I recently attended the 9th annual Belgian Fest at Seattle Center. I’m a big fan of well-made Belgian style beers and Belgian Fest offers some of the very best Belgian beers made by breweries in Washington State. This year’s event featured well over 40+ Washington breweries, each pouring their very best Belgian Ales.
With so many breweries pouring so many different Belgian Ales, you’d think there would be no reason to go back for a 2nd sample of anything, in the interests of trying as many different beers as possible. You’d be right to think this way but that’s now how things always work out. The goal of trying every single beer offered at a festival is noble but usually unrealistic. Believe me. I’ve tried. These days, if I find a beer at a festival that I truly enjoy, I’ll definitely go back for more.
Hellbent Brewing Company is one of those Seattle breweries that I just don’t get to visit as often as I’d like. My unusual work hours, combined with the fact that I live in the South end, mean that I don’t get to visit many North end breweries that often. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy their beers and will enjoy a few pints whenever I find beers on tap from breweries I don’t get to enough.
Between next Wednesday, January 17th and the beginning of February, Hellbent Brewing Company is set to release two beers and their first ever 16 oz cans. First us is a returning favorite: Big Island Toasted Coconut Stout. This beer was largely inspired by the fact that one of Hellbent’s owners, Randy Embernate, is from the big Island of Hawaii. Also on the way is their Sparrowhawk Belgian Blond and their House IPA and Dang! Citra IPA in 16 oz cans.
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.
Pike Brewing Company is more than just a brewery. They also care deeply about beer heritage and about bringing as many different styles of beers as possible to market. Long before Pike Brewing existed, owners Charles and Rose Ann Finkel were the founders of Merchant Du Vin back in 1978 and today they are the World’s largest craft beer importer.
Today, Pike is still focused on making different styles of craft beer more accessible to everyone and, to that end, they have announced that their extremely popular, multi award-winning Belgian Tripel, Monk’s Uncle, is now available in 12 oz cans.
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.
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.
There are several different style of Belgian beers out there: Belgian Pale Ales, Witbiers, Saisons, Lambics, Gueuzes, Blondes, etc. I enjoy them all, especially the stronger varieties like Golden Strong Ale, Dark Strong Ale, Belgian Dubbels and Belgian Tripels.
Black Raven Brewing Company (CBM Sponsor) appreciates a good Belgian as well and have produced several over the years including: Diamond Tail Northwest Imperial Wit, Feral Hybrid Saison, Jackdaw Pumpkin Dark Saison, La Petite Mort (and it’s cousins, La Mort Bourbon and La Mort Rouge), Pour Les Oiseaux Wine Barrel Aged Saison, Raven de Garde Strong Pale and more.
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.
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.