Olympia Brew Fest Recap: Try these IPAs on #IPADay Aug. 7

By Ron Swarner on August 3, 2014

Thursday, Aug. 7, as you surely know, is a pretty big holiday: National IPA Day (or #IPADay, if you're joining the cause on Twitter).

No, it's not ridiculous. And, of course, National IPA Day isn't the only drink "holiday." Someone, somewhere has declared a day of recognition for every drink imaginable; there's National Irish Coffee Day, National Mulled Wine Day, National Tequila Day, National Margarita Day, National Rum Punch Day, International Beer Day, which was Aug. 1 (What makes that last one international? No idea.). ... Imaginary or not, these holidays have become a wonderful marketing opportunity for restaurants and brands and a crutch for the media, including the Weekly Volcano. We include a glorious drink and food holiday every week in the Buzz-O-Meter in our print version. Who am I to criticize International Gruit Beer Day if I can get a free Gruit out of it? And anyone can get behind National Margarita Day as an excuse to order an extra round.

OK, in my heart, I think these days are crap, but they're still fun every now and then. I couldn't care less about National Rhubarb Pie Day. But, when it's National IPA Day, or any beer day, I'm in.

Founded by social media beer aficionados "The Beer Wench" Ashley Routson and "Certified Cicerone" Ryan Ross, in 2011 as a way to link breweries, bloggers and beer drinkers, National IPA Day celebrates this particular style because the India Pale Ale is one of civilization's saner inspirations for a holiday: it evolved from a means of preservation during beers' arduous travels from England to India; nobody died or was tortured; nobody has to fast; nobody has to commune with the dead or celebrate war. All you have to do is be glad this good beer made it to America and enjoy the hell out of it - which I did at the 2014 Olympia Brew Fest.

More than half of the breweries at the third annual Olympia Brew Fest poured their India Pale Ales. In fact, it's the most entered beer style in many other major craft beer competitions. Every brewery worth its salt has an IPA in its arsenal. OK, they tend to get a bad wrap for being overly hoppy. Whatever. We are blessed with access to about 20-percent of the world's hop supply in Eastern Washington, with varietals unlike any others grown abroad. And, many new hop varietals have been discovered and developed to provide a range of subtle to bold spicing notes. But the reality is, lots of people love them. Because they're delicious. And, I am one of those people.

If you need a couple recommendations, I'm more than happy to divulge some findings from the Olympia Brew Fest. Here's a look at some wonderful IPAs from the Olympia beer festival for you to hunt down for Thursday's oh so hoppy day.

Colin Harvin handed me a 7 Seas Brewing Life Jacket Session IPA at the Olympia Brew Fest, which was a first. It's not my first Life Jacket. I enjoyed the highly drinkable, thirst quenching IPA loaded with Amarillo and Nugget hops and juicy hop aromas of tangerine and grapefruit at its release party in June. It WAS the first time Harvin handed me a 7 Seas beer. The former Wingman Brewers beer slinger recently crossed the Narrows Bridge to work for the Gig Harbor brewing company. 7 Seas Brewing, Life Jacket Session IPA, 4.4 percent ABV, 65 IBU

Nathan Reilly says construction on his Three Magnets Brewing Co. is going slow. The new downtown Olympia brewery won't open as quick as he'd like. He and his wife, Sara, owners of Darby's Café in Olympia, decided to release a few Three Magnets beers this coming week regardless. "Expect them at a few Olympia beer destinations such as the Eastside Club Tavern and, of course, Darby's," says Nathan. One of the beers to be released was available at the Olympia Brew Fest. Their Session IPA carries sticky candy and lush tropical fruit notes abound from the plentiful additions of El Dorado and Australian Galaxy hops in the whirlpool and dry hop, with a light malt backbone, featuring traditional English malts to create a clean biscuit flavor. It was refreshing under the hot sun. Three Magnets Brewing Co., Session IPA, 5.4 percent ABV, 50 IBU

Claire Tenenbaum of Double Mountain Brewery from Hood River, Ore., was pulling the handle on the newly released Clusterf#ck Single-Hop IPA. As I have previously mentioned, this wonderful IPA is a porch sipper with malt, citrus zest, grapefruit juice and and slight herbal hop flavors on the finish. Double Mountain Brewery, Cluster Single-Hop IPA, 7.3 percent ABV, 85 IBU

Corvallis, Ore., brewery Mazama Brewing made the trip to Olympia for last year's Olympia Brew Fest. Enjoyable, they requested another invitation, with an IPA in their heads. Their Mosaic Eruption IPA made its debut at this year's beer festival, finished with Mosaic, Amarillo, a little touch of Citra and Centennial hops. I picked up flavors and aromas of fruit, mostly melon and pineapple. Mazama Brewing, Mosaic Eruption IPA, 6.0 percent ABV, 60 IBU

Olympia's Fish Brewing Company was, of course, pouring at the Port Plaza. Its Hodgson's Bitter End IPA hits the nose with pine, then fills the mouth with grapefruit-like citrus and a lightly caramel malt sweetness. Seek it out on National IPA Day. Fish Brewing Company, Hodgson's Bitter End IPA, 6.5 percent ABV, 70 IBU

Narrows Brewing Co. head brewer Joe Walts and I discussed IPAs several weeks ago. His Giant Pacific Octopus IPA - with Magnum, Columbus and Willamette hops and a malt profile of Great Western Northwest Pale, Best Malz Acidulated, Dextrose - is Narrows' best seller. And for good reason. Lots of grapefruit and orange peel. Narrows Brewing Co., IPA, 7.2 percent ABV

Iron Horse Brewery made the trip from Ellensburg to pour its very drinkable IPA, with the hop flavor and aroma on the finish. Iron Horse Brewery, Iron Horse IPA, 6 percent ABV

Seattle's Schooner Exact Brewing makes an excellent IPA. The 3 Grid IPA, its flagship, is for everyone. It leans on the Sessionable side, with earthy favors and ample carbonation keeps the hop bite. So good. Schooner Exact Brewing Co., 3 Grid IPA, 6.7 percent ABV, 62 IBU

Backwoods Brewing Co., the family-owned craft beer company from Carson, Wash., poured its Log Yard IPA. If you're looking for an IPA with fresh hops flavor and aroma with mild caramel malt this is the one.

There you go. All great IPAs to celebrate National IPA Day.

Here's a parting photo from the 2014 Olympia Brew Fest.

LINK: More photos from 2014 Olympia Beer Fest