Monday, January 31, 2011

Airways: a unique experience in Kent

   The north end of Kent, WA lies across I-5 from Sea-Tac, and Boeing has a fair-sized plant in the city.  But Airways Brewing celebrates the theme of the commercial flying experience not because of its neighbors but because it was founded by Alex Dittmar, who is a total aviation enthusiast.  While Flyers up in Oak Harbor dips a wing to military aviation's propeller-driven origins, Airways is all about the contemporary passenger's travels and travails in the wide bodied jets. Alex is a pilot but works for Alaska Airlines as a website designer. His brewing operation is in a business park.
When you enter the taproom, the first thing you notice may be the tap handles.
These are actual door handles off a 747 (that is Robbie tending the bar on a Saturday afternoon; Alex was not in town that day).  Alternatively, your eye may be caught by the brewery's icon, the Sky Hag.  Here she is on the classic poster:
 She also graces the t-shirt with the same scowl and the words, "Sit down and drink your beer."  The brewing apparatus in the back sits under a nose cone Alex scavenged from some Boeing jet.
The fun just keeps flying around.  Even the unisex restroom has all the familiar signs from the airplane loos.
    There were about a dozen people there on a rainy Saturday afternoon and the atmosphere was jovial.  Robbie and his wife Debbie were hosting and doing a fine job explaining the various brews.  Interest was high in  Layover in Brussels, a variation on the Sky Hag IPA with a Belgian yeast instead of the regular British yeast.  You would have to taste it to believe what a difference the yeast makes.  Evidently this batch had all the hops of the regular Sky Hag, enough to kick the IBU north of 99, but the yeast let the maltiness come through much better.
     Debbie said an expansion of the brewing space here and a regular brewpub elsewhere in Kent are both in the works.  One can only anticipate how much more airline fun will be unveiled then.
(Visited 1/29/11)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

M.T. Head brews in empty corner of Pierce Co.

    Out where the Puyallup River comes tumbling off Mt. Rainier and first reaches the flats south of Orting, one comes across the M. T. Head Brewery in the garage of a country residence.  If you arrive during business hours (3 to 7 Thurs-Fri-Sat), brewer/owner Tim Rocker will buzz you through a gate and welcome you to his lair. He has a two-barrel system with connections made by his wife Renee (a certified welder; what a great spousal qualification for a brewer!)
Tim just brews the styles he most enjoys tasting.  Hence no barleywine (an acquired taste I, like Tim, have yet to acquire) and no entries in a number of popular categories.   In addition to the No Brainer Pale and Bonehead Brown shown on the website, he was sampling out a golden ale, an IPA (Twisted Head) and a rich, tart Cascadian Dark Ale he calls Dark Marc. This latter uses Simcoe, Amarillo, and Cascade hops in the brewing and another 3 pounds dry-hopped at the end.
   Tim made about 38 barrels of beer last year sold the better part as growler fills.  Lately, draft sales to taverns has been picking up and he self-distributes kegs to several accounts between Tacoma and Enumclaw. The new plastic keg, about half the weight of a metal keg, is an innovation he appreciates.
(Visited 1/28/11)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two Beers Brewing--more southside suds

  Posting more notes from my expedition last August into the SODO warehouse district. Two Beers Brewing was throwing a party to celebrate their first full year in the neighborhood.  It was a dandy shindig, right out on a loading dock.
I was really impressed by the one-man bluegrass band.  He had taps on his shoes and a mic picked up the beat as he sang or played.
They were rightly busy inside, pouring from half a dozen kegs, so I didn't get a chance to inquire into the origins of their name.  The only real two-beers breweries I have found so far are the one in Roslyn and our Frank-n-Stein in Ferndale (and the latter usually has a couple of Boundary Bay kegs hooked up to the third and fourth taps). 
   I next caught up with Two Beers at the Winter Beerfest at Hale's last month.  There, I sampled their 20-20 Blonde, which had really been jazzed up for the party.  On top of the regular ingredients  they had added lavender, rose petals, elderberry, and dried currants. If Tolkien's elves had any beer in Rivendell for transient dwarves like Gimli, I think it would have been something like this.  Again, I forgot to ask about the name.
    Brewmaster Joel VandenBrink was good enough to answer my email inquiries and assure me that yes, the normal 20-20 is brewed without the elvish additions.  He got the name from a saying he either found or originated, that "life is a little more honest after two beers."  Cheers, Joel.
(Visited 8/28/10, 12/10)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Maritime Pacific

