Saturday, December 31, 2011

Elliott Bay, the original. Plus index for 2011 WA stops

    West Seattle, the part-industrial, part-funky section, linked to the rest of the city by a couple of problematic bridges...this is where the Elliott Bay Brewing Co. started out in 1997.  The location is squeezed into the middle of an urban block on South California Street, giving it a cozy feeling.
  This was its look in early December, on my way to the Winter Beer Festival at Hales. Elliott Bay doesn't run quite as many taps as they do at the newer Burien location, and did not appear to have as many certified organic ales here.  That is evidently a function of space, as the philosophy appears to be the same: better-than-average pub food, lots of local artists on the walls, and plugged-into-the-community feeling.
(Visited 12/02/11)

Alphabetical index of Wash. breweries seen in 2011
    name                   city                   month posted
Airways Br.           Kent                   1
American Br.         Edmonds            3
Atomic Alehouse  Richland             5
Columbia Valley   Wenatchee         7
Elk Head               Buckley              2
Elliott Bay Br.      Burien, W. Sea.  1, 10, 12
Elysian Br.            Seattle                8
Ice Harbor Br.      Kennewick         5
Icicle Br.              Leavenworth       4
Iron Horse Br.      Ellensburg          1
Laht Neppur        Waitsburg            5
M.T.Head Br.       Graham              1
Maritime Pacific  Seattle                 1
Powerhouse Rest.Puyallup             2
Rattlesnake Br.    Richland             5
Riverport Br.       Clarkston            5
Seven Seas Br     Gig Harbor         3
Skye Book&Br.  Dayton                5
Snipes Mt. Br.    Sunnyside           5
Twin Rivers Br  Monroe               1
Two Beers Br.    Seattle                 1
Yakima Craft Br Yakima               2

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Italy stop: Birra Udine

   Way up in Italy's northeast corner sits a region called Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (mercifully shortened to FVG by almost everyone), bordering Austria on the north and Slovenia to the east.   Trieste is the largest and best-known city while Udine, in the center, is a pretty town with a fine brewing tradition.  Moretti started out here before moving to Milan and becoming huge.  The tradition has been revived by the brewpub  Birrificio Udinese, located in one of the few modern buildings in the old town center.
If you follow the link, note that the address ends simply as ""  "Bire", a cross between Italian birra and German bier, is in the Friulian language, an Italo-Germanic-Slavic mixture that is unique enough to be considered a distinct language rather than a regional dialect.
     Inside, the Udine pub has some interesting design features.  One wall has glass panels through which the various barley grains used in brewing are displayed.
   I tried a mug of their red double malt while sitting at bar stool #24 and surveying the brew kettles.  Here, as is often the case in Italy, the customer pays the cashier first and then receives the product; the tables and stools are each numbered for the server's benefit.
Note the copper bar, which is a nice design touch to integrate with some of the brewing apparatus. Here is another copper serving space in front of some of the fermentation tanks.
They claim the copper bar is a central European tradition, which would make Udine a nice threshold for visiting the great beer sites of the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, etc.
(Visited Oct. 4, 2011)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Amarcord in Le Marche: 2nd stop

   Le Marche is the region just east of Umbria and Tuscany, across the Appenines and on the Adriatic coast. We went there for a farm-stay vacation for several days, at La Tavola Marche.  This place is run by Ashley and Jason, a young couple who met at Seattle Pacific U. and who have lots of Wash. ties.  The last day there was the eve of white truffle season, quite a big deal in those parts.  The truffle hunters and their highly trained dogs (the pigs have been retired) were all set to go on the first day of October.  A town a few kilometers from the farm, Apecchio, was putting on a truffle festival all weekend and we drove over to check it out.
   Well, when we got there, a town from the 1400s with a couple thousand people, we discovered that truffles weren't the only big deal that weekend.  A banner by the town hall proclaimed Apecchio's other claim to fame.
 Yes, little Apecchio was calling itself La Citta' della Birra because it had two craft brewing operations, Collesi and Amarcord.  We weren't able to learn much about Collesi, but Amarcord was quite a story. We met Gianni Pierini, a brewmaster at the works just outside the town, and sat down with him for some brews and beer chat.
    Gianni knew something of the American craft beer scene, as Amarcord has an arrangement with Brooklyn Brewing which enables the company to export its bottles to the U.S.  They stick with the four styles on the poster and the website, a blonde ale, a red ale, a double malt, and the Tabachera, a 9% powerhouse of uncertain style (it was not on tap this first night of the festival).  Gianni was thinking about seasonal ales such as the pumpkin ales so many brewers make this time of year here. He quizzed Mark, a homebrewer from Michigan, who had made a few pumpkin ales, on his methods.
(L-R: yrs truly in the WABL t-shirt, Gianni, and Mark).  Mark got to tour the brewery the next morning, but we had to return the rented Fiat to Bologna by noon and missed the tour.
(Visited 9/30/11)

