I don't know what kind of magical powers Dave Fleming possesses but somehow both last year and this year he has arranged for the day in January of his beer festival to be one of the warmest, most beautiful days of the whole month. Kudos to him for taking a risk on an outdoor festival (albeit tented) in the middle of winter and for creating a festival that couldn't be more Pacific Northwest themed. Coffee beers aren't for everyone but apparently there are more than enough of us that are interested in seeing how some of our favorite breweries incorporate locally roasted coffee into their beers.
This year there were 16 beers available, up from 12 last year, and being brutally honest I only enjoyed about half of them. But the actual enjoyment of the beer in my glass is only part of the equation. I'm a good beer geek, always on the search for the new thing, the beer I've never had before and I know that they're not all going to be winners. Some just weren't for me, some I think could have been better crafted, yet I give everyone an A for effort for creating something I haven't had before.
It's hard for me to pick my favorite but the four that were the cream of the crop in my opinion were:
Barley Brown's Barley's Imperial Breakfast Stout - An oatmeal stout using beans from Sorbenots Coffee in Baker City, this definitely tastes like chocolatey breakfast in a glass. I'd had the regular version of the beer before and it was good but this bigger, 8.5% ABV version, really does go to the next level.
Chetco Brewing Company Black Thunder - I'm a big fan of CDAs and for me this was the love child of a CDA and a stout. Brewed with Signature Coffee from Humbolt it was a more roasty version of a stout.
Fire on the Mountain Spanish Coffee Mudd - FotM is one of our favorite eateries in town so I'm familiar with most of their beers and have had their Electric Mud chocolate oatmeal stout on many occasions. I've also been known to enjoy a Spanish coffee from time to time and they nailed the flavor profile, with beans from Spella Café, while containing the booziness to beer range.
Elysian Brewing Cthulhu Imperial Oak Aged Coffee Stout - I won't go back on my word, this beer was brewed before the recent hubbub, but as soon as I saw it in the lineup I said to myself, "This will be the last Elysian beer I drink." And it was a hell of a good-bye beer with great coffee aroma and flavor, in part from the Stumptown Cold Brew used, and that's what I want to remember about Elysian.
Besides the beer I had a great time seeing friends from some of the participating breweries and plenty of fellow beer geeks. Gathered around the sunniest of the tables (we were first in line so we quickly snagged it) it was a great afternoon chatting about the beers and what everyone had been up to since we'd last seen one another.
The unexpected highlight was having brewer/owner Mike Frederick of Chetco Brewing Company out of Brookings, OR join us. His beer is distributed by Alebriated, which is owned by a friend of mine, and he was able to stop at the festival as part of a larger trip around the area. For brewing out of a 468 square foot facility he's doing good work. The fact that his beer made my tops list had nothing to do with meeting him yesterday, that was just the icing on the cake.