Hats Off to Bremerton (and to Birthday Parties)

Yesterday The Spouse and I attended the Washington Beer Commission’s inaugural Summer Brewfest in downtown Bremerton. And what a fantastic day out it turned out to be. Glorious weather, crowds of friendly beer fans and, of course, wonderful beer to taste…

Last month, at the Washington Brewers Festival (read my post), we were very impressed by the handful of West Sound brewers who crossed the water to participate. And our own travels across the Sound: to Poulsbo and to Port Townsend, where we enjoyed more samples from the same brewers, have since served to reinforce our favorable impression. So naturally, when we learned about the Summer Brewfest, that every one of the West Sound brewers had signed up to participate, we just had to go.

For Seattle area beer fans in general, and this Fueled by Beer blogger in particluar, Bremerton is a fantastic location for a Brewfest; no driving required. We took the bus from Bellevue to Seattle then rode the ferry over to Bremerton. We enjoyed a leisurely cruise on a beautiful summer day. And we were clearly not the only ones with the same idea; walk-ons, it seemed, outnumbered vehicle drivers and passengers by about 3-1.

Organized with support from the City of Bremerton, the Port of Bremerton, and Downtown Bremerton Association, three city blocks were closed to traffic and fenced in to accommodate the anticipated 2000 beer fans who would come to sample over 60 beers from 23 different breweries.

An interesting feature of the Summer Brewfest was what the organizers decided to do about food; an important consideration at an event involving mass alcohol consumption. Unlike the Brewers Festival, which included onsite food vendors, the Summer Brewfest had none. Instead, all the downtown eateries were listed in the programme, along with a map, and visitors were encouraged to enter/leave the Brewfest area as often as they liked to go out and eat or otherwise take breaks from the beer. It all worked remarkably well: I have no doubt in my mind that downtown Bremerton businesses had not experienced a boom like this in years – perhaps ever for many of them.

Bremerton Summer Brewfest

Bremerton Summer Brewfest

The Brewfest succeeded beyond organizers’ wildest dreams: crowd estimates after the event now run as high as 4000. The brewers themselves were clearly taken by surprise because when we took our dinner break at 6pm a few brewers had already run completely out of beer and shut up shop.

The Brewfest only opened at noon and was scheduled to continue until 9pm. By the time we returned from our dinner at around 7:30, with beer tokens still to use, there were only 4 or 5 brewers still pouring.

Nevertheless, by the time The Spouse and I were completely done, between us we tasted 15 different beers from 11 out of the 23 breweries in attendance. The other 12 breweries were almost all from the Seattle area; whose beers we are already more than familiar with.

So, did we declare any winners?

Well, for overall WOW! factor it has to be the Poulsbo breweries, particularly Slippery Pig. The Pouslbo beer scene has experienced explosive growth in the past year (nice background story) and right now might be producing the best beer in the state.

I mentioned Slippery Pig: their Curly Tail Pale Ale (brewed with 10 lbs of stinging nettles) and Rhubarb IPA were the two best beers we tasted all afternoon.

Honorable mention goes also to the other Poulsbo brewers Sound Brewery and Valhöll Brewing. Koperen Ketel (from Sound) is fast becoming my fave Belgian-style pale, and Valhöll’s Abbey Wit is a vastly superior version of the new Rock Bottom brew I often drink in Bellevue.

Other honorable mentions go to Bremerton’s two breweries: Silver City Brewery for their Cask Imperial IPA (best IPA on a day with way too many hop-monsters), and Der Blokken Brewery for their Black Stout (on a day almost devoid of ‘darks’).

Final conclusion: West Sound brewers take a bow; you more than hold your own against the ‘big boys’ from Seattle.

And what about birthday parties?

Talk about the perfect storm (of the good kind). The Daughter was invited to an all-day swimming party to be followed by an overnight sleepover. If not for this fantastic coincidence there is no way The Spouse and I could have gone off across the Sound together to Bremerton, to attend an age 21+ event. Thanks Kit 🙂

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