Sunday, November 25, 2012

Skookum relocates within Arlington

    The bucolic setting of the Skookum Brewery in Arlington, log buildings behind horse pastures, posted here in August 2010, will now be just a memory for beer tourists. That location is still the home of Ron Walcher and Jackie Jenkins, and still the site where they brew.  But the tasting room has been moved several miles southeast, to a metal building by the Arlington Airport.
   Ron and Jackie had neighbors who never warmed to the idea of a brewpub at the end of their lane, to the extent of trying to get local government to shut them down.  This was another case of a home brewing operation going commercial out of a garage (or barn, in Ron's case) and eventually having to move to more commercial space. 
    For now, the handsome brewing apparatus is still back at the home place, but the pub is a spacious and friendly area with plenty of seating.  I confess, I always visited the old spot on sunny days and wondered how the clientele was faring on our more-than-occasional rainy times.  Now the tasting room is weather-proof.
The warehouse space is so roomy, in fact, that they have lined out a shuffleboard court in the back and you can sip to the sound of pucks sliding down the concrete.
    The beers were the popular favorites Ron has been making for several years now: His dark, bourbony Murder of Crows was my first choice, while D.B. enjoyed his Amber's Hot Friend. I had a sip of the Woody's Oak before carpet bombing my taste buds with the Crows:  it wasn't quite the tangy resin taste I remmbered from the last time.
(Visited 11/24/12)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Big E: big plans in Lynnwood

I stopped by Big E Ales, hard by I-5 where Mountlake Terrace fades into Lynnwood, a few miles north of Seattle.  The operation sits at the end of a little commercial strip, shared with a variety of small businesses. 
I got to chat a bit with founder Rick Ellersick, who took out a brewery license for his garage homebrewing setup fifteen years ago (1997), when it was not a common happening the way it is today.  Rick is proud that his kids are involved in the business, too, with one son doing most of the day to day brewing and others marketing, cooking, serving, etc.  The WA Beer Commission has posted Kendall Jones' piece on Big E in its brewery profiles series and a lot of the story can be found there.
The news, in late November, is that Big E is ready to join the canning ranks.  They have 40,000 empty 16-oz cans and a portable can filler that can be wheeled onto the brewery floor.  All they need is beer enough and time.  The 15-barrel brewing system and 30-barrel fermenters have been running full tilt just to keep up with demand in the pub and in the retail draft accounts. 
Big E makes ten regular beers and one seasonal: this season it has been Oompah, an Octoberfest special Rick was very proud of. "We used lager yeast and lagered it for two and a half months," he said. "Supposed to come out 8.5% abv; this year it ran a little over nine."  It was the popular favorite in voting at the Anacortes Beer Festival this fall.  He gave me a taste and the malty richness had that tongue-coating quality you have to love.
(Visited 11/20/12)