Friday, December 31, 2010

Alphabetical list of Wash. stops in 2010

Brewery                                                                        Month
Anacortes Brew. Co.                                                      12
Baron-Three Skulls                                                         12
Big Al's                                                                           9
Big E                                                                              9
Big Time                                                                        12
Black Raven                                                                    9
Birdsview                                                                        6
Chuckanut                                                                     11
Diamond Knot                                                                 9
Dick's                                                                              8
Engine House No. 9                                                         9
Everybody's Brewing                                                      10
Flyers                                                                            12                                                                  
Foggy Noggin                                                                  9
Frank-n-Stein                                                                 11
Fremont                                                                           9
Gallagher's                                                                      8
Georgetown                                                                     8
Gordon Biersch                                                              11
Grove St.                                                                       12
Hale's                                                                            12
Harmon's                                                                        9
Hazel Dell                                                                     10
Hood Canal                                                                    8
La-Z Boy                                                                       8
La Conner Brewing                                                          9
Laht Neppur                                                                  11
Laurelwood                                                                   11
Mac & Jack's                                                                 8
McMenamins-Dad Watsons                                           9
McMenamins-Olympic Club                                           7
McMenamins-Queen Anne                                            10
McMenamins-Vancouver                                               11
Naked City                                                                     9
North Fork                                                                     6
North Sound                                                                  10
Peaks                                                                             9
Pike                                                                              11
Pyramid                                                                          9
RAM-Northgate                                                            11
Redhook                                                                         9
Rock Bottom-Seattle                                                     11
Roslyn Brewing                                                             10
Schooner Exact                                                             11
Scuttlebutt                                                                      9
Silver City                                                                      9
Skookum                                                                       8
Snoqualmie Falls                                                           10
Whitstran                                                                       9

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Anacortes Brewing Co.

  Oversight!  I've been in the Rockfish Grill, the pub name of Anacortes Brewing Co., several times this year and not yet posted a comment. This place sits on a busy corner in downtown Anacortes and is usually busy inside, too.

This is a lively music scene, too, with regional blues groups making the Rockfish a tour stop and local rock bands also playing here. They have many great looking labels, only on tap handles and t shirts as they don't bottle at this time. I have to root for Mai o Maibock, showing a microphone in front of a baseball diamond.  This honors the late Dave Niehaus, who broadcast the Mariners from the team's inception until he passed away this year, but not before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
  (Visited 10/09/10)

Shelton's excellent brewpub

   The Grove Street Brewhouse was a stop last June, with notes that want to be blogged before the year ends. Shelton is a logging town with plenty of clean Hood Canal water to sustain shellfish operations by Taylor Shellfish and other companies. The Hama Hama oysters are a south Sound specialty that appear on one of Grove Street's unique pizzas, the Hama-hama Hammer. I enjoyed one last June with a pint of Brewhouse Hefe.  Some of the brew names are eye-catching:  IPACOLYPS and G.S.B. E.S.B.
   The brewpub occupies a building that was built in 1927 and was a Pontiac dealership for many years. They have a few old photographs in the back, although most of the wall space displays local artists and photographers.  Just thinking about the Pontiac brand, no longer with us, brought back memories of the G.T.O., considered by many the first true muscle car back in 1964.  I wonder if Grove Street could draw in fans of this classic by collecting and displaying some memorabilia, hubcaps, hood ornaments, etc. of the GTO and other great Pontiac brands.
  (Visited 6/10/10)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baron Three Skulls

   No, that tag is not about some voodoo rival to Baron Samedi.  Its about the evolution of a brand name.  The outfit that started out as Baron Brewing Company, a production brewery in South Seattle, with a decidedly teutonic theme, subsequently opened a pub up on Greenwood Ave., in the same block as Naked City. They called this spot Pillagers Pub, and started working up a pirate theme.
  It seems the pirate theme caught on a lot better than the rotund German baron.  We have had pirates roving the seas all over the world, from the Vikings in the North Sea way back when to the Somali pirates off the horn of Africa today.  But to us English speakers, the English speaking pirates of the Caribbean who preyed on Spanish treasure ships in the 17th and 18th centuries are the real deal. Just ask Disney. And what instantly recognizable symbol did Capt. Kidd, Long John Silver, J. Depp,and all those other guys have?  The skull and crossbones, of course!
   Unlike Skagit River in Mt, Vernon and Iron Horse in Ellensburg, who just put the skull and crossbones on their knock-you-back IPAs,  Baron Three Skulls puts the cheery symbol on all the ales they make under the Three Skulls name. They tell me the baron will be retired one day soon, pensioned off to some Bavarian village, no doubt, and the only brand made here will be branded Three Skulls. At the Winter BeerFest, they were the only brewer with a slash in their name>Baron/Three Skulls.
(Visited 12/10/10)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking a Flyer on Oak Harbor

