Tacomans love their microbrews. It's obvious from the thousands that flock to events like the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival and its offshoot Big Beer Festival every year, not to mention all those “hop-heads” that pack the Red Hot, the Parkway Tavern, Engine House No. 9 and the three Harmon pubs on any given weekend.
And now organizers at Broadway Center hope they are about to launch Tacoma's next big beer tradition. Starting at 1 p.m. on June 22, the inaugural Brew Five Three festival will take over Tacoma's Broadway, between Ninth and 11th streets, for an afternoon of malty libation and the best in homegrown blues talent.
“Washington state has a big impact on craft beer all across America,” Broadway Center programming manager Aaron Stevens said. “So we decided with this festival we would do Washington-only breweries. We haven't seen that done. … We also liked the idea of getting some of the local brewers to collaborate; we we've got four breweries that are doing collaboration beers that will be debuted at the festival.”
Brew Five Three has rounded up a who's who of regional craft beer makers, the likes of Pyramid, Mac & Jack's, Pike, 7 Seas and Fish Brewing, with 35 brewers participating in all. The aforementioned collaborations are between Tacoma's E-9 and Harmon breweries, which teamed up for a special Brew Five Three Imperial style IPA, and the smaller, newer Wingman Brewery and Tacoma Brewing Company, which collaborated on a session IPA.
“We used some really interesting hops,” Wingman brewer and co-owner Ken Thoburn explained. “Morgan (Alexander, who owns Tacoma Brewing) brought down Belma hops, which are kind of a strawberry tasting hop, a really kind of experimental variety. And then I got a popular but very limited variety from New Zealand, called Nelson Sauvin, that has kind of a white wine, grape flavor to it. We thought that strawberry and white wine flavor would be a really good compliment.”
Some of the brightest talent in regional blues will provide the musical ambiance. Chris Stevens & the Surf Monkeys with Jay Maybin will play from 2 to 3 p.m., T-Town Aces from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., Snake Oil Blues Elixer All Stars from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by the godfather of Northwest blues, Little Bill Engelhardt at 8 p.m.
His band, Little Bill & the Bluenotes, has existed in many incarnations since it laid the foundation for Northwest's legendary garage-rock scene in the mid-1950s. But the June 22 performance will feature a rare expanded version that he calls Little Bill's Big Band, featuring Buck England on keys, Rod Cook on guitar, Tommy Morgan on drums and a full horn section.
“The original Bluenotes had a three-piece horn section, and we were the only ones that did that around here at all,” Engelhardt recalled. “It also reminds me of where I did so much of my schooling, which was standing in front of the bandstand at the Evergreen Ballroom and watching BB King and his big band or Bobby Bland and his band and those guys, you know.
“I remember thinking I've gotta do that, and I was lucky enough to do it. In fact, my big band during most of the '80s and most of the '90s, out of all of the configurations that I've had of the Bluenotes, that big band was and always will be my favorite band that I had.”
Brew Five Three: Tacoma's Beer & Blues Festival
1 p.m. June 22
Broadway, between Ninth and 11th streets, Tacoma
Tickets $25 through June 15, $30 after (includes 2.5 oz. collectible glass and eight tasting tokens); $5 designated driver tickets
Must be 21 or older to attend