Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yakima Craft Brewing: history lesson

   From Buckley I drove over White Pass the next day to Yakima, to enjoy the new taproom at Yakima Craft Brewing Co.  They had changed from a production brewery only to on-premise consumption just a month or so before. 
The space has room for maybe a dozen to fifteen beer lovers--no food service, although peanuts and pretzels are provided.  The crowd was convivial on a Friday evening and the various distinctive brews each had partisans. There were two IPAs and two "monkeys"--Good Monkey, a Belgian-style golden and Bad Monkey, a Belgian dark ale. Their amber is called "1982", an homage to Bert Grant, a colorful Scot who came to this hops-growing center in the 70s after years working in brewing back east.  Grant started one of the first micros in the northwest, which is the same as saying one of the first micros period, in 1982. He sold his business some years later and this brewery started up recently after Yakima was without its own beer for a while. Some of Grant's original equipment is in use here.
The two fermentation tanks and the copper-clad mash tun are originals, says chief brewer Chris Swedin, who worked at Grant's before it closed in 2005.
(Visited 2/10/11)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Elk Head: good times in Buckley

   The first time I looked up Buckley, Wash. on the map was to find the spot where country music singer Blaine Larsen came from, after I heard him play at the State Fair in Monroe.  It was way back in Pierce County, where the eastbound roads dead end (in the winter) into Mt. Rainier.  The second time was to find the Elk Head Brewery.  It's in a business park on the way into town, open afternoons Tuesday through Saturday. The tap room area is framed by a fine collection of other brewers' growlers.
 At 157 displayed growlers, they haven't caught up with the collection at Birdsview Brewing in Concrete, but they may be gaining. The tap room was a snug little space in one corner, about to get bigger as soon as the state LCB inspector approves the expansion. For now, plastic sheeting covered one wall and Al, tending the bar, said the inspector should be by in the next few days.  Al was busy pulling pints for the regulars and samples for the uncertain.  They made most of the standard beers, named for the mountain and the wildlife (Glacier Pale, White Out Winter Ale, Black Stag Stout, Lone Bull Porter) and some downright exotic stuff:
Blast Zone is an ale superheated with five different peppers (Habanero, Jalapeno, Poblano, Ceranos, and Hungarian Waxed).  Chantrale sounds like a French perfume but is actually a strong (8.5%) ale with a bunch of chanterelle mushrooms added to the boil.
  Another impressive collection, coasters, lines the walls of the loo.
Al said most of the sales here are pints and growler fills; they have taps in three or four restaurants in Buckley and Wilkerson.  The owner, Rich, was away running kegs down to Ocean Shores, by Grays Harbor, where Elk Head also has a pub.
   Conversation was good here, and also at the Firehouse Pub downtown, a friendly spot with long tables, communal dining, and two Elk Head taps among the bar's array. A thoroughly enjoyable stop.
(Visited 2/09/11)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Puyallup's Powerhouse: electrifying !

  Here's a fun stop in Puyallup, a few miles out of Tacoma: the Powerhouse Restaurant and Brewery.  The red brick building started out as a substation to step down the voltage from a hydroelectric plant on a side of Mt. Rainier to a current the trolley system could use.
The history notes in the menu say that the station converted to serving the residential and business customers after the auto replaced the trolley, and did so until 1957, then was used for storage by P.S.E. until the late 60s.  Rescued and rehabbed by the current owners, parts of the interior are a sort of museum of electricity.
Old glass insulating posts, shown in the lower picture, run along the booth dividers throughout the restaurant area.  This is one of the best microbrewery adaptations of a historic building to interpret its past.
   Oh, they do beer here, too.  I saw seven regular taps and three seasonals.  A couple of electrical names, Powerhouse Pale and Amperage Amber, but they don't overdo it.  I tried the Pale and it was nicely done without any unusual wrinkles. The menu appeared to be pretty much pub fare, but with some steak, fish and chicken dishes that could be tasty.
(Visited 1/28/11)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trade Route; clever marketing

  Trade Route started out in south Seattle and has moved to a spot behind a truck service business in Pacific; just over the line into Pierce County.

Several items they brewed in the old spot are still here: Mango Weizen (150 lbs of pureed mangoes tossed into a 15 barrel batch) and Ginger Pale (who knew that before hops brewers added ginger for tartness? The result is really an alcoholic ginger ale.)  The amber they used to label as Chieftain had just been renamed 253 Amber Ale, with the outline of a telephone (B.C. phone, before cells) to drive home that yes, this brewery names a beer after their area code. I tried the Midnight Ale, which does have an interesting nutty taste (they say on the website that palm sugar does this). They were bottling their stout, which they call Sumatran Coffee Stout.  Everything else off premise to consumers was growler or half-growler sales.  They cook a pub food menu after 4 pm, just brats before that.
   Their marketing wrinkle is package deals, done up in bags.  One bag is called Beer for a Year: a t-shirt, a growler, and a punch card good for one growler fill a month for twelve months. That goes for $100.  A growler refill is $10 here, and the gear would go for over $20, so this is a good deal for people who live near enough to stop in monthly.  For the less frequent visitor they can sell a t shirt, growler bottle and a single fill of the growler for $25 per the website--my notes indicate that this was listing for $20 last week.  Another option was t shirt and one or two bottles of the stout.
(Visited 1/28/11)