The first-ever Washington Belgianfest is in the books. It was, simply put, awesome. A great crowd, a great venue, and tons of great Belgian-style beer made by our local brewing heroes.
The event took place at the Engine Room at Georgetown Studios, which was a perfectly lovely venue for such an event until you were faced with the inevitable need to go to the bathroom. That’s the only negative thing I could possibly say. We understand that they remedied the problem for the evening session. (Behold the glory of the Honey Bucket.) During the afternoon session the large, west-facing windows flooded the room with warm natural light, making the space a welcome departure from fluorescent-washed venues like those found at Seattle Center. The room was cozy for a crowd of 300, but it was not at all uncomfortable. Well, except for the bathroom thing.
Let’s talk about the beer. I was a bit skeptical. Not that I didn’t trust our Washington brewers to make good Belgian-style beers, I just had a few doubts. Obviously, there are brewers who have proven themselves worthy of the task, but I wondered suspiciously how a room full of Washington Belgians would shake itself out. Happily, my expectations were exceeded. Of the beers I sampled, there were a number of beers that were outstanding and only a couple that missed the mark. That’s pretty much the way it goes at any beer fest for me. It’s all subjective anyway. Surprisingly, I even found a couple of sours that I liked. I chose to avoid beers with which I am already familiar, and which I already know to be amongst my favorites.
Here are some honorable mentions:
Bold and Funky – Snipes Mountain Dark Matter (Blended Sour Red). I liked the fact that this beer was not mysteriously sour. Even a Belgian-challenged hopster like me was even able to wrap my brain around this kind of sourness. It was soured with Montmorency tart cherries and fermented in a Bordeaux barrel. Certainly funky and certainly delicious.
Most Ridonkulous – Georgetown Brewing introduced us to Donkey Deux, which they were pouring from bottles. Georgetown beer in bottles? No crap, the Donkey Deux was a delicious dubbel. As our friend Craig said, “It’s ridonkulous.”
Most Surprising – Redhook’s two offerings. The Tripel was very good, perhaps a bit too good. It was very clean, maybe too clean. It seemed to be polished. It was hard to find anything wrong with it. While it might not have been funky or ridonkulous, it was very well done. The Raspberry Dubbel was one of my favorite beers of the day. Very strong for a double (10%), and plenty of raspberry goodness going on. It was deep red and opaque. I know that I am going to suffer a lot of grief for suggesting that I actually liked a Redhook product. I know, I know. Fire away. I can take it.
Welcome to the Show – Salmon Creek Brewery in Vancouver was serving Brother Larry’s Dubbel and Big Brother Belgian IPA. This was their first appearance at a Washington Beer Commission festival, at least as far I can remember. I think? We visited the brewpub in Vancouver a couple months ago so we were already familiar with the beers. I enjoyed one of the Big Brother IPAs. It was very IPA-ish, a welcome diversion from sours, saisons, dubbels and tripels. A Belgian-style IPA, but also hop-forward and familiar. It was great to see this brewery, an award-winning brew pub, make an appearance up north.
Most Chatter – We seemed to hear a lot of people talking about the Anacortes Sour Brown. No doubt, it was good. We also heard a lot of people talking about the Big Al Watermelon Sour, which was served at the WABL anniversary party in November, so it wasn’t necessarily new, but we still heard a lot of people clambering about it.
There were many other beers that we liked. Beers that we, and most everyone else, already know to be outstanding Belgian-style beers (like Dick’s Grand Cru, Big Time’s Malaprop 8, Pike Tandem and Monk’s Uncle, and a number of others.
The Washington Beer Commission did a great job with this event. It was very well organized and very well-run. Eric Radovich, the new Exective Director, is certainly having a positive impact. The bathroom thing is the only issue I can think of. Otherwise, a great event. Thank God for Honey Bucket coming in to save the day for the second session. Honey Bucket really lived up to their motto – “We’re ready to go when you are.” If that is not their motto, it should be.