Birrificio Lambrate in Milan: 1st Italian stop

   I began a trip to Italy by flying to Milan and spending first weekend there.  Navigated their metro system with daughter Tennyson and her guy Gregg to a non-touristy part of the city where craft brewing is practiced at Birrificio Lambrate .  Let's begin by noting a few differences in beer drinking in Italy.  First, there is no minimum age for consumption.  I still have a fondness for Peroni, my first legal beer fifty years ago when I was a callow 20 in Florence. Second, although the wines are justly famous and often fabulous, Italians do like beer and often order it rather than wine with pizza.  However, what is ordered is often mass-produced lager.  In Milan and the north, that is usually the local Moretti, with its pale  lager, or Peroni's  Nastro Azzurro from Rome, also a pale lager.  Nastro Azzurro means Blue Ribbon in Italian but this is not an homage to Pabst.  However, you can get more interesting brews here and there, and the Lambrate folks had drawn quite a crowd as we approached the pub on a Sunday night.
Yes!  People are drinking beer out in the street and society is not crumbling!  Well, not because of this, anyway.  It was just pretty crowded, inside.

We viewed a selection of about six taps; five of the eight they list as year-around brews and one special, called K-Beer (more on that later).  I tried the Porporra, a nice pale ale, which went well with some tasty antipasto.  There was no mention of selling bottled product, although we had seen a bottle of their Lambrate in a nearby shop earlier, and a shelf under the mug collection displayed bottles and glassware that may have been for sale.

We learned that they do have kegs and taps in a few ristoranti and bars.  Their web site has some nice features, like recommended glassware and food pairings.
     About the K-Beer: it was a dark ale with a sort of licorice taste, more like anisette or the Greek ouzo.  I left a note asking what was in it, and Alessandro Brocca, one of the partners, emailed me that they put some perilla, imported from Korea, in with the hops at the end.  Perilla is a member of the mint family that is in fact used in anisette and similar liqueurs. Odd taste but so are the local ales made with lavender.  I wonder if the Strange Brewfest in Port Townsend ever gets a perilla-flavored ale?
(Visited 9/25/11)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elliott Bay's Burien pub

   Staying in a SeaTac motel the night before flying off to Italy, I decoded the Seattle Metro bus schedules and rode up to Big Al's and then Elliott Bay, in their Burien location (they started out in West Seattle and are still there, too).  Here's a pic of their equipment and the suburban scene out the window.
They were running over a dozen taps of their own products, about half being their certified-organic line.  I sort of recall (notes lost in travel) trying a pint of Wit von Boorien with a Mexican appetizer.  This is one of the non-organic series, named for Peter von Boorien, who emigrated from the Netherlands and started this town during the Klondike gold rush boom in the 1890s.
     They have a couple of elegant looking shuffleboard tables in the back, and evidently some organized competition takes place there.
The service was good and the atmosphere convivial.  As for the organic thing, this is more about making a statement than producing a better taste.  For vegetables like tomatoes or peppers, yes, it often tastes better.  But malted barley after an hour or more of boiling...who could tell?
(Visited 9/22/11)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Crystal: McM's score a great Portland location

     Last month I took my nephew and his wife to Portland. We stayed at McMenamin's Crystal Hotel downtown--what a great location!  For starters, Powell's bookstore is just two blocks away. One block away, you can catch the 10th Street streetcar, which has a stop up the line right at Bridgeport Brewing.
   The Macs also own the Crystal Ballroom next door, which is a popular venue for all sorts of bands. The hotel itself has a cozy basement pub, where we heard four ladies from Monterrey making good music that paired well with the usual McM's beers like Terminator and Ruby.
   Each room appears to have been decorated to honor some particular music performer or group.  I had the John Lee Hooker room.
(Visited 7/26/11)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Elysian Fields, hard by the stadiums

