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.
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.
Craft beer has been growing in popularity for years. Bit by bit, many beer drinkers across the nation and the World are slowly abandoning bland, tasteless, corporate-controlled, mass-produced lagers like Bud and Miller and are welcoming all the varying styles of craft beer to their palates instead. It’s helped the number of craft breweries in the U.S. reach an all time high (as of December 2015, there are 4144 breweries in the U.S. according to the Brewer’s Association), while sales of mass-produced lagers continue to decline.
While this is a great thing, to be sure, it seems that a number of the newer craft beer ‘converts’ out there don’t stray too far away from IPAs, Pale Ales and a few other styles like Red/Amber Ale, and a few Stouts or Porters. If you fall into this category, it may be time for you to expand your horizons even further and start looking at the wonderful and varied Belgian styles of beer available from local breweries.
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.
“Beer in Belgium dates back to the age of the first crusades, long before Belgium became an independent country. Under Catholic church permission, local French and Flemish abbeys brewed and distributed beer as a fund raising method. The relatively low-alcohol beer of that time was preferred as a sanitary option to available drinking water. What are now traditional, artisanal brewing methods evolved, under abbey supervision, during the next seven centuries. The Trappist monasteries that now brew beer in Belgium were occupied in the late 18th century primarily by monks fleeing the French Revolution. However, the first Trappist brewery in Belgium (Westmalle) did not start operation until 10 December 1836, almost 50 years after the Revolution. That beer was exclusively for the monks and is described as “dark and sweet.” The first recorded sale of beer (a brown beer) was on 1 June 1861.” (*Source)
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.
Pour, Pour, Pour – The Beers
(Sung to the tune of Turn, Turn, Turn by The Byrds)
♫ To everything – pour, pour, pour
There is a season – pour, pour, pour
And a time for every craft beer under heaven ♫
Right now it’s Winter beer season. And I couldn’t be happier with this year’s lineup of great Winter beers. There is just so much wonderfully dark, rich, woody, bourbony, delicious goodness out there with the likes of Hoppy Holidays & Hoppy The Woodsman (Schooner Exact Brewing), Winter Bock (Silver City Brewing), Creepy Monkey Bourbon Barrel-Aged Brown (North Sound Brewing), The Abyss (Deschutes Brewing), Bindlestiff (Naked City Brewing), Jolly Roger Christmas Ale (Maritime Pacific Brewing), Bifrost Ale (Elysian Brewing), Bourbon Barrel Abominable Ale (Fremont Brewing) and many, many more. For anyone who is a fan of these darker, often barrel-aged, complex and delicious Winter delights, this is a great time of year to be a beer drinker.