The Week in Beer

A big week for beer, lots of tastings and the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival.

Before I get to the Craft Beer Fest, a few tasting notes from the week that was;

A couple of weeks back, while making a quick trip to Blaine, WA to check my PO Box and pick up illicit packages, I popped into the Chevron station to get gas. I made a quick peruse of the cold case to see if there were any interesting beers. To my surprise they had a 6-Pack of Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. Not having had the chance to try this golden elixir previously, I quickly slapped down my $8 and went on my merry way. Kellerweis is one of the only American Hefeweizens made using the traditional Bavarian style of open fermentation. Though classified as a Summer beer, it’s been warm enough here in Vancouver into September to make this a good Autumn beer as well. Hazy golden color, as a hefeweizen should be, with wonderful aromas of clove, bananas and pear. Definitely one of the better wheat beers I have had this year.

Next on the list was Jah*Va Imperial Coffee Stout from Southern Tier. Weighing in at a whopping 12% ABV, this is beer not for the faint of heart (or constitution for that matter). Brewed with Cascade and Columbus hops, along with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, this stout pours rich and black as night. My initial reaction was that it tasted a bit burnt, but I realized that it was still a bit cool from the fridge, and I let it warm to near room temp before my second taste. What a difference! Big coffee and chocolate notes, accompanied by a whisper of warming alcohol. This beer is very smooth and very deceptive, as it doesn’t taste like a 12% beer. Another excellent offering from the Blackwater Series of Stouts.

For my next tasting, I went back in time a bit, as I had not had much Bear Republic in a while. Courtesy of Norm Eng at Beer Thirst, I delved into a Hop Rod Rye and Red Rocket Ale. I had forgotten how good the Hop Rod Rye is! It’s basically an Imperial IPA with 20% rye malt added to the grist. A bit darker than a typical IPA, it explodes with hop flavor and aroma. It finishes a bit on the sweet side, which is a nice balance to the hops. The Red Rocket is an American Red Ale, with lots of malt character to balance the Centennial and Cascade hops. At 6.8% ABV, it’s definitely not a session beer, but it’s so damn smooth you want it to be!

Red Chair IPA from Deschutes Brewing is up next. This is one of my favorite IPA’s right now, very well balanced with a big hop presence. Copper/amber in color, the pine and citrus notes come through on the nose and palate and the malt backs it up to achieve an extremely quaffable IPA. It paired perfectly with my homemade green chile and chicken enchiladas.

Final home tasting is a beer I have been seeking out for a while, BrewDog Punk IPA and it was right in my backyard at Brewery Creek. I guess I can use the excuse that I don’t get downtown very often, but you probably don’t want to hear it! Punk IPA uses one of my all-time favorite hops, Nelson Sauvin, from New Zealand along with Maris Otter Pale Malt, with Northwest hops Ahtanum and Chinook for good measure. BrewDog bills it as a “post modern classic pale ale” and a a “trans-atlantic fusion IPA”. Yeah, that about covers it! You get lots of citrus and pine notes from the NW hops and the Nelson gives it a hint of a tropical flavor. A very nice IPA and fairly priced at Brewery Creek. (Also available at Viti Wines and Lagers)

And now, the story you’ve been waiting for…

The First Annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival!

We packed up the minivan and headed out way too early on a Saturday; Myself, Daniel Knibbs from Dead Frog, Chester Carey the beer and BBQ guru from Brewery Creek and beyond and Chris from (Sorry Chris, if I try to type your last name my spell check would explode!). The rest of the crew had never been to Haggen Market, so our first stop was a mini beer run in Ferndale. My first visit to the Ferndale store and I was not disappointed! Terrific craft selection including BrewDog, Stone, Deschutes and more. After a fair amount of time wavering about what we should grab, we all loaded up 4-6 bottles each and made our way back to the van.

Next stop Seattle!

Before we could make our way to the festival, we were forced to make a stop at 99 Bottles, one of the premier beer stores in the entire Northwest. I had previously made a phone order with Tiffany, one of the wonderful owners, so I could procure the last 7 bottles of Stone Juxtaposition Pilsner, a collaboration between Stone, BrewDog and Cambridge Brewing. (Expect a separate post on this amazing beer!) Daniel, Chester and Chris were like kids in a candy store. Daniel and I went shelf by shelf; had that, had that, ooh haven’t had that, got that at home, had that…ad infinitum.

So many choices!

I focused on wet hop/fresh hop beers, as I am a HUGE fan of the style. Wet hops have a higher moisture content than dried hops (duh!), and impart more of the grassy and piney flavors without the astringent bitterness you get from some beers. Since they are available for such a short time, I always try to load up on bottles and get as much on tap as I can handle. Deschutes Hop Trip (which is the beer I’m drinking while writing this post), Rogue Chateau Rogue, the Sierra Nevada Harvest series (Chico Estate, Southern Hemisphere, 13th Harvest, formerly known as Yakima Harvest), along with some seasonal releases like Jubelale from Deschutes. After loading up on way too much beer, we knew we needed to load up on carbs before heading to the fest. Luckily for us, Jimmie Mac’s Roadhouse was just a few short steps across the parking lot from 99 Bottles. We slaked our thirst with the Armadillo Amber Ale (a house beer made by Hales Ales) and chowed down on prime rib sandwiches (a great deal for $9!). With that we were ready to finally make our way to the fest.

After finding parking what seemed like miles away from the fest, we made our way into the First Annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival. The initial crowd out front seemed a bit light, probably owing to the fact that the fest ran until 9 PM, and the party crowd would show up later (and it did!).

First stop was one of our favorite beers of the day, Schooner Exact Brewing’s 3 Grid IPA, a 77 IBU hop bomb brewed with Chinook, Columbus, Cascade and Amarillo hops, served on cask with an additional dose of Cascade in the cask! Being CAMRA members, we were all excited to see the first booth pouring cask beer. Alas, they were the only brewery pouring a cask conditioned beer. Hoppy, tart, yet extremely well balanced.

In no particular order we sampled beer from Iron Horse, 21st Amendment, Stone, Two Beers Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Diamond Knot, Big Al to name a few. Shortly thereafter we tweeted up with the famous/infamous SudsyMaggie. This girl is a hoot! She qualifies as an e-quaintance, as we met through Twitter, and have tweeted/chatted back and forth about beer for 6 months and this was our first face to face meeting. Who says you can’t meet good people online?

Big standouts for me on the day were the Cherry Stout from Walking Man Brewing, the Jubelale from Deschutes, and the German Pilsner from GABF Small Brewpub of the Year, Chuckanut Brewing of Bellingham, WA.

My personal faves for were the Union Jack IPA from Firestone Walker (back to back Gold Medal winner in the American IPA category at GABF!), and Ommegang Rouge Grand Cru, a Flanders Red sour beer. I’ve had pretty much every beer from Ommegang, I’ve even taken the tour, but this was my first taste of the Grand Cru Rouge and it was freaking awesome!

I was excited to see that several breweries brought fresh hop beers to the fest. Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere, Deschutes Hop Trip, a Fresh Hop Ale from Big Al, another from Two Beers Brewing and Lupulin Fresh Hop Ale from Full Sail. My personal favorite is the Hop Trip, followed VERY closely by the Sierra Nevada and the Full Sail.

None of us could believe that this was a first time festival. Everything was well done, very well organized and I can’t wait for the 2nd annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival!

That’s all that I am legally allowed to comment on, so if you want to here more about our adventures click here


Andy the Beerman