Food & Drink

South Sound brew fests expand to add new producers, as well as mead and kombucha

There’ll be some new brews at this month’s South Sound brew fests.

Of course, there’ll be beer and cider aplenty — along with games, food and music — at the Olympia Brew Fest Saturday and the Tumwater Artesian Brewfest Aug. 17, but both cities also will feature unexpected thirst quenchers.

New in Olympia is something old: mead, a honey wine often associated with medieval times.

Tumwater, which first offered mead last summer, is bringing that beverage back and adding hard kombucha, a tea-based beverage that’s more often seen in a non-alcoholic version.

The mead on offer at both festivals is made by Axis Meads of Lacey in such flavors as lavender and raspberry habañero.

“It’s good mead, so we thought, ‘Why not?’ ” fest organizer Mike Marohn told The Olympian. “Their mead is carbonated just like beer or cider. It has that mouthfeel.”

“People liked the mead, and they liked having something a little different at the event,” said Marisa Worden of Tumwater’s Parks and Recreation Department.

This year’s something different in Tumwater will be Kyla kombucha, made by Full Sail Brewery of Hood River, Oregon.

“It’s light, fizzy and refreshing, it’s low in calories, sugar and carbs, and it’s gluten free,” Worden told The Olympian. Among the featured flavors are ginger tangerine and hibiscus lime.

The Tumwater festival, held on the golf course built by Olympia Brewing Company, is South Sound’s largest brew fest, pointed out festival organizer Chuck Denney, Tumwater’s parks and recreation director. It showcases a winery and two distilleries along with 50 breweries, offering more than 130 beverages to try.

Another Tumwater feature is the “Brew-Mentation Tent,” where festival-goers can taste several beers made with barley grown in the Chehalis Basin. Tasters will be invited to give feedback, too. It’s all part of a Washington State University research effort to identify the barley varieties best suited for craft brewing and distilling.

The Olympia Brew Fest, held at the Port Plaza on the shores of Budd Inlet, showcases 35 carefully selected producers, with each serving samples of two to four beverages.

“We’ve tasted the beer of every brewery that’s invited,” Marohn said. “It has to meet our standards. It has to be good.”

Among the interesting-sounding offerings in Olympia this year are saison aged in sauvignon blanc barrels, from Tacoma’s Dystopian State, and Mount Olympus Brewing’s Midsummer’s Dreamsicle Hazy Pale Ale.

The fest website, which lists the beverages on offer, reveals that hazy ales and fruit-flavored brews will be well represented Saturday, as will ciders flavored with, as Marohn puts it, “anything but apples.”

“We probably have a few more fruit-type beers than we have had in the past,” he said. “Bent Bine has a lemon blonde lager. Dick’s Brewing has a grapefruit IPA. Top Rung is bringing its Summer Ale, which has raspberry overtones. Steam Donkey has a currant wheat ale, and Singing Hops has a peach hefeweizen.”

He’s excited to be hosting several breweries that haven’t participated before, including Pastime Brewery of Oroville, which is bringing its Lincoln Avenue Espresso Milk Stout; Packwood Brewing of Packwood, serving Mountain Goat Coffee Porter; and the Cannon Beach, Oregon-based Public Coast Brewing Co., whose offerings include Passion Fruit Kettle Sour.

Of the latter, he said, “I’ve been after them for years.”

Olympia Brew Fest

  • What: The eighth annual fest features more than 100 beers, ciders and meads. Proceeds benefit the Thurston County Chamber Foundation’s Small Business Development (Incubator) Program.
  • When: 1-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3
  • Where: Port Plaza, 701 Columbia St. NW, Olympia
  • Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door, $5 for designated drivers
  • More information:
  • On the menu: Among the festival’s food offerings are bacon-wrapped meatballs, oysters and the Chehalis Tribe’s grilled salmon. There’ll be vegetarian options alongside such basics as burgers and brats.

Tumwater Artesian Brewfest

  • What: The seventh fest, produced by the City of Tumwater and the Tumwater Downtown Association, honors the city’s brewing history. Proceeds benefit Special Olympics and Tumwater Youth Program.
  • When: 1-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17
  • Where: Tumwater Valley Golf Course, 4611 Tumwater Valley Drive SE, Tumwater
  • Tickets: $20-$25 in advance, $25-$30 at the door. $10 for designated drivers, plus a $5 parking fee to benefit Special Olympics
  • More information: 360-754-4160.,
  • On the menu: Food options run the gamut from foot-long corn dogs, burgers, fries and barbecue to Thai and Mexican specialties. There are vegetarian options here, too.