Without further ado, here are my recollections of yesterday's tasting.
First and foremost, it's cold. Really fucking cold. In years past, the sun would warm up the tents enough to make the charity coat-check a nice option to have. They will not be making money this year. Yes, it's warmer in the tents than it is outside, but still much colder than in years past, especially in the sky bar.
Some of these super big beers (and there are a lot of big beers this year) really need to warm up in order to enjoy them to their fullest. Your entry package will include a tasting mug, which is the only mug that they will pour beer into. However, it's legal to pour that beer into any other vessel that you want (like another old festival mug). Let the higher proof one come up to temperature in the old mug while you taste another 'lighter' beer in this year's mug. H/T Pete Dunlop.
The food situation is pretty bleak. Saraveza is offering up bratwurst and grilled cheese sandwiches and the Waffle Window has savory and sweet waffles.m There's tiny cheese slices for sale and the ubiquitously stinky spiced nuts. While outside food is not allowed, you could certainly get away with sneaking in snacks. There are a lot of high alcohol beers in the fest, yet the water in one location: the northeast corner near the exit.
Onto the beers:
Cascade Brewing Cherry Diesel (barrel aged imperial stout) -- Perfect balance of dark chocolate and roasted malt with a bourbon and cherry sweetness.
Crux Oud Freakcake (oud Bruin/Flanders style) -- Worth the two tickets. Wonderful sour pucker follwed by a warming bourbon finish
Dick's Brewing Code 1081 (Winter ale) -- One of the few choices for hopheads
Fish Brewing GIngerbread Ale (red) -- At just 5% ABV, this is a great seasonal session beer. A lit of flavor for very little alcohol.
Lagunitas High West Wheat Whiskey Barrel Aged Cappuiccino Stout -- if there was a buzz beer at the fest, this is it. Many friends said it was their favorite. Either that or some of us just like bourbon more than beer.
Mazama Mazamantor (doppelbock) -- I wouldn't say this is try to style, but it is a nice winter warmer.
Vertigo Barrel Aged Polar Blast (barrel aged vanilla porter) -- beery hot chocolate
Viking Braggot (winter squash porter) -- lots of pie spices make this one ok for a sip, but any more would be too cloying
Stickmen The Twerking Elf (Northwest Sour Brown) -- An experiment gone horribly wrong.
Ninkasi Belgian Single -- It's hard to stand this beer up against its heavy-weight neighbors, it has that sort of "lite" beer flavor
Golden Valley Santa's Smokin Bock -- has that artificial/chemical phenolic smoke flavor that I detest.
Bear Republic Santa's Lost Wallet -- too alcohol forward. A beer that needs a chaser!
Basecamp White Squall -- weirdo blend of badness. Dumped.
Of the limited tappings and VIP pours:
Collaborator Moore Maibock -- not worth the extra ticket. Ordinary.
Jim IV 2009 -- so delicious it makes me regret not buying it in bottles.
2009 Cascade Sang Noir -- wonderful, seek it out.
2008 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout -- The consistency of syrup. Toasted marshmallow caramelness. Another one I regret not buying more of when it was distributed here. Five stars. One of the best beers I've encountered in my lifetime.
Scaldis Noel 2010 -- Still a lot of heat, but delicious.
Old Stock 2002 (!!!) -- That is one mellow fellow.