Brrr-ewfest: Vancouver's beer scene heats up with winter festival

Downtown quickly goes from zero outdoor beer-centric events to three

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter


photoA wide variety of beers from local brewers will be on hand at the first Vancouver Winter Brewfest.

(/The Columbian)

If you go

What: Vancouver Winter Brewfest, Vancouver’s first winter beer festival.

Where: Esther Short Park, in Propstra Square by the clock tower at Sixth and Columbia streets.

When: 3 to 10 p.m. Dec. 7; noon to 10 p.m. Dec. 8.

Cost: $20 at the gate, includes commemorative mug and 10 taste tokens.

Information: Vancouver Winter Brewfest.

Winter Brewfest’s participating breweries

10 Barrel Brewhouse.

Burnside Brewing.

New Old Lompoc.

Loowit Brewing Co.

Mt. Tabor Brewing.

Ninkasi Brewing.

Redhook Ale Brewery.

Widmer Brothers.

Occidental Brewing Co.

Southern Oregon Brewing Co.

Pelican Pub & Brewery.

Hopworks Urban Brewery.

Seven Brides Brewing.

Pale Horse Brewing Co.

Phat Matt’s Brewing Co.

Goose Island Brewpub.

Gigantic Brewing Co.

Fort George Brewery.

Coalition Brewing.

Heathen Brewing.

McMenamins Brewery.

Oakshire Brewing.

Westport Brewing Co.

Rogue Ales.

Alameda Brewing.

The Vancouver beer scene is growing up fast.

In the past year, the city — which had never had an outdoor beer festival — became home to three brewfests and a handful of new breweries.

The third and final brewfest of the year, the Vancouver Winter Brewfest, begins today and runs through Saturday, with 25 breweries from around the region and a festive atmosphere that should draw between 1,000 and 1,500 visitors, said organizer Brian Davis.

"We're excited," Davis said. "I'm excited personally seeing the buzz around town in Vancouver. These festivals couldn't have happened five or 10 years ago, and now we're showing we really can do big things like this."

The first two festivals, Who's Your Daddy, which was on June 16 at Turtle Place, and the Vancouver Brewfest, in Esther Short Park on Aug. 10-11, were successful enough that organizers of both events have said they plan to keep them going next year.

And Davis plans to grow the Winter Brewfest next

year as well.

First, though, there are a lot of beers to try at his kickoff event.

"We're keeping it clean and neat and simple this year," Davis said. "We have 25 brewers, we'll have some big-screen TVs with football, Santa's coming on Saturday. If it gets really big through Friday, we'll see about adding some extra (heated) tents."

Yes, Santa Claus is coming to the 21-and-older event, Davis said.

"I don't think you can ever be too old for Santa! Come on now," he added.

Like proud parents, Vancouver's participating brewery owners say they're thrilled to see the scene coming along so well.

"I think it's going to be a nice, comfortable atmosphere," said Eric Surface, owner of Mt. Tabor Brewing in downtown Vancouver. "I think it's going to be really cool, and I think it will be a great downtown vibe. The downtown Vancouver beer scene is really starting to grow up."

For the festival, Surface has made a special batch of a beer he calls "Rocket Blonde." It's a honey malt ale with a good kick to it, he said.

"It was one of the first beers we ever sold," Surface said. "It's kind of our way of bringing back a winter classic."

Each brewer at the festival will serve one beer, and visitors will be able to buy those beers from the brewers after the event, Davis said.

Sunny Parsons, owner of Heathen Brewing in Hazel Dell, is going with a darker beer. The brewery's "Roasted Rhapsody" is a mix of flaked oats, chocolate malt, crystal malts, light molasses and three kinds of hops.

"We wanted it to be an eclectic beer with a lot of ingredients," Parsons said. "It's pretty amazing. It has a rich roasted flavor, kind of a coffee flavor."

Downtown's newest brewery, Loowit Brewing Company, is preparing its own dark beer, the "Shimmergloom Stout," named after a dragon in the Forgotten Realms book series.

"It's a standard stout, with roasted barley and cocoa notes," said Devon Bray, who co-owns the brewery with Thomas Poffenroth. "My business partner and I are fantasy book fans and it's the name of a shadow dragon from one of our favorite series."

The pair are thrilled to see a third festival in Vancouver in such a short time, Bray added.

"We're really excited for it," Bray said. "I think it's really great for Vancouver that we had two festivals in the summer and one in the winter. The scene is really starting to grow and we're glad to be part of it."

The event, in the brick area (called Propstra Square) of Esther Short Park, could accommodate 3,000 or more visitors, Davis added.

He's also set up deals for festivalgoers with the Hilton Vancouver Washington that include room and ticket packages, he said.

"We'll also have food vendors -- 808 Grinds, the Grant House, Main Event and Whole Foods will have booths with a variety good things to eat, and we're working with Century Link to make the area a wireless hot spot," Davis said.

The event costs $20 at the gate, which includes a commemorative mug and 10 taste tokens. Designated drivers can get in for $5, and get unlimited free soda, Gatorade or water, he said.

There's also still time for volunteers to sign up for the Saturday shift. Volunteers get a T-shirt, tokens and a mug for helping out, Davis said.