Brouwer’s Hard Liver Festival – Winners, Favorites, and Photos

March 16th, 2011 · 5 Comments · Events, Washington Breweries

Nat and Mandy setting up beers for the judges.

At this past weekend’s 9th Annual Hard Liver Barleywine Festival, there were local winners, impressive beers that stretched the spectrum of barleywine, and lots of people having a great time. A barleywine judging is part of the Hard Liver festivities. There is a 1st round of judging that includes around 50 judges, and then a smaller panel of judges deliberates over the top beers in a second round to narrow down the 3 winners. This year, they were:

1. Anacortes Old Sebastes 2010
2. Anderson Valley Horn of the Beer  2009
3. Glacier Old Woody 2010

Click to see which beers these are.

Both the Glacier and Anacortes were also in the top 3 last year, so the results really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Personally, I really enjoyed the Anacortes and Anderson Valley barleywines, but I thought the Glacier was a bit lacking this year (a bit sour to me, if I remember correctly). There were many great barrel-aged beers in the competition that don’t necessarily fit the traditional definition of a barleywine, and some of those stood out as many people’s favorites.

Looking back at my judging sheet, one of the beers I sampled (blindly at the time) was the Avery Samael’s from the 2008 vintage, and it blew me away. It was the only beer I judged that made me stop in my tracks and say, “wow”. This oak-aged ~15% ABV behemoth of a brew is tough to drink when it is a fresh vintage. But, three years of age turned it into a smooth, complex strong ale that drinks more like an 8% ABV beer than one twice that strength; dangerous, to say the least. It easily garnered my highest score from the 12 or so beers I judged in the first round, but I have to admit I understand that the final panel may have deemed it too far outside the boundaries of a traditional barleywine to place in the top 3.

Lots of small tasters to fill.

Other favorites of mine from sampling throughout the day included Firestone Abacus, Big Time Bill’s Bearded Wonderfulness 2009, Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2008, Black Raven Old Birdbrain 2009, Lost Abbey Angel’s Share (both versions), and several others. Overall, this year it seemed like there were fewer barleywines that were duds, but there were probably more that just fell into the “average” range (not that I tried even close to everything).

Even though some patrons were in line outside at 8:45am (doors opened at 11am to the public), the crowds seemed much more manageable this year than in the past. Service was great for us at the bar, and cheers to everyone at Brouwer’s that helped put on the festival. It’s a really difficult event for them to put on and facilitate all of the small pours for a packed house, but I really think they did a great job. I hope you all tipped well.

There are likely still plenty of barleywines on tap at Brouwer’s throughout this week, so if you haven’t made it over there yet don’t hesitate.

Check out the rest of my photos here.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • urban beer hiker

    “…if I remember correctly…”


    You were tanked!

  • Kaiser

    Not at that point I wasn’t:-)

    Now, after my second glass of 15% ABV Samael’s….yeah, I most definitely was:-) Hence the reason I was in bed at 8:30pm.

  • +Russ

    Haha, night night sleep tight……

  • Craig

    The Anacortes winer was called “Old Sea Bass” or something like that. I thought someone told me that it was different from their normal “Old Seabastes”?? I dunno, just thought I’d throw that out there. Cheers.

  • Lucy Ford

    Who wasn’t? 🙂

    I tasted the holy 3, then some and somehow got a shirt..

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