    Elysian Brewing operates in several fun locations in Seattle, Capitol Hill and Greenlake and the new production facility they are building near Georgetown Brewing in SODO.  But the biggest crowds, the standing room only rushes, have to be at their Elysian Fields brewpub, after the Seahawks or Sounders have played a game in the Clink (formerly known as Qwest Field) or the Mariners have played b'ball at Safeco. The pub is across the street from the main entrance to the football/soccer stadium and a block from Safeco.
   Ducking in on a quiet day (the NFL was still on strike, the Mariners were on the road running up a horrible losing streak, and the Sounders were idle), I tried a White Woods Wit, a tasty brew made from an improbable recipe.  Imagine pale barley malt, malted and unmalted wheat and white flour in the mash. Bittered with North German Brewer and Czech Saaz hops, with coriander and orange in the boil, and lemongrass, ginger and tamarind in the fermenter. It paired nicely with a selection of salumi from Armandino Batali's charcuterie shop a couple of blocks away in Pioneer Square.
(Visited 7/13/11)

New Glarus: must go to Wisconsin to taste it

     The little town of New Glarus, a few miles from Madison, Wisconsin, has a brewery that will crank out 100,000 barrels of good craft beer this year, and will sell it all in-state.  I have relatives in Rockford, Illinois, just a bit over the state line, who developed a taste for New Glarus Brewing Co.ales when they did sell in Illinois. A distributor problem arose and the brewery opted to forget interstate commerce.

Inside, however, is a modern plant that has just expanded a few months ago to the current capacity.  That level of production will move New Glarus up the craft brewer rankings, past such regional stalwarts as Full Sail, Rogue, and Lagunitas.
     Brewing is supervised by Dan Carey while the business side of the operation is run by his wife Deb Carey. She was quoted in an Associated Press story recently carried by the Seattle Times, "Craft Brewers Pull Back to Tap Local Thirsts" (page A10, 08/03/11).  "The idea of continually expanding your footprint and then pretending you're growing your business, I just don't see it," she said. "How can you say you're growing your business if all you're doing is expanding your territory?"  The lead item in this story was about how Flying Dog Brewing in Frederick, Maryland had pulled out of 13 states and was preparing to pull out of over 20 more, to concentrate on sales in the mid-Atlantic region. 
     I wore a New Glarus sweatshirt to the Washington Brewers Festival last June and got several comments from midwesterners (Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota) who wished they could get the beers here, or at least at home. But for now, one will just have to pick up bottles or visit a taproom in Wisconsin. Their flagship is Spotted Cow, described as a cloudy farmhouse ale.  I tried the Moon Man Pale and Dancing Man Wheat, both with a lot of satisfaction.
(Visited 6/06/11)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Brewing back in Wenatchee

   Columbia Valley Brewing has been open for business since early June, and has been very busy responding to local demand!  I had stopped by brewer Joe Nestor's previous business incarnation in Cashmere a couple of years ago and was sad to see a nice set of beers lost.  Joe's back--although the day I stopped by, he was in Portland shopping for several more fermenting tanks.  The new location in Wenatchee is right along the riverfront park, with seating outdoors in the nice weather and indoors in the otherwise.
My server told me the thirsty locals in Wenatchee keep draining their kegs, and the only beer brewed on the premises available that day was the Wenatcheeweizen, 4.8% abv and nicely balanced, not overly fruity. They had brought in three kegs from Two Beers in Seattle to provide variety. When Joe does get those new fermenters in, the concoctions on the board include an IPA, a Porter, a regular amber (Liberator) and an imperial amber (Suffocator) weighing in at 8.5%.
     The view of the Columbia River, flowing past the park, is very nice from the pub interior.
(Visited 7/19/11)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Troy, N.Y.--Brown by the river

     The old industrial city of Troy, New York (nicknamed the Collar City for its long gone shirt-making plants) sits along the Hudson River just north of Albany.  There, the first craft brewery in the region opened in 1993 and is still going strong in the same location.  Brown's Brewing Co. has a deck for outdoor dining in the back with a nice view of the Green Island Bridge, a distinctive example of a vertical-lift bridge.

