Friday, February 27, 2015

A nanobrewer's designated tavern: Duvall Springs and the Duvall Tavern

   Beer travelers looking to experience some of the smallest breweries' creations, to try a new taste or just to get a stamp in the WABL passport, can have a difficult time visiting some of these operations.
Often run in garages or back yard sheds by brewers who have day jobs elsewhere, these startups in commercial craft brewing are seldom accessible without an an appointment.  As business picks up, a second step is to open a taproom or pub somewhere nearby, like 192 Brewing in Kenmore or Menace in Ferndale with its Bellingham pub.
   But that takes money, too.  A shorter step is for a nano to keep a nearby tavern stocked with its kegs.  Such is the case with the little Duvall Springs Brewery, which has designated the Duvall Tavern in the village as its always-on-tap outlet. The tavern will sign WABL passports and has the brewers' assurance that they will keep its Burn Ban Porter in production consistently.  From the retailer's point of view, it is irksome to have to tell customers that a local brewer's nifty brew, which got some good buzz lately, is not available at the moment or maybe not for a couple of weeks.
   Duvall, on the Snoqualmie River a few miles from Woodinville, is a pleasant little place and the tavern has a good line of craft taps.  The Burn Ban Porter (abv not available) was a nice malty brew with caramel flavors.  They plan to do brewers nights on Thursdays with various King County breweries, including the local guys, each having an evening to pour and promote.
(Visited 2/26/15)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Port Townsend Brewing comes to B'ham with "new" distributor

  The Port Townsend Brewery showed up at the Green Frog last night, with our long-time Pepsi distributor, Walton Beverage, delivering the kegs.  Ryan from Walton told me that as traditional soft drink sales have been stagnant or slightly down (who would guess it from that great halftime Super Bowl show they put on), the company decided, about six months ago, to add alcoholic beverages to their trucks.  They are carrying Port Townsend, Anacortes Brewing, and Birdsview Brewing in our town, as well as seven wineries and a distillery.  They are expecting to add one of our Bellingham breweries, one currently self-distributing, to their lineup soon.  Walton has been around our town since 1931 and all their soft drink people I have met have been straight-up good folks.
    As I wrote recently, finding a distributor can be one of those limits to growth a craft brewer may run into.  The A-B house can handle only so many craft beers, as can the Miller/Coors house and the rarer indie wholesaler like Click and Dickerson.  So, getting a pop distributor into the mix is a good sign for the brewers.
     Port Townsend Brewing sees this arrangement as a big plus.  Kim Sands, the brewer and owner, said she has added several bigger fermenters to the 15-bbl plant, so they can double- and triple-batch popular brands like Hop Diggity, the IPA.  I was tickled to see Yoda Green Tea Golden Ale in the lineup last night, and to have a chance to urge Kim to make this delicious brew all the time or at least in more seasons than summer.  Kim just smiled and said "maybe, someday."  They had only made a batch in midwinter because James, the Green Frog owner, is just as fond of it and insisted they bring some.
   My second pint was the Peeping Peater Scotch Ale, 6.6 % abv.  The name is a sly reference to the bit of peat-smoked barley in the mash.  The result is not the intensely smoky flavor of the smoked porters like Alaskan's or the German rauchbiers, but it does leave a little hint in the malty (25 IBUs) flavor.  I'd try it again.
(Visited 02/11/15)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Machine House Brewing: in the even older Rainier Brewery

     The Old Rainier Brewery, rising above I-5 a bit south of Seattle's stadiums, has been divided into lofts and other spaces for design firms, a coffee roaster, even a small craft brewery (Emerald City).  Here, the brand was brewed for over six decades, until company and brand were sold to Pabst and the building closed in 1999,
Less well known is the pre-Prohibition Rainier Brewery, built in the 1890s a couple of miles further south, in the industrial Georgetown district,  This building, with the legend Brew House carved above the three tall windows, sits on Airport Way.  The passage between this building and the smaller building on the left leads to a courtyard and the entrance to what was originally designed to be the machine house for the brewing operations.                                                                                                                

The Seattle Brewing and Malting Co. was organized in 1893, so this Georgetown plant had about a quarter of a century run until Prohibition shut it down.  Today, Machine House Brewing does business in this space.  Opened just about two years ago, Machine House stands out from the crowd by concentrating on session-strength (3.6% to 4.8%) English style ales and by pouring only from casks in the taproom.

    Head brewer Bill Arnott came to Seattle from Norfolk, England where he learned the craft of making Real Ales.  He works on this seven-barrel system, acquired from neighbor Two Beers Brewing.  The first time he tries a recipe, Bill says, he lets it ferment all the way and records the finishing gravity. Then, for cask ales, he draws out the ale around .0015 to .002 points short of full fermentation and the ale finishes fermenting and carbonating in a steel firkin.  The pub aims for a serving temperature of around fifty degrees F; the British reputation for warm beer being somewhat undeserved.
  Bartender Ryan is shown here operating one of the taps (a "beer engine" in proper British terminology.  The five taps are refurbished antiques of British make. The tap list behind Ryan shows the three constant ales, Mild, Bitter and Gold, and then two seasonals, slightly stronger, an Oatmeal Stout and a Rye E.S.B.  I sampled half-pints of the first three and quizzed Bill about his choice of ingredients.  He likes to work with English hops, Kent-Golding and Progress (a Brit version of the Fuggles hops). Some local Cascade hops in the Bitter.  I didn't catch all the grains: the Gold was built on pale and English crystal malts and had the color of clear straw, a nice dry finish.  I liked the Bitter best, the appearance was a very clear copper tone and balanced taste.
   The pub was pleasant. no food cooked here but peanuts were for sale and food trucks were right around the corner on Airport Way.  The big screen carries English football, Premier League matches, with Chelsea and Man City taking a 1-1 draw when I was there.

(Visited 01/31/15)