Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hard Liver X

Just three days from today, Brouwer's Cafe will kick off their 10th Annual Hard Liver Festival.  This barleywine festival is one of several annual festivals Brouwer's puts on throughout the year.  Some of the others include:
  • Hopfest- Featuring all hoppy beers and a menu to match with items like Kangaroo, Rabbit, Frogs Legs, etc.
  • Big Wood- Featuring all wood-aged beers.
  • Sour Fest- Featuring all sour beers/lambics/etc.
I'm still trying to develop more of a taste for the sours.  I can definitely see the appeal and there are some sours I really like, but some of them can really do a number on my palate!  I usually always attend Hard Liver, Big Wood and Hopfest, though I think Hard Liver is the one I look forward to the most.  As much of a hophead as I am, I really do love a good barleywine, and I've been having a great time over at Beveridge Place Pub - attending three days so far of their 10th Annual Barleywine Bacchanal, which ends this Thursday. 

Last year's Hard Liver Festival was great, with the winners being:
  1. Anacortes Old Sebastes '10 - Anacortes Brewery, Anacortes, WA. 
  2. Anderson Valley Horn of the Beer '09 - Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville, CA.
  3. Glacier Brew House Old Woody '10 - Glacier Brewhouse, Anchorage, AK.
You can see the full tap list from last year's festival HERE.  This year, I'm fortunate to be judging, so I'll have at least some say in which selections from this year's tap list will be declared the winner(s).  However, that also means I won't know which barleywines I'm drinking until after the judging is complete.  Of course, that's a sacrifice I'm quite willing to make. 

Many people may not realize this, but Brouwer's Cafe has not yet been open for ten years.  In fact, they've only been open for just under seven years, launching on March 24th, 2005.  If that's the case, however, then how can this be the 10th Annual Hard Liver Festival? 

It all began in 2002, when two friends, Matt Bonney (Brouwer's Cafe's Operations Manager) and Matt Vandenberghe, decided to launch the Hard Liver Festival as a non-profit event held at the Phinney Ridge Neighborhood Association, knowing they planned to open a bar in the future.  And even though Brouwer's hasn't quite been open for seven years yet, this will be the 8th Hard Liver festival held at Brouwer's rather than at Phinney Ridge.  According to Matt Bonney, "We were so excited about having Hard Liver at Brouwer's that somehow we have had 8 in seven years.. Crazy.."  Crazy indeed, but my kind of crazy! 

So if you missed any of the Barleywine Bacchanal over at Beveridge Place, or you're just a barleywine lover like me, make your way down to Brouwer's Cafe this Saturday, March 3rd at 11:00AM.  That's the 'official' start time, but through experience I've learned that there is always a line for this festival. 

Last year, I got to Brouwer's at 9:30AM and was about the 25th person in line.  Yes, the line starts that early.  So get up early, have a good breakfast (you do not want to start drinking barleywine on an empty stomach), and I'll see you down at Brouwer's on Saturday.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Experience At The 10th Annual Barleywine Bacchanal

Yesterday, I attended the opening day of the 10th Annual Barleywine Bacchanal at Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle.  I had a great time hanging out with a few new friends, including Dan Swanson from Thirsty In Seattle, and Josh and Risha Sanderson from the South Sound Beer Advocate Posse.  Cheers!  

More than 40 barleywines will be pouring throughout the festival, and yesterday I took a crack at 12 of the first 24 available selections:

The Tap List For Day 1

I did my best to try offerings I haven't had before, though I did have to grab myself a Firestone Walker Abacus '11 (#17).  It's one of my favorites.  My other choices from the list above included (by number): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 18, 22 & 24

The Barleywine Menu For The Bacchanal

My First Taster Tray

The standouts for me included:

Emelisse '11:
This was the one European barleywine I sampled (From Emelisse Brouwerij & Restaurant in the Netherlands).  It had a pleasant, honeysuckle and light citrus aroma and was well balanced with an almost pilsner malt type character, notes of graham cracker and a clean finish.

Big Al Ol' No. 1 '11:
Big Al's offering also had some graham cracker notes and an aroma reminiscent of Chinese almond cookies.  With a medium-light body and notes of what seemed like candi sugar, it was very pleasant and easy drinking.  

Black Raven Old Birdbrain '10:
This one had a light citrus/piney hop aroma and a complex caramel malt character.  Well balanced with notes of Cognac.

