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)