Monday, June 18, 2012

Updates: Kulshan, Horse Heaven, Yakima Craft Br

    Kulshan Brewing, here in Bellingham, has been open two and a half months now and continues to draw good crowds.  The unique feature here is their growler exchange plan.  Inside a refrigerated shelf space they stock growlers filled with their four principal ales, filled by counter-pressure.  This method, also used on a bottling line, means the beer remains fresh in the growler until you open the cap at home.   A conventional growler fill,  from tap to your growler via a hose, begins losing its freshness right then. 
Jim the barman cites this as one of several advantages of the growler exchange program.  Another is the assurance that the customer is buying beer in a sterilized jug.  How often does a beer lover grab a dusty growler out of the trunk of the car, give it a quick rinse in the brewpub, and watch the brew flow into his growler of dubious cleanliness? 
    Assuming you have entered with an empty Kulshan growler, you choose a full one from the cooler, put both on the bar, and $10 plus the empty buys you the filled growler.  Now, they will fill growlers from other establishments in the conventional way, for $12.  Jim told me they sold 252 filled growlers the first week, ran out of new ones to fill, had to wait some time for a reorder to arrive, and then began adding more customers to the exchange plan.  He said that on one day in mid-June they rang up sixty-odd growler sales, including 22 first-time sales.  This looks like a solid sales plan!
(Revisted 6/14/12)

   I stopped off at Horse Heaven Hills Brewing in Prosser on the way back west a couple weeks ago. Last year, I saw another customer enjoying a stout float and thought "that looks tasty."  So this time, I tried one.  A scoop of vanilla in a sundae cup of their dark cherry stout, 4.9% abv.  Have a look:
(Revisted 6/2/12)

   That same day, I pushed on to Yakima for the evening and stopped by Yakima Craft Brewing to see what was new.  Their interesting Belgian brews, Good Monkey and Bad Monkey, were not on tap, so I had to

Saturday, June 16, 2012

White Bluffs Brewing: Hanford's edge

   I saw the front of this little brewery last year; the bus the federal government uses for tours of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are based in an adjacent building.  Came back recently when they were open.  The name, White Bluffs, refers to a series of cliffs along the Columbia River, and also to a place that had been a small town until the government took it and Hanford over, completely, in 1943 to create plutonium for the atomic bomb.  The view from the front of the brewery is a healthy stand of sagebrush, about the only thing that grows around here without irrigation.
     Inside, brewer/owner Mike Sutherland operates a two-barrel system to create a nice assortment of ales with emphasis on the farmhouse or saison style.
His flagship ale is called Biere de Garde or MissChievous (depending on one's grasp of French pronunciation, perhaps).  The French version would hail from a farm somewhere in Wallonia, a region in Belgium.  The menu here offers this explanation of the term:  "Farmhouse Ale" depicts romantic images of simple country beers brewed on old a matter of necessity.  It was a simple brew made with no thought to dazzle."
    The Biere de Garde checks out at 6.7% abv and a not very tart 27 IBUs.  The first taste is richly malty; a bit of fruitiness comes later.  I checked out definitions of farmhouse and saison on wikipedia, BeerAdvocate, and the Great American Ale Trail, and they were all over the map.  On one point they do agree: the farmer aimed for an alcohol range of 5% to 8%.  The idea was to refresh and hydrate the farm workers during the harvest without getting them hammered.  Methinks this would call for a session-type strenght of less than five percent.  But maybe Belgian farmhands back in the day could knock back a couple pints of 8% and go right back to haying.
     Mike makes three more farmhous styles listed on his website, Biere de Ambre, Biere de Mars, and Biere de Noel, as well as a dozen or so more conventional brews.
(Visited 6/2/12)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

