Seattle Belgian Fest 2012

Last weekend The Spouse and I had the very great pleasure of being among the advance ticket holders who managed to completely sell-out both sessions of the 3rd annual Belgian Fest the day before the event opened. And what a blast we all had…

Belgian Fest is one of six beer festivals presented each year by the Washington Beer Commission. According to their promotional blurb…

“Belgianfest will highlight the fascinating beer culture of Belgium by showcasing 60+ Belgian-style beers crafted by Washington breweries. Featured beer styles include Tripels, Dubbels, Saisons, Wits, Abbeys and Lambics. All of the beers will be brewed with Belgian yeast.”

As it turned out, at Belgian Fest 2012, just as we experienced at last year’s Bremerton Summer Brewfest and at the WA Brewer’s Fest, the Beer Commission hit another home run. For Belgian Fest 2012, a total of 31 breweries showed up and between them they poured roughly 80 beers to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd.

Of course, when so many brewers and beer fans all come together at one time and place, with such diversity of beer comes difficulty of choice. The Spouse and I therefore usually arrive with a strategy to narrow down the field.

Belgian Fest was no exception: since my favorite beer among Belgian styles is usually Dubbel I decided to focus on those; The Spouse, whose usual preference in the Anglo-beer world is for Stouts and Porters, was well represented by the darker Belgian styles, so those were her focus.

We both dabbled a bit with some Saison and Wit, but we decided to pass on the Golden Ales, the Tripels, and the sours such as Krieks and Lambics. What can I say: sometimes you have to make the tough decisions. And even then, we were still faced with a daunting number of choices.

There are some things you can’t help noticing at these Washington Beer events: not only how richly endowed this state is with craft breweries, but how well educated are its beer consumers. This sets the bar (pun intended) extremely high for the brewers, and with very few exceptions they all seem to excel at the challenge.

If you’d like to see the entire Belgian Fest 2012 beer list click here. Here’s what we ended up tasting. Our personal favorites are denoted by smiley faces…

Mr Fueled by Beer

  • Black Raven Brewing – La Petite Mort – Belgian-style strong abbey brown ale aged in bourbon barrels. 8.8% ABV πŸ™‚
  • Elliott Bay Brewing – Fuerte – Belgian-style barley wine aged in Kentucky brandy barrels. 9% ABV πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
  • Elysian Brewing – Bete Noel – Belgian-style strong dark ale. 8.5% ABV
  • Engine House #9 Brewery – Bourbon Saison – Belgian-style farmhouse ale aged in bourbon barrels. 7.8% ABV
  • Georgetown Brewing – Donkey Deux – Belgian-style dubbel conditioned for over a year. 7.5% ABV
  • Hales Ales – Hale’s “25” – Belgian-style dubbel. 7.3% ABV
  • McMenamin’s Queen Anne – Reinhold’s Flying Armadillo – Belgian-style strong dark ale. 9.7% ABV
  • Schooner Exact Brewing – Abbaye de Schooner – Belgian-style abbey dubbel. 6.9% ABV
  • Silver City Brewery – La Fat 2007 – Belgian-style scotch ale with secondary fermentation on French Oak. 9.2% ABV πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
  • Sound Brewery – Dubbel Entendre – Belgian-style abbey dubbel. 8% ABV

Mrs Fueled by Beer

  • Anacortes Brewery – Peppercorn Saison – Belgian-style farmhouse ale made with cracked peppercorn. 4.5% ABV
  • Big Time Brewery – Black Jack Candy – Belgian-style strong pale ale with Blackberry puree added. 9.3% ABV
  • Elliott Bay Brewing – Long Black Veil – Belgian-style dry stout fermented with Belgian yeast. 6.3% ABV
  • Fremont Brewing – Return of Blood Funnel – Belgian-style witbier made with tart cherry, pomegranate & pink peppercorn. πŸ™‚
  • Gallaghers Where-U-Brew – The Illusionist – Belgian-style imperial stout fermented with Belgian yeast.
  • New Belgium Brewing – Trip XI – Belgian-style farmhouse ale brewed with Rosemary & Sage. 8.5% ABV πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
  • Silver City Brewery – The Giant Made Of Shadows – Belgian-style strong dark ale aged in Tempranillo wine barrels. 9.5% ABV
  • Snoqualmie Falls Brewing – Triskaidekaphobia – Belgian-style strong pale ale fermented with Belgian yeast. 8.6% ABV
  • Sound Brewery – Ursus Spelaeus – Belgian-style imperial stout fermented with Belgian yeast. 10% ABV
  • Wingman Brewers – Black Widow – Belgian-style strong dark ale aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. 11.4% ABV

Final Thoughts

Out of the 20 beers we tasted only one was disappointing and this sampling only covered roughly one quarter of the beers on offer. This speaks volumes for the overall high quality of Washington’s craft beer. Needless to say, I can’t wait for Cask Fest at the end of March.

I had a quite a tough time choosing between Black Raven, Elliott Bay and Silver City for my top pick. In the end I decided that as great as it was, the Petite Mort’s bourbon barrel aging overpowered the subtleties of the beer a little too much for my taste, whereas the Fuerte’s brandy barrel aging produced just the right balance. La Fat fell nicely in between: more balanced than the Mort, but not quite as balanced as the Fuerte.

Honorable mention goes to McMenamins Queen Anne for their Flying Armadillo. So often I am critical of McMenamins, which only got worse when their Dad Watsons pub closed. And judging from the current tap lists at McMenamins Six Arms and Mill Creek pubs – criticism is still warranted. However, Queen Anne is advertising some really nice brews right now. Methinks a visit will be in order later this week.

The Spouse seemed to be having a really good time with her string of stout and dark ale choices so I was quite surprised when she eventually picked as her favorites two Saisons. Her top pick, the Trip XI, is interesting. You might wonder what New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery, is doing in Seattle participating in a beerfest for Washington brewers. Well, it’s because their Trip series comes from their collaborative venture with Elysian and in fact New Belgium is licensed in Washington to brew at Elysian’s Capitol Hill brewery. Right now the Trip XI is on tap at the Cap Hill pub so I’m thinking a trip of our own might be in order.

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2 comments

  1. Sounds like a good time. Shame I wasn’t there, but never was too fond of Belgian/Dutch/German beers for the most part… Cask Fest sounds like more my thing.

    1. Interesting that you lump Belgians in with Dutch/German beers considering they are ales rather than lagers, closer kin to the British Isles styles, and therefore quite unique among continental European styles. Perhaps further exploration is called for πŸ˜‰

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