Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Foggy Noggin in Bothell

   A nanobrewery has been defined as a brewery that produces less than 100 bbl per year.  Jim Jamison is most definitely a nanobrewer, with his 1/2 barrel system working in his garage in the leafy suburb of Bothell.        
   Jim produces four ales in an English style, using, among other techniques, less carbonation into his kegs than most other micros.  His naming pattern is a celebration of Pac-10 football, starting with his Bit O' Beaver English bitter. Yes, he is an OSU alum and fan and has the posters on the wall to prove it.  Christmas Duck porter is his second, for that other institution in Eugene.  How do they served duck in England at Christmas time?  Roasted and basted?  Oh, how about that university just about fifteen miles south of Bothell at the other end of Lake Washington?  Jim will brew a seasonal ale called Kastrated Dawg for them. His third standard brew is Oski Wow-Wow (the Cal yell), a scotch ale which should invoke the feeling of Saturday afternoons in Berkeley's Strawberry Canyon.  This is on the excellent website, where Jim also talks about his technique of caramelizing the first ten percent of the mash runnings to create a unique flavor. The last of the four mainstays is Chief Lightfoot Irish Red ale.  Back in the day, before Stanford's teams became the Cardinal, they were known as the Indians and Chief Lightfoot was a fixture on Saturday afternoons in Palo Alto.  No citation is necessary, your blogger was there and can testify to this fact from personal knowledge.
  Foggy Noggin is open for tasting just one Saturday afternoon a month, dates announced on the website and perhaps chosen in the fall with an eye on which games are being televised,  I tasted all four and ended up having my growler filled with Chief Lightfoot. It was nicely malty with a tinge of bitterness at the end.
(Visited 9/25/10)

Diamond Knot, Mukilteo

  Although this brewpub is just down the hill a couple of miles from the main Boeing plant, it draws its inspiration looking out to sea rather than up in the sky. From the logo,  a ship's profile on the top half of a ship's wheel, to some of the names (Icebreaker, Steamer Glide, Lighthouse), to the original location at the Whidbey Island ferry dock, the atmosphere is salt air. Their well-designed website says the building was originally a bus barn.  A bus would be a good way to travel there now with parking very limited and towing warnings posted all around the walls.
  Inside, the atmosphere is convivial and the food smells good.  I had the soup of the day with garlic bread slices.  My server figured their flagship brew would be the IPA; I tried their Industrial IPA (7.9 % ABV compared to 6 % on the basic version).  Perhaps using a word like industrial rather than Imperial is an acknowledgment of sorts of Boeing. Certainly when we use industrial in connection with beer many of us think of the big American lager makers. Speaking of which, the urinal in the mens' room here is a classic:
If you can view this picture in larger scale, you can make out Anheuser-Busch on the side of this cutoff keg.

  More brewing (about 70% of the total) ; is done at a second location, which they just call B-2, about four miles south in an industrial park. This is not a food service operation but they do have tasting hours.
(Visited 9/24/10)

Naked City: Greenwood Gem

  Above Ballard and Fremont in Seattle's northeast quadrant lies the Greenwood district.  Greenwood Ave. is lined with a real mixture of stores (the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. is definitely one of a kind!) and the Naked City Brewery and Taphouse fits right in.
Inside, one sees two dozen tap handles working behind the bar. Only five of them hook up to kegs brewed on these premises; all the rest are serving up beers brewed at other micros in the northwest.  The blackboard lists all the others; an ever-changing list.  Keeping the website current must be a constant chore here.
  The old movie theme (Naked City was a 1948 film noir) continues to a degree inside.  The two television screens behind the bar are usually left on Turner Classic Movies, unless a sporting event of major local significance is on.  The names on a couple of the brews are old flick titles, as well: Brimstone and Treacle old ale is from a 1982 movie that had Sting playing the bad guy, and Yankee Drifter light ale has some movie connection I couldn't google up.
  My choice this day was a seasonal, Wet Hop Ace in the Hole.  The server, Rick, drew a cloudy pint with a hint of grapefruit in the finish.  He said it was brewed in an IPA style with siroki (sp?) hops but not as bitter as many an IPA.  Different but tasty.  The small brewing system's production goes mainly into these taps, although Naked City kegs do go to a few taverns.
(Visited 9/25/10)
New and Expanded (P.S.)
Naked City has expanded into the space next door, a second drinking and dining area called The Screening Room.  Note the comfortable sofas, bookshelf of paperbacks, and big screen on the back wall.
I learned that this area is mostly used as overflow on the busy nights in the main pub.  They have plans to run a movie with the sound on in here on Sunday nights. The image on the screen here was the same one as on the two screens behind the bar, a Turner Classic Movie with the sound off.
     Tap selection was much like last year: 5 of their own and 19 guest taps, for a total of 24 beers.  Plus a couple of ciders.  They don't try to list them all on the long blackboard any more, but print out a current tap list and give you a copy before you order.  I had their own Duplicity, a nutty dubbel ale that was delicious.
(Revisited 8/14/11)