Fish 10 Squared '11:
If you like a hoppy barleywine, this is the one to go for.  With a strong citrus/Cascade hop aroma and a pleasing grapefruit hop flavor, with enough caramel malt character to back it up, this is the barleywine at this Bacchanal for the hopheads.

Firestone Walker Abacus '11:
This is one of my favorites, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have it again.  It has a deep ebony/ruby hue with a wonderful oak/bourbon aroma with other spicy notes.  Toffee, oak, vanilla and a faint hop bitterness are all balanced well.  This one is a joy to drink.  If you haven't tried it before, I recommend picking up a bottle.  As of 2012, Abacus is now known as §ucaba (Abacus backwards).

Fremont Snuggle Bunny '11:
I really wanted to like this one.  I'm a fan of Fremont Brewing's beers and with a name like 'Snuggle Bunny'? Well, I was expecting a pleasing experience.  I'm sorry to say, it was not.  I had to ask for confirmation from the other's at my table if I was the only one who got an aroma of Windex.  My sense of smell was confirmed.  The first sip was cloyingly sweet, with just a bit of bitter orange-peel type flavor.  I'm hoping it was just a bad keg, but this was the only one of the day I just couldn't finish.

Wingman Barleywing '11:
I'm not all that familiar with Wingman's beers, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  This one was probably my most pleasant surprise of the day and perhaps my favorite of the day behind Abacus.  It had a light, woody and almost cola-like aroma with a really complex flavor including notes of light wood, raisins and dates, some very light citrus and just the right amount of smoke.

Events Through Thursday

So those were my highlights from my selections for the kickoff of this year's Bacchanal.  I'll have to head back again, as there are still plenty of barleywines that haven't been tapped yet.  Beveridge Palce has Bacchanal events lined up through Thursday (See image above).  So pick a night and make your way out to West Seattle.  It's good 'practice' for the Hard Liver fest next Saturday, March 3rd at Brouwer's Cafe.

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Barleywine, Barleywine Everywhere, So Let's All Have A Drink

It's barleywine season - one of my favorite beer times of year.  I've always been a fan of good barleywines, so I'm really looking forward to both the 10th Annual 'Barleywine Bacchanal' at Beveridge Place Pub, and the 10th Annual 'Hard Liver Festival' at Brouwer's Cafe

First up is the 10th Annual Barleywine Bacchanal at Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle.  This is a popular beer destination in the Seattle area, so if you've never been there I urge you to head on over to West Seattle and check them out.  It's well worth the trip across the West Seattle bridge. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Have You Been 'Youngered' Yet?

It's back, and people everywhere are going crazy, trying to find some on tap to try.  Have you found any yet? 

Back in a post that's now nearly a year old, I'd explained that I don't generally go around 'chasing' Pliny.  However, that statement generally applied to Russian River Brewing's Pliny the Elder, which used to be far more difficult to find (but I can generally find it when I want it/when it comes around at Seattle's local bottle shops).  Eventually, people realized that Pliny the Elder actually comes around every six weeks or so.  It's not a 'rare' beer in that sense; it just tends to sell fairly quickly when it's around.  In fact, many local bottle shops still have a 1 or 2 bottle per person per day limit, so they don't run out quite as quickly (there are a couple of other places with higher bottle limits, but I have to keep some secrets to myself, don't I?)

Since it's only available on-tap, however, Pliny the Younger is far more elusive and difficult to find.  Even if you do come across a Facbook post or Tweet from a bar or tavern saying the just put some on tap, unless you're about 5 minutes away when you read that post, the chances of any Younger being left when you get there are slim to none. 

The last time Brouwer's Cafe put on a keg of Pliny the Younger (a 1/6th barrel - about 5 gallons), it was completely drained in under 7 minutes.  And last night, while chatting with Don Webb down at Naked City Brewery & Taphouse, he mentioned that the last keg of Younger they put on was drained in 6 minutes.  Basically, they left the tap handle fully open & just kept bringing glasses. 

I've never had Pliny the Younger myself.  But I'd like to change that.  And it looks like I may be getting my chance soon.  Word on the street is that Naked City will be tapping a keg of the elusive Younger at 2:00PM today (2/15), and the Parkway Tavern in Tacoma will be taping a keg tomorrow (2/16) at 7:00PM.  If you have the desire to try Pliny the Younger and the means to get to either of these places in time for the keg taping, I encourage you to do so. 

