Seattle International Beer Festival

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This weekend was host to one of the best festivals I have had the pleasure of attending. And fortunately for me, it was filled not only with a large number of beer swigging nerds, but also a huge range of exceptional and rare beers from around the world. I believe there were over 150 beers, and I probably managed to taste a third of those. So many beers in so little time meant it was difficult to rate each exactly. Thus we separated the beers into three categories: 1. those we liked; 2. those about which we held a neutral opinion, and; 3. those we disliked. These are the collaberative notes of myself and friends.
Those We Liked
Old Stock 2008 – North Coast – California – Barley Wine – 12.5%
Notes: smooth and well balanced between hops and sweetness. Another winner from North Coast. Beer Advocate rating: 4.12.

Old Crustacean 2008 – Rogue – Oregon – Barley Wine – 11.5%
Notes: a bitter but flavourful brew. Maybe slightly over-hopped, but still packs a flavour punch. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.02

Harvest Ale (Lagavulin) – J.W. Lees – Manchester, England – Barley Wine – 11.5%
Notes: Firstly, this was only available for about 1 hour at the festival. Luckily I managed to snag a taste, and boy was it worth it. First of all, this is nothing like barley wine. Rather, this is like drinking a cross between beer and scotch. Poured out of a wooden cask, this beer was aged in lagavulin scotch barrels, which gave it a smoky, sweet and caramelly flavour highly reminiscent of a very good scotch. This was my beer of the show. I picked up a 300ml bottle (not the same as cask poured, but hey) at a specialty store in Seattle for $14!!! Probably the only beer I’d pay that much for. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.03.

BB10 Barley – Maracalagonis – Italy – Barley Wine – 10.0%
Notes: Yet another barley, this rare beer sailed over from Italy for the show. This was good, and not too sweet, but not my favourite Barley Wine of the show. No beer advocate rating.
Malheur Dark Brut – De Landtsheer – Belgium – Bière Brut – 12.0%
Notes: A decent micro-bubbly wine somewhat similar to Deus. However, while spritely and fruity, this certainly isn’t worth the $30 a bottle they ask for it. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08
Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien – BFM – Switzerland – Bière de Garde – 11.0%
Notes: An oaky sour beer. You have to like the style in order to like this stuff, and I felt the La Folie (reviewed later) was a better sour beer. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.29.
Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock – Schneider – Germany – Bock – 12.0%
Notes: I very much like Aventinus, but had never tasted their Eisbock before. While not rare per-se, bocks are only made a certain time of year in Germany and so it was a pleasure to taste this not so easy to find and highly rated beer. Very banana heavy, this was sweetish and floral, but very well balanced. I would buy this for a special occasion given its $7 a 12oz bottle price tag. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.12.

Palo Santo Marron – Dogfish Head -Delaware – Brown Ale – 12.0%
Notes: One of the special pours of the festival and only available on a single day. This was a fantastic brown ale. Balanced, unique (brown sugar, caramelized flavours), but balanced between maltiness and hops. Just a tinge of sweetness. One of my top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.21.

Ruination Ale – Stone – California – Double IPA – 7.7%
Notes: Despite being a double IPA, this was not over the top, which was the downfall of many of the extreme beers poured at the fest. Floral, foresty and perfectly hopped. An excellent brew and one to try even if you don’t like IPA! Beer Advocate Rating: 4.29
XX Imperial Porter – Deschutes – Oregon – Imperial Porter – 10.3%
Notes: A quality full bodied porter with good roasted malt flavours and moderate hops. You can taste the bigness and alcohol in this beer, which can be a bit intense, though still enjoyable. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.28.

Top Sail (Bourbon Aged) – Full Sail – Oregon – Imperial Porter -9.9%
Notes: One of the best porters at the show, while strong this was very very tasty and balanced better than the XX from Deschutes. The imperial makes porter more full bodied, roasted and flavourful than regular porter. This is an excellent example of the ‘genre’. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.20
Pêche Mortel – Dieu du Ciel – Montreal, Quebec – Imperial Stout – 9.5%
Notes: A coffee based stout that was full flavoured, intense, balanced, and all ’round plain great. Tasted subtle coffee and tobacco notes. One of my top 5 beers of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.48.

Ola Dubh 30 Yr – Harviestoun – Scotland – Old Ale – 8.0%
Notes: Another super rare cask beer available for only 2 hours at the show. This one was aged in 30 year old scotch barrels and was dark, peaty and cigar-like. Less like scotch than the Harvest ale, this was still a very flavourful and unique brew. Another top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.34.

La Folie – New Belgium – Fort Collins, Colorado – Red Ale – 6.0%
Notes: Crazy sour. Probably the sourest beer I’ve ever had. But, despite this, it had fantastic oaky and woody flavours that gave it a lot of character. Further, it was great for the heat and cut the palate perfectly after all the super-hopped beers. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.38.
Old Chub – Oskar Blues – Colorado – Scotch Ale – 8.0%
Notes: Considered by some the best Scottish ale around, I don’t understand the hype. While good, this was standard Scottish ale made well. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08.