  While Scuttlebutt pays tribute to the sailor and ships of the U.S. Navy that call Everett their homeport, our navy is also up in the air, at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and Flyers Restaurant and Brewery pays tribute to naval aviators.  Well, to military aviators in general, past and present.  They celebrate the whir of a propeller on their nifty website and with their seasonal Proptober.  Aircraft old and new decorate the walls and ceilings of this cozy pub in Oak Harbor.
  The jets that the Navy flies now don't show up much in the decor.  One could say the Afterburner IPA takes its name from a key feature on the modern jet fighter. By the way, Flyers just started bottling Afterburner and Pacemaker Porter in 22-oz. bottles, within the past couple of months. For the startup, they are using the bottling gear at Skagit River Brewing in Mount Vernon.  The label on the Afterburner I brought home is pretty neat.  It also carries the note that brewing and bottling was done at Skagit R. for Flyers.  That may be a collectible if Flyers develops their own bottling capacity.
The food is pretty good here, too.  I had a tasty buffalo burger with a cup of brown ale soup and a pint of the Daybreak Breakfast Stout I had admired at the Winter Brewfest last week.
(Visited 12/13/10)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Time by UW

  The Big Time Brewery and Alehouse sits right in the heart of the university district, in the middle of a block full of college student type stores.
When I popped in, before the Winter Brewfest, I saw a nice selection of taps, including 4 (FOUR) different IPAs:  Scarlet Fire, Bhagwan's Best, Perspective, and Random Thought Generator Rye IPA. My server elucidated the subtle differences, but I can't imagine anyone with the taste buds to compare all four in a single session.  Any one of these well-hopped ales stomps my taster like the other NFL teams have been stomping the Seahawks lately.
  The kitchen stays busy whipping up pub fare food.  In the back one of the brewers came out and confirmed what their website says, that when they opened in 1988 they were the first brewpub in Seattle.  Not craft brewery, but brewpub, with on premises sales and food. So that's another milestone to note in retracting the history of modern craft brewing in Washington.
(Visited 12/10/12)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hale's and hearty; what a party!

  Hale's Ales, strategically located between the Ballard and Fremont neighborhoods (two of Seattle's hippest) has been brewing the right stuff in one Washington location or another since 1983.  That's old enough to mark it as a genuine pioneer. They like to feature other brewers' wares alongside their own.  One such event is to offer five little flights of the same type of beer, e.g., five IPAs or five ambers, their own and four from other west coast brewers.
Founder Mike Hale caught the brewing bug in England in 1982.  He remains staunchly pro-British in brewing philosophy and even drops a hint or two in the decor of the premises.
A portion of the space downstairs is called the Palladium, usually a venue for music events.  The past weekend it was given over to the Washington Beer Commission's winter beer festival.  Most of the brewers west of the mountains were there, 35 in all, each with their most interesting winter ales.  And yes, it was wall to wall beer enthusiasts, knocking back five ounce tasters.
There is no way anyone could have sampled one of everything.  Some personal favorites I did try: Fremont's Bbomb Abominable Ale, conditioned in bourbon casks.  Flyers' Daybreak Breakfast Stout, with oatmeal and coffee flavors. Naked City's French Dude, their Big Lebrewski aged in wine barrels.  Two Beers' 20-20 Blonde, infused with rose petals, currants, elderberries, and just the right hint of lavender.

(Visited most recently: 12/10/10)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Skagit River Brewing

   The Skagit River Brewery in downtown Mt. Vernon is a place I've been stopping by for several years now and I should post it on this blog.  They are in a recycled building that started out as a fruit warehouse in the 1920s. The building sits right next to the railroad tracks and next door to Skagit Station, where Amtrak and the buses stop.
  Their most popular brand appears to be the Sculler's IPA.  Although sculling is a rowing event, the folks here treat the "c" as if it were a "k" and the morbid skull graces every bottle of Sculler's.  They even did up the bar with skull mugs last Halloween.
     Another of my faves here is Jenny's, the Scotch ale they make every summer in honor of the Skagit Highland Games, a great Celtic whoop-up.  It is a seasonal, but they give it a pretty long season.
   Skagit River has been around for some years.  I know it has been a training ground for a number of folks who have gone on to brew elsewhere or to pour good beers in taverns.
(Visited several times, 2007-present)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Granville Island's venerable institution

