Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hood Canal: Celebrate the scenery

  Every state has areas of natural beauty.  I was several days in Iowa and Nebraska last month and can attest that they have pretty spots. But I don't think it is just chauvinism to assert that Washington State has an extravagance of spectacular scenery, compared to most anywhere on the planet. The combination of dramatic scenic elements, snow-capped volcanic peaks, blue mountain lakes, forested islands off a rocky coast, sometimes all visible from the same spot, is just hard to beat.
  Our micros that bottle their beers often have very original labels, sometimes the work of local artists.  One seldom sees a beer label here that celebrates our great scenery, though.  A nice exception is Hood Canal Brewing in Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula.  While the brewery itself is in a small industrial park, they have within a ten mile radius all sorts of special scenic spots on the long fjord called the Hood Canal. Sarah, who tends the retail space (they sell pints and have pretzels) has hiked around the area with her camera and taken the shots that have ended up on the labels of their beers. Here is my picture of her work on the Dabob Bay IPA:

  Other geographic points of interest on their beers are Dosewallips  Pale Ale, Bywater Bay ESB, Agate Pass Amber, Big Beef Stout, and Breidablik Barleywine.   You can see these beers listed on their website but the wonderful photos are not there. Cheers, Hood Canal Brewing and thanks for reminding us of all the great sights around here/
(Visited 6/10/10)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Georgetown Brewing & trademark law

  Down on Seattle's south side, where SODO blends into Georgetown, Dawson Ave. angles into a dogleg called Denver Ave.  That's where Georgetown Brewing operates a production brewery, making their flagship Manny's Pale Ale and a few other beers for the keg markets. Their business model is very similar to Mac & Jack's. They fill growlers for $7 plus tax and also fill kegs of various sizes. They also stick with a few beers: Roger's Pilsner, Chopper Red (from their notes: "clarified with Irish moss, added to the kettle to remove haze before fermentation"), Lucille IPA, and what is now called Georgetown Porter.  Therein hangs a tale.
    They had been marketing this nice rich porter as "9-pound Hammer".  As reported in Northwest Brewing News, they were sued in federal court by Magic Hat Brewing of Burlington, Vermont, for trademark infringement on one of their beers back east, called No. 9.  Now, I had been in Magic Hat, took their brewery tour in 2006, and learned that a lot of their brand names came from obscure rock & roll references. They make one called Circus Boy, for example, a reference to kid in a 50's sitcom who grew up to be the drummer for the Monkees. So, No. 9 is clearly a reference to "Revolution 9" on the Beatles' White Album.  One would assume the Beatles' copyrights are still intact, so did Magic Hat get a license from them to borrow the phrase for their beer?  What if someone made a beer named after "Love Potion No. Nine", a rock standard written well before the Beatles' White Album?  How can a number become a trademark? Does Seven-Up own the number 7?
 And how could consumers possibly be confused? Georgetown's consumers are all drinking on-premise in Washington State, 3,000 miles from Vermont. Granted, Magic bought Pyramid in 2008 and could conceivably start producing Magic Hat beers up on First Ave. S at Pyramid's plant.  Were they to do so, how could anyone mistake a porter called 9-lb. for a pale ale called No. 9?  The thing about litigation is that even a complaint devoid of merit can cost a lot of money in lawyers' fees to get it dismissed. I'm not surprised that the folks at Georgetown just said oh, the hell with this nonsense, we'll just change our name.

(Visited 8/28/10)

Mac & Jack's: African theme explained

   I navigated the parkways of eastern Redmond to eventually locate Mac & Jack's, busily brewing in what used to be a transmission shop in a business park.  They operate with one of the most focused business plans I have yet seen in a micro. They stick with just four beers, well-established brands.  They stick with draft accounts, shipping kegs to quite a few retail accounts in three states. The only other way they sell is by filling growlers in the small retail space in the brewery ($8.21 after tax).  As their retail page details, they also fill kegs and sell a bit of  other stuff for like t-shirts and they don't run plastic in the retail area. You can't buy a pint, you can't sit down, you can't order food, but you can get a wee taste. 
   Now the African story.  Some years back, the owner of the Woodland Park Pub, next to the Woodland Park Zoo, asked Mac to brew up something special for an event. He made three kegs of amber and apparently the beer-drinking crowd went wild.  They had discovered their flagship brand and changed their original logo to the African theme for the zoo's big animals. Later came the Serengeti Wheat, the IPA with the African elephant, and the Blackjack Porter. 
   They say they are running close enough to capacity just filling kegs, so are not thinking of bottling for the off-sale business. Given the number of places I know African Amber is on tap just in Bellingham, I imagine most of their fans can get a taste of Mac & Jack's without too much trouble.
(Visited 8/27/10)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Skookum in Arlington: a challenge just to find

