Cheers! to the Seattle International Beerfest

Seattle International Beefest is showcasing over 200 beers at Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion July 6-8 (Photo by Mor Naaman)

It’s no secret that Seattle is home to about a million craft breweries. For a lot of us, it feels like we can hardly keep up with the latest local brews, let alone keep tabs on the hundreds of international options on tap.

This weekend, Seattleites will get to be the judge of exactly how their home brews measure up to the international competition – one 4-oz. beer at a time.

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday is the annual Seattle International Beerfest, where 30 bucks will buy 10 beer tickets, an official Seattle International Beerfest glass and entrance into three days of pure beer bliss. But with more than 200 beers to try at this event at Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion, where should the average Drew Brew start?

I sat down with Gabe Stinchfield from Bottleworks, a specialty beer store in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, to map out some of his top picks of the festival’s can’t-miss brews.

Although Stinchfield said he isn’t familiar with every single beer in the line-up, because “unfortunately, I can’t drink that fast,” he had plenty of recommendations. Now, once you beerfest goers start to feel a little toasty and can’t quite decide how to navigate away from the Dante’s Inferno Dogs, around the Pretzelwagen and over the leashed dogs (yes, the event is dog-friendly!), you’ll have a couple local and international brews to, hopefully only figuratively, fall back on.

Ayinger Brau Weisse, from Merchant du Vin, Germany

“Standard” is how Stinchfield described this beer. A “nice German wheat beer” that, for only one ticket, would be a safe bet for any beerfest goer.

Bottleworks Tart Lychee
Many of the beers stocked at Wallingford’s specialty beer store Bottleworks, like this Tart Lychee, will make an appearance at this weekend’s Seattle International Beerfest. (Photo by Allison Int-Hout)

Tart Lychee, from New Belgium Brewing, Colorado

Right now, Stinchfield said, a lot of people are discovering sour beers, which are brews infected with wild yeast strain – yes, on purpose. This sour includes lychee fruit and he said it is a good choice, at a price of only one ticket, for someone wanting to experience a sour.

Conflux No. 1 – Collage, from Deschutes Brewery with Hair of the Dog, Oregon

This is a blend of two beers from Hair of the Dog and two beers from Deschutes. Stinchfield said that “when it hits your palette, you experience all four beers in different stages.”   Because it gets better with age and the bottled versions are marked with “Drink by April 2013,” it is well worth the six-ticket price for people who have one aging in their fridge and want to be able to have a comparison for later.

Gaffel Kolsch, from S&H Premium Brands, Germany

This is a hybrid of ale and lager yeasts, and it is a “light and refreshing” standard yellow lager. For only one ticket, how can a drinker go wrong?

Petrus Aged Pale, from Global Beer Network, Belgium

Stinchfield usually has two bottles of this in his fridge, which he describes as tart, like a sour, with slight vinegar notes. It is a description that he realizes may scare people away at first, but he swears it is good. The three-ticket price is reasonable.

Trappistes Rochefort
Trappist beers like this Trappistes Rochefort are especially unique, Stinchfield said, because they are brewed in Trappist monastaries and the entire process is overseen by monks. (Photo by Allison Int-Hout)

Also high on Stinchfield’s recommendation list is a taste of any of the Trappist beers,  brewed by monks in Trappist monasteries. Some of the Trappist options at the beerfest will include the Rocherfort Trappist *10* from Belgium, La Trappe Quadrupel from the Netherlands, and Chimay Cinq Cents, Grande Reseve or Premiere, all from Belgium.

People looking for some “high-octane” choices should head to the Lost Abbey brews. With their Deliverance and Angel’s Share both on draft and a 12.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) is a steal for only 3 tickets each.

Drinkers cannot go wrong with anything from the Seattle area’s Chuckanut Brewery, Fremont Brewing Company, Epic Ales and Lantern Brewing. Stinchfield said they all have something that sets them apart – which is why Seattle’s craft brewers will have a significant presence at the beerfest this weekend. Of the Seattle International Beerfest’s more than 200 choices, 10% of them are from Seattle or Washington state.

Even though many of Seattle’s craft breweries do not have much of a reach into the international market, according to Stinchfield, they provide hefty competition for the international brews that make their way to Seattle.

“Demand is so high here right in Seattle,” Stinchfield said. “They have their hands full just supplying the people locally who want their beers.”

Tickets are selling fast for the festival – with entrance into a live lambic blending and tasting already sold out – showing that Seattleites love the chance to spend a weekend outdoors, trying new beers from around the world. But with the growing success of Seattle’s home-brewed craft beers, there’s a chance that the local beers might actually outshine the rest at this year’s International Beerfest.

Allison Int-Hout is a contributor to the Seattle Globalist and a recent grad from the UW journalism program. She is (mostly) fluent in Spanish and looks forward to adding more pins to the world map on her wall.