Fort George Festival of the Dark Arts

This weekend Sara and I made a ‘quick’ (~7 hours each way) trip to Astoria, Oregon to attend the Fort George Brewery Festival of the Dark Arts, “A Carnival of Stout.”

Fort George, along with other breweries, has declared February as Stout Month. Seeing as February is my Birthday Month I consider this a wonderful declaration! They have many of their own stouts on tap all month along with having quite a few guest taps. But it all comes to an orgiastic head during Zwickelmania when Fort George hosts the Festival of the Dark Arts. Forty-seven stouts (47!) all housed in one brewery campus! They had 14 of their own stouts and the rest were guests. There was also lots of arts and artists present, tarot card reading, tattooing, blacksmithing, music, fire dancing, music and other diversions.

The Fort George Public House during the Festival of the Dark Arts

The Fort George Public House during the Festival of the Dark Arts

Art on the Taproom wall at Fort George

Art on the Taproom wall at Fort George Brewery

The event was hosted across Fort George’s brewery and public house and went from 2 – 10 pm on Saturday. We got up early on Saturday morning—well, not really as we always get up early, but we did get moving and left the house early and drove up to Astoria. We left around 7 am and arrived about 2 pm. We checked into our Air BnB and got our stuff together and walked the 12 blocks—mostly downhill—to Fort George.

Our Festival of the Dark Arts glasses

Our Festival of the Dark Arts glasses

Entrance was free but a cool glass mug for drinking from was $8 so we each dropped a $20 bill on a mug and 12 tokens. Some of the stronger and usually the barrel-aged stouts were 2 tokens per 3 oz. pour but most were only 1 token.

Fort George Brewery Festival of the Dark Arts token, both sides

Fort George Brewery Festival of the Dark Arts token, both sides

Sadly, we seem to have lost our Festival map which had descriptions of all of the stouts. The webpage announcing the lineup does at least profile the Fort George beers. I do know which ones we had and in what order as I was writing them down. Some people thought that was too organized but they also usually thought I was making tasting notes. I knew better than that! I simply recorded the names.

Almost all were good but there were one or two I wasn’t overly fond of, and there were a couple of the bourbon barrel-aged ones which tasted more like someone had poured a shot of bourbon in a stout; not all, just some.

Barrels at Fort George Brewery

Barrels at Fort George Brewery

The following list comprises the 21 (out of 47 available) stouts that we sampled, all in 3 oz. pours:

  • Bison Organic Chocolate Stout
  • Fort George Squashed Stout
  • HUB Army of Darkness (bourbon bbl-aged)
  • Fort George Kentucky Girl
  • Fort George Viva La Stout
  • Great Divide Espresso Oak-Aged Imperial Stout
  • Block 15 Super Nebula
  • Fort George Meeker’s Mark Stout
  • Fort George Polish’s Black Walnut Stout
  • Astoria’s Bad Ass Stout
  • Laurelwood Bbl-aged Moose & Squirrel Stout
  • Boneyard Bbl-Aged Suge Knight
  • Elysian Omen
  • Fort George Three Wisemen
  • Stone 2008 Imperial Russian Stout aged in bourbon barrels
  • Burnside Red Light District Stout
  • Lucky Lab Pavlov’s Russian Imperial Stout
  • Fort George Bourbon Bbl-Aged Cavatica
  • Fort George Coffee Girl
  • McMenamin’s Whiskey Bbl-Aged Terminator
  • The Abyss

I liked the Bison and I quite enjoyed the Fort George (FG) Squashed. It had a sort of “bright” taste to it the I liked. The FG Viva La Stout was a Mexican chocolate stout with cinnamon, vanilla and almond. If you had told me it was a milk stout with almonds I may well have said, “This is interesting.” All I could taste was sweet almond and stout and perhaps a hint of vanilla; no chocolate or cinnamon. It really needed those flavors to give it some balance. The Block 15 Super Nebula we had last year at The Little Woody and were disappointed when it was recently released but not sent to Bend (I emailed Block 15 to enquire) because we both thought it was the best beer at The Little Woody. Thus, we were happy to get to try it again. Sara still thought it was amazing; I thought it was excellent but have since had 2 to 3 better stouts in the intervening months.