 Brown's has a nice old-fashioned look at the bar inside.  The brews are named "Brown's [style or type]" with no nods to all the history around Troy. My son-in-law Ed and I each tried the sampler tray with our lunches.  I liked the Brown's Pale Ale, their flagship brand, and also the porter, made off an oatmeal base with a chocolate finish. 

(Visited 6/3/11)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Back east in Philly I: Yards Brewery

     As part of visiting e. coast family members, I scored a few good brewpub visits.  The first was down along the Delaware River shipyards in Philadelphia, at Yards Brewing Co.  This establishment likes to remind its patrons that much of Philly's history is well over 200 years old now.
Daughter T.J. and her BF Gregg pause at Yards' entrance early in a day that was working up to be decently hot for the end of May.
Yards is a fairly sizable operation, producing 16,000 bbls in 2010 and looking at maybe doubling that output with larger new fermenters.
     Their business model is to concentrate on four core ales (pale, IPA, Brawler (a session type ale) and an ESB) and three Ales of the Revolution.  These last are said to be based on recipes actually used by George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. I had to try a schooner of Jefferson's (he was the original T.J., after all) Tavern Ale, a strong (8%) Golden Ale with some honey in the boil.  Washington's recipe produces a porter, and Franklin's is for a spruce ale, using spruce essence and molasses as barley and hops were not readily available when Ben concocted this version.
Yards is cautious enough to say that Franklin may or may not have said "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,"  but adds that if he didn't say it, he should have.

Here, my T.J. captures me in note taking mode with the new fermenting tanks gleaming in the background.  Yards' bartender also offered a sample of the current seasonal, a nice malty Saison.
(Visited 5/29/11)

Prosser's second: Horse Heaven Hills

     Prosser, awash in a lake of wine, has two islands of barley-based sensibility.  Horse Heaven Hills will have been brewing in the downtown area for two years this July, along with the longer established Whitstran.  The brewery sits behind another business on Meade Ave., opening on an alley.
Don't be dissuaded from checking it out.  Brewer Gary Vegar has some adventurous ideas about craft beer. How many brewpubs can offer a Black Cherry Stout Float, served up just like a root beer float with a scoop of ice cream? I tried four tasters and was impressed with the Saison (made with Belgian candy syrup and coriander, put in the boil in the last two minutes), the Ruby Spur amber (honoring a cowboy friend who won a pair of ruby spurs in a rodeo), and the Delta Pale.  This last was made with two strains of hops so new--Delta for flavoring and Calypso for bittering--that Horse Heaven is one of just three breweries to get a wee bit from the five acre plot where they have been developed. (The other two? Just Sierra Nevada and Deschutes.)  It helps that the hops agronomist working on these new varieties is a local and fan of the beers here.
A local artist created the wood images of the three horses that grace the back bar and reinforce the names of the brewery and several of its beers.  The Horse Heaven Hills are on the map and the skyline, rising over the irrigated greenery to remind all that the natural condition out here is bone dry.
(Visited 5/20/11)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Skye Book and Brew; browsing and sipping

   Off the west coast of Scotland lies the Isle of Skye, famed for rock climbing, spectacular scenery, and hiding out Bonnie Prince Charlie from the English after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 (the prince spent most of the time in drag, dressed as a lady's maid).  A resident of Dayton down in the Palouse wheat country thought it would be fun to open a brewpub that commemorates this far off island, met another local who wanted to open a bookstore, and the result was this most unusual combination.
Inside, it really is a working bookstore as well as a working brewery and family-friendly restaurant.
And of course, there are pictures and souvenirs of the rugged island that inspired the name.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Ice Harbor: definitely in Kennewick

   Ice Harbor Brewing Co. is in the old part of Kennewick, with two locations.  The main brewery is a few blocks from the Columbia River, which the Snake River has just joined a mile or two upstream.  The company also operates a riverside location, the marina pub.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blackfoot River Brewing in Helena

