Great Pumpkin Beer Festival wrap-up

Looking back in retrospect on the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival we attended in Seattle this past weekend, there’s really not much more I can add to my day 1 and day 2 summaries except for the beers I sampled (for day 2) and any final notes. I also have quite a few pictures that I’ll run in a separate post as just one big gallery.

Elysian's 9th annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival

The two biggest drawbacks I noted about the Festival were from day 2: the tremendously long line (which we were fortunate to get there early enough to not be too far back!) and the late opening (12:20 instead of noon). There may well have been a crazy line on the first day as well, but as I’d mentioned, we got in with a media pass an hour early and got to sample the beers ahead of the crowd. That was a huge bonus, but frankly I was more than happy to pay to enter for the second day as well—this Fest was absolutely worth it!

Elysian’s production brewery in Georgetown proves to be a great place to hold a festival like this… except possibly for the fact that they are in Georgetown, an industrial neighborhood that offers little in the way of public parking. Most of the commercial on-street parking has a two-hour limit, and we finally found unlimited parking the first day next to a park/ballfield about four blocks from the brewery. The next day we parked near Full Throttle Bottles, a nice bottleshop about five blocks down the street. (I also picked up a bunch of Washington beers there to bring home.)

Georgetown is kind of a cool neighborhood, offering up the original Rainier Brewing facility in an old brick building down the road from Elysian (and across the street from Full Throttle) and a number of interesting businesses that seem a cross between blue-collar stores eking out a living in an industrial zone and hipster gentrification—not that either is a bad thing. And Elysian’s brewery itself is pure production, with a big parking lot and lots of warehouse space that provided the perfect space for a festival. An interesting backdrop reflected the Georgetown vibe perfectly: the rail lines right behind the brewery that had loud trains moving by all day long, and the Boeing airfield just south that had low-flying planes of all sizes passing by overhead.

Food was provided by about four food trucks parked at the back of the lot, ranging from New Orleans-inspired food to a straight-up grill to rice bowls to pumpkin beer ice cream. If you don’t get something from them early on, you can expect a wait.

Here are the various beers I sampled on the second day:

  • The Lost Abbey/Elysian Avant Gourde (collaboration, Bière de Garde with pumpkin and spices)
  • Pike Harlot’s Harvest
  • Elysian Mr. Yuck Sour Pumpkin Ale
  • Elysian Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale
  • Almanac Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine
  • Alaskan Pumpkin Porter
  • Black Raven Harbinger Pumpkin Stout
  • Georgetown Pump-Kin Barrel Aged Porter
  • Beer tapped from the giant pumpkin—someone mentioned it was the Punkuccino which I believe it was
  • Southern Tier Pumking
  • Cambridge Zwickel of the Damned (basically Pumpkin Altbier)
  • Elliott Bay Kill Bill 4 (their Organic Pumpkin Ale blended with Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout)
  • Avery Rumpkin (18.5% abv rum barrel aged pumpkin insanity)
  • Bainbridge Island Whiskey Jack (pumpkin ale in Bainbridge Organic Distillers’ wheat whiskey barrels)
  • Ninkasi/Elysian Hopsquash Pumpkin IPA (collaboration)
  • Fat Head’s Spooky Tooth Imperial Pumpkin Ale

And, the rundown from day one:

  • Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale
  • Cambridge Brett Sematary Sour Pumpkin Ale (mislabeled, I thought I had gotten their Great Pumpkin but still good)
  • North Peak Hooligan Hoppy Pumpkin Ale
  • Saint Arnold Pumpkinator (Imperial Stout)
  • Epic Ales Pumpkin Pie Gose
  • Northwest Brewing Jack
  • Elysian Purple Pumpkineater (Lavender Pumpkin Saison)
  • Fremont Pump’kin B-Bomb (bourbon barrel aged Imperial Pumpkin Porter)
  • Slippery Pig Stinging Nettle Amber (pumpkin and nettles—really)
  • Elysian The Great Gherkin (cucumber pumpkin ale)
  • Elysian The Gourdfather (Barleywine)
  • Beau’s/Elysian Oiseau de Nuit Pumpkin Gruit
  • Whatever pumpkin beer was in the first giant pumpkin that was tapped (didn’t find out what it was, it was good though)
  • Howe Sound Pumpkineater
  • Puyallup River Gourdy Wow!
  • Iron Hill Ichabod Imperial Belgian Pumpkin Ale

That is a lot of pumpkin beer! I’m pretty sure I have to call out Avery Brewing’s insane 18.5% abv pumpkin monster “Rumpkin” as a highlight—it was a super-limited pour on Saturday that I happened to be lucky enough to be walking by when it went on tap—and the best way I can think to describe it was a sweet, boozy pumpkin liqueur. Pretty amazing, but compared to the others on the list definitely an outlier so I’m not sure it’s fair to single that out as the best overall when it was so limited (they were pouring from bottles rather than a keg).

Of the other beers, none were over-spiced (a problem with many commercial examples) and while some didn’t have as prominent a pumpkin character, there were standouts: the Pumpkinator, Ichabod, and Heirloom Barleywine (all were high-alcohol (of course) and really good), most of the Elysian beers (I especially enjoyed the more unusual ones like Mr. Yuck and The Great Gherkin but that might be masochistic), and of course the Pumpkin Pie Gose gets a special mention because that was probably the most unusual of what I tried: very salty, combined with the pumpkin and spices to be really weird but… really kind of good.

Not to say the others weren’t good, of course—let’s face it, I was in heaven for pumpkin beers.

This has basically taken my top spot for favorite beer fests, partially because of the pumpkin beers and partially because I think Elysian (despite the late opening) has done a really good job of organizing it and keeping the crowd under control. The only time it really felt crowded to me was during the tapping of the giant pumpkins, and that’s to be expected when free beer is pouring!

(And a funny story: on Saturday the guy doing the pumpkin tapping with his drill and giant drillbit—at least eight to ten inches long—was drilling the air hole in the top of the pumpkin and suddenly stopped, looked shocked, and held up his drill—without the bit. It had fallen off and into the pumpkin! Fortunately he had another he fetched to finish the job. I might even have that moment on film.)

I’m already scheming on going next year, and of course already dreaming up some crazy new pumpkin beers to brew at home.

Big thanks to Elysian Brewing for the media pass and a great festival!