(Photo Credit: Shane O’Brien)

On the eve of the most brutal snowstorm to lash Seattle in 2016, a small but hardy group girded our winter jackets around us, and braved the bitter cold and tumultuous waters of the Puget Sound in search of winter’s bounty. Or, my wife and I along with John, a friend and beer guru from down the street, took the West Seattle water taxi across the Sound in calm waters before the few inches of snow we got ever fell. Either way, we were very brave in our resolve to attend Ivar’s 6th Annual Northwest Winter Beer Tasting!

The event took place at Ivar’s Acres of Clams. The recently remodeled location on Pier 54 overlooking Elliott Bay was a sight to behold. The space has been beautifully redone featuring floor to ceiling woodwork synonymous with Seattle’s rich history that makes for a warm and comfortable dining experience for any and all who enter. The beer tasting took place in the Kalakala room, named after a ferry that sailed Puget Sound from 1935 to 1967. With a roaring fireplace and lovely woodwork, I was informed by my wife that it is now the leading venue for her birthday party, later this spring.

(Photo Credit: Shane O’Brien)

Ivar’s Acres of Clams Executive Chef, Chris Garr, served a delicious medley of passed appetizers that flowed out of the kitchen throughout the evening. The food was magnificently paired to the various selections of winter beers that were the stars of the evening. Chef Garr featured house smoked bacon wrapped fig with tarragon and goat cheese, honey and sriracha glazed prawns topped with green onion and cilantro, stout braised pork belly with shaved brussel sprouts and baby Yukon gold potatoes, as well as several other mouthwatering options that helped elevate the evening to the height of gastronomic enjoyment.

Many of the heavy-hitters of the Seattle and Northwest beer scene were to be found at the event. Georgetown BrewingPyramid BreweriesMaritime Pacific Brewing CompanyFremont BrewingSilver City BreweryRedhook BreweryBlack Raven Brewing Co.Hales Brewery, and Diamond Knot Craft Brewing featured an amazing assortment of winter brews. With a line-up, such as that, it was virtually impossible to pick out one “star beer” for the evening. The beers ran the gambit of the rich, malty, hoppy, and spiced flavors so treasured by winter beer connoisseurs and were an excellent example of why Seattle and the Northwest will remain one of the premier locations for craft brewers nationwide.

There were two small nuggets of beer intel I was able to smuggle out of the event: Georgetown Brewing is strongly considering moving their Gusto Crema Coffee Ale from the ranks of part-time (seasonal) to a full-time (year-round availability) status. If you are a lover of a good coffee ale, then this is huge news. This sumptuous cream ale was a Gold medal winner in the Coffee Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival in 2016 and is one to truly delight both those of us who enjoy the dark side of beer and those who like to keep it a little lighter. Additionally, another piece of big news for dark beer lovers was news that Fremont Brewing is considering making Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout available year-round. Those of us who eagerly await this amazing stout each fall are giddy with anticipation!

Photo Credit: Shane O’Brien

Overall Ivar’s Northwest Winter Beer Tasting was an amazing success of great beer and great food all served in a tremendous venue by friendly and knowledgeable staff. If you were scared off by the impending Seattle-snowpocalypse-2016, I would strongly suggest putting the Ivar’s event on your calendar for early December 2017 (and showing up early). Failure to do so could result in members of the What’s Up Northwest team sampling you out of some of the best selections! Here is hoping you and yours all enjoy great fare and libations throughout the holiday season.

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