A few times a year Seattle experiences an absolutely magical event: a beer festival at Brouwer’s Cafe in Fremont. Now, when you think of beer festivals, you probably think of a few things. Waiting in line to get your ID checked. Getting a (small) handful of tokens and a (small) glass for your beer. Waiting in lines to get each and every one of your (small) pours. Juggling your glass, a festival pamphlet, and a dozen other things while avoiding hordes of other festival goers. The festivals at Brouwer’s are nothing like this. Sure, you often have to line up outside early to get into the pub. But then you enter a beautiful Belgian style building, grab a table, and peruse a menu featuring delicious food and 64 different beers on tap. Depending on the festival, these might be sours, IPAs, or barley wines. You then order as many of these beers as you want (well, until you get cut off…), and get the lovely folks at Brouwer’s to bring them right to your table. And, did I mention that many of these beers are incredibly hard to find? Not a bad deal!
Today was the first day of Hopfest 2013. Unfortunately, it was also a Thursday on my first week back at grad school for the year. So I didn’t have time to fully partake in the festival, but I did have time to stop by and grab two quick beers. First up was the Beer Valley Black Madness. I won’t spend too much time talking about this one, but it is a bit of an interesting creation. Black Madness is basically a bottled version of a black and tan, being a combination of Beer Valley’s Black Valley Imperial Stout and Leafer Madness IPA. Quite tasty, but nothing too terribly remarkable or interesting. Most of the hops were covered up by the flavors of the stout… maybe if I really concentrated I could detect them, but not much beyond that. Still, it was a nice stout. Much more interesting was the Ninkasi Barrel Aged Maiden the Shade.
I actually haven’t been able to find much out about the Ninkasi Barrel Aged Maiden the Shade, but the unaged version of Maiden the Shade is described as a summer IPA. Made with a combination of Summit, Centennial Simcoe, Columbus, Crystal, Palisade, and Amarillo hops, it measures in at 72 IBUs and 6.8% ABV. From what I could find online, it sounds like Ninkasi uses barrels uses Ransom Old Tom Gin barrels in order to condition this special version of the IPA. The results are quite interesting. The beer has all the interesting hop characteristics that one might expect from Ninkasi, but the flavor is laced through with the pleasant taste of vanilla and oak. I personally didn’t detect any scents or flavors that betrayed the beer’s association with gin, but another friend thought she could at least smell some gin notes. Overall, though, a pleasant and very interesting product from Ninkais, and one that I would seek out again.