North Carolina: a stop in Raleigh

    I took a day away from the Philadelphia visit last month to pop down to Raleigh, NC and hang out with a couple I've known since the late Paleocene era.  We had dinner at the Boylan Bridge Brewpub, with a nice view of downtown Raleigh for a backdrop.
Paul and Linda were kind enough to share a meal of pub fare with me, rather than dining off their splendid backyard garden.  We sampled the Trainspotter Scottish Ale, the Southbound Stout, and the Rail Pale.  (Note: the Amtrak station is just down the hill, hidden by the wall in this shot).  They do make a Pullman Porter here as well, though it was not available the day we stopped by.
     Raleigh is the state capital, the home of N.C. State U., and one corner of the Research Triangle, with Durham and Chapel Hill.  I was told it robustly supports four craft breweries; time only allowed this one visit this time.
(Visited 5/23/12)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Palouse Falls (also in Pullman)

    Up the creek a bit from the old post office, seek out Palouse Falls Brewing Co., a production brewery with a tasting room, pleasant in the afternoon sunshine.
 They were pouring their four year-around brews (an IPA, a golden, a stout, and a ruby ale named for the Crimson of WSU up the hill.  A seasonal was another golden ale, Spring Thaw, with more kick at 7.0% and 45 IBUs than the regular golden, Idaho AU, at 4.75% and 17 IBUs.  Pullman sits almost on the Idaho state line, and Moscow, home of the U. of Idaho, is just seven miles away.  A second seasonal, Whitman Wheat, does not appear on the website but was being tapped on the day I stopped by.  If you can't get a wheat ale here in the Palouse, one of the best wheat producing areas in the world, something would be out of whack!
(Visited 6/01/12)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Paradise Creek:going postal near WSU

   While the brewery in a metal building in the back of a business park is the type most often seen, every now and then someone adapts a building once used for a quite different purpose into a place for making beer, while still honoring that older use.  I think of the Powerhouse in Puyullap, with its electrical switches on the walls, and Engine House No. 9 in Tacoma, festooned with firefighting gear.  And now Paradise Creek in Pullman, formerly the town post office.
The interior preserves the old fashioned barred windows from which postal clerks sold stamps, money orders, mailed packages, etc.  All that is lacking is the chained ball point pens that don't write.   A spacious restaurant space opens up behind the windows, where the mail used to be sorted.  I dined on barbecued beef brisket with their Dirty Blonde Ale, a tasty pairing.
     The only beer name that reflects on the USPS is called Postal Porter.  Now how is it neither these guys, nor their neighbors at the Palouse Falls brewery, could call their porter Pullman Porter?  I didn't ask; I would hate to hear another sad story about trademark law and beer names.
(Visited 6/01/12)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stoudt's Brewing Co. in PA Dutch country

   Watch for Amish horse-drawn buggies on the roads around Adamstown, Pennsylvania.  They may not be heading to Stoudt's Brewing Co. for a pint, but lots of other beer fans are.  Stopped off there a  couple of weeks ago in the course of checking out the site of the wedding this fall of daughter Tennyson and Gregg.  The Stoudt family started out with a restaurant here fifty years ago, an antique sales center forty years ago, and a brewery twenty-five years ago, in 1987.  Ed Stoudt got the first two going, but it was wife Carol who got the brewmaster's license and started cooking the mash--one of the very first women to do so.
  We enjoyed a good meal in the restaurant, then one of the next generation of Stoudts, Elizabeth, took us through the whole operation, starting with the brewery.

Elizabeth Stoudt is the cheesemaker for the business now. Behind the brewery section, one walks through a huge space (70,000 square feet) just devoted to antique sales by some 300 dealers every Sunday.  Past the antiques mall is her bakery and cheesemaking section, and an organic and good food market.  Elizabeth explained that she buys from local dairies that don't use pesticides, the process of getting certified as an organic producer is too time-consuming for a lot of these small dairies and they don't bother with it.  Back to the beer:  they focus on German styles, Kolsch, Pilsener, Helles, Gold Lager (much like Chuckanut at home, so my orange Chuckanut cap was suitable attire), along with IPAs and Pales.  Their stout does not play on the family name; it is called Fat Dog Stout to honor Ferdie, the family pooch.
(Visited 5/21/12)