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Beer guide: Tacoma Craft Beer Festival increases footprint and taps, here’s a guide to navigate it

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Sep. 3, 2013 at 12:00 am | No Comments »
September 3, 2013 8:57 am

FIRKINS BEERNow in its fifth year, the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival has increased its footprint so much, it not only rivals the state’s biggest beer festival, but it’s also had to relocate to a much bigger venue.

The beer festival featuring 75 breweries will be noon-9 p.m. Saturday Sept. 7 at Cheney Stadium.

Tacoma beer fest in the past has attracted between 3,000-4,000 beer drinkers to its waterfront venue. Organizers expect to double the crowd this year, which also is why they’ve added 20 more breweries than last year. Each brewery will serve multiple beers.

A move to Cheney Stadium means a few improvements for attendees. One is that the facility that is home to the Rainiers is comfortable and built for crowds – with plenty of bathrooms, room to roam, seating, and the facility’s vendors will serve food, just like they do at Rainiers games. There also will be live music all day.

The Tacoma Craft Beer Festival is this Saturday. News Tribune file photo
The Tacoma Craft Beer Festival is this Saturday. News Tribune file photo

The list of brewers includes some of the best and biggest in the state’s craft beer industry. Tacoma area brewers also will have strong representation. Pouring will be the Harmon, 7 Seas, Wingman, Duo, Puyallup River Brewing, Engine House No. 9, Tacoma Brewing Co., Narrows Brewing and a handful of other South Sound brewers. The tap list reads something like the what’s what of must-drink beer. (Check below to see what local brewers are serving.)

So considering the scale of this year’s event, how to navigate something so big? I asked two beer veterans, owners of local bottle shops, for their advice:

Barry Watson, co-owner with wife Renee of Pint Defiance, a beer store in University Place:
Go early: “Fewer people equals shorter lines and more time to talk to brewers and brewery reps. Popular beers tend to run out first. Limited releases from hot breweries don’t last long. Fremont, Duo, Boneyard, Airways & Propolis (just to name a few) will all have special limited release kegs.”
Start simple: “I like to start with lighter styles first. Once you have sampled a couple of bigger hoppier beers your palate is less likely to pick up the subtle nuances of a Bohemian Pilsner or Belgian Wit.”

Tiffany Adamowski
, co-owner with husband Craig of 99 Bottles, a beer store in Federal Way:
Stay hydrated: “That means going from beer to water, to beer to water. It’s not unusual for me to drink 3 or 4 pints of water at a beer festival. Sipping water between beer also cleanses the palate so you can better taste the next beer, and it helps prevent you from getting a major hangover.”
How to remember your favorite beer: “I use to log my beers, making brief notes. This helps me better seek out those beers I enjoyed most at a later date, and keep track of where I can get them after the festival is over.”
Eat: “Also, if people plan ahead, a food necklace is a must have… Pretzels are common, but I’ve seen string cheese, pepperoni sticks, cookies, dried fruit, and other things included.”

Getting home: And both bottle shop owners gave this important piece of advice – bring a designated driver or get a ride home. Don’t drive.

Tacoma Craft Beer Festival 2013
When: noon-9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma
Cost: $36.50 at the gate, includes admission and 10 tasting tokens
Discounted tickets: $30 at Pint Defiance, 99 Bottles, Beer Essentials, Mash, Parkway, Swiss, Amocat, 7 Seas or the Cheney Stadium box office. $25 for active duty military with ID
Must be: 21 to attend
On tap: 75 breweries, 5 cideries and 1 winery. For a complete list and other details, visit
Also happening: Besides sampling a lot of beer, there will be live music and food provided by the stadium’s food vendors.

Beers on Tap

Here’s what Tacoma area brewers are pouring at the festival. Tasting notes come from the brewers.

7 Seas, Gig Harbor

Brewer: Mike Runion,
Life Jacket Summer Ale: “Brewed for the warm, stunning, long days of summer in the Pacific NW, Life Jacket Summer Ale will refresh and quench your thirst like no other. Concocted with both domestic and German pilsner malts, producing a light golden hue and providing a crisp, clean and dry malt base for the Yakima Valley grown amarillo and mosaic hops to emerge from. Abundant late hop additions in the kettle and whirlpool contribute powerful hop notes of citrus and berries in the flavor and aroma, while bitterness remains muted. Whether you’re mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, hiking the mountains, kayaking the coast, or enjoying the beaches, always be safe and bring a Life Jacket.” 4.2 percent ABV, 38 IBUs
Rude Parrot IPA: “Loud, sassy, and relentless, the Rude Parrot has an insatiable appetite for hops. Brewed with Vienna, light crystal, and a touch of honey malt, this golden hued IPA is aggressively hopped with simcoe and citra hops. A big juicy, tropical fruit hop nose yields way to an off dry, pleasantly bitter finish.” 5.9 percent ABV, 75 IBUs
Broken Mast Brown Ale: “Medium bodied and subtle in flavor, boasting malt flavors of toast, brown sugar, and toffee with subtle floral notes.” 5.1 percent ABV, 27 IBUs