Pek & Veren (Tar and Feathers) – De Molen – Netherlands – Stout – 8.0%

Notes: A very good and unique Dutch stout. This just missed out on my top 5 list with its slightly sour but classic dark strong malt flavours and moderated alcohol. This is rare stuff and has no Beer Advocate rating.

Angel’s Share – Lost Abbey – California – Strong Ale – 11.5%
Notes: This was perhaps the rarest beer of all at the festival. Only a few bottles were available and we only managed to get some after sweet talking one of the head beer police dudes running the show. You can only get this beer if you are on the Lost Abbey mailing list, and there is a wait list to get on that. I tasted caramel, oak, vanilla, and layers of complexity developing as you drink this fruity masterpiece. I found this to be structured over the full range from nose to mid-palate and finish – awesome stuff. This was my number 2 beer of the show, and thus fills the last spot in the top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.55.

Double Bastard – Stone – California – Strong Ale – 10.0%
Notes: Very nicely done with a super creamy texture and great mouthfeel. The hops are insanely intense, however, and this may not be for everyone. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.32.

Oaked Arrogant Bastard – Stone – California – Strong Ale – 7.2%
Notes: Much more balanced than the double bastard, this was hoppy and floral with just a tinge of oakyness. The oak was used well here to add complexity to the hops by balancing out the bitterness. This is worth seeking out. Beer Advocate Rating 4.22.

Oro de Calabaza – Jolly Pumpkin – Michigan – Strong Ale (Gold) – 8.0%
Notes: Jolly Pumpkin is doing good things. A balanced ale that tastes different from most of what you get out there. I found this hard to describe so I would seek it out and try it yourself. Beer Advocate Rating 4.16.

Curieux – Allagash – Portland, Oregon – Tripel – 11.0%
Notes: Wow, a bloody good tripel. One of the best Belgian style beers at the show with coconut flavours coupled with a classic Belgian yeast nose. Strong and good. Beer Advocate Rating 4.16.

The Neutral Beers
Hop 15 – Lost Abbey – California – Double IPA – 9.7%
Notes: Not too hopped, but also a bit standard. Next! Beer Advocate Rating 4.33.
Imperial Stout – Nøgne Ø – Norway – Imperial Stout – 9.0%
Notes: I had high hopes for this but left feeling underwhelmed. Smoky and flavourful, this wasn’t bad but also wasn’t great. Beer Advocate Rating 4.20.

Cuvée de Noël – St. Feuillien – Belgium – Strong Ale (Dark) – 9.0%
Notes: Standard Christmas Beer. Boring. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08.

Wit – St. Bernardus – Belgium – Wit – 5.5%
Notes: A decent wit with some complexity, but 2 out of 3 of us found this plain and boring. Beer Advocate Rating 4.03.
Those We Disliked
Old Ruffian – Great Divide – Colorado – Barley Wine – 11.0%
Notes: Great Divide had a poor showing at this show for some reason. I usually like these guys, but everything at the fest was way too hoppy. Yuk. Beer Advocate Rating 4.33.
Olde Gnarlywine – Lagunitas – California – Barley Wine – 9.7%
Notes: The opposite end of the spectrum. Just way too sweet. Unless you like your beers sugary, stay away. Beer Advocate Rating 4.12.

Asam Bock – Weltenburger – Germany – Bock – 6.9%
Notes: Generic and thin. Tastes like all bocks taste. Beer Advocate Rating 4.10.

Morimoto Imperial Pilsner – Rogue – Oregon – Imperial Pilsner – 8.7%
Notes: Tastes like a urinal cake. Beer Advocate Rating 4.12.
Yeti (Oak Aged) – Great Divide – Colorado – Imperial Stout – 9.5%
Notes: Nasty nasty hops. Which sucks since I remember liking this a lot. Maybe this batch was made poorly. Beer Advocate Rating 4.32.

Ten-FIDY – Oskar Blues – Colorado – Imperial Stout – 10.0%
Notes: Why people like Oskar Blues is beyond me. This was medicinal and sickly syrupy. Really really gross. Beer Advocate Rating 4.31.

Malheur 12 – De Landtsheer – Belgium – Quadrupel – 12.0%
Notes: A bad quadrupel? Strange but true. Just too sweet. Had a hint of maple, but I recommend sticking to the standards. Beer Advocate Rating 4.15.

Judgment Day – Lost Abbey – California – Quadrupel – 10.5%
Notes: Another quadrupel that was just too sweet. Unfortunate. Beer Advocate Rating 3.90.
And that ends the round up of 2 days of beer festing down in Seattle. We also hit the Elysian Brew Pub while there, but that will be the subject of a subsequent post. I highly recommend making the trip to Seattle if you are at all into beer. Cheers!

Our Spoils:


  1. Doug
    July 10, 2008

    One hell of a post on the SIB, sir! Really outstanding. You were much more diligent than we were in your notes… I couldn’t remember half of mine. 🙂

    I also have to say that your beer fridge looks almost identicle to mine… I will take a pic and post on my next blog post for comparison’s sake.

    Great work and glad you enjoyed it. It may have to be a yearly tradition for me.

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