Last week we published a story about Taste Washington, the premier wine festival operated by the Washington Wine Commission. We focused on how that event compared to the typical beer festival. Another week, another festival. This past weekend, having been offered media passes, we attended Hop Scotch Spring Beer and Scotch Festival (Hop Scotch) for the first time. In fact, it was our first time attending any event at this venue: Fremont Studios, which is conveniently located kitty-corner from Brouwer’s Café.
Hop Scotch is organized and operated by Bold Hat Productions, the same people that bring you Fremont Oktoberfest. The event is a benefit for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Like any Bold Hat event, Hop Scotch is well-organized and staffed by a combination of event professionals and volunteers.
The Friday night session runs from 5:00 p.m until midnight; the Saturday session from 1:00 p.m. until midnight. We arrived at the event shortly after the doors opened on Saturday. The crowd was still filtering in slowly. We were there for a few hours and watched the crowd grow steadily. My instincts tell me that this party probably hits critical mass at about 9:00 p.m.
Hop Scotch features beers poured by 28 craft breweries, along with some beer from some less-than-craft breweries. They also serve Washington boutique wines, scotch and tequila.
Day People and Night People
The afternoon atmosphere was great. It was comfortable, not over-crowded, and most of the people seemed to be keenly focused on the beer. All afternoon we marveled at the great selection of music played over the obviously well-powered sound system. As the day wore on, and the afternoon threatened to become evening, the classic rock and pop turned to club-thumpin’ dance music. The crowd became better dressed and better looking, with more hair product in use. It all made perfect sense, but it was our cue to move along. After all, we are not hip: we are one-thousand year-old beer people.
Fremont Studios is a very cool venue. It is spacious, high-tech and swanky. It makes you feel underdressed if you’re wearing a beer T-shirt and a pair of Levi’s—normal apparel for most beer festivals. You wouldn’t be underdressed, but you might feel that way.
In general this festival is pretty hip and cool. More than a beer festival, Hop Scotch is a scene. With plenty of black curtains and colored lights, it feels as much like a rave or a concert as it does a beer festival and I sensed that that is the scene they are trying to create. For this event, the swanky venue is perfect.
The main room, where you found the beer and most of the other vendors, was spacious. At one end, a large stage hosted the Scotch and tequila sampling bar. Off of the main room you could relax in the Heineken Green Room, which offered a lounge atmosphere with comfortable seating and cool-green lighting. People in the Green Room seemed to be drinking beverages poured from green bottles. No idea what that stuff was.
Opposite of the Heineken Green Room, in both location and atmosphere, you found a well-lit room with food vendors and basketball on the televisions: the SIFF Village. That end of the festival felt a bit like a sports bar.
This was not the Washington Brewers Festival or the Washington Cask Beer Festival. I do not mean to suggest there was no good beer here; I’m just saying that if you try to measure any beer festival against events like that, you’re going to come up short. There was plenty of good beer at Hop Scotch. As a craft beer junkie, I was sufficiently entertained by the beer selection.
I’d describe the beer selection as surprising. For instance, the X114 IPA from Widmer Brothers might have been my favorite of the day. Also, Sam Adams Saison was quite enjoyable and true-to-style. A number of local brewers were on hand. The Mac and Jack’s Two Tun IPA impressed. Lazy Boy poured a dry-hopped and infused IPA that was quite remarkable.
We heard quite a bit of buzz about the Lagunitas Little Sumpin Wild. On the other hand, we heard a lot of buzz about the Kona Koko Brown. “Like, oh my God, it tastes like coconuts.” Yes. It does.
I did not partake in any Scotch sampling. In addition to having tasting flights available, they also offered Scotch seminars hosted by a Whiskey Master (who was wearing a formal kilt, no less). The Scotch poured as part of the seminars was serious top-shelf stuff. Even a beer geek like me recognized that.