DUO Brewing, Puyallup

Brewer: Dan O’Leary,
Earth & Wind American Wheat: “Crisp and refreshing with a lightly spicy note from the sterling hops.” 5 percent ABV
Cask Vanilla Porter: “Twin Ports Porter, cask conditioned with whole vanilla beans in the cask.” 6 percent ABV
Coffee Porter: “Twin Ports Porter infused with Puyallup’s own Martin Henry Coffee.” 6 percent ABV.
Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Scotch Ale: “Chockablock Scotch Ale aged in a rye whiskey barrel from Woodinville Whiskey.” 7.9 percent ABV
Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Milk Stout: “Poles Apart Milk Stout aged in a rye whiskey barrel from Woodinville Whiskey.” 7 percent ABV

Harmon Brewing Co., Tacoma

Brewer: Jeff Carlson,
Fall Ball Imperial Harvest Ale: “Harmon Harvest is an imperial red/amber brewed with an extra helping of Munich malt to give it a rich, deep amber color and complex malt body. Other malts are melanoidin, dextrin, 15L, 45L and 120L crystal malts and finished off with a small addition of chocolate malt. Hops are centennials, liberty and fuggle. We have also added a touch of pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and whole cinnamon sticks to round off the finish.” 8.1 percent ABV
Pumpkin Spiced Mt. Takhoma Blonde: “The Mt. Takhoma Blonde is a light bodied, crisp and refreshing brew. German pilsner malt and a touch of wheat are used to produce this ale. Liberty hops provide the balance. This beer finishes crisp and dry. This special harvest version is blended with pumpkin and spices.” 4.4 percent ABV

Narrows Brewing, Tacoma

Brewer: Joe Walts,
“We’re going to have two taps pouring at once, and we plan to have a Belgian Blond on one of the taps the entire time. For the other tap, we’ll start with a stout and hopefully finish with a double India pale lager. If the DIPL isn’t ready in time (it’s going to be close), I’ll serve our IPA instead.”
The Belgian Blond is 8.1% ABV and brewed with Pilsner malt, pale wheat malt, Magnum hops and Hallertau Mittelfruh hops. It’s fermented with a yeast strain that originated at the Westmalle brewery, which gives the beer a lot of fruity and spicy flavors. It’s a very dry beer in terms of sugar content, but fruity esters give the beer an illusion of sweetness.”
The Stout is 6.6 percent ABV and brewed with pale ale malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley and magnum hops. To feature the coffee and chocolate flavors as prominently as possible, I didn’t use any caramel malt or late hops. It’s dry and very drinkable, which are ideal characteristics for a summer dark beer.”
The Double India Pale Lager is going to be golden-colored, dry, and hopped with magnum, centennial, amarillo and citra. It’s at the tail end of its fermentation so I don’t know the ABV, and I just dry hopped it today so I haven’t had a chance to taste its full hop character.”

Puyallup River Brewing, Puyallup

Brewer: Eric Akeson,
Cucumber-Lemon Saison: “Light based saison spiced with grains of paradise. Copious amounts of cucumber and lemon zest added post fermentation. Finishes dry and very refreshing.”
Jack O’Lahar Pumpkin Ale: “Pumpkin and spices are added to a full bodied harvest style ale. It’s like pumpkin pie in a glass.”
Meeker Street Madness: “Our take on an American Barleywine / Triple IPA style. 10.5 percent ABV, 120 IBUs, and a big Northwest dry hop.”
Point Success Vanilla Porter: “Our robust porter accompanied by fresh vanilla beans. Very rich and smooth.”
Blackberry Belgian Sour: “Light base saison aged for over a year and a half on local blackberries, brettanomyces, and lactobacillus. Very dry, bubbly, fruity funk.”
Raspberry Belgian Sour: “Light base saison aged for over a year and a half on local raspberries, brettanomyces, and lactobacillus. Very dry, bubbly, fruity funk.”

Tacoma Brewing Co., Tacoma

Brewer: Morgan Alexander,
“I’ll be serving Penalty Kick Triple IPA (11 percent ABV and super full of citrus hops), Big & Spicy Ginger Ale (11 percent ABV, made with so much ginger it burns!), and Imperial Bourbon Stout (8 percent and very bourbony).

Wingman Brewers, Tacoma

Brewer: Ken Thoburn,
Miss-B-Haven Tripel: “A Belgian style tripel with a slight twist provided by orange peel and Northwest Hops.” 9 percent ABV
SMASH CItra: “A single malt and single hop beer. Using Yakima Valley Citra hops and Washington grown barley to provide a great hoppy/citrus aroma.” 6 percent ABV.

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