Seattle, WA - Hard to believe but its finally here, Winter Fest. Sure the weather outside is more typical of the area and less when compared to the music playing in the malls, but that shouldn't stop you from consuming great beers.

Every year, around this time, Hale's clears out their back warehouse area to host over 30 breweries and some 70+ beers. This year, the festival's sponsor the Washington Beer Commission released a preview of what was to come for us. Admittedly this writer is now getting around to posting his favorites, but that shouldn't stop you from reading this and planning for today (starting at 5:30) or Saturday (2 session with one at 12 PM & the other at 5:30).

Without further ado the list. Note, we have described and highlighted our favorites, in case you are looking for a nudge. And for those who do attend, be sure to look for us pouring at one of the breweries on Saturday morning.

7 Seas Brewing. If you are a Google maps user, this place is a needle in a haystack. All navigation aside, this craft brewery was one of the first in the state to can their beers (in 12 ounce cans no less). Although, it appears they decided to break with conventional wisdom (Old Ale anyone?), their Saison is worth a sip. But for the lover of the lupulin, you are always welcome to have the Ballz Deep. Look their beers on shelves, on draft, or in a backpack near you.

  • Port Royal Export Style Stout
  • Ballz Deep Double IPA
  • Saison
    We think the idea of having a light-‘colored’ ale during a time when dark ale seems to suck us, is the right course of action. For something interesting try pairing this with almonds, or walnuts.

Airways Brewing. Situated near South King County’s Hwy. 167, Alex Dittmar started Airways as a hobby to his regular job, working for Alaskan Air. Demonstrating his love of both aviation and craft beer, you are encouraged to swing into this brewery towards the latter part of the week, sample a cask, or any of his beers, featured at the tasting room. Oh, and say hi to Hoppy.

  • Sky Hag IPA
  • Jet City ESB
  • Hot Chocolate Ale
    A once-in-a-while beer comes to the festival and frankly we are curious to see how this is appreciated. But, we aren’t too sure you want this one to be warmed up in the microwave or the stove. Warm thoughts, required.

Anacortes Brewery. If you are driving to Burlington and looking for an excuse to hit a brewery, then one has to only take the exit past the discount mall, and head West to Anacortes. As the only brewery in the area, they have benefitted from an attentive audience. But it doesn’t hurt that their restaurant hosts live music on a weekly basis. Definitely worth a trip if you have a craving for oyster shooters, jazz, or just a new brewery, then make your way to Anacortes.

  • Noel Winter Ale
  • Broadswood Scottish Ale
  • Klosterbier

Baron & Three Skulls. Originally started as a German-style brewery, Jeff Smiley has slowly evolved his creation into a German-style brewery with ales on the side. Check out their public house, Pillager’s Pub, near Naked City.

  • Three Skulls Poison Winter Warmer
  • Three Skulls Blackbeard Dark Lager-Schwarzbier
    We have to assume that this is the same batch of Schwarz (pronounced Sh-Var-tz) that makes it rounds at the pub

Big Al Brewing. If this brewery had a headline it would be, Homebrewer opens his own brewery. What set this brewery apart (besides it zip code being in the South Park neighborhood), is their willingness to give back to the home brewing community , by creating the Local Hero. This beer, based on a home brewers recipe demonstrates where Big Al has come from. Check them out sometime, and if Alejandero is around, ask him about the Sounders.

  • Winter Warmer
  • Belgian Tripel
  • Peanut Butter Imperial Stout
    Featured many times at the (formerly Water Street Brewery) Strange Brewfest, this beer often confuses and perplexes the consumer as they try and figure out how Big Al got peanut butter into this beer. Check it out!

Big Time Brewery. Designated as the oldest brewpub in Seattle, this University District located establishment has started the careers of some of the more well known local brewers and breweries. Elysian, Pike, Trade Route, Water Street, and even Anderson Valley at one point or another helped out at this brewery. For those of you who prefer Purple and Silver over Crimson and Silver, swing in during a game and have a pint of Scarlett Fire.

  • Yulefest Winter Ale
  • Random Thought Generator Imperial Rye IPA
    This beer was inspired by a suggestion from a guest at the alehouse who indicated that there wasn’t too many Rye beers out there, let alone Rye IPA (and yes we have heard of Bear Republic Hop Rod). Worth a token if you are a dedicated hop-head.
  • Holy Molé Chocolate-Chile Ale
    This one is definitely on our ‘call us curious’ list for sure. Can’t say much more about this beer since honestly, we have never had it before.

Black Raven Brewing. Apparently this brewery has a cult following (if you ask the Seattle Times), but to the rest of us that have known about this brewery from Redmond, its just plain good. For almost two (official) years, this brewery has been celebrated at festivals through awards and long lines. Don’t pass up any of their beers, because if previous festivals are to be believed, it will be a while before you get your next taste.

