How to do an IPA Fest

By Joe Izenman on August 29, 2010


The Parkway Tavern's fifth annual IPA Festival has one very important added feature this year: a second day. Important because it might thin some of the crowds in desperate search of hop-monsters to drink, and because day one drinkers like myself can do the legwork, and tell you what you need to drink.

First, a couple tips: show up early, sit at the bar, order small, order big. A bar seat is essential for such a packed event. It may feel like the overworked staff is ignoring you and focusing on the line that trails out the door, but trust me, you will be served faster.

As for ordering small and big, 6-ounce tasters are the glass of the day. You may be tempted to get a full pint for a relaxing drink, but if that's your style, the busiest day of the Parkway year might not be the event for you. There are too many different beers to spend so much time and volume on one. But don't shy away from quantity - order two or three at a time for efficiency.

Personally, I try to order in matched pairs - matched by the helpful list of styles and stats on each beer. Here are a few of the showdowns that highlighted Saturday:

Big Time Scarlet Fire v. Black Raven Trickster

On a day of big, giant and in your face imperial IPAs, double IPAs, and dry-hopping, sometimes it's nice to ease into it. Scarlet Fire and Trickster are both straightforward, tasty brews, sitting around the conventional 6.4 percent alcohol content, and a good way to start your beery day.

Dick's Imperial v. Maritime Pacific Double Dry Hopped Imperial

Of course, being me, this is how I actually started my day. Imperial, or double IPAs, are characterized by a very high hop content. Often this bitterness is balanced by a high malt content, which means a high alcohol content.

Frankly, I was expecting the Maritime Pacific to be much more in-your-face, but it did not stand up to the Dick's in a direct showdown. Save the Dick's for drinking with something hoppier, or alone.

Southern Tier Randall v Stone Double Dry Hop

Dry-hopping is a process by which uncooked hops are added to the final beer, largely for smell. Parkway's Randall performs this on-this spot, filtering the beer directly through fresh hops and into the glass.

The Southern Tier was a solid beer, but it loses out here to one of the most interesting brews of the day. Dry hopping tends to give a beer a "floral" smell and taste, but the Stone went a step further, into downright herbal. No, not THAT herb. Either I was hallucinating, or the beer in my hand smelled and tasted exactly like basil, if basil was also beer - which sounds weird, but tastes awesome.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute v. Double Mountain Molten Lava

Another one of those words you hear thrown around by wine fiends at tastings is "earthy." As best I can tell, this means "tastes like dirt, but in a good way." That is the vibe you'll get from the 90 Minute - it tastes, and rightly so, like it was made from products that actually grew from the ground.

The Molten Lava, on the other hand, tasted unexpectedly like coffee. Now, coffee is a pretty common flavor in beers, but it is typically the super-dark beers, the stouts and porters.  To find that flavor so strongly represented in a beer you can see through is unusual, but delicious.

And that's just a start. It seems unlikely that any of the beers on this weekend will be bad, so don't bother listening to me. Just go to The Parkway today between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. and pick something. It'll be good.

The 5th Annual Parkway IPA Fest

Sunday, Aug. 29, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., no cover
The Parkway Tavern, 313 N. I St., Tacoma