There was no Miller, no Budweiser, no Coors or Schlitz on Saturday at the YWCA Big Beer Festival, and there was certainly nothing calling itself “Lite.”
This was a day for India pale ale, stout, porter and other individually concocted variations prepared by 20 breweries from the Puget Sound region.
All 1,500 tickets to the event, a fundraiser for YWCA Pierce County, were sold before the doors of the Foss Waterway Seaport opened for the first of two sessions.
“It’s not like a get-drunk kind of festival,” said Roxi Wolfe of event planners Union House Productions. “The people here are dedicated to the craft beer industry. In the past four years, craft beer has really taken off. The people – their palate – is looking for an experience.”
“You’re seeing a lot of people enjoying craft beer, and supporting great breweries,” said Shane Johns, head brewer at Tacoma’s Engine House No. 9. He came to share a pair of new brews, a Belgian dark and an India pale ale.
“I think there’s a huge growing movement,” he said. “It was always Budweiser, Coors. Now people are pushing the limit.”
Dan O’Leary of Duo Brewery – housed in a 224-square-foot Puyallup garage – brought four brews: a pair of Scotch ales, one aged in a whiskey barrel; and two milk stouts, one steeped in the company of coffee.
“You’re seeing enthusiasts and people who like local beer,” he said. “People are discovering that instead of a commodity beer, you’re drinking something that has flavor. It’s a focus on local and taste.”
In business since 1994, Robert Christian sells brewing ingredients and supplies at his Beer Essentials in Lakewood.
“I’m half-Belgian,” he said. “I’m seeing 10 to 20 percent annual growth in interest in specialty beers.”
John O’Gara has managed Tacoma’s Parkway Tavern for 12 years. “Tacoma’s a great beer-drinking town,” he said. “In the past, it’s been difficult to get the beer we wanted. I’ve worked hard to get good beer in Tacoma. Now it’s finally starting to happen. I’m seeing more demand for craft beer.
“I’ve said many times that I have to find a way to sell less beer – I don’t have anywhere to keep it all.”
Today, his tavern sells 32 varieties, with 20 taps regularly changing and three or four new every day.
Vanessa Darrah is marketing coordinator for the YWCA Pierce County. She expected Saturday’s event will gross about $30,000 for the Tacoma nonprofit. All the tickets were gone by Friday.
“We were ecstatic,” Darrah said.
Friends Maria Johnson and Virdie Golliher came from Fox Island. They had sampled six craft beers by the end of the session.
“It’s a super event,” said Golliher.
“We like beer,” said Johnson. ”
“And the food was great,” said Golliher.
There was food?