Northwest beer fans are known for their dedication to IPA — India pale ale, a bitter brew dominated by the flavor of hops.
But at Saturday’s Olympia Brew Fest, drinkers will be invited to venture beyond their usual brews.
“We actually limit breweries to just bringing one IPA,” said festival organizer Mike Marohn. “They have to bring something else other than just a bunch of hoppy IPAs.”
A bitter beer might be a little hard to swallow for some, especially on a hot day, said Marohn, who started the festival four years ago as a fundraiser for the Thurston County Chamber Foundation’s Small Business Incubator.
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So what else are the 30 participating breweries bringing? One answer is fruit brews, including those with more unusual fruit flavors such as Puyallup River’s Pineapple Paradise Cream Ale, Odd Otter’s Ottermelon Hefeweizen and no less than three grapefruit beers.
“A walk down the beer aisle is increasingly reminiscent of a trip to a tiki bar,” Fritz Hahn wrote in a Washington Post article in May. Experts speculate that the rise in tropical beers is due to the way juicy fruit flavors match with new and more aromatic hops.
It’s also definitely a summer trend, and thus a match for what organizers hope will be a beautiful, sunny day at Port Plaza. And in case it’s a bit too sunny, Marohn added a mister tent, so people can cool off under the spray.
We try to distinguish ourselves from other brew fests. We have a variety of breweries that I don’t think you’re going to find anywhere else.
Mike Marohn, Olympia Brew Fest organizers
Whatever the reasoning behind the trend, those flavors, along with the more traditional berry additions, will be abundant at Saturday’s celebration.
The variety of styles — along with a food menu that includes salmon smoked by the Chehalis tribe — is an attempt to set this festival apart from other beer celebrations.
“We try to distinguish ourselves from other brew fests,” Marohn said. That means not just asking participants to bring out-of-the-ordinary brews but also inviting out-of-the-ordinary breweries.
Along with such Olympia favorites as Fish Tale and Three Magnets, the festival offers brews you probably haven’t tried before.
“We have a variety of breweries that I don’t think you’re going to find anywhere else,” Marohn said. “It’s unlikely that you can get some of these in a store.”
One example is Whipsaw, an Ellensburg brewery that has never participated in a brew festival. “We’re excited to have them,” he said.
Other breweries that drinkers might not have encountered are Wild Ride from Redmond, Oregon, and Paradise Creek from Pullman, which will be serving two huckleberry brews.
If beer is not your thing, how about music by the Oly Mountain Boys, Tango Alpha Tango and Strike 9?
Marohn also has some fun and games planned for breaks in the music.
“This year, we’re going to try out a slalom hula hoop course,” he said, describing a course of poles that competitors will hoop their way around and through.
“If anything, it will be amusing to the audience,” he said.
“We like to have fun,” he added. “That’s what it’s all about. And it’s for a good cause.”
Olympia Brew Fest
What: Olympia’s fifth annual brew festival will feature beer and ciders from 30 breweries, plus food and music. Proceeds benefit the Thurston County Chamber Foundation’s Small Business Incubator.
When: 1-8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Port Plaza, Port of Olympia.
Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door; for military, $20 in advance, $25 at the door; for designated drivers, $5. The event is open only to ages 21 and older. Tickets include six tastes (5 1/2 ounces each) and a commemorative stein. Additional tastes are six for $8.
Information: 360-357-3362, olybrewfest.com.