Monday, September 27, 2010

the Scuttlebutt in Everett

  Scuttlebutt is a nice mid-sized micro on the Everett waterfront (best approached from the north side of town, along Marine View Drive).  They bottle about half a dozen year round brews in both 22- and 12-oz sizes, the best sellers being Homeport Blonde and their amber ale. (The Gale Force IPA, very hoppy, seems to sell better up here in Bellingham.)  Homeport is a well-chosen name, as Everett is just that for a number of Navy ships.  The Navy is a bit to the south and Scuttlebutt's nearest neighbor is a marina full of yachts and other boats.  The brewpub walls display a combination of yachting pennants and plaques and pictures of Navy ships whose crews have evidently enjoyed shore leaves here.
This picture also shows a reflection of a freight train being assembled by BNSF just across the highway. A periodic crash as freight cars couple up can be a bit startling until you get used to it.  The waterfront building was once a fish processing plant (an old picture is on the company website).
  They bill the restaurant section as family-friendly and that seemed to be the case on a sunny Saturday as a couple of families had their toddlers in, sipping the root beer also made here. Most of the tables are indoors, although they have several outside in front--for railroad buffs, perhaps.
I ordered a honey mustard chicken salad with a pint of a seasonal, Weizenbock.This was a malty dopplebock with spicy overtones that paired well with the salad. I should add that the growlers here have a unique design, with a curved metal handle attached to the glass bottle.
(Visited 9/25/10)
UPDATE: new location--more space, less charm.
    Scuttelbutt has moved a couple of blocks north, still along the waterfront, into new quarters which are part of the Port of Everett Marina City complex. It seemed to be a smashing hit with the locals on a Wednesday afternoon around 6-ish, with a hostess taking names for tables. The plusses are a lot more space, lots of windows with views of the boatyard and, out there somewhere, the sea.

I'm a contrarian, I guess, I miss the old building, recycled from a seafood plant, with Navy pix and plaques all over the walls (there are a few up in the new building) and the periodic crash of freight train couplings.  The new spot is a couple of blocks from the tracks.
Brewing still good, though.  I tried a Commodore's Pale Ale, with a clean, tart citrus-y finish.  My server said they brew this for Anthony's Restaurants as well.
(Revisited 7/13/11)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pyramid: ballgame brew

   Whatever one may think of the quality of Pyramid's beers, their location in Seattle can't be beat for baseball fans, with Safeco Field just across the street.  Qwest Stadium is only a block north for football and soccer fans, too. I came down on a rainy Wednesday afternoon for the Red Sox' last game of the year with the Mariners. The M's charge an extra $5 on all tickets for games with Boston, the Yankees (hissss!) and the Cubs.  The rain was kept off the field with Safeco's retractable roof.
  Pyramid's beer garden doesn't have a rainy day roof, however, and it was soggy and empty that day.