   Down in Last Chance Gulch, in the heart of Helena, Blackfoot River Brewing was brewing up a storm to celebrate American Craft Beer Week (the hour was well before 8 p.m.).  A tour of the brewing works was drawing a crowd, and their usual growler fill price on Wednesdays ($7.00!) was sweetened with a first pint free for on premise consumption.
    While our Washington brewers take pride in sourcing most of their hops in-state, Montana brewers feel the same way about their barley. I chose a single malt IPA, derived from Crisp Maris Otter barley grown in eastern Montana (and then bittered with our Simcoe and Cascade hops).  The notes added that it had been floor-malted by hand on the premises. This was one of nine permanent brews; there were also three seasonals. A nice brewery in a town full of memories.
(Visited 5/18/11)

In Missoula at the Kettle House

     After deliberating for a pint's worth, I decided to sort Montana breweries into the next-door regions group, even though the state does not touch Washington.  Idaho's panhandle, while extravagantly beautiful, has very few breweries, and western Montana, which has many, does drain into the Columbia.  So here I was, in Missoula on a fine spring day, looking at the Kettlehouse brewing works on the railroad tracks over Orange Ave. Mt. Sentinel was reflecting the late afternoon sunshine off to the east.
 Inside, I studied the four choices (an IPA, a Scotch ale, an amber and a pale) and caught a bartender's eye to ask about them.  "Sorry," she said, "last call was five minutes ago."  Well, it was a production brewery without a restaurant and 8 p.m. didn't seem like an unusual closing time for such establishments.  "It's state law," she continued, "brewpubs have to close by 8 unless they buy a tavern license, and we can only sell two pints to a customer."  Fellow on a stool nearby chimed in, "the beer laws here are downright medieval."  I figured it was probably not a good time to identify myself as a former staff attorney for the Montana legislature, who worked on a revision of the state liquor laws back in 1975-76.  But that was several years before the craft beer movement was even born.
    It turns out that the tavern owners lobby had defeated the small brewers lobby at the legislature on a bill to extend closing hours to 10 p.m.  Kettlehouse has a nice looking system, with a separate lauter tun and a canning line.
The railroad puts together freight trains just outside the door, so every now and then the sound of boxcars coupling comes crashing through the bar.
(Visited 5/17/11)

Snipes Mountain

   Snipes Mt. Brewery in Sunnyland takes its name from the ridge north of the town, which takes its name from Ben Snipes, one of the earliest cattle ranchers in Washington's territorial days (1850s). The brewery's website recalls this history and the logo is a longhorn skull.
The kitchen serves up local and seasonal when it can. This cold spring, asparagus was the first local pick from the fertile Yakima valley.  I tried beer battered asparagus with their Moxee Pale Ale, which was a delicious pairing. This packs quite a bit more punch than their regular pale ale, 7.5% abv and an IPA-like 70 ibu. I found it tangy and satisfying.  Between regular and seasonal pours, they had 12 brews on tap this day.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rattlesnake Mountain: Kennewick or Richland?

   Rattlesnake Mountain Brewing Co. is listed with a Kennewick address in Northwest Brewing News, but the Kennewick city limits sign is a block or two to the south, which would put the brewery in Richland. The brewery is housed within Kimo's Sports Pub and overlooks the Columbia River.
The pub area is decorated with boxing ring paraphernalia and posters from many sports notables. Big banners proclaim their support of the area's minor league hockey team, the Tri-Cities Americans. One of their nine brews is called Americans' Amber, in fact. I tried their Helluva Hefe, giving my approbation to the policy of not providing the lemon slice unless it was requested.  Production has been geared to a level sufficient to support the restaurant, but my server said they are beginning to develop tap accounts at other establishments. 
(Visited 5/16/11)                                                          

Richland's Atomic Brewpub; another historical aside

    Dropping into the Tri-Cities from the west, the first city is Richland, home of the Atomic Ale Brewpub.  One needs to know a bit of history about the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb in World War II to appreciate the names of the brews here. The government took over the little town of Hanford, just north of Richland, in 1943, turning it into a huge project to create plutonium for the bombs being put together down in Los Alamos. Housing for the thousands of workers was built in Richland and many stayed after the war as the reactors were converted to generate electricity. Here was the tap list on a day in May:
The building formerly housed an A&W drive-in and a wide roof still covers much of the parking area.
 They had just run out of the Seaborgium 106 Scottish Ale (who knew that physicist Glenn Seaborg had an element named after him?) so I settled for a schooner of Half-life Hefe, malty and fruity.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Riverport, down in Washington's First Corner

