Tacoma Craft Beer Festival’s Justin Johnson wanted to book more than 65 breweries for Saturday’s fourth annual beer fest. There was just one problem with that plan. Not enough real estate. The 57 breweries he did book will be a tight squeeze at the 21st Street Park on the Foss Waterway.
Brewers will be spread across the park in three areas, with the bulk of brewers under a single tent. One neat addition this year: When attendees enter, they’ll get a numbered map with brewery locations.
Last year’s event was so popular, ticket sales halted at 4:30 p.m. because they reached capacity. Get there early.
I asked Johnson by phone about booking the brewers for this year’s festival. Johnson formerly worked at The Red Hot and is one of those guys who can easily rattle off paragraphs about esoteric craft beers as if he’s got a degree in beer geek. Here’s what he had to say:
TNT Diner: Can you name a few breweries new to this year’s festival?
Johnson: “Bear Republic. They’re down in California, they make a popular IPA. I wanted to get that especially. … And Unibroue, I was proud of that because I like their Trois Pistoles. They’re based out of Quebec.”
TNT Diner: Did you make an effort to book more South Sound brewers?
Johnson: “Yes. There’s a lot of new independent breweries. That was one of my goals, to make sure that we had the Northwest heavily emphasized.”
TNT Diner: What are the must-try beers for first time attendees? What do you recommend?
Johnson: “For something lighter, because it’s going to be a hot day, I’d probably start with Everybody’s common ale, which is really good. It’s called Daily Bread. And Airways, they’re bringing a raspberry pilsner and they’re going to run it through the Randall (a flavor infuser). I know E-9, their summer saison – it’s not necessarily spicy and it’s lighter in color, it’s really well balanced. It’s pretty tasty, not too hoppy. Wingman - they’re bringing an apricot summer wheat, it’s not too apricot-y. Sometimes when people make flavored beers like that, there’s an up front … a syrupy note. This is balanced on the back end, you get a hint of apricot.”
TNT Diner: What is the first beer you’re going to try?
Johnson: Since I’m working the event, I won’t be able to taste the beer, but if I could, something that would stand out to me – honestly, I’d probably go right for Airways, the raspberry pilsner or Skyhag IPA because they make it with simcoe (hops). I’d head over to 7 Seas for the watermelon beer … their Rude Parrot goes off really well.”
TNT Diner: Is there any brewer you wish you could have brought to the festival, but couldn’t?
Johnson: Yeah, Sound Brewing. … It’s Labor Day weekend, there’s only three guys who run that place, they couldn’t come.”
TNT Diner: If you book the beer again for next year, what would you like to do?
Johnson: “I don’t know how this would work for the liquor board, but I’d like to do a pro-amateur thing with some of the guys here in Tacoma who brew beer (a competition like what the Parkway Tavern hosts). I’d like to get some of those guys in, but I’ve got to figure out how to do that through permits. As far as breweries go, I’d like to get Black Raven in, maybe Big Time and Boundary Bay.
TNT Diner: Is there anything else you want readers to know?
Johnson: “Come down and expect to have a wonderful time.”
Of the 57 breweries, a dozen are from the South Sound area. I checked in with brewers this week and asked what they would tap at the festival.
Here is what Wingman, Engine House No 9 and Puyallup River are going to tap.
Here is what 7 Seas, Duo and Harmon are going to tap.
Tacoma Craft Beer Festival
When: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday Sept. 1, 2012
Where: 21st Street Park on the Foss Waterway, 2101 Dock Street, Tacoma WA 98402
Cost: $30 at the door ($10 military discount with military ID, $10 admission for designated drivers)
What it buys: 10 tasting tokens for 5.5 ounce pours and a taster glass
Age restriction: 21+ only
Raising money for: Tacoma Historical Society
South Sound brewers: 7Seas, Dick’s, Duo, Engine House No 9, Fish Brewing, Harmon, M.T. Head, Northwest, Powerhouse, Puyallup River, Silver City, Wingman
Other brewers: Airways, Full Sail, Odin, Snoqualmie Falls, Ninkasi, Hopworks, Mac & Jack’s, Maui Brewing, Alaskan, Deschutes, Stone, Unibroue, Everybody’s Brewing, Anderson Valley, Tieton Cider, American Brewing, Pyramid, Ayinger, Iron Horse, Schooner Exact, Two Beers, Pike Brewing, Georgetown, Chuckanut, Double Mountain, Avery, Port Townsend, Lazy Boy, New Belgium, Firestone Walker, Hales, Kona, Widmer Redhook, Alpine, Bear Republic, Dogfish, Ommegang, Flyers, North Coast, Northwest, Port/Lost Abbey, Scuttlebutt, Hilliards, Great Divide, Beluku