I had been in Granville Island Brewing a time or two before, but never realized that it has been around since 1984.  That makes it the oldest microbrewery in B.C., in all of Canada, according to their website.  1984 dates back to Bert Grant's original micro in Yakima. And this place is still going strong.
   If anyone hasn't been there, Granville Island is one of Vancouver's cool spots.  A cement plant operates in the middle of the place, and the Emily Carr Art Institute is next to the cement plant. The area is full of artsy shops, restaurants, a produce market, waterfront stuff, theaters, etc. It all sits on a few acres of land under the Granville Street Bridge, a soaring span that takes connects the downtown to the south side of town. The brewery is right under the bridge.
   Inside, Lisa, the server, offered me small samples of several of the more sweetly flavored brews: Kitsilano Maple Cream Ale (maple syrup), the Chocolate Stout, and the Lions Winter Ale (white chocolate).  She poured each into the bottom of a 4-ounce flight. Yes, four ounces.  Canada is relentlessly metric in everything else, but in the pub they still do pints and ounces.  As I recall, Britain only went metric in the 60s on the condition that the pint of bitter in the pub would remain a pint and not xxx ml. Beer lovers flexing political muscle!  I chose the Winter Ale, excellent taste, more vanilla with the white chocky playing harmony.
  If I understood Lisa rightly, she said they can sell a customer no more than three flights or one pint a day, either by law or by a condition of their license.  It is a quirky license to be sure. The store section sells their own brews, bottled in 341 ml (12 oz) and 650 ml (22 oz) sizes, and the usual assortment of t-shirts, caps, etc.
They also sell wines, a few Canadian labels, but that's all for other beverages.  The store clerk explained that their license allows them to sell only alcohol beverages produced by wineries under common ownership with the brewery.  Except for the Okanagun wine, which used to be under common ownership with Granville, no longer is, but stays in under a grandfather clause. Other B.C. brewpubs,. like Mission Ridge (see Nov. post) or Central City in Surrey, have full fledged package stores, selling vodka, scotch, Gallo wines and everything under the sun.  Different license.
    The brewing equipment is visible behind a glass wall.  When I was there, the brewer was filling tall bottles by hand.
After my pint, I walked a block to where you catch a #50 bus back to downtown.
(Visited 11/30/10)

Steamworks Brewery in the heart of downtown Van

  Step out of the Waterfront Station, a transit nexus for skytrains, buses, ferries, etc. and a few steps takes you into the Steamworks brewery.This establishment occupies the ground foor and basement oi a nice old building called the Landings.
  The inside features lots of dark old wood in the booths and on a nice banister that follows a spiral stair down to the more informal pub and the copper kettles.
  I had a pint of the Signature Pale Ale, a rich malty pale with a bit of toffee in the nose.  My server also had me try a bit of an experiment called North by Northwest. a hooped IPAish experiment that was more balanced than some of the hopzilla versions we see--more like Diamond Knot's/ What struck me most about Steamworks was the label art. They don't bottle here (growler fills the only off premise sales) so the labels are just visible on posters on the walls, on the coasters,and on the t-shirts they sell. Here are a few images:
   Lions Gate Lager features an artist's rendition of the eponymous bridge that soars majestically from Stanley Park to North Vancouver and Coal Porter is a nice evocation of show biz. I wondered if North by Northwest sticks, will they do a label with suggestions of the Hitchcock movie with Jimmy Stewart (shades of Naked City Brewing and their movie title labels!). If Canada gives an award for best beer label every year, as I noted at Mission Ridge last month, these guys should have scored a few golds.
  Across the street one can catch a # 50 bus to Granville Island, my destination for some Christmas shopping and one more brew stop.
(Visited 11/30/10)

Central City: surrey down

  Driving into downtown Vancouver is a lot like driving into downtown Seattle: not one of life's great pleasures. I like to leave the macchina way out on the outskirts and take mass transit in. Vancouver's Skytrain gives you two ways to do this: drive to Richmond near the airport and take the Canada line, or drive to Surrey and take the Expo line. This day, I chose Surrey, in part so I could check out Central City Brewing.  This operation is located across the street from the Skytrain station and in a wing off a curvy glass high rise that is the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University.
  Inside, they were doing a lot of business in the restaurant, at lunchtime on a rainy Tuesday. The menu was mostly pub fare. They did offer mussels done six different ways and I tried a plate of beer braised mussels which came in a nice broth with their white ale for a base. I had a pint of the white ale, which was served in a weizen glass (as I had learned in my glassware research for the Chuckanut post). They had just five beers on tap, besides the white ale, I saw ESB, Raspberry Wheat, a lager and a pale.  There may have been a tap with the IPA at another station.  All their brews are branded Red Racer, a hot redhead riding a fat tire bicycle.
  Central City has a second logo that plays up their strategic location"\: a skytrain in front of the sleek SFU tower.  It is etched on the glass on the outer windows, and also at the entrance to their package store next door.
As noted, the Expo line station is just a few steps out the door, and it terminates at the Waterfront Station dowtnown, which was also just steps from another goor brewpub stop: Steamworks.
Visited 11/30/10)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chuckanut and an aside on glassware