   If Bellingham is the Fourth Corner, nw-most city in the nw-most state of the lower 48, then Clarkston, down in the se-most end of the state, should be the First Corner, right?  Whatever, they have a nice little brewery beside the Snake River there, d/b/a Riverport Brewing   and I stopped to visit them on my way to Montana. Stopped by recently to visit with Pete the brewer and his wife Nancy in the tasting room.
If you follow the link to their website, the first image is the logo for Bedrock Bock next to a banner about trying their seasonal ale. But the bock is not a seasonal any longer, Pete said.  He brought it out in the springtime a year or two ago, but popular demand would not allow him to retire it, so he brews it year-round now. Many beer styles associated with a particular season do tend to sell less outside that season, he opined. He cited Rogue's Dead Guy Ale as a bock that sells better in the fall and winter because Rogue doesn't call it a bock.
     Style names aside, Riverport features the local geography in its names.  Seven Devils IPA refers to the mountains on the Idaho side of Hell's Canyon, a few miles south of town.  Grande Ronde Rye is named for the river that zigzags along the Oregon-Washington line, cutting a dramatic canyon en route to the Snake in Hell's Canyon.  River Rat Red and Old Man River Stout can be about either the barge traffic headed down to the sea or the jet boat excursions up the Snake into Hell's Canyon. Ol' Harold Barleywine is another story, though. The brewery owns a 1952 Chevrolet delivery truck they call Ol' Harold and Pete ramps up the barleywine to 13.5% ABV, almost enough alcohol for the truck to run on.
(Visited 5/16/11)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hockey Night in Surrey, B.C. at Big Ridge Brewing

     Canada has a rep for being nuts about hockey.  After watching Barney’s Version at the cinema last month, in which Paul Giamatti, playing Barney, pays more attention to the playoff fortunes of the Montreal Canadiens than to important events in his personal life, I decided to observe real life fans.  I drove up to Surrey, BC, about 30 miles north of Bellingham, to the Big Ridge Brewing Co .  This is one of five microbreweries owned by the Mark James Group (the others are in Vancouver, Richmond, and Whistler) and the brew master in each location is free to create his own ales.

     More about the beer anon.  The pub was quickly filling up with fans of the Vancouver Canucks, who were leading the Chicago Blackhawks 3 games to one and needed a win at home tonight to win the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  There was a bar side and a restaurant side, with a half dozen screens on each side.  The smallest screens were these three behind the bar.

     At the start of the match, one man sang the Star Spangled Banner and then another sang O Canada.  The crowd in the bar joined in singing the Canadian anthem, and they belted it out!  Chicago had knocked Vancouver out of the playoffs the last two years, and with Canada winning both golds in hockey in the Winter Olympics right near here, you had to figure the Van fans were pumped and hungry.
     Alas, singing the anthem was the most noise the crowd was able to make.  Their team was flat and Chicago whipped the puck in the goal three times in the first ten minutes. I munched a delicious pizza and sipped a nice foamy porter and did not think of letting on that I had a lot of family in northern Illinois. 
    The brewing crew had four regular beers working (the porter, an IPA, a lager and an amber) and one seasonal, a pale ale that logged only 3.5% abv but came with a nice clarity and aroma.  The porter had more heft and complexity.  The brewing works can be seen between the two giant screens in the bar area.
(Visited 4/21/11)


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Icicle brews in Leavenworth

   At last, Leavenworth, our fun faux-Bavarian village upstream from the apple orchards of Chelan County, has a brewery of its own. The town name has been taken for a series of German beers made by the Fish down in our state capital, but Icicle Brewing Co. sits right in the middle of the village in a handsome building.
Right across the street is the Fest-Halle, a special events space that hosted the Leavenworth Ale-Fest on April 16. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves at this event, in no small part because the sun came out and the temp reached 67--real treats for those of us on the wet side of the Cascades enduring a cold, wet spring.
   Back to Icicle: their own brews are a few days from being ready but for the festival they hooked up their taps to five other Washington breweries: Iron Horse, Big Al's, Alpine, Pike, and Pyramid. Bart Traubeck of Alpine, over in Oroville, brought his Marzen here and also to the festival next door, and a fine malty specimen it was.
  Icicle's high ceiling leaves plenty of space for its tall fermenters.
I didn't pick up the brewing capacity here but I would expect them to be able to keep a good number of taverns supplied with product once it starts rolling out.
(Visited 4/16/11)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Centralia redux: new stuff at both breweries

