Monday, August 31, 2015

Snohomish getting downright beerish: SnoTown's taproom open a month

    Believe it!  At the corner of Second and Lincoln in the town of Snohomish, Snotown Brewing has been open to the public and pouring tasty beer since August 5. Frank and Keri Sandoval, pictured here, had been
brewing kegs for sale to a few on-premise places for some months now, but permission for a taproom has come just this summer. The initial selection was two blonde ales, a citrus-basil ale, a red, a brown, and an IPA.  Nothing heavier than the brown (6.5% abv).  "We only brew what we like to drink," Frank says, and as our much-warmer-than-normal summer wears on, the Sandovals were liking to drink lighter ales.  The flagship, at least for now, is the Keri's Blonde, 5% abv and crisp.  Brews in the works include an ESB, a rye made with smoked peppers called Loose Rooster, and a session IPA.

Frank works on a 2-bbl system with fermenters the same size.  This equipment launched Whitewall Brewing in Marysville just last year.  When Whitewall was one year old, business had been good enough to warrant an upgrade and SnoTown became the beneficiary of a score in the hot market for used brewing equipment.
   The taproom has some nice decor touches, like repurposed pallets for a ceiling and a wood rendition of some classic rock albums on the wall.  No food service, but next door, mere steps away, an Ixtapa Mexican restaurant is cooking and will deliver to the taproom. Looks like a good launch.
(Visited 08/26/15)

Mt. Index: making beer with the left hand, vodka with the right

   Heading into Stevens Pass on US 20, once you escape the maddening traffic of the Monroe to Gold Bar stretch (the Camino del Muerto to the locals), you come on to Index, about MP 33.  Pointy peaks jab at the sky on both sides; the scenery is getting real special real fast.  And then you come on to the sign for the Mt. Index Brewery and Distillery.
Charles Tucker has been making liquor here for a couple of years now.  He added the 1.5 bbl brewing system last year, around the back of the building.  As the state regulators worked through the licensing issues, they told him to maintain a rigorous separation of the two processes. His beer styles are whatever suits his fancy; in late August it was a stout and a ginger beer; he would start in on a wheat beer come September and then it would be time to think about Octoberfests.
    The liquor production is set in a much more precise pattern: a coffee liquor, a  coriander vodka, a gin. Because spirits must be bottled before sale, in bottles with labels approved by the federal regulator, a time-consuming process, the choices will be limited. Beer, going out in kegs, is not so constrained.
Charles plans to sell kegs to taverns and restaurants in the Skykomish Valley, and to swap guest taps with other small breweries in Snohomish County.
Sites like Facebook and Yelp indicate that this combo is open seven days a week, but that is a glitch in the sites.  The brewery side is only open Thursdays through Sundays; it is just the distillery that is open M-T-W.  So I wasn't able to get a taste of beer on a Tuesday afternoon, but I'll save that pleasure for another time.
The distillery is pictured at the right.

(Visited 08/25/15)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Flying Bike Co-op: off to a flying start

   Greenwood Avenue in August: already a great beer block between 85th and 87th thanks to Naked City Brewing.  I stroll up past their outdoor beer garden, tables all full on the pleasant afternoon, and am duly amazed by what I see in the very next building.  It's the Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery, and it has just signed up its 1649th member.  I study the tap list at the bar, noting that a number of the brews have someone's name written at the bottom of the white tile they are written on.

Ryan, tending the bar, says the Storm Cycle CDA was the home brew chosen by a panel of members and brewed as a collab with the new Counterbalance Brewery down on the south end of the city.  This I had heard about at the Everett festival a few days ago.  "So how does this member input thing work?" I asked him. He started to explain, then broke off to wait on a new customer.
  "Member?" Ryan asked.
   "Four-fifty-three," the guy said, ordering a pint of the Penny Farthing Wheat Ale.
   "Members get a dollar off our pour price, four to seven," Ryan said after filling the pint.  "They get a dividend at the end of a year, like at REI, if we make a profit.  And, if they home-brew, we must have several hundred who do, they can enter a brew in one of the events we put on, every two or three months. The winner, chosen by a panel of members, gets his or her recipe made by our head brewmaster back there."  Ryan indicated the back of the building where a gleaming new 7-bbl system sat.