Fermenters at Fort George Brewery

Fermenters at Fort George Brewery

Astoria’s Bad Ass Stout was quite drinkable but I wanted more from it with a name like that. The Laurelwood Bbl-aged Moose & Squirrel was quite tasty. The Boneyard Bbl-Aged Suge Knight wasn’t hitting the right notes for me this weekend. I have tasted this version in a small taster before and enjoyed it a bit more and I have spent a (very) recent evening nursing a non-barrel aged Suge Knight in a large snifter, which was exquisite. [And what is with the name of this beer? I have seen it spelled in probably 6-8 different ways, including a couple of different ways from the brewery.]

Tap Handle for a Fort George stout

Tap Handle for a Fort George stout

I would say that the Elysian Omen let me down but that’s only partly true. I generally like Elysian beers and I find their Dragonstooth to be quite toothsome. But the Omen is one of their 12 Beers of the Apocalypse from last year (2012) and I have had 3 of those so far and have not been impressed by any of them. The Omen is a Belgian raspberry stout. I am not a big raspberry fan but I have had a couple raspberry stouts that I found incredible. I am also a huge Belgian beer fan, having lived there for over 3 years. This just did not work for me, though. I do have a sad over the whole 12 Beers of the Apocalypse as if you’re going to go all out and have a line with that name then they best be incredible beers. The Stone 2008 IRS was incredible! The Burnside Red Light district, a strawberry stout, was quite drinkable but definitely a once in a while taste. The Abyss was, well, The Abyss; appropriately named.

Fort George Brewery courtyard at night with blacksmithing and fire dancers

Fort George Brewery courtyard at night with blacksmithing and fire dancers

Fort George descriptions:

  • Squash Stout, — 6.7% butternut and acorn squashes
  • Kentucky Girl — Coffee Girl on bourbon barrels, ONE KEG LEFT; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/occasionals/kentucky-girl/
  • Viva La Stout — 7.6%, mexican chocolate stout, cinnamon, vanilla, almond
  • Meekers Mark — 8.0%, oatmeal stout on Maker’s Mark barrels
  • Polish’s Black Walnut Stout — 6.4%, 6 lbs of walnuts – nutty, toasty
  • 3 Wisemen — 9.9%, whiskey, rum, and tequila barrels Oatmeal Stout; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/occasionals/three-wisemen/
  • Bourbon Bbl. Cavatica — 2 months on Makers Mark barrels
  • Coffee Girl — “strong malty chocolate profile” oats, malts, molasses; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/seasonal/coffee-girl/

These are the Fort George ones we did not try:

  • Campout Stout — 7.0%, dark chocolate, caramel, marshmallows
  • Rye Whiskey Bbl. Cavatica Stout — 9.2%, barrels for 6 months, special for festival
  • Long Dark Winter — 5.8%, milk stout with oatmeal
  • Murky Pearl — fermented with oysters, salty ocean; http://www.fortgeorgebrewery.com/beers/occasionals/murky-pearl/
  • Cavatica — 8.8%,
  • Spank Stout — honey malts and 30 lbs of roasted peppers – Spicy!

We had a grand time, met some folks, got our tarot cards read, got some brewery/festival clothing, and brought home a four pack of the 2013 Barrel Aged Cavatica Stout which has been aged in Heaven Hills Rye Whiskey Barrels, some of which will be cellared.

Fort George Cavatica Stout aged in Heaven Hills rye barrels

Fort George Cavatica Stout aged in Heaven Hills rye whiskey barrels

We are hoping to make this an annual tradition for us—weather depending, it is a 7-hour drive in February—although we hope to extend it a few days for a more leisurely pace and to allow for more sightseeing and experiencing of the local culture(s) along the way. We also are thinking of trying to volunteer at the Festival next year.

One of the many volunteers hard at work

One of the many volunteers hard at work

And on that note a big “Thank you” to Fort George and their staff and another even bigger one to all of the awesome volunteers who made this thing work so smoothly!

A few more photos follow. FYI: photos are not in the order taken.

A very important sign in the courtyard the next morning

A very important sign in the courtyard the next morning

The Fort George Brewery courtyard the morning after the Festival of the Dark Arts

The Fort George Brewery courtyard the morning after the Festival of the Dark Arts

The Fort George Public House façade and the Blue Scorcher bakery

The Fort George Public House façade and the Blue Scorcher bakery

The Fort George building, 1924, home of the Fort George Public House and the Blue Scorcher bakery

The Fort George building, 1924, home of the Fort George Public House and the Blue Scorcher bakery