   Of our two breweries here in Bellingham, I think I stop in at Chuckanut more often.  They rotate their eight or nine brews in and out of their six taps and can always offer some nice choices. In clement weather, their outside tables are right by Whatcom Creek as it flows into Bellingham Bay.  Several nights a week they follow a routine, and Tuesdays is Kolsch night. Kolsch is a beer that originated in Cologne and is traditionally served there in these skinny little glasses. You can get one of these wee tastes for $1.50 every Tuesday at Chuckanut.  Here is Rachel, serving up a Kolsch glass.
  I had thought this glass was traditionally used only for Kolsch and went and googled the subject of beer glassware.  Beer Advocate has this great article out, that tells you everything on the subject.  It seems there are nine recognized styles of glassware for serving up our favorite beverage. The flute, the goblet, the mug, the pilsner stein, the tumbler, the snifter, the stange, the tulip, and the Weizen glass. The stange (German for stick) is what the Kolsch comes in. According to Beer Advocate, it is also proper to use a stange for a bock, a lambic, a Czech pilsner, and several other beers as well as Kolsch.  I kind of wondered about the pilsner, as that is the only beer that has its name on a type of glass, the tapered stein. BA says one may serve Czech or German pilsners and about twenty other beers in this glass.
   You can learn something new every day.
    Once a month or so, Chuckanut offers a tour of the brewing works, across a driveway from the pub area.  Brewmaster Kevin led the tour on a Sunday afternoon in January, enlightening about a dozen people with facts and factoids about the process.  He pointed out that the lauter tun they use right after the mash tun is a necessary component for German brewing processes (not necessarily for English styles).  Chuckanut goes through a rotation of eight beer styles throughout the year, with six being on tap in the pub at any time and the other two being listed as "in production."  The six fermenters are very visible from Holly Street, B'ham's main drag as it runs from downtown through the Old Town harbor area.

(Visited numerous times, photos 11/23/10 and 1/09/11))

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Laht Neppur: ready for wild hops?

  Laht Neppur brews in one of those rounded metal buildings I grew up calling a Quonset hut, beside the highway, U.S. 12, in Waitsburg.  I failed to take a picture when I stopped by in July 2009, but I did get an illustration at the Hopfest in Yakima last October. I can't recall what the name means, but I do remember this was the first brewpub where I saw a guy getting a quart mason jar filled for off premise consumption. Waitsburg is a little wheat-and-grapes growing town between Walla Walla and Dayton; it has plenty going on, which got it a nice spread in the Seattle Times travel section last June.
  Fast forward to the Yakima Hopfest. Brewer-owner Court Ruppenthal is standing in his booth, dispensing Whiskey Creek IPA, made completely with free range hops.
 His helper Don says the hops grow wild in a few canyons in the Blue Mountains south of town. Some grow vertically, like the trellised kind we see in the fields, and some grow flat on the ground. They all put out nice buds and the crew just goes in the mountains in a pickup truck and tosses those good wild hops in the back. This is a very seasonal production, of course; the brew list on Laht Neppur's website won't show any Whiskey Creek as one of their ten or eleven brews.
  A last note: Laht Neppur took something called Booted Rear, a 10% ABV root beer flavored concoction, to the Strange Brewfest in Port Townsend last January, and took high honors.
(Visited 7/09; 10/02/10)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dead Frogs in Langley

   What's with frogs and craft brewing?  The Green Frog here in Bellingham is a tavern with a wonderful array of craft beers on tap.  At the North Fork Beer Shrine on the Mt. Baker Highway, Son of Frog is what owner Sandy Savage calls his English red ale; this, I learned recently, is his homage to the Triple Rock brewery in Berkeley, where he created something called Tree Frog Ale. Now I come to the Dead Frog Brewery in Langley, B.C.  These folks do not want frogs to die; they say they support campaigns to protect threatened and endangered frog species, such as the Vancouver Aquarium has been leading.
  This is a production brewery, no pub service or samples, located in a vast industrial park area on the east side of Langley (Aldergrove).  The walls of all the warehouses and manufacturing plants make their front a pretty rare site in B.C.; a vantage point from which you cannot see any spectacular mountain scenery.
They ship six-packs and bigger bottles (our 22 oz. bottles work out to 650 ml bottles in metric) throughout B.C. and say they have some sales in Alberta, too.  I took home a bottle of their seasonal winter ale, which they call Christmas Beeracle. This has a much spicier nose than most of the winter ales out there now.  They toss in fresh ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks in the boil.  The spices aren't at war with the hoppy bitterness; I found the result pretty tasty.
(Visited 11/16/10)