 This equipment, made at the Bridgetown factory in Oregon, is operated by Kevin Forhan, a well-credentialed veteran of the Seattle craft scene (stints at Pike Brewing, Big Time, Elysian, and the RAM chain), head brewmaster and mentor to the many home brewers among the membership. The guy whose CDA recipe won the last taste-of got to load the grain in the mash tun: his excitement at working with eight hundred pounds of malted barley instead of the ten or twelve pounds in his home system is captured on a vimeo in the Co-op's website.
   A bit later, member # 114 (or somewhere around there) pulls in with his backyard hops harvest--from Lynnwood, about twenty miles north of here.  In this picture, our Lynnwood farmer and Kevin Badger, chairman of the co-op board, get ready to grab some buds--the tasty kind!  The energy in here is impressive; the wall art consists of dozens of bike handlebars, mounted like elk antlers on wood plaques.  Ashley tells me that she and about six other members who don't brew got together to create this unique bit of decor.

(Visited 08/20/15)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lantern: Greenwood's bit o' Belgium

   The Greenwood neighborhood in northwest Seattle is focused on the eponymous avenue, home to #NakedCityBrewing and now the new #FlyingBike brewing cooperative, along with an assortment of funky business ventures like the Wingdome and the space travel shop.  The district extends several blocks to either side of Greenwood Ave., to Rt. 99, Aurora Ave. on the east. A traffic light at Aurora and 95th St. marks a corner where Lantern Brewing brews.  The converted warehouse holds a 15-bbl system in the back and a
comfortable taproom area in the front, open Thursdays through Saturdays and hosting food trucks weekends.
   Brewer and owner Christopher Engdahl started the business about five years ago, a few blocks west of here, and moved here when he expanded capacity a couple of years ago,  The taproom has been open since early 2014.  As the taplist one day in August indicates, Engdahl is fond of all brews Belgian,  The French Biere de Garde  (6.5% abv, crisp hop finish) was very nice, too.  That's one of the seasonals: the standards, which are sold in 22-oz. bottles here and at some bottle shops in Seattle, are the Dubbel, the Tripel, the Witbier, the Pale and the Stout.  Kegs and bottles are self-distributed within the city for now,  I'll be looking for a lantern come the next Belgianfest this winter, for sure.
(Visited 08-20-15)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Festival notes--Everett

    The state beer commission's north sound component of its regional beer festivals took over Hoyt Street in downtown Everett last Saturday (August 15) and I definitely learned one new thing.  "To randal" is now a verb, meaning to pass draft beer through a cylinder filled with small bits of some flavoring substance, e.g., hops, pineapple chunks, crushed Jolly Rancher candies.  Many of the participating breweries offered randalized styles or randalizing your sample while you watched.
    The longest lines stretched out in front of Fremont Brewing and the new face in Marysville, At Large Brewing.  About thirty breweries were there. most of them were from Everett south along I-5. Only two Whatcom County brewers attended and none from Skagit.  This is the time of year Festival Fatigue starts to afflict smaller firms.  Inventory is stressed, staff is stressed, the Mount Vernon festival was just a week ago, etc.
     To update some recent posts, Cole Rinehart said he is in the process of relocating his little backyard shed brewhouse for his #InTheShadows beers to a commercial building along SR 530 between Arlington and Darrington.  That;s a sign of growing demand, When I got a sandwich, I shared a table with Jeff Howard and Frank Lawrence, co-founders of the new Counterbalance Brewing in Seattle's Georgetown district.  Jeff told me they had just produced a collaboration beer with the new #Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery up in the Greenwood district, near Naked City.  Flying Bike was having its grand opening the same day.
     One of the most unusual beers was Nocino Walnut Porter, created at Scuttlebutt in Everett just for WABL members. Nocino was described as a sticky brown liquer made in Northern Italy from unripe green walnuts.  After steeping in spirit, the walnuts are removed and the now black alcohol is blended into a simple syrup.  "We get the boozy walnuts from Skiprock Brewing," said Matt Stromberg, head brewer at Scuttlebutt, "and when we dry hop our porter, we add a couple of pounds of the walnuts."  Matt was hopeful this unusual take on porter can have an encore later this year.
(Visited 08/15/15)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How about a demo brewery? Old Abbey in Abbotsford