I had a pint of Alehouse Amber, one of the alehouse brews they don't bottle.  And toasted the Sox, who won that day but who are too far behind the Rays and the evil empire this year.
(Visited 9/15/10)

Grand Canyon Brewery

  Along a remnant of old Rte. 66 in Williams, Arizona sits the Grand Canyon Brewery.  Their website  offers some nice pix of the canyon a few miles to the north and also has a nice feature showing which of its six brews is available in which package: bottles, full kegs, or pony kegs. The taproom is done up in somewhat of a biker theme.  The bar-stool seats are motorcycle seats mounted on posts. 
  I had a pint of their Starry Night Stout, hanging out with an old friend.  Don and I shared a chuckle at the mural on the wall outside.
Can you see the person climbing out of the trunk of a car near the front of the drive-in?  We were busted attempting to do that very thing one night in Phoenix back in the 50s.  Ah, misspent youth!
  (Visited 3/27/10)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whitstran: Deathless Prose in Prosser

  Prosser, Wash. sits in the middle of one of the premier hops growing regions of the world, the Yakima Valley, yet its tourist appeal is for all those wine drinkers out there.  The original brewpub in the town in fact sits on the main drag, called Wine Country Drive.   But walk into Whistran Brewing and check your Bacchus worship at the door: this place is for the devotees of Ninkasi and Gambrinus
  Throughout the centuries, many of our greatest leaders and deepest thinkers have spoken on the centrality of beer in the human condition.  Whitstran has collected these thoughts and framed them with well-deserved dignity to adorn their walls.
The quotations are attributed to the great minds who first uttered them when known: Plato, Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln ("the great point is to bring the people the real facts and beer"), Winston Churchill, W. C. Fields, Homer Simpson, Cliff the letter carrier, and many others are remembered here in Whitstran.  A table on the side contains a number of essential books which can be perused for more pearls of wisdom. A gem among the books: He Said Beer, She Said Wine.  It's about food pairings, for guys who always wondered why you have to have a chardonnay with a good cheese.
  The ambiance and menu are both family-friendly, as a four-year old grandson verified. He scarfed down the macaroni and cheese and the root beer brewed on premise. They make some good beer out back, including the Highlander Scottish ale I had with a good cobb salad.  They bottle in 12-oz bottles for off-sale and sell by the 6-pack or the single bottle.  I took a couple of bottles of Friar's Decadence home: this is a double chocolate imperial stout, 8.1% ABV and a truly decadent after-dinner drink.  I'd match it up against a tawny port any day, to complement a way too rich dessert.
(Visited 7/09, 9/19/10).

DadWatsons: more Fremont fun

  Walking up Fremont Ave. toward this McMenamins location, my nose detects the delectable aroma of a cooking wort.  In a Proustian flashback, I'm taken back to my first experience of downtown Portland in the mid-70s, when Blitz-Weinhardt was still operating just up the hill from Powell's Books.  Ah, the smell of brewing on urban sidewalks!
   Historic Portland was an appropriate flashback, as the McMenamin brothers have named this establishment after an actual Watson who came to Portland around 1925 and started--at age 75--quite a career in ballroom dancing. He kept it up through the Depression and evidently got a lot of people in the Rose City dancing their cares away.  The building, unusual for the Mc Bros, is not itself a historic structure.  Apparently, it was built in the 90s on the site of a forgettable contractor's office put up around 1954.  The present structure does blend in well with the neighborhood, which evidently met McMenamin standards in this case.
   The basement contains a full production brewery, so this location is supplying the twelve regular and seasonal brews for this and other McMenamins brewpubs in the area, which often have just a single kettle brewing one of their brands.  The interior is decorated with street signs from Europe's major brewing countries, Germany, Belgium, and England.  Some are in French and look more Parisian than Flemish.
The art is permanent, done by staff artists of the McMenamin organization.  The kitchen is up to snuff for menu choices: I had a creamy potato and leek soup with a pint of the summer seasonal pale ale, Copper Moon, and pronounced it all good.
(Visited 9/15/10)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Port Angeles: Peaks Pub

   Peaks in P.A. joins the list of brewpubs with unique collections of breweriana: Here it's bottle openers,  a long line of branded bottle openers behind the bar.  Brewer Ed likes to highlight his "killer chili" on his website; he does have some fairly potent brews on tap.  I passed on a pint of Imperial something, IPA probably, that he said tested somewhere north of 10% ABV. 
   Peaks has for the most part resisted the Twilight tourist craze that has infected parts of P.A. and all of Forks.  Most of the fans of Edward the Vampire and his swooning Bella are too young for beer anyway. They do make a Twilight Red here, and its color will not be mistaken for blood.  Tastes better, too. It is a friendly place that 
welcomes a new face and makes you feel at home.

