I attended the Washington Brewers Guild's Cask Beer Festival on Saturday. Like the beers poured at Seattle Center, my notes have been aging. (Casking creates a gentle, natural CO2 carbonation and allows the flavors to develop, resulting in a richer and smoother beer. My notes, however, get staler by the day.)
While several of the beers were brewed in limited quantities specifically for the event, you can still find some of them (or their non-casked cousins on draft) at the places they were brewed. Here are some I'd seek out while supplies last:
Bi-Polar is a 120-minute IPA from Heads Up Brewing in Silverdale. It's got Columbia, Cascade and Chinook hops and extra-light malt. It was aged in bourbon barrels, producing a high-octane fruitiness sweetness (9.5 percent alcohol) that finishes sweet, without bitterness or burn.
While you're in Silverdale, try the Whoop Pass Double IPA from Silver City Restaurant and Brewery. A non-cask version is on draft. More than 50 pounds of Cascade and Columbus hops are in every batch.
Closer to Tacoma, The Ram in Puyallup is pouring a nice Saison. At the Cask festival, I tried The Ram's farmhouse ale, injected with Brettanomyces lambicus yeast, which gave the beer frisky funk – fruity, but not barnyardy. Flavors of bitter orange, sweet orange peel, coriander, jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar) and grains of paradise (a zesty, peppery spice) mingled nicely. A version without Brettanomyces lambicus (but still containing wheat, rye and pilsner malts, and Sterling hops and all the flavors) is on tap at The Ram in Puyallup.
Braveheart Ale on cask wasn't as intense as the draft version at The Harmon Restaurant and Brewery in Tacoma. This is The Harmon's Scottish ale "hopped" with heather tips instead of hops. Both are big, fresh and woodsy. I think I prefer the draft version.
What else did I drink and like at the Cask Beer Festival? Mac and Jack's Anise Wheat was like Hefeweizen whipped with licorice. ...The Ram's (Seattle) Rambeaux, a Scotch ale that won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival, was subtler than any Stallone movie. .... Elysian Brewing Company's Imperial Pumpkin, with pumpkin meat and roasted pumpkin seeds in the mash, was all around bigger and spicier than the non-cask Night Owl pumpkin ale pouring at Elysian's three Seattle pubs.
Speaking of Elysian and pumpkin, the brewery will hold its Great Pumpkin Brewing Festival at is three locations starting Saturday: Elysian-Capitol Hill (noon-10 p.m., 1221 E. Pike St., 206-860-1920); Monday through Oct. 27 at Elysian-TangleTown (2106 N. 55th St., 206-547-5929); and Oct. 28 at Elysian Fields (noon-10 p.m., 542 First Ave S, 206-382-4498). Ten pumpkin beers are on tap.