Mission Springs: B.C. fun spot

  Just ten miles north of the border, provided you enter Canada at Sumas. WA, the adventurous beer tourist will find the Mission Springs Brewery, restaurant, and package store on BC Rt. 7, on the north bank of the Fraser.
This place must be mad crowded in the summer.  On a gray, windy November afternoon with a storm coming in, it wasn't hard to get a seat.  But imagine it on a clear summer day: they have hauled in enough sand for two beach volleyball courts. One can sit in the pub or the restaurant and watch lissome volleyball players, or behind them, the Fraser, and Mt. Baker. OMG! The beer wouldn't even have to be that good.
As a bonus, though, the beer is pretty good, too. They will bring out a tray of six samples, about an ounce each, and give that away.  Yes, a sample tray is free. I settled on their IPA, nicely hopped but not over the top hopped.  I took home a bottle of their Blonde Bombshell.  If you follow the link, it tells you that a group called the Collectors of Canadian Brewery Advertising gave their label of the year award to this label in 2009. We should have such an award here in Washington!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Astoria Brewing Co.

  The 11th Street stop must be one of the most popular on Astoria's waterfront trolley line, as it's just a few steps to Astoria Brewing and its Wet Dog Cafe.  Literally.
Inside, they were pouring a nice selection of beers, including two IPAs and two blonde ales. I had to try Strawberry Blonde as the menu declared that they do add strawberries to the boil.  It came with a nice cloudy appearance, berry taste on the tongue, but not too sweet.  Went well with a bowl of chowder.
  The brewing works were right up front, streetside, and this little table offered a great seat for watching brewers at work.
(Visited 10/4/10)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dock Street Brewng in Philly

   One fun stop om my east coast trip last summer was to Dock Street Brewing in West Philadelphia with my daughter.  It's not on Dock Steet, of course, but on 50th St. and Baltimore Ave.  It sits in a solid brick structure that hints at its past existence as a firehouse.
Inside it was mad crowded, we were lucky to find two stools at the bar to split a pizza and have a couple of brews. The walls were given over to mural-sized work by various artists.  Philadelphia has more elaborate murals on outside and inside walls than any city I know.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Four Peaks in Tempe

  A few days ago, I flew down to Mesa to hang out with three old friends from high school and celebrate that we all have our birthdays in November.  Which birthday?  Well, let's just say it has biblical standing. Class of '58, North Phoenix High, do the math.  One sunny afternoon (aren't they all, down there?) we walked through the ASU campus to slake our thirsts at the Four Peaks Brewery.  My friends took my pic walking into the joint.
  Inside, we saw a whopping big space, originally built as an ice plant in 1892 and turned into an ice cream operation called The Creamery early in the 1900s. The capacity is around 40,000 barrels a year and they claim to be the largest craft brewer in Arizona. The kettles extend way into the back of the cavernous building.
  My friends and I each had a couple of pints from the nice range of choices they had put up on the chalk board that day.
Can you see what's in the leadoff spot?  Yes, they call their Scotch ale Kilt Lifter, too.  Good people at Pike Brewing, I hope you're cool with that.  What are the odds that you'll be shipping your Kilt Lifter down to Arizona, or that Four Peaks will be shipping theirs up to Seattle? Can we spell minuscule? Can you tell I am still steamed about Pyramid suing Georgetown over the 9-Pound Hammer Ale? The irony is that Pyramid is no longer even owned by Magic Hat; they were sold to the Genesee people in Rochester, NY this fall.
  Enough digression. Even conceding that beer tastes better in the warm sunshine, Four Peaks is cranking out some pretty good brew.  Cheers.
(Visited 11/9/10)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Laurelwood & McM's-Van: two ways to cross the river

  Laurelwood, a Portland brewery that proclaims its organic/sustainability commitment in all its beers, moved across the Columbia about nine miles into Washington, in the Vancouver suburb of Battle Ground, in 2009. Their location is in one of those faux-downtown little malls, the kind where they tuck the parking spaces in here and there instead of making acres of asphalt, and make the new stores look distinctive and maybe a little "old."  Hey, it looks better than mega-malls by a long shot.  It just reminded me of James Kunstler's The Geography of Nowhere, where he talks about designs that play on nostalgia for real downtowns, epitomized in Disneyland's Main Street. Here's an exterior of the Battle Ground brewpub, looking across the street at the town houses.