   Maritime Pacific sits in an industrial part of Ballard, in a newish looking warehouse.
The logo is nice, a tall ship in front of a silhouette of the mountains.  The pub has a fancy-restaurant feel, maroon inside and a good set of menu choices.  It seems as if it were decorated by some restaurant consultant without much feel for the beer business or the maritime theme. 
   They were running 13 taps of their own brews the day I stopped by, with three of them doubled up: the Flagship Red, the Imperial IPA, and the Old Seattle Lager.  The server indicated that the second taps were dry-hopped but seemed too busy to elaborate.  This was one of those experiences where the waitstaff just didn't have the time or the inclination to talk much about the beers.  My pint of Flagship, brewed in the Alt style, was tasty and this brewery does have a good reputation for its products.  One wishes the experience were more fun.
  (Visited 9/24/10)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Twin Rivers Brewing, Monroe

  This was a stop in late August last year, while the Evergreen State Fair was going on in Monroe.  This operation is located in a storefront next door to the Sailfish Bar and Grill, where its beers are most or all of the taps.  The restaurant looks like an attractive dining experience, just open evenings.Brewery and restaurant are both owned by Timothy Kovach and have been here since the mid-90s.
   The website lists seven beers, of which I saw five last summer.  They were identified as Dusseldorf Alt, IPA, Amber, and Golden Ales, and Russian Imperial Stout.  I tried the stout; very big and with a distinct coffee flavor in the finish.  A small taste of the Alt hinted at a nice beer experience too.
   U.S 2, running down from Stevens Pass to end up in Everett, is one of Washington's least pleasant drives as it runs through Gold Bar, Sultan, and Monroe.  The state fair just makes a bad situation worse.  I was grateful to the bartender, who told me how the locals avoid the highway by taking some parallel local streets.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Iron Horse

   Ellensburg sits at the eastern entrance to Snoqualmie Pass, where the westbound trains often add another locomotive to help with the long uphill pull.  Hence the railroad theme at the Iron Horse Brewery where three of their brews are called Iron Horse IPA, Light Rail Ale, and Loco Imperial Red.  Without a doubt, though, Quilters Irish Death is the signature brew here. The notes at their website say any effort to classify this ale "just ends up sending beer geeks into a style guidelines diatribe," so they don't call it any one style. A 7.8 % ABV means a pint needs slow sipping.  Here's another skull and crossbones logo to compete with Skagit's Scullers and Three Skull's everything for the zombie market.
   The physical plant consists of a cute little pub on the main street through downtown, and a brewery on the outskirts.  The downtown pub looks like it could have been a barber shop in the past?  They put a map to the brewery on the door here, which is useful.
The brewing is done in a business park out on the edge of town.   Its next door neighbor is a distillery, which should be good for the cask-conditioned ales by and by.
  Inside is a pleasant bar, decorated with painted skateboards perhaps donated by students at Central Wash. Univ. in town.  After a wee taste of the Irish Death, I tried a pint of Malt Bomb, a muscular brown ale.  This was a last stop en route to Yakima for the Hopfest last fall.
(Visited 10/02/10)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Elliott Bay's Burien pub

   This convivial brewpub occupies one end of a small strip mall in Burien, near the airport. Elliott Bay has been around in West Seattle since 1997, and in this, their second location, since '07.  They stress their organic certification: when I visited last June they had fourteen taps working, seven of which had the organic label and seven did not. Judging by the website, they now have almost all their brews made with organic barley.
   The Burien location has plenty of tables and was full of diners on a Friday night,  Their menu suggests beer-food pairings.  I was intrigued by the pairing of the cranberry chicken yogurt salad with the Hop von Boorian, what they call a Belgian IPA.  Kind of like a hoppy trippel, and named for Gottlieb von Boorian, who founded the town in 1888.   For my pint, I tried the Demolition IPA (IBU 140, ABV 7.3) with a delicious shredded pork quesadilla. You can imagine how an IPA with that much zap just explodes on the palate.
   At the back they have a couple of fine looking shuffleboard tables.  All in all, a pleasant stop.
(Visited 6/11/10)