    "Getting there is half the fun'--who coined that phrase? Some railroad, probably.  If you don't have a GPS in your vehicle, take careful notes of the directions on Skookum's website.  As you wend your way down 200th St. past the dead end sign, watch for 17th Drive and a set of numbers.  "19529" is the only clue that Skookum is down this dirt road.  Brewer-owner Ron Walcher can tell you the story about how the only thing Snohomish County could do in response to neighbors' objections to his brewing was to tell him he couldn't have a sign.
    Anyway, you drive--very slowly--down this road, through pastures with horses grazing, and you come to this ranch gate.  If you're old enough, it may remind you of entering the Ponderosa on the tv series Bonanza.  When you arrive, you are apt to find Ron and his partner Jackie very busy pouring from their taps, as tasting hours are very limited (Fri 3-7 and Sat 2-5) and their enthusiastic following turns out in numbers to sip and buy within those windows of opportunity. 
   I filled my growler with the Woody's Oak pale ale, after a pint definitely showed me the oak and citrus flavors Ron mentions in his tasting notes.  Too bad this is a seasonal: I'll miss it when they move on to something else.
(Visited 5/20/10; 8/21/10)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gallaghers in Edmonds: Brew-it-yourself heaven

What Dennis Gallagher has created in downtown Edmonds is nirvana for those of us who are tempted to dabble in home brewing. To dabble: to try one's hand at brewing without buying all the gear, constantly checking the recipe, worrying out bacteria, etc.  Let's say you walk in and look around at the hundred of labels on beer bottles that you never heard of before.  They are all private labels, created by Gallaghers' customers.  So you want to see your name or neighborhood on a beer bottle.  Choose a recipe (they have about fifty) and Dennis or Chris or Eric will lead you to the bins with the malts, yeasts, and hops you need.  Spend several hours stirring and boiling and all those fun things, with advice from one of the staff experts at any stage, whenever you want it. When your batch is ready, it goes to a fermentation room for a week and then to an aging room for another week.  You come back in two weeks (a bit longer for some recipes) with your empty bottles or empties you can buy there.  Your batch, which has cost you $150 to $165 (plus bottles) will make about 138 12-oz bottles or around 75 22-oz bombers.  Plus the thrill of your own label going on them.
   The details are on their website ; I have started saving my bottles instead of recycling them. This sounds like great fun! As is the area in which they display their coaster collection.
Here are pix of the fermenting and aging rooms.
(Visited 7/29/10 and 8/14/10)

Lazy Boy Brewing, Everett: learning about mobile bottling

  You have to look hard to find Lazy Boy, behind the Everett Mall and squeezed in between a state L&I office and a UPS shipping facility.  I parked on SE 100th and walked past the Labor and Industry offices to their tasting room (W-Sat 12-5). The whole operation is visible from the tasting table, and the question came to mind: how does a micro get its product bottled?  No bottling line could be seen.  Brewer-owner Shawn Loring enlightened me.  He contracts with Microbeer Source out of Issaquah, who brings in a mobile bottling unit once a month.  This unit can fill four or five pallets in a day with 22-oz or 12-0z bottles.  Loring has Odom Distributing get most of this to the retail outlets.
   Lazy Boy's website lists their standard and seasonal creations.  One unusual feature was two hefeweisens: a northwest and a Bavarian style.  Shawn said he used different yeast strains in the two.  On my tongue, the Bavarian seemed a bit maltier and the northwest had a fruitier finish.  Their IPA is no doubt their best seller; it is the bottle most frequently seen in stores.
 (Visited 7/29/10)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Centralia (stop 2): Dick's Brewing

   This brewery grew out of a sausage-making business started by Dick Young, who unfortunately passed away in October 2009 (see obit ).  His nickname was Dick Danger, and it lives on in Danger Ale, the signature brew here.  This is a dark, almost porter-like ale with a generous dollop of black malt. The retail outlet, at 5945 Pranther Road, is done up like a country cafe, with knotty pine booths and red and white checked curtains and the sausage works in the back.  They were pouring from nine taps the day I stopped by.  Permanent and seasonal taps are listed on their website, as are another half-dozen brews available in bottles only.
    Brewing operations moved in 2007 to an industrial park about two miles back toward Centralia, at 3516 Galvin Road.  Tours and tastings are offered on Friday afternoons. Annual production is over 2500 bbls and they run a 12-oz bottling line and ship a fair amount of six-packs out of state.  According to a printed info sheet, brewer Dave Pendleton and crew are turning out 22 different brews, counting all the seasonals.  This is truly an exceptional array, and those I tasted (the Lava Rock Porter and the Hefeweisen) are very fine.
(Visited 06/11/10)