Read the entire story to see all the pictures (great new photos just added 12/10).
One big advantage of joining WABL (Washington Beer Lovers) is that your membership includes an invitation to the “WABL Happy Hour” whenever there is a beer festival. For the general public, the Winter Beer Festival opened at 1:00 PM on Saturday. For WABL members, it opened at noon.
While big crowds are part of the fun at such festivals, they sometimes get between you and the beer that you came to enjoy. During the WABL Happy Hour it is not only easier to navigate from one beer to the next, but it is much easier to ask questions about the beer and meet the people responsible for the beer.
During the happy hour, we were able to stroll comfortably from booth to booth chatting up brewers before the throngs of humanity descended upon the Hales Palladium. By 2:00 it was just about full. By 3:00, the event was at capacity and there was a line of thirst people outside the door. When four leave, they allow four more to enter
A few highlights: Chuckanut Brewery was there serving their Strong Ale and their Schwarz Bier. This marks the return of Will and Mari Kemper to the beer festival scene. Back in the 1980s, the Kempers played a key role in the establishment of a craft beer scene here in Washington and only recently have returned to open the Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen in Bellingham. (We will publish a profile soon so you can learn the whole story.) We were glad to see Mari at this year’s Winter Beer Fest pouring beers for the crowd, even if the vast majority of the people did not recognize the significance of her presence.
Gilligan’s Brewing Company was serving their Imperial Chamomile Ale. Never heard of Gilligan’s? Neither had we, so don’t feel bad. This was their first time out at a festival. They are one of Seattle’s “nano brewers,” making very small batches of beer out of an ActiveSpace spot in Fremont. We hope to see more of them in the future.
Northern Lights was there pouring their Winter Ale and their Pale Ale. They deserve an award for travelling the farthest to be at the event. Northern Lights hails from Spokane. Read our profile of Northern Lights.
There were more than 30 breweries represented. Most were serving at least two different beers. You do the math. I did not sample them all, but if I had to choose a favorite, I would probably say that I particularly enjoyed the Red Velvet Porter from Lazy Boy Brewing (Everett, WA). I do not normally go in for “fruited” beers, but this one had just the tiniest hint of cherry. The fruit seemed to add life to the beer as a whole. I often find that fruited beers are overwhelmed by the fruit to the point that you can barely recognize that you’re drinking beer.
We learned, from a very proud Matt McClung (head brewer at Schooner Exact Brewing), that his Hoppy the Woodsman was one of the top “sellers” at the Friday night session. Read our post about that beer. The other crowd favorite on Friday night was the Bourbon Vanilla Nitro Porter from Northgate’s Ram Brewery. Sadly, that beer was so popular on Friday that there wasn’t any left for the Saturday session.
The Chocolate Box –a Seattle chocolate retail shop—was there offering samples and pairing suggestions. It was big hit with the ladies, that’s for sure. I sampled a few chocolates and, although I’m not the biggest chocolate lover in the world, I did find one that paired very nicely with Laughing Buddha’s Purple Yam Porter. Single men would have been wise to camp out near the Chocolate Box booth. There were many smiling women with chocolate-smeared faces milling around that booth.
In all, this was a great event. Lisa, Arlen and the rest of the crew at the Washington Brewers Guild/Washington Beer Commission just keep getting better at organizing these events. The size of the thirsty horde that showed up at the Winter Beer Festival is proof.
Here are some more pictures that were submitted by Russ (thank you Russ!)