Just back from P.T., where I visited the eponymous brewery en route to the 8th annual Strange Brewfest. What a great town for merry-making! Began with the brewery, in a blue metal building on the highway, across from the Safeway and in front of a forest of boat masts.
Port Townsend Brewing have always had an adventurous streak: last summer they made a Green Tea Golden that I know was a big hit in Mount Vernon: the Empire and the Porterhouse pubs had it on tap at the same time.
A ticket buys a typical 5-oz. tasting glass and four wooden tokens, to be exchanged for the first four samples. Over 30 breweries and cideries are expected to show by Saturday, although not all have set up for the first run through Friday evening. There is nonetheless plenty of brewer's whimsey on hand Friday. Hale's has come up with a Bacon Blonde and an Andale' Pepper Supergoose IPA. 7 Seas has brought up from Gig Harbor a "7 Bloody Seas", their lager with a big slug of tomato juice added post-fermentation. Here are the Savoys from Oak Harbor, presenting their Jameson Irish Coffee Stout. Tony reveals that he soaked a pile of oak chips with Jamesons and then added the chips to the kettle.
Attendees could cast ballots in two categories: best brew and strangest combo. There was lots more strangeness to choose from on Saturday. As well as good tidbits from the brewers. Elkhead from Buckley brought a Figure 8 brew, made fruity and powerful with dried figs and cardamom added to the boil. The name is to commemorate their eighth anniversary, and coincidentally the eighth annual Strange Brewfest here. I learned that Elkhead now has 280 growlers hanging from the ceilings, perhaps passing the extensive collection at Birdview Brewing. Over by Fremont Brewing's stand, I learned that both Matts were on the east coast this weekend, arranging the purchase of canning equipment. Their plans I wrote of two years ago were diverted at that time but now the time is right to join the canning breweries. Fremont had a variation on their Universale pale, a Margherita Pizza beer with sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Also noteworthy was Emerald City's Betty Black, a chocolate wheat lager.
On my tongue, the most complex and layered experience came from New Belgium Brewing, what they called Cocoa Mole. This presented three distinct flavors: sweet from the chocolate to start, malty in the middle, and sharp from the peppers at the end. The rep said this was not just a festival special, but a regular run product they were bottling and selling in local shops.