  Inside, they were pouring eight brews, all made across the river at the main brewery in Portland. Brew kettles were visible through a glass wall, and the staff was hoping to bring in their first batch of pale ale soon.  However, as of the end of September, all the Laurelwood-branded beer dispensed here was coming across the river from Oregon.
    Now, nine miles south, right on the river in Vancouver, sits one of the McMenamin Bros. pubs.  McM's on the Columbia.  It was built by the company in 1995, burned to the ground and was rebuilt in 2000.  Here, they make all the McMenamin brands for their own sales and some for their new East Vancouver operation.  My server said the company does not ship any Oregon-made beer into Washington because of legal limitations on their licenses in the two states. I had to wonder why Laurelwood and McMenamins took such different approaches.  Some states have a "come-to-rest" law for beer that comes across their borders, meaning the product must first be unloaded in the warehouse of a licensed distributor.  Whatever the law may say in Washington, it does not prevent a transfer of beer from one Laurelwood corporation in Oregon to another Laurelwood corporation in Washington.  McM's just chooses to jump through different hoops. It lets them decorate their Vancouver brewkettles in their usual style.
Even if the building is new, the brothers will be looking for a history hook.  In this case, it is the World War II shipyard that had been here.  They have written up the history of the site, including the shipyard, and put up a number of photos from the WWII era in the back of the pub.
  This was a supper stop.  I had a very nice smoked sturgeon with roasted veggies and a Monster Truck IPA.
(Visited Laurelwood 10/3/10, McMenamins 10/4/10)

Monday, November 8, 2010


  You just can't beat Pike Brewing for a great location in the city.  Not only is it at the south end of the world famous Pike Place Market; it is also catty-corner from the Seattle Art Museum. The SAM has been running this terrific exhibition of Picasso's art (on loan from Paris while the National Picasso Museum over there is being renovated for a couple of years), which I went down to see.  A couple of hours of looking at great art can make one thirsty, y'know? 
  In the main pub area, they had turned on a neon sign that read "Museum Bar Now Open."  Although I had been in the main area several times, I didn't remember a museum bar. What a treat!  This is a long room that houses founder Charles Finkel's breweriana collections. I have noted other interesting collections, like growlers, bottle openers, coasters, and quotations.  Finkel has created one wall for the history of brewing, a timeline from Egyptian days to the modern brewpub laws in the 1980s.  Elsewhere around the room you see great posters, miniature beer bottles, all sorts of stuff. That this museum room was open meant it was staffed by a bartender, which is not always the case.  I gather that even when it is unstaffed it is open for wandering around in, unless it is being used for a private party.
  Here is Pike's interior entrance from one of the main corridors in the Market:
(Visited most recently 11/5/10)

Schooner Exact: history class never tasted so good

   The Schooner Exact was a ship that brought the first English-speaking settlers to the Seattle area on a rainy day late in 1851: the Denny party. The McClungs have named their brewery, down First Avenue in SODO, after this ship.  They name their beers after various events in the city's early days.  Thus, Regrade Pale Ale refers to the regrading of the hilltops with water to move the mud down to the shore.  Seamstress Union Wheat, a summer seasonal, refers to the officially listed occupation of many of the single women who came here to pursue the oldest profession. I like this one: 3-Grid IPA, which "pays homage to the three competing grid systems in downtown Seattle."  Here in Bellingham we already have three grid systems smooshing the streets together downtown, and the Port Authority wants to add a fourth as they redevelop the old Georgia-Pacific mill site on the waterfront.
   The tasting room drew a nice crowd on a Friday afternoon.  My server pointed out a community canvas in one corner and said the staff and regulars were each painting a single square, about 8" X 8", on this work.
The goal is to replicate the logo for Hoppy Holidays, their seasonal winter ale.
   I had a glass of their dark pale ale (craft brewing knows no oxymora), called SSCXWC Skidmark, and pronounced it good. Here's a view of the brewery and tasting area from out by the street; it's in an industrial area like most of the SODO breweries.
(Visited 11/5/10)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

