Friday, August 4, 2017

This brewery IS in a farmhouse--Haywire Br., Snohomish

Farmhouse is not just a style of beer here at the Haywire Brewing Co outside Snohomish, it's a description of the premises. It hasn't been a working dairy farm for close to thirty years, but it has been refurbished as the Dairyland event center, used for wedding receptions and the like, and now the milking barn houses the brewing operations.  Bryant Castle, brewer and co-owner, started home brewing about ten years ago and got his father-in-law, David Jez, hooked on the home brew fun five or six years ago; David also brews and is the other co-owner. They work on a 2-barrel system and figure to stay under the legal definition of a nano-brewery, under 1,000 bbl/yr.

The taproom comes with tractor seat barstools and a convivial vibe.  The brewers have named their beers with a bow to agriculture: I tried Hen Pecked Amber (6.9% abv, balanced taste), U-Pick Strawberry Pale (5.6%, do you like tart strawberries?), and Fox Trail, a malt-fwd Irish Red with 5.4% abv.
Haywire is just off the Snohomish-Monroe Road, which runs all the way into Monroe, good to know on those days US 2 traffic is just impossible between those towns. It looks to be a fun stop for families, with treats like a ride on an antique tractor and a christmas tree show in the winter.
(Visited 07/21/17)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Des Voignes: a new twist in Woodinville

   He Said Beer, She Said Wine: a really fun book by Sam Calagione (yes, the Dogfish Head founder) and Marnie Old, a top wine sommelier in Philadelphia. riffs on badinage and pairings, like "what could you possibly uncork, Marnie, for a pepperoni/feta/black olive pizza that would go half as well as my 90-minute IPA?"  And she has lots of put-downs, too.
   I was reminded of this cross-cultural mix when I went into the Des VoigneCellars and Brewery in Woodinville recently.  The wine culture is, let's face it, striving for a retail shopping experience a la Nordstrom, with elegant tasting rooms in buildings Louis XIV would have been at home in. While the prevalent mode of a craft beer startup is a metal building in an industrial business park (or in Snohomish Co., a garage).  So when a winery, around for eleven years, decides to jump the culture gap and make some beer, it's news.
  This is the opening scene going into Des Voigne, tasteful furniture and art. Turn right for wine, straight ahead for beer. The Des Voignes, Darren and Melissa, started making upscale wines eleven years ago.  Darren studied winemaking at UC Davis and handles that side, but they hired brewer Bob Thorpe when they began making beer a couple of years ago.
   The culture cross carries over into our flexible beverage of choice.  My pint was a Fusion Barrel Aged Red Ale, 6.2% abv and 23 IBU, aged in barrels that previously held Des Voigne Cabernet Franc (a great wine, usually blended).  Hopped with Fuggles and Golding, you know it's beer but that sweet grape note lingers on the tongue.
  The seven-barrel system, presented here by Anna, a bartender from Bellingham, is modern and busy.  The plant is in a business park, typical for newer Woodinville wineries given the pricey real estate there.

(Visited 07/01/17)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

River Time passes muster in Darrington

The small, extremely scenic town of Darringon, Washington won't draw many tourists on their way to somewhere else. State Route 530, rebuilt after the tragic landslide in 2014, may lop a few miles off a journey coming up from Seattle to the North Cascades National Park, but that's just a summer route.  The first effort to brew beer in the old city hall, by the Whiskey Ridge Brewing Co., couldn't sell enough the rest of the year to justify staying open, and they eventually moved to Arlington.
But brewing has returned to Darringon, as the River Time Brewing Co..
A couple of guys down in the Seattle area, Lon and Troy, loved hanging out on the nearby Sauk River, and got to know Neil, a guide who has built his home on said river.  Lon and Troy came up with the idea of starting a little brewery here with Neil to handle the brewing.  And when he is doing that, Kristin is behind the bar pulling pints.
The backers found  a nice 3-barrel system, so River Time misses out on the nano category.  They have a 7-barrel fermenter for the times Neil feels like double-batching.

