Seattle International Beerfest kicks off tomorrow

The Seattle International Beerfest (SIB) kicks off Friday afternoon at Seattle Center and runs through Sunday. For many local beer lovers, this is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. There are too many great beers to count and I won’t even try to create a “must drink” list. Instead, I’ll give you the lay of the land in case you have not been to this festival. Consider these tips.

The list is huge. You’ll need a strategy. Recognize that some beers cost more than others. These are usually rare beers that, in some cases at least, you will never see again. For the serious beer geek, that is the single-most attractive thing about this event. Determine which of the more expensive beers you really want. Get the good stuff early before your palate and judgment is impaired.

Don’t forget to drink local. There is a lot of international beer on the list, but show some love to our local breweries.

Make sure you get what you ask for. Do your own research. Volunteers staff this event. They are working in exchange for free tickets, so don’t expect all of them to be experts. Last year, I watched a guy spend a ticket on a Laurelwood Workhorse because he was told it was a golden-blond ale. Yes, it is gold in color but in reality Workhorse is a pretty brutal IPA. I saw the person winch upon tasting the beer so I explained the mistake. He said, “I don’t even like IPA. I thought this was a blond.”

I don’t mean that to be a knock on the festival. Just a warning. Unlike some other festivals, beer experts that are well-versed in what they are pouring do not staff this event. At least, not necessarily. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. As I explained, you might have to do your own research on the beers. On the other hand, because the breweries are not staffing this event, you don’t have to wait in line while some over-zealous, hero-worshiping homebrewer goes on and on telling Dick Cantwell about the awesome Oatmeal Stout he made last winter.

If you order an IPA and it tastes like a Rauchbier, and the server indignantly insists that they poured you the right beer, talk to whoever is in charge of that particular tent. There’s a lot of beer back there and things can happen – lines can get crossed-up. Do not accept, “That’s just the way it tastes” as an answer. It happened to us last year and the event organizers where very happy that we brought it to their attention.

If you read this blog and you’re going to SIB, you likely will be one of the more knowledgeable beer drinkers at the event. Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of beer geeks go to this festival, but so do a lot of other people. I consider this a gateway beerfest. Compared to some other festivals, there is a high quotient of people there simply to party. While they appreciate the beer on some level, many people hit SIB simply because it’s a big festival with beer. For some of these people, it has probably only been a couple of years since they traded in the beer bong for a Widmer Hefeweizen. Be patient. Don’t judge. Just enjoy the scenery and the beer.

And most importantly, wear sunscreen; it’s supposed to be nice this weekend. Stay hydrated. Enjoy the festival and have fun.

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  1. Another warning: some of the beers are rotating “rare” beers this year. So if you see something on the list, for example, one of the Cantillon’s, they’re only pouring it at a certain time on a certain day. Basically, luck of the draw.

  2. Chuckanut will be pouring our Rauch beer which is pretty rare. We only let it out to very, very limited accounts and our own Kitchen. So if you get the chance to compare it with other German Rauch’s it could be fun!

  3. I love me a good beer fest. Alas, I’m in Brooklyn, NY, and will be drinking at a crowded bar instead. I could do worse 🙂 Glad I came across this though.

  4. Get it together… Today I was very disappointed about the lack of organization and the amount of people allowed in the festival at one time. When my group and I arrived around 1 it was the “perfect” place to be until around 3:30 when the lines began to take up to 30 minutes and people were bumping shoulder to shoulder. If this is how this festival is going to continue to be organized I would strongly recommend to everyone NOT TO ATTEND!!!

  5. The event on sat. July 2nd was nothing short of a totally uncontrolled disaster. When we finally got in after a VERY long line and paid the 25.00. What we got was wall to wall, shoulder to shoulder people struggling to get in countless lines to attempt to get beer. There were only 3 food vendors that were running out of food items as early as 3:00 PM and not many menu selections.The event promoters kept people pouring through the gates and by 3:00 it hard to walk anywhere, let alone try and get a beer. The blazing sun made the heat very uncomfortable and there was very little areas to sit in the shade. The people sitting on blankets and the people with dogs made it impossible to walk around the event and after a couple hours, it was all i could stand, leaving with beer tickets in my pocket. Some vendors were of course running out of beer and some favorites were hard to get in line for, very unorganized. The amount of people the event promoters packed in such a small area was unbelievable, SAVE YOUR MONEY AND DO NOT GO. It was a waste of precious holiday time on such a beautiful day.The Seattle center is a big park, the event was closed off to a small area around the Mural Ampitheatre stage, not enough room. I have been to other events and this was very poorly planned. The event staff and promoters packed in too many people and it was by far, the worst brewfest I have seen. I seriously doubt I will attend another event like this.

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