  • 2010 Old Birdbrain Barley Wine
  • 2010 Bourbon Barrel la Petite Mort
  • Festivus IPA Herb and Spice Beer
    Rather than discus each of the Black Raven Beers we will instead invite you to get there early, to check out their first Barleywine, a returning favorite (la Petit Mort), and a new beer that we will definitely be in line for. Hope you have some spare cash handy, cause your going to need it.

Boundary Bay Brewery. On the way to Vancouver BC? You must stop into what the GABF once called the smallest brewpub of the year. Although their regionally famous India Pale Ale isn’t available at the festival that shouldn’t stop you from warming up to their multi-year offering of Cabin Fever. Definitely worth the trip!

  • 2010 Cabin Fever Winter Ale
  • 2009 Cabin Fever Winter Ale
  • 2008 Cabin Fever Winter Ale

Chuckanut Brewery. If you recall Thomas Kemper Root Beer or one of their craft beers, then you have had a taste of what William Kemper is capable of. After a stint going around the globe, engineering breweries for aspiring brewers, Will and Mari came back to the Northwest and settled in Bellingham to give birth to Chuckanut. Designed a German-style only brewery, Will has managed to gain national attention in less than 5 years (2009’s Small Brewpub of the year). Stop in on your way to BC or on your way back while stopping in at Boundary Bay Brewing.

  • Kolsch
  • Dunkel

Diamond Knot Brewing. Just look for the short haired, long goateed, 6 foot plus tall man, and you know you have found Diamond Knot. Located in Mukilteo, right next to the Ferry parking lot, sits a brewery that has been providing uniquely created beers for over 8 years. Try the Industrial Ho Ho Ho, or visit the pub for a hot stone cooked slab of steak, you won’t be disappointed.

  • Industrial HO HO HO
  • TBA

Elliott Bay Brewing. A West Seattle neighborhood favorite celebrates another festival with their Noale Holiday ale and Imperial Red Ale. Rumor has it, they are opening another location, this time in the Lake City neighborhood. Stop over to the brewery on California Avenue or drive over to Burien for a pint of Demolition.

  • Imperial Red Ale (2010)
  • Noale Holiday Ale (Organic)

Elysian Brewing. Opened in 1996 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, this 220 seat brewery has been a fixture of the area for almost 15 years. As with everything successful, the brewery can be found in two additional neighborhoods, Tangletown, and down the street from Qwest Field. Today, the brewery is continued innovator with their Trip series beers (in collaboration with New Belgium), as well as recognized founder of the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival. Stop in sometime and ask them about where they got the idea for the beer names.

  • Bifröst Winter Ale
  • Valhalla Christmas Ale
  • Oak Frost
  • Brett Fröst
    Consider us curious what these two will taste like. Who knows, maybe one of the co-owners, brewer Dick Cantwell, or Salesman David Buhler will be there to answer any questions you might have.

Fish Brewing.

  • Winter Fish
  • Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen

Flyers Brewery. For five years, Oak Harbor has hosted this brewery & restaurant that obsesses about Aviation. Inspired by co-owner Jason Tritt’s roots in aviation (his relatives were pilots and involved in aviation), this brewery recently announced their expansion into the bottled market. Look for their Aftermath IPA and Barnstormer Porter at select bottleshops, like Bottles, Full Throttle Bottles, or Malt & Vine. Or if you find yourself near naval station Whidbey, stop into the restaurant and have a fresh pint from the brewery.

  • Daybreak Breakfast Stout-Oatmeal Coffee Stout
  • Dry Hop Afterburner IPA-American Strong Pale Ale
    Can’t go wrong with either of these. Just stop by and have a glass (or two).

Fremont Brewing. Started as one of the first eco-aware breweries in the state, majority owner Matt Lincecum, has slowly created locally appreciated brewery. From their Solstice, to their Abominable, there isn’t really a bad beer that can be found from the brewery on Woodland street. Swing over to the brewery in the Fremont neighborhood during the latter part of week, and try a pint of Abominable to compare with the sample of BBomb.

  • Bourbon Abominable Ale “BBomb”
  • Le Mystère de l’hiver - Bourbon barrell Oatmeal Stout
    Try either one, we don’t think you can go wrong. Be sure to quiz the brewery on what it means to be an Organic brewery.

Gordon Biersch Brew.

  • Dopplebock Lager

Hale's Ales Brewery. Since 1985, Mike Hale and the rest of the crew at the brewery have educated and inspired people to seek out better beer. In fact the breweries namesake was inspired after Mike while on vacation in England, spotted a pub called Gale’s Ales. Be sure to stop into the brewery on your way out of the festival, and try something from their extensive food menu.

  • Supergoose
  • Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
  • Quadruppel Belgian Style Strong Dark
    Normally we wouldn’t advocate one should go for the strong stuff, but you shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of sipping on this high alcohol beer. Do take heed though, as this beer will knock you down if you have too many of them.

