River Brew Review: Washington Cask Beer Festival

An announcer gets things going.

Tasty-Takes Survives Cask Beer Festival!

This past weekend Chris, Joanna and I met up in Seattle to watch a little soccer and to check out the Washington Cask Beer Festival. The Cask Beer Festival features the most unique and innovative cask conditioned beers produced in the state of Washington each year.

Since we had already decided to watch a Seattle Sounder soccer game earlier in the day we bought tickets for the late session. This was our first year attending the festival and we weren’t sure exactly what to expect. I’ll tell you what we didn’t expect – a line of over 200 people at the door! We arrived around 6:15 and were blown away at the number of folks lining up to get in.

Lining up to get into the festival.

After about a 15 minute wait to get in the doors, the fun began! All three of us are porter, stout and Belgian fans, so we decided to concentrate our efforts on those styles of beer. It was overwhelming trying to figure out where to begin – with that many different breweries and that many delicious beers where do you start?

We chose a corner of the room and started tasting. Then we kept tasting, then we tasted some more. It was awesome. After three or four beers had been enjoyed we realized two things: first, we were going to have to carry each other home if we continued at that pace; and second we needed to come up with a better plan of attack in order to get to the beers that we really wanted to taste.

The crowds!

So instead of trying to taste every beer we had new goals: slow down and enjoy the beer, and try to find the beers that we would like the best. To make this happen we planted ourselves at a table and then read through the tasting guide to pick out beers that we thought might be good. We also got a helpful hand from a fellow taster. A fellow porter/stout fan and had done a bit of ground work and he pointed us in the direction of his favorites and we were off.

Mmmm..... beer

For each beer that we tasted we tried to make a couple of notes and jot down a quick ranking on the Six Pack Scale©. But it was tough. The beers were strong! Not only in taste but also in booze; I would guess that the average Alc/Vol % of the beers we tried was around 7.5%. Partner that with some of the most intensely flavored beer you have ever tried and the old taste buds get worn out pretty quick.

Making notes.

Somehow we managed to soldier on and were still tasting at last call, and we even stayed upright while doing it. The whole evening was a blast. We talked to a ton of fellow beer lovers and tried some delicious cask conditioned beers. I only had two complaints from the whole night: one, they were out of commemorative glasses by the time we got there; and two, many of the breweries are so small they don’t bottle their beer, they just sell it in casks and kegs. Bummer!

Beer schwag

Overall though, the evening was a resounding success – we learned a ton about beer, chewed the fat with fellow beer lovers and brewers and even managed to pass out a few Tasty-Takes cards.


American Brewing Co.
Mint Chocolate Stout – Not sure exactly what beer this was since this was the very last beer that I tried. Add to that the fact that the program was misprinted and the didn’t even print the beer at all means not much info. I did write down that it had almost no smell, was kind of strong and was much better than I was expecting. 3 out of 6.

Black Raven Brewing
Robust Porter – This was one of the nicer porters we tried. Although not my favorite it was close. It had a hard smell to describe and had a uniform smoky flavor all the way through, it did taste a little alcoholic. 4 out of 6.

Saison – This was probably the most interesting beer that we tried all night long. It had a ton of stuff going on. Super fruity and tangy it had a peppery taste to it as well. Would be a great summer beer. 4 out of 6.

Boundary Bay Brewery
Dry Hop ESB – Our notes were “very British” and “ok, nice”. Not very memorable for me. 3 out of 6.

Diamond Knot Brewing
Slane’s Irish Style Red Ale – We had easy drinking, smooth and very friendly. Sessionable. 3 out of 6.

Elysian Brewing Company
Dragonstooth Imperial Oatmeal Stout – This oatmeal stout was tasty, but seemed really sweet and sticky to me. Also a bit boozy. 3 out of 6.

Fish Brewing
Mudshark Porter – Good. Very good. One of the most drinkable porters I have ever tried. Incredibly smooth. Joanna gave this one a 4.5 out of 6. We told her that we don’t do half beers in the Six Pack Scale© and she upgraded to a 5 out of 6. Delicious.

Hale’s Ales
No sure the name of this one, maybe an Imperial Stout? – This beer was quite good. It was very aromatic, with a nice smoky smell and a hint of coffee. The beer had a really nice smoky start, then an interesting tangy middle and a super smooth finish. 4 out of 6.

Ice Harbor Brewing Company
Ice Harbor Runaway Red Ale – Smelled pretty hoppy with some fruit in there. The taste was more mild than the smell and was still pretty fruity. None of us loved this at first taste, but it grows on you. 3 out of 6.

Workingman’s Red Irish Red Ale – Most Oregon residents have tried the Workingman’s Red at one point or another. Although I like red ales in general this one isn’t my favorite. It is definitely drinkable, just not something I would search out. 2 out of 6.

New Belgium Brewing
Abbey Grand Cru – This is New Belgium’s Abbey Ale on steroids. This beer was very fruity and very strong. It had a very strong fruit smell. 4 out of 6.

Pike Brewing
Pike 5X Chocolate Stout – This beer had a very strong smell, lots of chocolate and a bit of coffee. The taste pretty much mirrored the smell with a very strong chocolate flavor. Felt a little sticky on my tongue and had a very coffee aftertaste. 3 out of 6.

Ram Brewery
CoCo Nut Porter – This was a very different beer, really unique. It was straight up coconut. There were a lot of “coconut” porters at the festival, but this one definitely topped them all for me. The smell and taste were both a very delicate and dry coconut. Had a really nice finish. 4 out of 6.

Rock Bottom
Black Diamond Oatmeal Stout – I like black diamond so I had to give this beer a try. I was skeptical when I saw how thick it was, it looked almost like a milkshake or something, but the beer was pretty good. Had a bit of coconut and was a little bitter. 3 out of 6.

RedHook Brewery
Bourbon Barrel Eisbock 28 – Alc/Vol = 13%. Nuff said. Wicked strong, a bit syrupy. It was too much for all three of us. 2 out of 6.

Scuttlebutt Brewing
Tell-Tale Red Cask American Red Ale – This beer had a slightly vanilla-y feel to it. Nothing surprising, just good and drinkable. 3 out of 6.

Silver City Brewery
Fat Woody Bourbon Oak Aged Scotch Ale – This was our second bourbon aged beer of the night and I have to say that none of us were really a fan of these types of beers. The bourbon added a bite, but the beers also seemed very cloying, sweet and tasted too boozy. 2 out of 6.

Sound Brewery
Sound Brewery Porter – This was a very nice porter. Much like the red ale from Scuttlebutt it didn’t do anything dramatic. It was just delicious and very sessionable. I could drink this beer all day long on any day of the year. Smoky with a slightly bitter finish. 4 out of 6.

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