(Visited 5/6/10)

Fremont Brewing, a can-do outfit

                Fremont, the little brewery that can—or will can, in a few months.  I had run across the news that they planned to start putting their beers in aluminum cans on their website and was of course intrigued. The store I work in in Bellingham has just one craft beer in cans, Dale’s Ale from Oskar Blues Brewing in Longmont, Colo.  I was met by Sara Nelson, spouse of brewery founder Matt Lincecum, and heard the whole can story from her.
                The energy budget on manufacturing containers is a familiar story.  Making sheet aluminum from bauxite consumes humongous amounts of electricity.  But making sheet from recycled aluminum costs peanuts compared to making new brown glass bottles.  The bottles are not just washed and reused; they have to be smashed into cullet and re-formed.  And, Sara added, a full energy budget must look at the fuel used in wholesaling, too.  Odom Distributing, which gets Fremont’s kegs out to retail accounts in King County, can transport at least two cases of aluminum can six-packs for the cost of getting one case of brown glass bottles to market.
                What about consumer acceptance? Don’t most craft beer connoisseurs have a negative idea about the taste of beer out of a can rather than a brown bottle?  Only if your brain tells you the feel of aluminum on your lip means a swallow of Bud or PBR is on the way.  Most of those connoisseurs are going to pour a bottle of craft or import beer into a glass anyway, Sara said, and once you do that, Fremont will welcome all comparisons.
                Ah, the tastes.  Fremont has a locally famous urban beer garden, which happens  mostly on weekends when they push a long table and some half circle couches out on the brewery floor. (The canning line is to be installed in this same area in a few months. Space management may be challenging.)

The beer garden furniture is pushed up against the wall earlier in the day.  To savor an honest pint, one must stop by during beer garden hours.  No food here, but they have no problems with people bringing in their carry-out from nearby restaurants.  The earnest tourist may get a wee sample to taste in earlier hours.  I got a sip of Little Woody to start out.  It appears that Fremont makes just two beers all the time: Universale Pale Ale and Interurban IPA, and a set of seasonal brews.  Then come the variations!  Little Woody is the pale ale, the Universale, aged on American White Oak chips, and dry-hopped with Chinook. The oak gives a pale that great tang, it’s not quite bitterness on the IBU scale but it is memorable.  This was my second oak-aged pale after I met this fine formula at Skookum Brewing up in Arlington. 
                Next, Sara offered a sip of the Summer Solstice, the current seasonal.  The hops used here, Amarillo, give a citrus quality which is most like tangerines in the basic version.  To play with this, the guys tried some zest of limes and grapefruit.  The limes win the opening rounds, but the grapefruit and that background tangerine taste linger and start adding layers of taste.  This crew, led by chief brewer Matt Lincoln, evidently likes to sit around grating fruit rinds.  On their basic IPA, the Interurban, they had made a batch of Mustafa Lemon IPA by adding the zest of some Lebanese lemons.
                Seasons come and go, and so do seasonal ales. They have a fall seasonal, Harvest, in production now.  What they sounded really excited about was the winter ale, Abominable, due in November.  They will be creating a standard run of this, and then (these guys love to tinker, can you tell?) they will also produce some cask-aged Abominable.  A stack of bourbon barrels acquired from a Kentucky distillery sits against a wall, waiting to do the aging. 
                Cask-aged Abominable sounds like a growler fill for the holiday shopping list for sure.  It sure doesn’t figure to be in the new cans.  In my opinion, for Fremont to develop a new customer base, especially outside King County, which canned six-packs would enable, means they will have to deliver a consistent taste every time.  This probably means the basic Universale Pale and Interurban IPA.  To taste what else the two Matts and their gang can do, one will need to go to the brewery.  The location is pretty scenic, near the north shore of the Lake Union outlet, looking across at Queen Anne Hill.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

