In Pursuit of a Religious Experience: Washington Brewers Festival 2011

Pilgrimages take many forms yet they share one thing in common: the pursuit of a religious experience. At Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, for example, many of the faithful drop to their knees and crawl through the enormous plaza all the way into the Basilica. But then they leave upright, uplifted and full of joy; that’s their religious experience.

Mine is a little different: with mine you enter upright and full of joy but if you’re not careful you could end up leaving on your knees. I went on such a pilgrimage last weekend. To find out what it was you have to read the rest of my post…

There is no doubt in my mind that beer is a religion here in Washington and Seattle is its Mecca. OK Portland, so you have that ‘beervana’ thing going on but let’s be serious; your statewide breweries, despite their excellence, don’t come close to matching the Evergreen State.

Nowhere is this more obvious than at the ultimate homage to hops; the benediction of barley; the mass for malt; in short, the adoration of ale. I refer to the Washington Beer Commission’s annual Father’s Day Weekend beer pilgrimage, where the kegs come to Kenmore: the 2011 Washington Brewers Festival.

This year there were over 60 brewers; pouring from over 200 taps; and music, food, fun, and mayhem aplenty. Now that’s my idea of a religious experience!!!

The spouse and I spent a very enjoyable several hours sans fille sampling the dizzying choice of brews. Ah, so many choices, so few tokens was our self-limiting mantra as we passed from tent to tent. But actually it wasn’t so hard to narrow it down.

There are now over 150 breweries in Washington, of which over 40 are right here in King County. From all of my ‘research’ during my quest for Puget’s Perfect Pint these local brewers, and their brews, are already familiar to us, so we decided from the outset to pass them by.

It was very pleasing to see that of the 60+ brewers at the festival more than half were from outside the Seattle area and therefore mostly unfamiliar to us.

Furthermore, this being the northwest, IPAs were disproportionately represented, so we decided to avoid them too. We instead sought out the styles less commonly encountered in this heaven for hopheads.

These were our final selections…

  • Boundary Bay Brewery, Bellingham – IPA (NW Style IPA)
  • Boundary Bay Brewery, Bellingham  – Ginger Peach (Blonde Ale)
  • Fish Brewing, Olympia  – Leavenworth Boulder Bend (Dunkelweizen)
  • Foggy Noggin Brewing, Bothell – Bit O Beaver (English Bitter)
  • Foggy Noggin Brewing, Bothell – Christmas Duck (Porter)
  • Golden Hills Brewing, Reardan – Clem’s Gold (Märzen)
  • Hood Canal Brewery, Kingston – Big Beef Oatmeal (Stout)
  • Northern Lights Brewing, Spokane – Chocolate Dunkel (German-style Dark Ale)
  • Port Townsend Brewing, Pt Twnsnd – Peeping Peater (Oaked Scotch Ale)
  • Sound Brewery, Poulsbo – Koperen Ketel (Belgian Pale Ale)
  • Two Beers Brewing, Seattle – Panorama Wheat (Ginger & Lime Infused Hefeweizen)
  • Wingman Brewers, Tacoma – Bluebeard’s Espresso Roast (Porter)

So out of all these what did we think? For the spouse there was a clear standout; not surprisingly since she prefers stouts and porters, it was the Big Beef Oatmeal Stout. My favorite on the other hand is not so clear. I’m torn between the two Dunkels and the Belgian Pale.

And when we left, were we on our knees? No, we left as we entered: both completely upright and extremely joyful.

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