The most popular style here, as it is most places,. is the IPA, so that is likely to go in the bigger fermenter (there is a 3-barrel tank for that function, too).   I chose a Scotch Ale for my pint, 6% abv and malty all the way, a rich mouthfeel.
Summer having shown up nicely, it was not a day for stouts or porters, but Neil gave me a little sample of each. His stout, in the drier Irish style, had a spicier aroma but the porter won the battle of the taste buds. Neil gave some of the credit for the porter's flavor to Liberty hops, which he described as way underrated.

 Did I start out saying Darrington was kind of scenic, even by Washington standards?  Look out the front door of the pub and you see Whitehorse Mountain, the most jagged of several peaks that surround the town.

(Visited 06/22/17)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Evil Genius: Under the El

North of the city center, Philadelphia gets industrial in a hurry.  The Market-Frankford transit line emerges from subway mode as it heads north, an elevated train over Front Street.  This is where
#EvilGeniusBrewing opened a taproom around the end of February.  Large-scale manufacturing is long gone, shuttered brick buildings five stories high and a block long, mark the landscape, but plenty of commercial and small fabrication firms remain.  This is where two guys who met in accounting classes at Villanova ten years ago hatched the idea of starting a brewery.  Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward set out to learn the business of brewing and this is their result.  Their head brewer, Jon Defibaugh, learned his craft at two distinguished local breweries.
Evil Genius has a sort of partnership with a Connecticut brewery, Thomas Hooker, which brews and bottles the only packaged product, Hooray, Sports, a pale ale. There is a wide array of beers made here on tap.  Whimsical naming is the rule--"This One Time At Band Camp" (a double IPA), "Shut Up, Meg" (farmhouse IPA).  I tried a pint of "You Mad, Bro?", billed as a straight farmhouse ale (5.8% abv) with white peppercorns and juniper berries added to the wort.
The tab for that one pint was $6.50, and a 32-oz. small growler could have been filled for $12.00. The last time I bought a half-growler fill here in Philly was for a really fine saison at Tired Hands, for $10.50.  I will have to write a separate post on this topic, but have to observe that many craft breweries seem to operate as if the precepts of economics don't apply to them.  Like cross-elasticity of demand.
If you can pack the house like Evil Genius did on a recent Saturday afternoon, first nice sunny day in a while. maybe your price point doesn't matter.
(Visited 04/08/17)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Benjamin's a Saint in Philly

Ben Franklin, born in Boston, made his mark in Philadelphia and invented all sorts of stuff here,  He liked a drink as well as the next Colonial and is remembered in a number of Philly watering holes, like the Kite and Key pub and the taproom at #St.BenjaminsBrewingCo.  This small brewery began
 producing in 2014 and added a pub last year.  The location is about four blocks east of Temple University. on the ground floor of an industrial building labeled the Sewing Factory and being converted to loft apartments.  The website states that the building was originally the carriage house of the Theo Frankenaur Brewery.
 The tap lineup on a chilly day late in March featured a pair of cream ales. The Inca Cream Ale is so called, founder Tim Patton explained, because the cream ale recipe ended up a tad hoppier than planned (50 IBUs and 5.4%), so they took the first two letters of India Pale and put them in front of cream ale's initials. It has become popular enough to be one   smoothof the standard styles here and one available in 16-oz, cans. Another standard, also in cans, is the Wit or Witout (reference to the only choice a Philly cheesesteak consumer is offered at one of the classic joints in the Italian Market district; the choice is onions).  This is a Belgian wheat beer (4,6%, 17 IBUs) with a very  smooth flavor.  The other two standards are a second cream ale, not tasted, and an English
dark mild called Foul Weather Jack (4.5%, 20 IBUs), which balances a dry finish with a roasty mouthfeel.
A couple of seasonals completed my flight of tasters.  Transcontinental is a California Common (5.6%, 20 IBUs) with some rye in the grains, giving it that bit of spice in the finish.  And Le Bon Bock, released on Fat Tuesday and presented as a Lenten beer the monks in Belgian abbeys could enjoy during Lent, was the strongest at 7.4%, rich and full in the mouth.
The taproom affords a nice view of the brewery in the back.  It has a comfortable feel and would no doubt fill up later in the day.

