Assemble 30+Pacific Northwest microbreweries, have them each craft two to four “strange” brews, round up a friendly crowd of unpretentious beer lovers, set it in a picturesque and historical small town, throw costumes and live music into the mix, and what do you get? Strange Brewfest, the world’s best beer festival.
How it Goes Down
Strange Brewfest takes place on Friday and Saturday of the last weekend of January in beautiful Port Townsend, Washington. Craft brewers from around the area each brings a couple of barrels of the strangest, most creative, and unforgettable beer they can concoct to compete for the title of “Strangest Brew”.
Participants pay $30 for a 6 0z. souvenir tasting cup and the ability to taste any or all of the strange brews in exchange for a token ($1.50 each).
Then things get strange…
Why Strange Brewfest is the World’s Best Beer Festival
In 200 Words or Less
For those of you too lazy to spend more than a minute reading, here’s a quick overview:
- Otherworldly Beer: Snow cone, cocoa balls, salad, and donut flavored beers are among 70+ crazy brews on tap.
- Friendly Crowd: A welcoming all-ages collection of locals and Seattle weekenders.
- Ideal Venue: The indoor/outdoor setup is perfect for a comfortable quaff.
- Unparalleled Accessibility: Small crowds provide the opportunity to get to know the brewers.
- Costumes: Parties are always better when costumes are involved. Strange Brewfest is no different.
- Live Music: Local bands set a great vibe.
- It’s Cheap: Expect to spend only $50 or less on beer for the weekend!
- Fantastic Setting: Port Townsend is a can’t miss destination in its own right.
- Unique Accommodation: Where else can you sleep in the General’s House of a historical army base?!
- Once Again, The Beer: Unforgettable beers you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Strange Brewfest gives you a once in a lifetime chance to sample Willy Wonka-like beer flavors you’d never know could exist.
To give you an idea of what to expect, here are some of my favorite brews from this year’s event:
The Samsquanch by Downpour Brewing
An 8.3% imperial ale poured over a snow cone flavored with your choice of maple bacon, ghost pepper, or cherry syrup.
Scotchy Cocoa Balls by Bellevue Brewing
Brewer’s description: “Close your eyes and lose yourself in this Tropical beer. Bold coconut flavor with subtle hints of pineapple and vanilla. This Big 7% ABV Scotch will get you, ‘Right with the world’.” The beer is garnished with a scoop of Cocoa Puffs cereal on the top, to add some crunch.
Beer Salad by Jellyfish Brewing
“Dry saison infused with cucumber, arugula, basil, lemon, and radish. Dry, peppery, citrus, healthy.”
Donut Pale by Fish Brewing
A pale ale infused with 36 buttermilk donuts. The glass is garnished with a maple glazed rim and a topping of sprinkles. Cops would fall over for themselves to have this as an after-work drink, as it tasted exactly like a donut.
So, yeah, if you’re looking for easy-drinking lagers go to Costco and buy yourself a case. But if you’re up for crazy hit-or-miss concoctions that push the envelope of the meaning of “beer”, Strange Brewfest is for you.
This isn’t your typical urban brew festival packed with drunk college kids, pretentious millennials, line-butting jackasses, and senseless tourists. Instead, because Strange Brewfest is so off-the-radar, attendees are an all-aged bunch of welcoming locals mixed in with some weekenders from the Seattle area.
The Brewfest takes place at the American Legion in downtown Port Townsend. It’s the perfect venue for the world’s best beer festival. About two thirds of the breweries are inside what basically amounts to a large elementary school gymnasium, where it’s always warm and bands play live music on the stage from time-to-time. The other third of the breweries are outside under a big tent where you can cool off, chat with your friends, and grab a bite from one of the on-site food vendors.
Because it’s so small and low-key, at Strange Brewfest you have the chance to talk to all brewers and learn first-hand about what inspired their strange brew and what they normally brew the other 51 weeks of the year.
For example, from the owner of Dungeness Brewing we learned that his Crab Stout—an annual favorite—is made by throwing in live Dungeness crabs during the boiling step of the brewing process. And once the crabs are thoroughly cooked, they make a stock from the shells, which is thrown back into the brew. The result: a surprisingly delicious and authentically crab-tasting brew. It’s just too bad that the owner and his wife keep the delicious beer-infused crab meat to themselves!
The best parties are costume parties. For whatever reason, when people are disguised their everyday reservations are disguised as well and they let loose. Strange Brewfest isn’t technically a costume party, but about 15% of attendees do wear costumes. Their enthusiasm is infectious, creating an amazing vibe that encourages not only the beers to get a little bit strange.
Every once in a while, a Pacific Northwestern band will jump on the stage and give attendees a reason to take a break from downing one strange beer after another.
Here’s a taste of Friday’s entertainment.
In total, we end up spending about $50 each on beer: $30 for the entrance fee and $20 on for tokens. This got us all the beer we can swallow and then some, largely because by the end the breweries are giving away their stuff for free! Good luck spending only $25 a night for essentially all-you-can-drink beer at any other brew fest.
Port Townsend is destination in itself, Brewfest or no Brewfest. The picturesque town of about 9 thousand residents located at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, about 1.5 hours drive and a ferry ride from Seattle and 2.5 hours drive plus a 30 minute a ferry ride from Vancouver. It’s the perfect distance from the cities: not an enormous trek, but far enough to keep the riffraff away.
When not at the Brewfest, we enjoy walking along the beach, checking out the quirky cafés and shops of downtown, a US National Landmark Historic District, and eating at local diners full of character and delicious food.
We never think twice about where to stay in Port Townsend. Fort Worden can’t be beat.
Fort Worden is a military base constructed in 1903. Now it is a historical landmark that, instead of making it a museum, the government decided to make some extra money on by renting the houses as hotels. Staying at Fort Worden is literally staying in a museum.
Over the years, our friends and we have stayed at the Steward’s Cottage, the Colonel’s House, and The Bricks. For next time we’ve got our eyes on Alexander’s Castle (an actual castle!) or The Admiral’s House.
Once Again, The Beer!
At the end of the day it’s all about the beer. That’s what separates Strange Brewfest from the other best beer festivals in the world.
Every year it’s like Christmas not knowing which breweries will be attending and what crazy deliciousness they’ll come up with. This year we thought the lineup was pretty un-beer-eivable!
The World’s Best Beer Festival
If not the world’s best beer festival, Strange Brewfest is at least the best craft beer festival. That’s because it is the essence of craft beer: Local, small, friendly, unique, and delicious.
For Kim and I this was our third straight year and you better believe we’re planning on going again in 2018. If you know what’s good for you, we’ll see you there!