RAM-Biersch-Rock Bottom: comparing three chain brewers

  I wanted to compare three national or regional brewpub chains with locations in Seattle that share the characteristic of building glitzy new premises in malls or the like (unlike McMenamins). An additional tidbit of interest is that Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom have quite recently merged or somehow come under common corporate ownership. 
   First, the Ram Brewery and Restaurant. They started out as a restaurant in Lakewood, Wash. in 1971, more than a decade before microbrewing started taking off. Their site indicates that they have eight locations here in Wash., two each in Idaho, Oregon, and Indiana, and three in Illinois. Having stopped by their pubs in Lacey and Northgate Mall in Seattle, and judging by pictures of the others, it is easy to see that the mall is their preferred environment. In Northgate, they are on the outer edge of the mall, next to a Barnes and Noble.
   Inside, they have a restaurant that holds a couple hundred people and some big screens for watching sports. The taps dispense their standard brews; notably the 71 Pale Ale (named for the year the business began; the coasters have a lot of fun 1971 trivia on the back), Total Disorder Porter, and Buttface Amber.The ABV and OG values are listed for each, along with the grains and hops used. These recipes are used at all RAM breweries; however, they leave two or three taps for seasonals, where the head brewer on site may sometimes try his own thing.  The Northgate brewer had made Pumpkin Ale for a nitro keg and something called Locavore when I was there.  ABVs, OGs and ingredients were not printed for these.  I had a cobb salad and a cup of chowder off the pub fare menu, washed down with a pint of Buttface. 
   I seldom go to our malls in Bellingham or Burlington, but when I have to, I would think the experience would be better if they had a brewpub like this.  (Visited 11/5/10).
   Second, the Gordon Biersch brewpub downtown.  They are in Pacific Place, one of those downtown mall concepts; four stories of shops, restaurants, and a cineplex, across the street from the Norstrom mother store.  They started out in Palo Alto in 1988 and have quickly grown coast-to-coast.  The brewpub is on the top floor next to the cineplex. The entrance, seen from the atrium:
Their credo is to stick to the classic German recipes; hence no IPAs, porters, or other British innovations. It would appear that these eight beers (four permanent and four seasonal) are brewed the same way in every location, so a Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen in Florida should taste the same as it does in Seattle.
  The restaurant area is huge, seating for 500, and the large capacity kettles are used just to brew for consumption on the premises. The site indicates that they do bottle and distribute bottled beer in a number of states, but not in Washington.  (Visited 10/24/10).
  Third, the Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant is on the third floor of the Rainier Bank Tower, a skyscraper that lists as a 40-story building. (Visited 2/14/10, 11/5/10)  Their parent company, out of Louisville, KY, operates 43 brewpubs around the country, mostly under the Rock Bottom name, and 102 Old Chicago restaurants.
They have two in Washington, one in Bellevue and this one downtown, two blocks from the Biersch site.
  What's distinctive at Rock Bottom is that the brewmaster at each site has the discretion to experiment within the basic beer category to develop a distinctive taste and name. Thus, here brewer Josh Dalton makes Rain City Red, Peashooter Pale, and Flying Salmon Stout.  Across the lake in Bellevue, brewer Brian Young does Lumberjacks Red, Humpback Pale, and Liquid Sun Pilsner. Hop Bomb IPA, for which Brian has won a bunch of GABF and WBC medals, is the name at both bars here.  Notice the Northwest flavor of the names. Contrast them with the Rock Bottom in Scottsdale, AZ: Desert Trail Pale, Roadrunner Brown, Saguaro Stout, and El Jefe Hefeweizen.
   Plainly, there are some real differences in the approach to brewing at Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom. How this shakes out in a merger will be interesting to watch.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ferndale's Frank-n-Stein

  Hmm. Whatcom County, where I live, has four interesting breweries and I have only posted one visit to start this blog, up at North Fork Brewers in Deming.  I do drop in to the two in Bellingham, both of which won GABF medals in Sept. :), and now and then I drop in at Lloyd Zimmerman's Frank-n-Stein in downtown Ferndale. This is a blue-collar town about seven miles north of Bellingham, with an aluminum plant, an oil refinery, the Hempler meat packing and sausage works, and lots of berry farms just inland.  A PBR and Bud drinking town, you would think, and pretty much the grocery shelves and tavern signs reflect that.
   The brewing goes on a few blocks away and the pub is squeezed into a small retail space that may have held a cozy diner once.  But this is Lloyd's bully pulpit, from which he promotes his ideas for what would make Ferndale a better city. Tops on his agenda is a domed swimming pool--a natatorium? An architect's sketch for this building hangs on the wall, amid a series of really neat photos of World War II aircraft, autographed in some cases by the men who flew them. This is a collection donated by a WWII vet for the natatorium and hanging in the pub waiting for collectors to buy them and augment the pool fund.
  That's not all for collections. Lloyd also collects carved masks, many from Africa and Asia, and a couple dozen of these are hung behind the bar and elsewhere.
  Beer?  Well, they have four taps. I have yet to see more than two pouring their own production. More often just one.  I think they name each batch as the whimsey strikes: time before last, it was called Dark Sinister Ale, and the last time it was so-and-so (I forgot) Porter. They plug some kegs from Boundary Bay, or maybe Chuckanut, into the other taps so that there are choices. 
  Food?  Well, Hempler is the local sausage-maker and they can grill a wide variety of sausages. There is music some evenings, acoustic guitar by Dave, who also tends bar when Lloyd has to be elsewhere. There is no website but the hours seems to be 5 pm to 10 pm Thurs, Fri, Sat.  I recommend it for friendliness.  The first time I stopped in, one of the regulars on a bar stool  said to me, after a bit of chat, "welcome to the Cheers of Ferndale."  Darned if he didn't nail it.
  (Visited several times, May-Oct. 2010)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