Harmon Brewing. There isn’t much more I can tell you that hasn’t already been said about the brewery in the city “with that smell”. Recently the pub has and website have undergone some changes and for the most part its for the best. Stop into Tacoma on your way to Portland or to visit the Capital Building.

  • Olde Bog Breath Scotch Ale
  • Oak Aged Point Defiance IPA

Hood Canal Brewery. Located just a small drive from the Kingston ferry, is a brewery that has remained obscure to all but those who live in the area. Chances are you have had their IPA on draft at Beveridge Place or another watering hole, without realizing they were only a ferry ride away. Stop by the booth and say hello, and maybe even try their Southpoint Porter.

  • Southpoint Porter
  • Bywater Bay ESB

Iron Horse Brewery. Originally started by the recently departed Jim Quilter, this brewery has grown beyond the reclusive status, that it once held, to be a well recognized, multi-stated distributed entity. If you have ever been to a grocery store, you have more than likely seen the Quilter’s Irish Death, or their Black IPA. Swing over to have a Cozy Sweater.

  • Cozy Sweater
  • Mocha Death

Issaquah Brewhouse/Rogue Ales. Owned by Rogue Ales, this brewery and pub is the closest one will get in Washington to having a Dead Guy or Yellow Snow on draft in a bar sponsored by the brewery. Swing in on the way up the Pass or if you need to get that last minute gift from the Outlet Mall in North Bend.

  • Jolly Frog
  • Brown Frog Belgian Wit

Naked City Brewery. Known as one of the better taphouse’s in the city, this Greenwood neighborhood brewery, was the brain child of Donald Averil and Don Webb. Today, you will find at least one or two of their beers on draft, along with a healthy, and much appreciated selection of beers from the region and the country. But if one has pondered what watching a classic film while sucking down a Moylan Hopsickle might be like, you only have to stop in, belly up to the bar and order a beer from the over 25 different beers on draft. Cheers

  • French Dude Barrel Aged Beer
  • Bing Spiked Cherry Ale
    Another situation where you can’t really go too wrong. Both of the beers being featured at the festival are specifically designed for the festival in one way or another. Last year, was the breweries official first Winter Fest, and they didn’t disappoint with their Big LeBrewski Imperial White Russian Stout served side-by-side with their Bing Cherry Ale. Check out the booth and if anything touch the Lebrewski taphandle.

Northern Lights Brewing. Located in Spokane, this brewery has been a fan favorite at the Father’s Day festival, for their Chocolate Dunkel. Whether you are driving on your way to Idaho, a Cougar basketball game; just stop over and check out their place.

  • Winter Ale
  • Stellar Stout
  • Imperial IPA

Paradise Creek Brewery. Regrettably when it comes to traveling the entire of Washington state, we have failed. Consider this brewery as a second stop at the festival, if anything to say that you had a beer from NorthEast.

  • Hopocolypse Black IPA
  • Dirty Blonde
  • Over the Hop American IPA

Pike Brewing. In relation to years of service to the area, this brewery is a legally-drinking adult (21). Known for their beer museum, and wall to wall beer memorabilia, this brewery is a favorite for those in the downtown area. If you find yourself in the market growing tired of flying fish or mini donuts, then head to the basement and visit this artisan brewery.

  • Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale
  • Auld Acquaintance Holiday Ale
    One of the very few Winter Ales out there that doesn’t scream “I’m a Northwest brewed beer!”. Whether you spend five tokens for a “proper pint”s worth of this dry-hopped ale, or just have a conjugal visit, you should definitely check this beer out.

Port Townsend Brewing. Unfortunately, this is now the only brewery in Port Townsend. Known for their iconic Blonde Maiden on the bottle, this brewery has produced interesting and special beers for the Winter Fest. If on the other hand you decide to skip the lines of the festival, then check them out during Strange Brewfest or during a nice sunny weekend, from the ferry.

  • Winter Ale Old Ale
  • Hop Diggidy IPA

Ram Restaurant & Brewery. Despite the reputation of being one of the many Ram Restaurant & Breweries, the Big Horn breweries of Seattle, have demonstrated a certain independence when compared to their fellow Butte Face brethren. This year, Dave Leonard (as he has done in the past) has invited nearby Ram affiliated breweries to offer something special that demonstrates their definition of craft beer. Swing over to their table and check out the inflated snowman, with the signatures from the brewers of Washington (and beyond).

  • Ol’ Mallwalker - Strong old ale
  • Uber Dunkle Weizenbock
  • Dawgsled Winter warmer
    A repeat visitor to the Winter Fest, this beer often comes in both Vintage, Barrel-aged, and regular form. Stop over to the table and see which incarnation (or incarnations) this has arrived in.

