Brewery Creek Beer Festival: US, part of Vancouver Craft Beer Week, May 13 2011
– by Shawn Conner/photos by Robyn Hanson
What do you get when you put 400 or so people into an airplane hangar-like room with 19 or so (American) craft brewers?
For those of us who are used to staring longingly through local beer and wine specialty stores’ sliding glass doors at obscure brands of beer with creative and sometimes head-scratching names (small batch-brewers are nothing if not great appreciators of the in-joke), the Brewery Creek Beer Festival (US edition; the BC Festival was the next night, May 14) was a golden (pun intended) opportunity to try a whole bunch of different kinds of lovingly brewed brews at a reasonable price. For the cost of a ticket, $30, attendees were given a tasting glass and three tokens, each token good for a glassful. Additional tokens after that were only $1.25, sold in batches of 5 and 10.
Some of the beers available, such as those from Sierra Nevada, North Coast and Elysian, are available at specialty shops, while others, such as Stone, Uncommon, Buckbean and Ska require a trip south of the border.
I started with a name I knew in passing – North Coast Brewing Company. North Coast’s Pranqster is a personal fave, and I’d often wondered about the Fort Bragg brewery’s Old Rasputin. Though ideally you want to work your way up to the heavier stuff, I began (well, after a glass of the familiar Pranqster) the evening with the intimidating-looking imperial stout, which turned out to be nearly as baleful as the glare of the mad monk on the label.
Deschutes, out of Portland, definitely had the best marketing ploy with their giant serving barrel (practically the first thing you saw when you entered the Beatty Street Drill Hall, the venue for the Brewery Creek Beer Fest). The Hop Henge, the beer recommended to me, was one of the better of the hoppier ales I tried.
Another favourite, according to my notes at least, was the Bete Blanche Belgian Tripel from Elysian Brewing Company. I admit I chose it for the label, which features a hooded woman holding a beer-filled glass like the wicked witch holding the apple in Snow White, but was impressed by its hardy, medium-bodied, medium-sweet taste.
Perhaps the most un-beer-like was the Original Orange Blossom Ale which, true to its name, tasted quite orange-y, and very light. The ale, from Buckbean Brewing Co. out of Reno, struck me as a great beer for a sunny spring afternoon, though perhaps not something you’d go through a six-pack of in one sitting. Another beer that lived up to its label was Oregon’s Rogue Ales‘ Hazelnut Brown, which was as hazelnut-y as Frangelico, though less syrupy and sweet.
My favourite of the evening was Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. Smooth and full and ripe and with a perfect balance of sweet and bitter, the Lagunitas Brewing Co. beer left me wanting more. However, by the time I got back to the Petaluma, CA brewer’s table, the Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was gone gone.
Indeed, the event ended with many of the craft brewers running out of product, while attendees scrambled to use the last of their tokens. Kicking off the evening with the Old Rasputin might not have been the best idea, but at least I’d got to it before it was guzzled up by the rest of my beer-swilling brothers and sisters.
Thanks to Chris and Rick at Vancouver Beer Craft Week 2011 for setting Guttersnipe up with two media passes.