This past weekend saw one of the best events there is for a beer-lover in Seattle: The Seattle International Beerfest.
While I have been to festivals with more individual beers (there were about 125 here), I have never been to a festival that offered more geographical diversity or obscure styles. Looking around a festival is a little overwhelming; there are just so many beers that looked so intriguing (Traditional Norse Moonshine beer, anyone?).
I knew I wanted to try some bier de garde, as its rare to find this style. I also wanted to try some meads, as well as any style I was completely unfamiliar with. I present here, in chronological order, my notes on most of the beers I tried. My notes devolved in depth somewhat as the evening wore on, but I hope they get the point across regardless.
St. Sylvestre Gavroche Strong Ale: This was the first bier de garde I tried, and to be honest, I was expecting more. There isn’t a particularly complex aroma to it – just a little malt with some sourness, and the taste was a bit thin – some toffee flavors from the malts coupled with a bit of a winey sourness. Not too much hop to this, but there are some floral hops on the end that made a nice addition.
Deschutes 2006 Mirror Mirror Barley Wine: American breweries are certainly in the minority at this festival, and as I typically like Deschutes, I figured I’d give this one a try. I’m quite pleased overall with this, and will have to look for it. The aroma is sweet and malty, and the taste pleasantly complex. Caramel flavors mingle with esters of pear and dark fruit (plum?), while the hop bitterness provides an excellent balance. This is thick and delicious, with a lot of alcohol warmth.
Mountain Meadows Agave Mead: After the barley wine, I am ready for something less viscous. I don’t really know what agave tastes like, so I’m having a hard time finding the flavor in this mead. It has a bit of a white grape aroma, as well as some slight spice to it. The alcohol warmth comes on the end. It’s medium sweet and tasty, but it lacks some of the complexity of really good purely honey meads. Still, a good find.
!Qhilika African Birds Eye Chili Mead: This one might well take home the “What the F—?” prize. It’s a very interesting beverage that smells like a spiced mead but tastes like a cayenne pepper. Spiciness dominates the nose, but gives way to other honey notes towards the end, and is actually surprisingly complex. This would be excellent to drink or to use as a practical joke.
Eisenbahn South American Pale Ale: From the Eisenbahn Brewery in Brazil comes this unique pale. The aroma is yeasty and fruity in an almost Belgian way. The flavor was yeasty and a little sweet, but with a biscuity malt character to it. There is a touch of apple and cinnamon, and minimal hop bitterness. It reminds me very much of an English pale crossed with a Belgian. My favorite thus far.
After this, I sat down with some friends at a conveniently placed hookah bar and took a break. After an hour and a half of apple tobacco I got back to the beer, though the smoke (and the fact that the meads finally caught up to me) made my subsequent notes a little less coherent.
Haand Bryggeri Norwegian Wood (“Traditional Norwegian Moonshine Beer!”) – Not sure what to expect with this one. Smells malty and a bit smokey like a scotch ale. The taste is similarly malty and smokey, without a lot of bitterness to offset. Some juniper flavors make this nicely complex. To Valhalla!
Kerkom Bink Bloesem: This is supposedly flavored with cherry blossoms, and smelled a bit like honey and flowers (the cherry blossoms, I’d wager). The taste was very light, a bit fruity, and not particularly impressive. Still, it’d make a nice summer beer, or beer for someone who doesn’t like beer.
Spaten West Dinkelacker Dark: A less malty, slightly hoppier version of Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock). Tastes like a dark lager. All those beers must be dulling my taste buds.
Big Sky “Ivan the Terrible” Bourbon Imperial Stout: Wow – you can smell the bourbon. This beer is really something. Lots of cherry, raisin, and dark caramel. The bourbon flavor isn’t too profiund, but comes through in the aroma quite well. I have to try another one of these.
At this point, I started to feel the effects of the alcohol more profoundly. My notes lose yet more coherency.
Big Sky “Ivan the Terrible” Bourbon Imperial Stout: Hmmm – yes. A very interesting beer. 8.3% ABV, apparently though it doesn’t necessarily taste like it. There’s more bourbon this time. The fruitiness is almost overwhelming, but….wow…that’s a raisiny beer.
Rodenbach Grand Cru: I know this beer pretty well, and had to have a glass. It tastes like cherries! There aren’t any cherries in it, but it tastes like cherries! Isn’t that something?!
Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout: Aaagh! A yeti!
That was the last of my notes, though I had a few more samples before my girlfriend arrived to give us a ride home.
All in all, I had a fantastic time at the Seattle International Beerfest, and was able to try a bunch of beers that I would never have tried otherwise. My palate was expanded, and good times were had by all. The Portland International Beer fest is coming up (in mid July, I believe), and will offer many of the same beers, so anyone in the area would do well to look into it.