La Conner Brewing

   Three quality micros sit along the majestic Skagit River: Birdsview up where the river flows out of the North Cascades National Park, the eponymous Skagit River Brewery in downtown Mt. Vernon along I-5, and then this one in the town of La Conner, where the river meets the sea after a series of serpentine loops.  La Conner is a picturesque, artsy town with a thriving tourist trade, and the brewery/restaurant sits in a new building designed to blend in well with its older neighbors along the dock.
   The brewery bottles product in 12-oz. six-packs, contracting this work to a mobile bottling service.  They also have kegs in some retail locations.  The usual selection is six constant beers (wheat, pilsner, pale, IPA, brown and ESB) and one rotating seasonal.This last was a nice doppelbock the day I stopped by.  The walls were given over to paintings by one artist, who was Bellingham's Ben Mann when I was there. Pizza from a wood-fired oven seems to be the menu mainstay, and my choice there, chicken Gorgonzola, was delicious.
   Back to La Conner during tulip time in mid-April.  The fields are soggy with all the rain of late, and the lack of sunshine has definitely kept the tulips back. They had rotated back to the dopplebock again and had some nice tulips in vases on the bar.  Here's a pic of one with the doppel....
(Visited 9/12/10; 4/15/11)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Big River Grille in Nashville

   This chain has a brewpub in Memphis, perhaps its first. Which may explain the big river moniker; the Cumberland, flowing through Nashville, is a fair sized river but not an epic river for Huck and Jim to float. The restaurant and brewery sit on Broadway a block from the river, amid a lot of country  music honky-tonk joints. A daughter and I had some appetizers and a brew there in mid summer. I ordered their IPA and our server, deducing our non-southernness from our speech, apologized for its weak punch when he brought my pint. It was a whopping 5.97 % ABV.  He explained that Tennessee law imposed a cap of 6 % ABV on any beer sold in the state, and also required any brewpub to derive at least half its revenue from food sales.  Hmm...Tennessee may not require high schools to teach evolution any longer, but the lawmakers could study the evolution of craft brewing in the US to some advantage.
  I later learned that several southern states have such laws, and came across accounts of a spirited--no, make that lively, campaign in North Carolina called Pop the Cap that raised the beer ceiling there from 6% to 15% in 2005.  Cheers, tarheels and good luck if you trace some old moonshiner routes to smuggle some northwest imperial IPAs into Tennessee!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Big E Ales, the toast of Lynnwood

   Stopped by Ellersick Brewery, doing business as Big E Ales in a little strip mall on 208th St. SW in Lynnwood, on a sunny July afternoon.  Owner Rick Ellersick began selling his ales out of his garage in 1999 and expanded to the present location in 2006. I read that his father and his sons all put in some work in the operation, a real three-generation enterprise. Ten taps were working that day, up to an Imperial IPA hitting the ABV scale at 10.3%  I tried a nicely balanced amber. 
   They show a movie once a week and have a comfortable beer garden outside.  It is noteworthy that they fill growlers for $7.50.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Harmon's second spot in Tacoma

 After Engine House 9, I swung by the new Harmon's on Tacoma Ave.  While the website calls it Harmon's Hub and develops a bicycle theme with photos and art, the inside wasn't showing a bike theme or much of anything. I could guess 70% of the inside space is giving over to brewing operations, with several long tables and benches out front. It felt more like a production brewery although the kitchen was turning out most of the pub food they have downtown. Perhaps this facility is allowing Harmon's to increase production without sacrificing restaurant space downtown.  I saw the original Harmon's last year while going through the Washington State History Museum across the street. It was doing a good business mid-afternoon on a weekday in February, so I can well imagine the restaurant is packed at peak periods.  This trip, I had a Brown's Point ESB and savored the maltiness.
   One noteworthy feature here: happy hour prices include growler fills for $8 between 5 and 6 p.m.  The rate is $10 other times.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Engine House 9, a gem in Tacoma

