my favorite is a virtually impossible task, I do have a few favorites for several different craft beer styles. Firestone Walker Brewing Company‘s Double Jack double IPA, for example, is on my list of favorite IPAs (double IPAs actually). Now, it looks like I’ll have to say goodbye to Double Jack and a few of his brothers. Read on to find out why.
Part of the reason I don’t have a single favorite beer or a large number of set favorites is that new craft beers come out at such a brisk pace these days. It seems you can hardly go a week lately without discovering one or more new beers on tap each time you visit your favorite craft beer bar or even some local breweries. Sure, there are some breweries out there who come out with their set list of beers and hardly ever change or introduce something new, but that approach can seem downright boring next to the plethora of breweries who are constantly coming up with something new. After all, craft beer drinkers are explorers. Most love trying new things, so we don’t tend to fall into the same rut as those who prefer mass-produced American Lagers like Bud or Miller.
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.
For most craft beer fans, seeking out a particular beer is a simple matter of checking a few of your local craft bottle shops to see if they have any in stock. This works just fine for most beers out there. However, there are those occasional and highly sought after beers where, if you really want to get your hands on a bottle or two, you’ll want to head to the bottle release at the brewery.
Fremont Brewing Company brews several beers that are popular enough to draw a line on the day of their release. The most recent was last month’s release of The Rusty Nail – a delicious, bourbon barrel aged Oatmeal Stout. Now, Fremont is ready to release another beer that could draw a crowd: The Lamb.