As Chris mentioned in his previous post, we attended the Washington Cask Beer Festival. As can be assumed, it was great; never have I seen so many casks of great beer in one single room. For a first timer to this festival, I and possible the rest of the people in my party, may have gone a little overboard. Half way through the evening we decided that the only way to possibly make it through a good number of the casks was to share each tasting three ways. Those who adopted this sharing strategy made it through the night largely unscathed – those who choose not to share claimed to have had a ten minute conversation with Coldplay’s front man Chris Martin at the end of the event. Perhaps adding a few chefs to the bill would have made for a slightly less alcohol intensive evening while adding a great opportunity for food and beer pairings – pretzels are only good for so long.
The three winners of the six to ten o’clock tasting round, Laughing Buddha’s Pandan Brown Ale, Harmon’s Vanilla Porter and Ram’s Coconut Porter, were all great and worthy of recognition, although the Vanilla Porter was a bit cloying for my tastes. My personal favourite brewer of the evening was Port Townsend Brewing, hands down winner. Both the Porter and IPA from Port Townsend were flavorful and brewed to style while remaining distinct from a myriad of other Porters and IPAs. Ram’s coconut porter was my favourite adjunct beer of the night – the coconut flavour was very noticeable but not overpowering. The beer selection was great, but I think beer diversity could be improved upon.
I would like to point out what I consider to be a growing epidemic in the world of craft beer – Imperialism; the super-sization of ale. I may receive criticism from many beer lovers for saying this, but it must be said. Brewing a stronger, imperial version of an existing beer is just not creative. Not every beer becomes better by adding more hops and more grain – bigger is not always better. The Washington Cask Beer Festival was filled with Imperial strength versions of a brewer’s standard offering. If craft brewers continue walking down the imperialist path, I fear we may lose our much loved session beers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love strong ales – but when inundated with such potent brew over and over again, a person’s taste buds simply give up and that once enjoyable over the top Imperial IPA begins to taste like a tree. There is no shame in showing up to a cask festival with a regular strength English Bitter – I personally would have loved to see a selection ranging from light session beer to heavily hopped Russian Imperial Stout.
It is time for all beer lover to unite, stand strong and say enough is enough – we demand regular strength cask ale. This regular strength ale can of course be poured alongside a cask of imperial strength beer – this will add diversity to an often pallet numbing cask experience.