Local hopheads are in the midst of celebrating Tacoma Beer Week, which allows them to sample a wide array of local craft brews at a pair of “tap takeover” events being held Friday, March 7 at Tacoma Brewing Co., 625 St. Helens Ave., and March 8 at the Parkway Tavern, 313 N. I St.
But next week, they have the second annual Big Beer Festival circled on their calendars. The event will showcase beers and barleywines with an alcohol by volume (ABV) rating of 9 percent or higher, on March 15 at Tacoma Brewing Co.
Granted, the festival will be significantly cozier than last year's inaugural run, which drew thousands to the Foss Waterway Seaport. Later, it was a source of controversy as organizers were accused of short-changing their non-profit sponsors, YWCA Pierce County and the Emergency Food Network.
We reached out to Tacoma Brewing Co. owner Morgan Alexander to clarify what's going on this time around.
Tacoma Weekly: What was your involvement with last year's festival?
Alexander: I had organized it and started pulling it together. That was during the time when I was starting Tacoma Brewing; and so, between getting a new business going, and I was getting a divorce at the time, life just got to be too crazy.
I knew that Bennett (Thurmon) and Roxy (Wolfe, organizers of the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival) wanted to add more beer festivals to their roster. So I pulled them in and said, "I have this started. Do you wanna continue organizing it and put it together?" And they said, "Sure." That was it, basically. But it was my concept and everything.
TW: Would you say this year's event is at all affiliated with last year's, or would you consider it a different entity?
Alexander: Well, yeah. It really is something totally different; but the spirit is the same, and that's just to celebrate big beers.
Basically, I didn't want the event to die. I'm doing what I can to keep it going, and hopefully in the future someone can step in and do it again like it was last year. State law, basically, makes it impossible for me as a brewer to spearhead that. But hopefully laws can change to make it easier.
TW: So this will be a significantly scaled down event compared to last year.
Alexander: Yeah, this is a brewery specific event. So it's just going to be here.
TW: Tell me a bit about the beers you have in the works.
Alexander: I'm going to be featuring a couple of barley wines, quite a few triple IPAs. There's going to be some different imperial porters. What else? There's, I'm calling it a triple bock. It's a variation on a dark, German beer. That should be fun, too.
One of 'em – and we still get requests for this beer from last year's Big Beer Fest – is the Cascade Quad. It's kind of a cross between a Triple IPA and a barley wine. It's very hoppy and made with Cascade hops.
We're going to be doing a bunch of single-hop beers. There's another IPA made with Citra Hops (which) has kind of exotic fruit qualities to it. Some people get guava out of it. I get guava, mango, a little bit of pineapple out of it.
Somewhat along those lines is another triple IPA with Simcoe Hops, which is another citrus hop. Both of these are newly developed hops here in Washington, and Simcoe has more “grapefruity” qualities to it.
TW: Since I last talked to you, you shut down the Amocat side of your operation (in October), and you've just been focused on Tacoma Brewing. How has that been going?
Alexander: It's been going very well. I had the tough choice of trying to continue doing both businesses. But the beer was really starting to get traction and get more demanding. So it required me to shut down the coffee shop, which was sad but I had to do it. It allowed me to focus on kegging out my beer and getting it out to restaurants and bars.
TW: Where can people find your beer now?
Alexander: It's a growing list. My goal is to, basically, get into every place within a two-mile radius of here. So up the street from me is Maxwell's, and up the hill at the (Peterson Bros.) 1111. Then (it's at) the Parkway, the Red Hot, Tacoma Cabana; formerly Medi's, it's now the Half Pint Beer and Pizza, up on Sixth Avenue.