I also have a 'ticket' for a 'guaranteed' taste of the Younger at The Last Drop Bottle Shop up by Lake City Way.  Last week, they started selling tickets for pours of Pliny the Younger.  They'll be tapping the keg at 4:00PM on 2/18 and you have to be there by/before 4:30 or they have the right to give your pour away.  Unfortunately, if you're only learning about this now, you can't get a ticket for Last Drop.  They sold out in 1-2 days.  If you're feeling adventerous, however, - you could try and show up without a ticket & pray that someone who bought one can't make it! 

I hope these tips can help you find some Pliny the Younger.  If you miss out, keep an open eye and ear.  These three places aren't the only places with kegs of Pliny the Younger to tap - and a few places (like The Publican) already tapped theirs last week - but perhaps they have more.  There's no way for us to know. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Recap Of Chocofest 2012

My wife Lynn and I had a great time last night at Pike Brewing Company's 4th Annual Chocofest.  This was an event for lovers of good food, good beer, good wine, good spirits and good times; and proceeds went to help Farestart here in Seattle.

Watch for an even more fully-detailed blog post later on, but for now here are just a few of the evenings many highlights and new discoveries:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chocolate & Beer? I'm In Love!

In just two days (This Sunday the 12th), Pike Brewing will be having their annual 'Chocofest'.  This is an evening to pair great drinks with great chocoate and other delicious goodies. 

(From Pike's Newsletter about the event)
"With over fifty-nine product representatives sampling beer, wine, spirits, mead, and cider, to pair with chocolatiers, restaurateurs, bakers, and cheese-makers, it is a sensual tasting experience."
I've attended this event once before a few years back.  My wife and I both had a great time and we decided it was time to experience this wonderful evening of gastronic delights again.  Rose & Charles Finkel know how to treat their guests right.  This year's event will benefit Farestart here in Seattle.  See Pike's full press release about the event HERE

Like the sign says: "Foreplay Before The Big Day"!  See you there, chocolate fans! Check back here the day after the event for reviews, photos, etc. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

What Is 'Sasquatch Ale'? Homebrewers Will Decide

This Saturday, 2/11, I will participate as a BJCP Judge for the Sasquatch Ale Homebrew Competition.  This is the first Sasquatch Ale Homebrew Competition and it's being influenced by the impending arrival of the National Homebrew Conference, which will be held in Seattle this June 21-23. 

"With the 2012 National Homebrewers Conference in Bellevue next June, the Washington Homebrewers Association is looking for a special beer that Sasquatch (the honorary conference organizer) can be proud to serve to conference goers. We're looking to Washington homebrew club members to come up with they consider to be the embodiment of a "Sasquatch Ale" capture a special, Northwest, "Sasquatchian" flavor.

But what is a "Sasquatch Ale?" Ask yourself, "What Would Sasquatch Brew?" We are looking to Washington homebrew club members to come up with they consider to be the embodiment of a "Sasquatch Ale." Is it malty? Hoppy? Dark? Light? Hairy? Mysterious? Spiced? Smoky? Mossy? Woody? Who knows? But we want you to help us discover this style by entering the "Sasquatch Ale Homebrew Competition.""
As you can see, exactly what 'Sasquatch Ale' is has yet to be defined.  The competition is limited to AHA/BJCP Category 23A, which is for 'Specialty Beer'.  This is a somewhat more loosely defined beer catagory, and opens up the brewer to get creative with any number of 'specialty' ingredients.  Per the BJCP style guidelines:

"The distinctive flavor character associated with the stated specialty nature (i.e. the specialty ingredient(s) the brewer uses) should be noticeable, and may range in intensity from subtle to aggressive."
So, as a judge for this competiton I (along with many other and far more experienced BJCP Judges) will get to make the call on exactly what 'Sasquatch Ale' is.  Good luck to all the entrants!  Judging will be taking place at Larry's Brewing Supply in Kent this Saturday. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I am aware there used to be a beer called "Sasquatch Ale", which was brewed by Six Rivers Brewery out of California.  However, this beer no longer exists/is no longer in production.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Belgianfest 2012 & Superbowl Sunday Eats

This past Saturday, I attended Seattle's 3rd Annual Belgianfest down at Pier 66.  It was my first time attending this event, and I had a lot of fun.  The following day, Superbowl Sunday, I broke out my smoker for the first time this year and made some great BBQ.


Belgianfest is done in two sessions: Noon - 4:00PM and 5:30PM - 9:30PM.  I attended the Noon - 4:00PM session.  While sampling the various Belgian-styled offerings from several Seattle area breweries, I was also busy clicking away, getting lots of photos.  You can view all the photos I got HERE.  If you spot yourself, tag yourself!