This weekend the Seattle International Beerfest lands again in Seattle Center. Maybe you know the drill: Three days (July 7-9). More than 200 different beers, most from outside of Washington; $25 gets you entry, 10 beer tickets, and glass. Some live music. Food trucks. A Deschutes Brewery trailer shaped like a wooden keg. A lot of dogs. You know, a beer festival. But it also begs the question—with so much good local beer flowing from this city, more than anyone can reasonably try, why bother importing a bunch more?
It’s sort of a platitude at this point that the PNW makes great beer, and enough of it that it pretty well dominates Seattle taplists. There are exceptions: the Stumbling Monk on Capitol Hill and Brouwer’s Cafe in Fremont both skew Belgian; Altstadt and Rhein Haus pour plenty of fine German brews.
But order a craft beer in this city and chances are it was brewed in state, if not right down the street. The benefits of local boozing (sustainability, sense of place, support of small businesses, freshness, etc.) are well tread, and remain plenty laudable and relevant, but it can also feel a little myopic. Sure, our beer landscape now goes well beyond a righteous devotion to IPAs. Notice that you can now (gloriously) grab a four pack of Reuben’s Brews Gose at pretty much any supermarket in the city. But plenty of styles still haven’t caught on here. See many lambics being brewed in Seattle? Not so much.
Which is why the Seattle International Beer Festival remains a nice anomaly. Beer meccas like Belgium and German of course take up a good portion of the international selection, but where else can you taste and compare seven different Japanese beers, without any of them being Sapporo or Kirin Ichiban? Or try a Sesma Alberchico, a Spanish apricot sour?
There are still plenty of local favorites, too: seven beers from Holy Mountain, four from Fremont Brewing. So if nothing else, you can sample abroad widely and affirm that our brewers can keep up just fine with the rest of the world. But you already knew that, right?