   Headed down to Centralia on a recent Friday afternoon.  This is the only time of the week that Dick's Brewing opens the brewery for tours, tastings and sales, although the store a couple of miles away is open most days.  They brew in a good-sized building in a business park.  They have so much room that they put an insulated brite tanks room in the middle.
There is room for two separate bottling lines.  On the left, the 12-oz. bottler can crank out about a case a minute.  On the right, they fill 22-oz. bottles with the four imperial ales that make up their new Dedication series.

The dedication is to the founding brewer, Dick Young, who passed away in 2009. The four hi-test concoctions are Dick's Double Danger and Imperial IPA, each at 8.5% abv, and Imperial Red and Dick's Scottish, each at 8% even. 

  Continuing down the road into town, I returned to the Olympic Club, where McMenamins had booked the Portland Opera Co. to put on a touring version of Donizetti's The Elixir of Love. Last year I had not been able to view the hotel accommodations upstairs; this time I booked a room for fifty dollars.  I had wondered what the McMs could offer at that price; it was something like a hostel, with bathrooms down the hall, no phone or television in the spartan rooms. But their indefatigable artists had scripted and illustrated the history of various people who had passed through in the lively era of the Club's first incarnation.
The opera, enjoyed with a pizza and a pint of Ruby in the theater section, was great fun, sung in English and very accessible.
(Visited 3/18/11)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gig Harbor's Seven Seas and nautical trivia

   Drove over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge last Saturday, on a fine sunny afternoon, and found that Seven Seas Brewing's tasting room would not open for a couple of hours.  As I had not seen this pretty town for about 25 years, I strolled around the harbor until I reached the local museum.
The red building in the lower shot is the museum, not a boat storage barn.  Inside, they had curated an exhibition on the Wilkes expedition of 1838-1841, which did an extraordinary amount of mapping, ethnography, botanizing, etc., not just in Puget Sound but throughout the South Pacific, all the way down to Antarctica.  They had compiled a list of how all the places in the Sound got their names--some from the Vancouver expedition in 1792, some Indian names, some from earlier Spanish explorers (how Juan de Fuca has not lent his name to a contemporary rock band I don't know, just imagine Juan and the.....oh, well).  An officer in the Wilkes group opined that this spot was an excellent little harbor, just the size for a gig, and that name stuck.  And many other places in the sound got named by the Wilkes expedition, too.
   Seven Seas opened its doors at 2:00 and had a good crowd by 2:05.
The regular lineup consists of four beers: British Pale Ale, Port Royal Stout, Cutt's NW Amber Ale (named for nearby Cutt's Island, see the museum for who Cutt was), and Ballz Deep Double IPA.  This last is a hairy-chested brew for the hop-heads: 8.4% ABV and 82 IBUs. I had a taste to verify its pizazz, but for a pint I went with the Cutt's Amber.  This poured with a firm creamy head, much like a well drawn Guinness, and a piney aroma. 
   Two packaging aspects were noteworthy.  One is cans: Seven Seas appears to be the first Washington brewer to get its beers into cans (Fremont has been working on the same idea).  They fill 16-oz cans and sell them in four-packs: $10 for the British Pale and $14 for the Ballz Deep. With two people on the canning machine, they can fill about six cans a minute.  The second is their growlers. They sell for $80 each, empty.  The logo comes out raised on the glass, with the big number 7 and the compass rose effects, and then is handpainted and glazed. The cap is of that permanent type that levers down for a tight seal. The server said they sell these growlers pretty much at their cost.
   Seven Seas was started in 2009 by Travis Guterson and Mike Runion and the first plant was destroyed by fire soon thereafter.  They quickly rebuilt and have been running since April 2010, just about a year.
(Visited 3/19/11)