  Not far from Tacoma's downtown, one comes across an architectural treat. It was built as a firehouse in 1907, toward the end of the era of horse-drawn fire trucks. The building's exterior has a lot of detail typical of the time.
Inside, the decor continues to celebrate the building's past. From the ceiling hang several safety nets, those circular things the firefighters once held by the edges to catch people jumping from the upper stories of buildings.  A collection of foot long hose nozzles adorns a room divider. Old photos of firefighters answering the call are on some of the walls. Many of our micros are in old buildings created for a different use (transit barns, automobile dealerships, etc.), but it is rare to see the original occupants saluted in such a fine way. A plaque states that the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
   It has been a restaurant and pub since 1980, though the brewery was added later, in 1995.  From the get-go, they must have had a wide selection of other folks' beers, because the back walls are lined with little plaques naming customers who joined their beer club by tasting 47 different brews there. The oldest plaques date to 1983.  They are still adding names for the same accomplishment, 47 brews listed on their card, 26 taps and 21 bottled brands.  Nine of the taps are their own. The others will from time to time dispense a Ninkasi, a Full Sail, Diamond Knot, Schooner Exact, etc., even Coors Light or Bud Light for those whose tastes run to such.  The taps must rotate, as I don't think I saw more than a dozen on my visit.
   I tried the Potion No. 9, a blonde ale that finishes very dry and citrus-y, and the Fire Engine Red, a rich malty amber. The website up at the moment did not list their own beers.
(Visited 8/27/19)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Big Al's: boosting the home brewers

  Big Al's Brewing, down in the White Center neighborhood on the south side of Seattle, that had six standard brews on tap and three seasonals.  One of them, Ritzerbrau Alt, was subtitled "local hero."  This is a rich malty alt concocted by a local home brewer, Mike Ritzer, and selected by Al Hunter-Brown, the brewer-owner, as the beer to take to the Great American Beer Festival in the Pro-Am category. Here's hoping they do well at the GABF in Denver this month.
   Gemma, the server, also described two other noteworthy taps.  They pour Tutta Bella Amber, which was created for the pizza chain of that name when they wanted a house label beer.  Its a clear amber with four different hops including Fuggle along with Chinook, Cascade, and Sterling.  And they pour Brougham Bitter, made for the Emerald City Supporters, the loudest soccer fans at Qwest Field for Sounders FC games.
Banners and other souvenirs from Sounders games also adorn the walls. Big Al's tasting notes are at their website.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Redhook: Industrial craft brewing done pretty well

  Out in Woodinville, amid the pricey wineries and the so-very-green signs of urban planning (not knocking, they have a lot of farmland in active cultivation) lies Redhook, the first northwest craft brewer to go nationwide. I will go back on a rainy Wednesday someday; to stop by on a splendidly sunny Saturday afternoon in August is a real stress test. The beautifully landscaped grounds remind you of a chateau on the Loire. The road in is multipurpose asphalt; it has to serve autos, cyclists, and walkers (this is a knock, there is room for some separation here).
  At the end of the road lies their pub and restaurant, Forecasters. Were this a reference to Seattle weather predictors, the name would be better for a casino. as forecasting the weather is always a crap shoot here. Whatever the origin, the entrance is elegant.

Inside, on this perfect day, the wait time for a table is half an hour. The next brewery tour (you buy tickets for this) is sold out. But I spy an open bar stool and order a pint of their signature ESB and a chowder and caesar salad. I am surprised when my orders show up at the bar in about eight minutes! And is well-prepared. High marks for kitchen efficiency, Redhook.
  Notes on the beer menu inform that Redhook builds its brew tanks no larger than 100 barrels to "allow the brewer closer contact to each batch."  That would indeed allow this very successful business to stay in the craft brewing mode.  I have a schooner of their rit Belgian trippel before I leave, and have to tip my Red Sox cap to whichever brewer essayed this recipe.
  (Visited 8/28/10)


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Black Raven, Redmond and the cult beer phenomenon

