Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Anchor: Pilgrimage in S.F.

    Spent last weekend in the San Francisco Bay area, hanging out with old friends and fitting a few brewpub stops in the edges of the weekend.  Anchor Brewing was a must-see; Liberty Ale was my first taste of craft beer, back in 1984, and I still remember the amazement on my taste buds. 
   Anchor puts a "founded 1896" statement on their labels, and a company with the Anchor Steam label registered and all has been around since then. It limped through the Prohibition years and came back in 1933, but 30-plus years later it was on life support.  That's when appliance heir and recent Stanford grad (! Beat Cal!) Fritz Maytag bought it, in 1965, and started bringing it up to speed.
   Maytag began with an intense focus on sanitary brewing and to this day the crew all wear white coveralls.  The big (125-barrel system) mash tun (front left), lauter tun (rear) , and brew kettle (front ruight) are the first bits of apparatus seen on the tour.
The unneeded barley filtered out in the lauter tun goes to a local dairy farm, in major quantities.
Several levels below the kettle action, rows of fermenting tanks line up like soldiers to age the dozen or so ales and lagers Anchor is preparing to bottle and send--so they say--to all fifty states.

The tour continues through the bottling line and ends at the tasting room/gift shop which also has some noteworthy art on the walls.  I was impressed by some shots of Janis Joplin and the band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, when they visited the brewery in 1967 and hoisted some pints for the camera. 
When you look at the founding years of some of our most venerable craft brewers now, 1983, 1984, 1986, you have to be awed by what Maytag kept alive years before that. I sure was.
(Visited 7/27/12)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Updates: Foggy Noggin, Bellingham festival

   After lunch at Mill Creek on July 14, I headed down to road about seven miles to Foggy Noggin in Bothell, to see that business was booming at this nanobrewery in a garage. I would guess I saw fifteen cars parked on the street out front and as many as the long driveway could hold, another dozen.  Upwards of fifty beer lovers were sitting or standing around, working on pints or sampler flights.  Jim has added a Rufus IPA to his lineup, a growler's worth of which I took home.  As I noted on an earlier post, his first ales were all named for some aspect of PAC-10 football.  If Rufus fits in this naming pattern, the allusion escapes me.
   A worthy innovation I saw here: a cold case of pre-filled growlers, like Kulshan does here in Bellingham.  Given that FN is only open Saturday afternoons, and the line in front of the taps was pretty long, anything that speeds the process is good.
   Query:  How many places in the northern hemisphere are chilly enough to warrant wearing a parka in the 22nd of July:  Chukchi, Alaska...Reykjavic...the outer Hebrides...and sometimes Bellingham. Such was the case last Sunday when the Brewers by the Bay festival, put on by the local Rotary, opened across the street from Boundary Bay.  Eighteen brewers from Washington set up, and eleven from up and down the coast (and Big Sky from Missoula). If the gray, almost-rainy day broke 60 F on the thermometer, it would have surprised me. 
The turnout was not quite what it was for the April Brewsday festival here, but it was still good.  Old Schoolhouse came over from Winthrop with a keg each of their Imperial Stour and Imperial IPA. Gettig a 5-0z glass of either of those, for a $1 sampling token, works out to 20 cents an ounce, a good  deal less that the price of a bottle on the shelf. Dick's Brewing came up from Centralia with some Scottish Ale, the latest in their Dedication series (dedicated to their late founder Dick Young) and it was excellent, too.

Mill Creek: northernmost point of empire

   Several years ago, I heard that the McMenamins were planning to rehab some worthy old school building in Bothell, north of Seattle, and I got to wondering if their pub listed in nearby Mill Creek was this project.  Not!  The McM's spot in Mill Creek is in a very humdrum building, facing a Safeway and other mall denizens.
I stopped inside to check my memory.  Over a gardenburger and an Infra-black IPA, I learned from my server that the Mc's are enmeshed in the complications of rehabbing an old building in Bothell, have been for several years now.  This little pub will remain the northernmost outpost of the Mc's Portland-based empire. 
   The brew uses their IPA formula for a base and then adds malts from their Terminator Stout.  Pretty good.
(Visited 7/14/12

Thursday, July 12, 2012

North Sound brings heavy brews to B'ham

  The folks at North Sound Brewing, just down the road in Mt. Vernon, came to the Green Frog here last night, with hi-test kegs.  I tried their Stovka Imperial Pilsner, 9.0% abv, deceptively smooth and reasonably tart (IBUs in the 50s).  Then I moved on to the Sucellus Imperial Porter, 9.5% abv.  To quote brewer Kurt's notes, it "richly coats your tongue with smooth, dark chocolate and the kind of velvety goodness that makes you think the whole world loves you."  His enthusiasm for all things Irish includes the flowery phrase, but it is most apt here.
   Oh, I won an NSB cap in the swag drawings, too, first time for that.
(tasted 7/11/12)