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)

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