Washington Winter Beer Festival Kicks Off Tonight – Top 10 Picks

December 10th, 2010 · 5 Comments · Events, Washington Breweries

Bourbon Barrel La Petite Mort at last year's festival

The Washington Winter Beer Festival kicks off at 5:30pm tonight in the Palladium at Hale’s Ales (in the back), and it continues tomorrow with 2 sessions from Noon to 4:00pm and 5:30pm to 9:30pm. Tickets should still be available at the door, but no guarantees. The beer list for this year’s festival has so many selections I’d like to try, that picking a Top 10 really isn’t fair. I’m planning on going both Friday and Saturday in order to hopefully taste everything I’d like to.

Visit the festival website for more information and a full list of beers. Here are the Top 10 targets on my list:

Black Raven Bourbon Barrel La Petite Mort – For any of you that think no Washington breweries can keep up with what some breweries are doing with barrel-aging around the country, you need to try this. Last year’s audience favorite of the Winter Beer Fest, La Petite Mort is a “Belgian-inspired strong abbey brown aged in bourbon barrels”. It’s thick, moderately sweet, and complex with the base beer and barrel flavors mixing together. Impressively, it took a Silver Medal home from the 2010 World Beer Cup, but more importantly it just may be the most impressive beer I have ever had from a Washington brewery. Get to this one early…the lines are guaranteed to be long.

Fremont Brewing BBomb – This bourbon barrel-aged version of their Abominable Winter Ale is right up there with the La Petite Mort I just gushed over. As my friend Dean describes it, “It’s like a melted candy bar mixed together with a bourbon-aged beer.”

Naked City Bing Spiked Cherry Ale – I don’t know much about this “English-style old ale with cherries and spice”, but I do know that Naked City is really starting to hit their mark with special release beers. Plus, my friend Gibson (It wasn’t him – maybe UBH Dave?) says it’s an awesome beer. I trust him, and you should too.

Paradise Creek Hopocolypse Black IPA – I’m pretty sure I have never had the pleasure of trying anything from this Pullman, WA brewery, and Black IPAs have become one of my favorite styles when done right. This should fit right in as a winter seasonal. The brewery is also bringing their Over the Hop American IPA that is on my hit list.

Rock Bottom Bellevue Hollydaze Imperial IPA – Brian at Rock Bottom knows his way around a bale of hops (award-winning Hop Bomb, anyone?), so when I see an Imperial IPA from them pouring it’s going to be tough to pass up. If some of you are still stuck on this being a “corporate brewery”, get over it. The Bellevue location is pretty special.

Schooner Exact Hoppy the Woodsman – This bourbon barrel-aged winter beer has a stronger hop profile than many barrel-aged beers, which I love. It has a great balance and manages to show off flavors from all over the spectrum. This one placed second in last year’s Winter Beer Fest voting.

Schooner Exact Puget Soundian Dark Ale – As I mentioned above, Black IPAs have become a favorite style of mine. This is possibly the best Black IPA I have ever had. I hesitated to put 2 beers from the same brewery on my short list, but hey….they are both awesome.

Trade Route Sumatra Coffee Stout – I’ve enjoyed the beers I’ve had from Trade Route very much since Janelle Pritchard took over down there, and I haven’t had the pleasure of trying this one, yet. I love coffee stouts, and we’ll see how this one holds up. It’s pretty light for the style at 6% ABV.

Northern Lights Winter Ale – This is indeed a “Northwest-style” winter ale. The Spokane, WA brewery offers a 7.5% ABV winter warmer with a very assertive hop profile. This is always one of my favorites at the Winter Beer Fest.

Boundary Bay Cabin Fever Winter Ale – The Bellingham, WA brewery is bringing their past three vintages of this seasonal favorite. Just like most beers they make, Boundary Bay’s example of the style is about as good as it gets in the state of Washington. If you haven’t tried it before, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Like I said, there are about 20 to  30 other beers I’d love to try…this is just the beginning. Also, if you have never tried the Big Al Peanut Butter Imperial Stout….that is a must try.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Yuppers

    I gotta agree about the Schooner Exact Black IPA. I don’t like Black IPAs at all… not my thing. But I had it one night out when there was nothing else on the taplist that sounded even remotely interesting. And I have to say, this is an excellent beer.

  • BrewSpeak Paul

    Difficult to argue with the Schooner Exact Dark Ale as a choice. Sure (as many will have said before me) the whole concept of a black India PALE ale is a bit ridiculous, but who cares if the beer tastes good! To your list I would add the Festivus from Black Raven – which is basically their Trickster IPA with dried fruit, herbs and spices. I’m also looking forward to trying the Old Scrooge Christmas Ale from Silver City, which is an English Strong Ale.

  • Kendall

    I’m pretty excited about the Cabin Fever vertical and some of Geoff’s other picks, too. There is a lot of exceptional beer on the menu this year.

    Puget Soundian is awesome! Schooner Exact uses a black wheat malt. As I understand it, a specialty grain from Breiss Malt. That’s what sets it apart from others of the same breed, which often just taste like very hoppy Porters to me. Nothing wrong with a hoppy Porter, btw. Just sayin

  • Yuppers

    Interesting, I’d never heard of black wheat malt before. Same process and lovibond of black patent, just with wheat?

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