It’s a whole new ballgame for the Inland Northwest Craft Beer Festival.
Last year, the former Spokane Oktoberfest got a new name, and a new date: the final weekend of September, one week later than before.
Now the festival has a new location – Avista Stadium, home of the Spokane Indians – and a new identity tied to baseball (though that could be painful for Mariners fans).
“It’s an opportunity to freshen the event up. It just ended up being a good match,” said Eric Radovich, executive director of the sponsoring Washington Beer Commission and the Mariners’ official scorer and part-time announcer.
Parking is the main reason for the move after four years at Riverfront Park. People complained about having to pay for parking downtown – which leaves Radovich, as a Seattle resident, a bit bemused. There’s plenty of parking at Avista Stadium, all for free.
Also, said Radovich, “By the end of September, the park is a little worn out. After Pig Out, the grass gets trampled down.” But at Avista, “The field will be immaculate. Everybody can bring blankets and sit in the outfield.”
Brewery booths – 35 of them, up from last year’s 29, most from east of the Cascades – will line the warning track, with a music stage near second base, food trucks over by first and baseball-related games like speed pitch and tee ball on the infield.
The forecast calls for perfect fall baseball weather, low to mid-70s and partly sunny. That’s a welcome change from last year’s cold, wet, windy conditions that dampened attendance well below the 3,000 that the commission needs to break even on the event.
Another big difference this year is in the beer lineup, with barrels, sours, Randalls and other experimental selections replacing many of the more standard offerings breweries tended to bring in the past.
“This time, we’re bringing all brand-new beers,” said John Bryant of No-Li Brewhouse, which is pouring a cherry sour, cranberry/ pumpkin Krumpkin, hop-Randalled IPA and barrel-aged imperial IPA and imperial stout.
“People are coming out for the one-offs,” Bryant said. “It makes everybody kind of raise their recipe development.”
Among the other specialty entries from local breweries, out of the 120 beers listed in the program:
• Big Barn is pouring a pair of seasonals made with produce from its farm – Golden Pumpkin Ale and Blackberry Porter – as well as Miss Maggie’s Lavender IPA, done in cooperation with a Green Bluff neighbor.
• Hopped Up is bringing its fall seasonal Cloud Sweeper ESB, along with the lemon version of its Quality Cream Ale.
• Iron Goat will have four of its beloved barrel-aged beers – whiskey-barrel Goatnik Russian Imperial Stout, Cap’n Kidd Scotch and Punkid Pumpkin Ale, along with gin-barrel Head Butt IPA – and two fresh hop ales, a Simcoe-Citra IPA and the community SpoHop made with hops contributed by customers.
• River City also has a pair of barrel selections – Huckleberry Ale in Cabernet Franc barrels and True Stout in bourbon barrels – along with an Easy Green Fresh Hop Pale brewed in collaboration with Waddell’s.
• Other offerings from baseball-themed Waddell’s (named after turn-of-the- century pitcher Rube Waddell) include a seasonal Oktoberfest Marzen and the strong new Connie Mack’s Reserve.
• The Steam Plant has its seasonal Oktoberfest and pumpkin ales, along with a Cascadian dark ale and the football-inspired C Hops Victory Ale.
• Orlison offers a rye version of its India pale lager, plus a pumpkin version of its Underground stout lager.
• Perry Street is pouring a big Imperial Saison, with notes of clove, coriander and bitter orange peel.
• Ramblin’ Road is bringing a saison barrel-aged with Green Bluff cherries and a tripel made with lavender from the bluff, along with two beers served through Randalls: a Belgian quad through bourbon-soaked French oak and an IPA through whole-leaf Citra hops.
• As usual, Twelve String is pulling out all the stops with 10 selections including four barrel-aged offerings: both Imperial Mango Mambo Hefeweizen and Drop D Stout out of tequila barrels, whiskey barrel-aged Electric Slide Imperial IPA and a soured Don’t Fret Porter that spent time in both whiskey and wine barrels.
Add in such favorites as the latest double IPA from Yakima’s Bale Breaker, Elysian’s Night Owl pumpkin and Fremont’s always-popular Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout – in two versions this year, barrel-aged with pumpkin and oak-aged with hazelnut and smoked black peppercorns – and … well, we’re going to need extra innings.
• Just in time for fall, No-Li’s big, balanced Winter Warmer (7.5 percent alcohol by volume, 72 International Bitterness Units) is back in both draft and 22-ounce bottles.
• Also returning for the season is Iron Goat’s Cap’n Kidd Scotch Ale (7.5, 27), a wee heavy finished with heather flowers.
• Twelve String’s Roundabout Confusion harvest ale (7.4, 51) has a new character this year from fruity Nelson Sauvin hops.
• Mad Bomber’s Oktoberfest (5.9, 23) is an ale interpretation of the traditional malty German lager.
• The first of this year’s fresh hop beers from Trickster’s – the aptly named The Hoppit, made with Citra and Chinook – is set for release Saturday in Coeur d’Alene
Rest of the fests
Among the other area beer events this weekend:
• The Lantern Tavern is serving Belgian beers by Deschutes, Sockeye and New Belgium today and Saturday, with a taster tray plus a 10-ounce pour for $8.
• The Downtown Coeur d’Alene Oktoberfest today and Saturday features beer tasting at participating businesses and a main tent, along with German food and live music. Admission is $20, including a souvenir mug and six samples.
• A pumpkin ale and fresh hop IPA are among 10 beers on tap for Hoptoberfest on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at MickDuff’s Beer Hall in Sandpoint, with $1 off pints and 50 cents off tasters (souvenir glassware available for purchase).
From PBR to B&R
Add country music star Blake Shelton to the growing legion of No-Li fans. Shelton liked the brewery’s beer so much during his Spokane Arena visit Sept. 18 that he had a supply of Born & Raised IPA and other No-Li brews delivered to his tour bus the next day in Tacoma, then stopped by the Total Wine & More in Olympia and ordered another $200 worth to take with him to his shows in British Columbia.
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