Redhook Ale Brewery. One of the oldest, and some say, first microbreweries in the state, today this brewery has outgrown the term micro, to become a bon afide goliath in the craft beer industry. If you are an outdoorsy type, we invite you stop into the brewery and restaurant, after you have biked your way between Marymoore Park and Seattle.

  • Eisbock 28 Iced Winter Lager
  • Copperhook Copper Ale
  • Winterhook Winter Ale
    Some argue this beer no longer tastes like it once did, while others argue it’s just fine. For the first timer or the enthusiast, one might stop over to try this beer as an escape from the one-offs, of the festival.

Rock Bottom Brewery. Soon to be the best brewery in Bellevue (Bellevue Brewing Company, coming soon), Brewer Brian Young has managed to create award winning beers out of this relatively unknown brewery & restaurant. If you haven’t had his Hop Bomb, then you don’t know anything about mouth-watering IPAs. Swing over to his table at the festival, or stop into the brewery sometime. They validate parking.

  • Frostbite Imperial Red
  • Hollydaze Imperial IPA
  • Black Diamond Oatmeal Stout
    There aren’t too many Oatmeal Stouts in Washington state at the moment (‘cept Lazy Boy, Flyers, and a few others), so if you want something dark that screams ‘have me for breakfast’, this might be your beer.

Schooner Exact Brewing. First started in 2005, this brewery planted the term “nano brewery” into the minds of craft beer enthusiasts through out Seattle. Today, the brewery has matured in a “micro brewery” at it’s location in South Seattle, along the city’s busy 1st Avenue. Look for their beers to be featured regularly at Beveridge Place Pub, which is coincidently one of their first customers.

  • Puget Soundian Dark Ale - Black IPA
  • Profanity Hill Porter
  • Black Raspberry Wheat Ale
  • Hoppy the Woodsman
    A recent (but annual) tradition, is the sighting of the Hoppy the Woodsman Ale. Check this Winter Fest award-winning ale out and see for yourself if this beer deserves your approval.

Scuttlebutt Brewing. One of the oldest breweries in or around Everett, this brewery has remained a local favorite. Rumor has it, they are as old as the famous Stone Brewery (San Diego). Swing over to the pub for a bite to eat and a 10 Below, or one of their regularly available ales or lagers.

  • 10 Below Winter Ale
  • Oaked 10 Below Winter Ale
    Head Brewery Matt McClung apparently has been quite a few 10 Belows. Why else would he be crazy enough to set aside a keg or two, to dip in an oak barrel. We are definitely curious to the inspired, impressions, that we will arrive at, after having a sample.

Silver City Brewery. Chances are you have drive right through Silverdale and didn’t realize this brewery existed. No one can blame you though, since its situated smack dab in a mall parking lot. However, if you are like the rest of us this time of the year, you will need something strong to sip on while refueling your body with carbohydrates and protein. Fortunately you can do both, at their Restaurant which serves many of the Brewery’s beers. Or if you are feeling like just hitting the liquid lunch, you can swing over the brewery and check out their tasting room and gift shop. Worth a trip to be sure.

  • Imperial Stout
  • Old Scrooge Christmas Ale English Strong Ale
    As one man once said, you don’t have to ask me twice, comes this thought when we ponder parting with a token for this respectable strong ale. As an added incentive, its worth noting, that this beer has one multiple medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

Snipes Mountain Brewery. Deep in the heart of ‘hop country’, rests a brewery that has been creating exceptional, but seemingly under-appreciated ales for over a decade. For sure check out this slightly-out-of-the-way brewery, on your way to Walla Walla for wine or if you find yourself needing an escape from the Ellensburg Rodeo.

  • Pumpkin Death
  • 2 Fresh IPA
    Short, sweet, and to the point; Chris Miller makes darn good IPAs. Check his beer out if you need convincing.

Trade Route Brewing. Originally a tenant of the South Park neighborhood, this brewery in Pacific, is a short distance from the Puyallup fairgrounds and would make a great stop, for those who crave a tucked away bar with homemade beers.

  • Trade Route IPA
  • Sumatra Coffee Stout
    Another ‘new to us’ beers, from the combined creative minds of Janelle Pritchard, Chris Castillo, and Joe Valvo. Worth a visit over to the table to try this out.

Two Beers Brewing. Located in the So’Do (South Downtown) neighborhood of Seattle, you should visit them sometime if you find yourself down in the area, during a weekend outing.

  • Cask Conditioned Jive Espresso Stout
  • 20:20 Blonde
  • Double Dry-Hopped Infused Evo
    Top three finalist at Beveridge Place Pub, for the year-long bragging rights, as BPP’s ‘house beer’. One shouldn’t argue when considering one of the few cask-only beers, offered at the festival.

Happy Holidays everyone, and as always be safe and have a designated driver or alternate form of transportation.

Cheers

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