(Visited 03/28/17)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

2nd District launches in South Philly

South Philadelphia, a close-packed neighborhood between the Italian Market and the stadiums, has gone from gritty to trendy in recent years, but they've been lacking a brewery.  Until February.  Then
the #SecondDistrictBrewing co. opened its doors--or bays--in a building long occupied by a saw and tool sharpening concern, in a light industrial block of Bancroft St. they share with a furniture maker and an auto detailer.
The owners are John Longacre and Curt Decker, the latter lately with the former Nodding Head brewpub in the center city area.  Neither the bobblehead collection, an impressive display at Nodding Head, nor the Berliner Weisse Decker introduced to the Philly beer scene, have reappeared at Second District.

A nice assortment of brews is nonetheless on tap.Three of the nine pictured here are variations on the IPA formula: a black IPA (American Economics), a wheat-based IPA (Lazerface) and an oat-based ale (Celestial Equator).  None tasted by your correspondent.  What I did try and love was the Biere de la Maison, styled as a Belgian single or monk's beer.  Aroma wonderful; they say they use French Pilsner and aromatic malts (wonder what those are) and hopped with St. Celeia (a hybrid developed in Slovenia, I had to google that one). The front-of-tongue tingle was a good second act and the full mouth feel brought out the lemon claimed in their notes.
My other glass was their take on a smoked porter, called Meta Shepherd and used in the mussels prepared in the tiny kitchen area in the front.  I can only give three stars to the mussels (Monk's Cafe gets five) but the porter (6%), based on German smoked malt and conditioned with pureed pineapple (!) hadthe smoke in the nose and that little twist of unusual in the mouth.
In the picture to the left, note the tap handles set in a length of drainpipe.  The pipe runs up to the second level (see picture above) where the brew kettle is, and where the kegs must be, too.

(Visited 04/08/17)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Breaking. Barley: Two high school teachers cook beer after school at Artisanal Brewing in Saratoga

It was April Fools Day when I ventured up into Saratoga, New York to check out Artisanal Brewing Co.  This new outfit (open since July) shares space with a distiller in a metal building last used to make bicycle frames.

A set of the region's iconic Adirondack chairs sits out on the front deck, awaiting a first coat of paint or finish.  The location is some distance from the city's pricey downtown, located across the highway from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the state park.

One of the draws here is that Artisanal was founded, is owned and operated by two teachers at Saratoga High School.  Both were working behind the bar on a Saturday afternoon.  Colin Quinn (French) and Kurt Borchardt (Technology), pulling pints and washing glasses.  Yes, the brewer has to do it all in the startup days.

They have resisted the  impulse to give their beers names like Study Hall Stout that would reflect on their day jobs.  Some titles evoke local geography, like SPA (Saratoga Pale Ale, a 3.6% session ale--Spa City being a nickname from the local mineral waters) or Trappist at the Track, a non-session trippel at 9.1%      
I limited myself to a wee taste of the trippel in. order to give a pint's justice to a Whole Lotta Trouble, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale weighing in at 9.9% abv.  A floral aroma and a rich mouthfeel, like that delicious black bread you can get in a Jewish deli down in the city.  The yeast, Colin says, is a proprietary culture they developed during the home brewing years that usually run up to a commercial opening like this,

The taproom offers Mexican dishes like burritos and tacos prepared by a restaurant in town and kept warm in a box plugged in on the bar.  The brewers are getting enough hops and grains from New York growers to meet the minimums of the state's new farmstead brewing license.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 (Visited 04/01/17)