   Redmond's other micro is, like Mac & Jack's, in a business park, next to a medical office and an Asian antiques place.  No restaurant, but they have the menus for the pizza place across the street that will deliver to the Raven.  In an hour there, I see the delivery guy bring in three orders, including my small pizza. The Raven has a number of tables for sit down diners and drinkers.
They have about eight beers on tap, and you can choose six of them for a tray of 5-oz samples. A steady stream of customers for growler fills comes in at midday on a Friday. Growler fills are pricey: they start at $14 and go to $16 and $18 for some of their top-end brews.  In the metro Seattle area, I am finding most micros filling your growler for somewhere between $7 and $8.  Tan Vinh, a Seattle Times reporter, has opined that Black Raven is "on the verge of being a cult brand."  If that is indeed the case, then maybe one of the benefits of culthood is that you the consumer are willing to pay more for the status of being seen with the "right" brand.
   In his perceptive book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell wrote that a few people with exceptionally wide circles of contacts could trigger a fad for a particular product like Hush Puppy shoes or Cabbage Patch dolls, and then for a while the retail stores could not keep up with the surge in demand.  That has happened in the beer business, too. I think Corona became the cult Mexican lager some years ago and surged way past its competitors in the USA, compared to its market share in Mexico. That didn't happen because Corona won some accolades from tasting experts the way GABF gold medals are won. It happened because the same kinds of people who started wearing Hush Puppies to work before anyone else started ordering Corona with Mexican food.
   If I want to fill a growler with a good pale ale, would I do so at Georgetown for Manny's ($7) or at Black Raven for Totem Pale Ale ($14)?  I know they are very close in taste; no way is the Totem twice as good.
Cue up "Take a Load Off Manny" for me.
(Visited 8/27/10)

Silver City surprise

   Silverdale, next to Poulsbo, looks like it was all built last year--or the year before the economy tanked, 2007.For all the fabulous natural scenery, urban Washington is not very old.  What went up in the second half of the nineteenth century was made of flammable wood, which did what wood buildings tend to do when they dry out. So when we call some area like Fairhaven or Pioneer Square a historic district, that means the really old buildings were new when TR or Wilson were presidents. Charleston or Philadelphia, we ain't  But if Silverdale ever declares a historic district, it will be for some buildings that date to the second Bill Clinton term.
   The local micro, Silver City Brewing, sits in its own new building next to the South Kitsap Mall. I went in on a rainy Friday afternoon with low expectations of any individuality here. Well, you can't judge a book by its cover or a brewery by its exterior.  I went in on a rainy Friday afternoon and the place was full of people launching their weekends. Typically, a crowded brewpub with a good restaurant has servers who are rushed and can spare only the bare minimum of attention (I think of Fish in Olympia and Boundary Bay here in Bellingham as examples).  My server, Brett, found a few seconds to chat between orders and was able to give me quite a bit of information.  Yes, the whole area was new; when he was born, his dad says, this whole area was pastures and apples. When the mall was built, half the businesses in Bremerton moved here, and Bremerton has just been getting back on its feet. Here were some tasting notes: try the Bavarian Hefeweizen.  Clove notes? Yes, it really does have them.  Lots of places claim a clove-y flavor in their Hefes, but I haven't found it too often. Here, Dick's in Centralia, Elliot Bay in Burien...).  Served with a slice of lemon or orange? Brett shakes his head, not the policy here unless the customer asks. I usually throw the slice away if they serve it without asking me, as I want to taste what the brewer made, not what the chef bought at the produce stand.  Cheers, Brett.
   Standing at the bar, I start chatting with a guy standing nearby about the Fat Scotch Ale, their brew with the most GABF medals. We agree that the peaty taste does remind one of a nice single malt whiskey.  I notice a long row of pint glasses with people's names on them behind the bar. Yes, it's for the regulars, just like a diner with names on the coffee mugs for its locals. Brett swings by again to bring a taste of the Indianola IPA, hopped to the pucker point. He tells me the brewing apparatus visible through the plate glass is no longer in use.  With over 200 retail accounts for kegs and 22-oz bottles, they pushed up against the capacity for this system and had to build a larger one across town.
   When I tell him about my goal to visit as many Washington micros as I can, Brett mentions the new one, Der Blokken, that just opened in Bremerton in April and is not yet listed in the NW Brewing News.  He finds their address and jots it down. When I leave, it's with a good feeling. Folks here were a lot friendlier than I was expecting, and I tasted some really nice beers.
  (Visited 6/10/10)