Festival of the Dark Arts

03/10/2014 10:07 PM | Deleted user
Festival of the Dark Arts
by Lee Hedgmon

February is Stout month and what better way to celebrate it than heading to Astoria and Fort George for the Festival of the Dark Arts. This year was my first time attending and I was not prepared for the sheer scale of this event. I took the Brewvana bus there with my partner and we were going to stay the night, which meant I had planned a day of epic tasting. It was not just amazing beers to taste, but also activities deemed “Dark” and medieval to enjoy. I’d heard that there was going to be a lot of fire. Considering the weather, I was ready to be impressed. 

The festival touted the “largest selection of specialty stouts in Northwest” on their website and they solidly laid claim to that with 55 different stouts. I was particularly excited because I had a horse in that race, a cinnamon chocolate milk stout put in by Portland U-Brew and Pub and brewed by me. There were the usual participants of great stouts put forward by Boneyard, Firestone Walker, Stone Brewing, Bear Republic, Alesmith, and of course Fort George. With 55 beers to choose from, and only 8 hours to enjoy them, I had to narrow down my choices to not readily available and interesting sounding beers. 

The festival utilized the full expanse of Fort George’s space. It seemed like every nook and cranny had either an attraction or was packed with bodies slowly sipping dark brews. I missed the opening procession of dancers and costumed folks, but as the afternoon wore on I saw them weaving in and out of crowds. The Captain Jack Sparrow was the highlight and he was constantly mobbed with people taking pictures with him. Due to weather conditions the two story building was jam-packed with bodies, as was the warehouse.

We resisted the urge to just bolt and run from one building to the next and stopped by the tents they had set up outside with demonstrations of blacksmithing, food sellers, and more beer for the brave and rain-proofed. The fire dancers and world record setting fire-eater were due to perform after dark. There were artisans of metalwork and tattoo artists, tarot card readers, and even a booth that did old fashioned tin-type photos. I contemplated a tattoo of hops but decided against that as quickly as we wandered by the booth. I did come away with an iron rose in full bloom and about 11 tasty beverages over the course of 5 hours. Of the 11 beers that I tried, the standouts were truly interesting and if they’d had bottles available to sell I’d have clubbed folks with my iron rose to get to the front of the line to purchase them. 

Fort George out did themselves with their Rumkin Stout, made with pumpkin and aged in rum barrel. A close second was the Rum Barrel Cavatica, followed by the Squashed Stout, which was sweet, toasty and earthy. Block 15’s Nebula was stellar, a rich and roasty combination. I had the Dark Matter from Fort George and was blown away by the dark fruit aromas, malty richness and big bodied mouthfeel. Widmer’s KGB blend from 3 barrels was impressive and I’m hoping to find it again in Portland. New brewery Buoy Brewing in Astoria had a solid stout and many beers ran out quickly as word of mouth spread and people made their way to the stations to snag the last few drops of Grey Monday by The Bruery and the wild card beer by the new brewery, Seaside BrewingPortland U-Brew and Pub’s contribution, the Cinnamon Chocolate Milk Stout, blew in little over 3 hours from the start of the festival. As I was carrying the sign to where Warren waited to take our picture with it, I was stopped numerous times and asked by folks if it was still there. 

People were excited by all the beers there and it was the most well-mannered festival of fairly high octane beers that I’ve ever been to and I can’t wait to go back again next year.

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