McMenamins Queen Anne

  This McM location is just a block from the Seattle Center, the Space Needle and all the good things to see and do there.  It occupies the ground floor of an apartment building, in a structure of particular merit.
  Inside, the premises have the usual McMenamin artwork, including the surfaces of the three brew kettles.
My server said this location has enough capacity to keep its own taps going.  In other words, it does not rely on the larger capacity at the DadWatson brewery in nearby Fremont.
  This location is like several other outposts of the McMenamin empire: chosen not because the building has any great historical or architectural significance, but because it is in a cool location, the kind of neighborhood the brothers M enjoy. The Queen Anne filled quickly on a Sunday afternoon, with customers of all ages. I had a steak sandwich with a pint of Ruby's and was off to the opera, a block away.
(Visited 10/24/10)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fort George in Astoria

  The Fort George Brewery in downtown Astoria shares a whole block with a bakery.  It gets its name from what the British called John Jacob Astor's fur trading post when the War of 1812 forced him to sell it for a while to the Hudson's Bay Company (or its predecessor, I forget which now). Inside, the pints are flowing, in the form of mason jars.  Honestly, this is the pub's standard method of serving a pint.  My server said it holds a bit closer to 17 ounces, thus a better deal than the usual 16-oz. bar glass.
My jar was holding some Co-Hoperative, a fresh-hopped ale using just hops grown in backyard gardens in the town. Some other interesting names: Cavatica Stout, named for Charlotte A. Cavatica, the star web-spinner of E. B. White's classic tale.Vortex IPA, named for a tornado in Nebraska which came that close to destroying the brewing equipment as it was being trucked west to Oregon.
  They make sausage on-site as well.  I had a daily special, a chantrel mushroom sausage with a salad, which was tasty. A pretty good band was playing near the bar. It was a friendly place and a good time (10/03/10)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hazel Dell Brewpub, Vancouver

  Hazel Dell appears to be an unincorporated but developed area just north of the city of Vancouver. The brewery is on Rte. 99, in a newish building.
It started up in 1993, the first brewpub in Clark County, by brother and sister Phil and Teresa Stein.  A good name for brewers--and for two of their best selling beers, Steinweizen (the hefe) and Steinbock (the bock, not the author.  Although I do have a t-shirt at the Steinbock Center in Salinas, CA bearing a great quote from his friend Ed Ricketts: "There's nothing quite like that first taste of beer.")
  Inside, the atmosphere is friendly.  The decor is nothing noteworthy, although the back bar is a nice picture window looking in on the 7-barrel system.
 Some reviewers have been unimpressed by the food here. I didn't have time or space to try a meal; just ordered a cup of chili and a glass of Capt. Vancouver's Stout: creamy, 6.8 abv, on a nitrogen system, and delicious.  The chili was pretty good, too.
(Visited 10/4/10)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

North Sound Brewing: Mt. Vernon's second

It just opened August 27th.  North Sound Brewing, a couple of miles west of downtown Mt. Vernon on Rte. 536.  The first thing you notice is this tall, brooding stone standing out in front in a landscaped pattern.
There's a story, of course. It seems Kurt Ahrens, one of the owners, has always had a passion for dolmens, those ancient burial markers seen throughout western Ireland and in other ancient Celtic lands. While the typical arrangement is two upright stones supporting a horizontal one, a single stone like this is just as full of Celtic mystery. So his wife gets him a dolmen from a landscaping outfit and has it delivered the day before Christmas last year. Just as he wakes up with a kidney stone to pass.  So he gets two stones, one to keep and one to lose!
  Four of the eight beers on tap have been named; the rest are called X-batch for now. I started my sample tray with a Big Bend Blonde. Its a light ale, named for the bend in the Skagit, just across the road and behind a dike. Next I tried a Bitter Rain ESB, made with seven different grains and an enjoyable maltiness.  After that, the Slainte Stout, very smooth and chocolate-y with yes, the hint of toffee the tasting notes mention.  Last was some sips of the Hop Chops IPA, with a nice grapefruit finish from the Simcoe hops;
  The little patio looked like it would be well used on a sunny day, but not on this rainy one.
A pleasant stop with friendly servers and pleased customers.
    During a later visit, Kurt was tending bar and sharing more stories.  The Goosetown Brown is named for a neighborhood in Anaconda, Montana. It seems all the brewing equipment was purchased from a micro in Anaconda that had to liquidate after operating less than two years, a victim of embezzlement. They gave the Goosetown name to one of their beers and North Sound kept the name going as the equipment started up again out here on the coast.
   And during tulip festival time (Mt. Vernon always tunes up for this the whole month of April) I got another story from Lyra, frequent tender of the tasting room. The pale ale was a seasonal, named Pearl's Pale Ale, and a large poster showed a cute shar-pei puppy sniffing a big red tulip.  This was Pearl, the late and beloved dog of Kurt and his wife.  Pearl passed away at the good canine age of 12 and they had this fine picture among their memories.
(Visited 10/9/10; 2/26/11; 4/15/11)