   What's a demonstration brewery, you ask?  Well, just over the border in Abbotsford, B.C., it's a brewery built by an importer of craft brewing equipment, to show what that equipment can do.  At Old Abbey Ales the equipment can do quite a lot.  Head brewer Tony DeWald, whose many years of experience include a stint most recently at Dead Frog Brewing, creates some of the most celebrated Belgian styles: a quadrupel, trippel, dubbel, sours, etc.  He also brews a number of the better known west coast styles.  A full picture of the tap list last weekend is better than 1,000 words.
The quadrupel was not on tap, but it was for sale in bottles, so I took one home and tried it later. Having been in Belgium just over two months ago, I can attest to the authentic taste. the rich mouthfeel is all there.  What I did start out with was a Brett Texas Brown Ale, pictured at the left.
Why Texas?  The Lone Star State has no particular beer cachet.  Well, they said, Texas just connotes big and brassy, and that's what they got here.  7.1% abv and the bitterness units, a surprising 64.  You can hop a brown ale a ton, most folks don't but no one legislates the beer styles any more.  A very complex mix of malt and lupulins, tasty.
Had to try the Hophefeweizenbock just to see if I could get all the German syllables off.  As the numbers on the board indicate, this was a balanced hefe with a lot of alcohol.
My last 4 oz. sample (their license limits a customer to 12 oz. per visit) was the Kettle Sour. listed in the Standard brews column. That was worth a growler fill, The nose alone was singularly fine.
About the equipment being demonstrated, there were some nice tanks up front, a number more in the back, and a couple of tall grain silos outside. Brew-Stuff advertises itself as a fabricator and assembler more than a manufacturer per se.  A couple of customer reviews available online indicate that the basic manufacturing is done in China, at least some of it.  On a Sunday afternoon, no one was on hand to walk the curious around the equipment.

(Visited 08.10/15)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sound to Summit: Snohomish city gets a happenin' brewery

    Snohomish: The bypassing  US 2 doesn't subject you to a long stream of traffic lights (Monroe, the next town on the way to Stevens Pass will) as you head into the mountains from Everett.  Quaint downtown, if you take an exit, fun place to stroll or start a bike ride on the Centennial Trail, but not much of a beer town until lately.  A garage nano, Mt. Pilchuck Brewing, has been in business a couple of years but hasn't gained much traction.  Now, however, we have Sound to Summit Brewing, nine months in business and making a statement.
     The owners, Drs. John (M.D.) and Stacy (D.D.S.) Sype, both home brewers for some years, decided to go commercial about three years ago, and hired Gray Warnock as brewmaster while still in the planning and design stages. The space is in a business park, about a mile west of the downtown
area, in a space previously used as a warehouse.
Pipes and cables criss-cross the high ceiling; they play no part in the brewing process.

Rather than run down the various styles offered here, I present the tap list as written last week.

Three kinds of IPA, but also note the pilsner, Vienna lager, and kolsch.  We can always cheer another lager maker.


  The three fermenters toward the back of the work space are each rated 15-bbl.  The brewing system appears to have a batch capacity of around 5 bbls.  The tasting room is family-friendly and a ping-pong table was getting good use on a summer afternoon.   Sound to Summit looks like it is well grounded and off to a good start.

(Visited 08/07/15)

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Holy Mountain is not Rainier

    OK, we do venerate Mt. Rainier around here, put it on our license plates, the Washington quarter coin, and all that.  Some folks might call it sort of mystical, maybe sacred.  But when the folks who started Holy Mountain Brewing went to thinking about a name, they went with the title of a 1973 movie by Mexican director Alejandro Jodorowski and the title track of a 1993 album by a metal/stoner band called Sleep.  Besides. Rainier was already taken in the beer world.
   Holy Mountain pushes the envelope.  This is not your typical 2 IPAs and a Hefe brewery.
They do some Belgian styles, they make lagers, and they do have a couple of ales (pale and stout).
Some of the Belgians are sours,  A saison is aged three months in a foudre (new word for me, means a huge wooden fermenter, like forty barrels huge) with Brett yeast,  There's a Grisette, a sour farmhouse, lots of new age beers like that.
Holy Mountain brews 10-barrel batches and uses 20-bbl fermenters, plus the foudre.  Had to use my new word again,
The location is on the waterfront well north of Belltown,  The trains run on the tracks right out the back door: the Amtrak came whistling by as I was sipping last week.  The ship in the background is the USS Boxer, in port for the annual Seafair weekend.

In a city that sees a new brewery open just about every month, Holy Mountain has made some waves in its first year of existence.

(Visited 07/29/15)