Thursday, March 29, 2012
When writing about beer it’s hard not be little prejudicial about a beer you are about to try. There is information on the label, there is a wealth of information about the brewery on the internet, and then when you finally get around to pouring the beer, there is color, the appearance of the head, and the nose. I try my hardest to put flavor at the forefront, but it practically impossible not to let some of these factors influence your first sip. When was the last time you went to see a movie without knowing what it was about or who was in it? For an IPA, the hardest prejudice for me to overcome is color. More often than not, when an IPA is more on the amber side of the color wheel than sunrise orange (maybe I missed my calling naming crayons) I am disappointed. Yes, it wasn’t my usual favored color for an IPA, but it did have a dense rocky head, so I once again reminded myself that the flavor is the main thing that matters. I also put aside my trepidation about the IBUs listed on the label being only 75. Usually, I expect a double IPA to be in the 80-100 range, IBU-wise. When I finally cleared my head, I tasted the Humulo Nimbus Double IPA from Sound Brewing in Poulsbo. Not only was I happy that I taught myself a lesson about judging beers too early, this beer is delicious. Loaded with tropical fruit like passion and guava up front, Humulo Nimbus delivers waves of hops and malt in balance in the middle, with a bitter finish that is assertive but not overbearing. In short, everything a good double IBU should be, color and IBUs be damned. I guess one of the reasons I liked this beer so much is that I need to be reminded from time to time that one of the best things about craft beer is that there are very few rules and the rules are meant to be bent, if not broken. Styles and standards are constantly changing, but if it tastes good drink it. Humulo Nimbus tastes good.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
“Mmmm…tastes like a glass of bourbon and a porter had a baby,” my wife said when I gave her a blind taste of the Bourbon barrel aged Imperial Porter from North Sound Brewing. Not being a beer geek, (one per household is quite enough) she doesn’t overanalyze, and is spot on and succinct. That’s exactly what this beer tastes like. It’s the beer equivalent of those old peanut butter cup ads where the guy in the walkman is strutting down the street with a chocolate bar and collides into a woman eating peanut butter. Ignoring the fact that only a lunatic walks down the street eating peanut butter, the marriage of bourbon and porter by North Sound is fantastic. While technically not labeled a winter beer, this is exactly the type of beer I want during the cold winter months. North Sound’s winter offering is a little boozy, has hints of vanilla from the bourbon barrel, coffee and molasses, but most importantly, not too sweet. Sucellus Imperial Porter is meant to be sipped by a warm fire, or your favorite cozy bar. Ideally, both at the same time. I realize that barrel aged beers have become about as ubiquitous as teriyaki restaurants in Seattle, but unlike so-so teriyaki, I always look forward to trying a new barrel aged beer.
North Sound Brewing-opened last year in Mt. Vernon-may be a newcomer to the Washington brewing scene, but they are making some beers to take notice of. If you are driving up north stop by their tap room, and tell them to send some more barrel aged Sucellus Imperial Porter down to Seattle!
Friday, November 11, 2011
While Beer and Beyond is usually dedicated to reviewing the best Washington State has to offer, I did not get to taste nearly as many pumpkin beers this year as I would have liked. Granted, I was a little remiss in my pursuit of great beer, and did not attend Elysian Brewing’s Great Pumpkin Beer Fest this year, but the pumpkins came and went too quickly. They were also released a little early for my taste. I’m just not ready for pumpkin beers in early September, when it is still 70 degrees outside. I want one when the leaves are changing, when the weather is cool, but the chill of winter has not yet set in. Most of all I want them with my Thanksgiving pies! It doesn’t take a master Cicerone to see that this is one of the most perfect beer pairings in all of gastronomy. There’s only one problem: when Thanksgiving comes around all the pumpkin beers have been shoved off the shelves to make room for winter beers, which seem to be coming out earlier and earlier every year. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter beers, but I would like to implore all of the brewers in our state to release their pumpkin brews a little later and extend the season a little. I understand the shortened season for harvest ales and fresh hop beers, but pumpkin spices are always available. Yes, it’s easy to get burnt out on pumpkin beers, but all I’m asking is that they be released after Oktoberfest ends, and made through Thanksgiving. I was only able to taste a few pumpkin beers this year, but the two standouts were Schooner Exact’s Gutter Punk’n (also wins for best name), and 2Beers’ Pumpkin Spice Ale.
I think what I liked about each of these beers is that they represent the two predominant schools of thought about pumpkin ales. On the one hand, you have the 2Beers Pumpkin that is very pumpkin spice forward, like a glass of pie. The other approach is a beer that is accented with pumpkin spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom, but still tastes like a barley brewed beer, like the Gutter Punk’in. I have noticed that a lot of people tend to favor one over the other. One of the reasons I was sad to miss The Great Pumpkin Beer Fest this year, is that I love what brewers are doing with this style; pumpkin saisons, pumpkin hefeweizens, barrel aged pumpkin beers, even beer aged in an actual pumpkin. It’s a style that we should be celebrating the variety of offerings, and enjoying each for their differences. Pumpkin beers are a great vehicle to show case a brewer’s creativity, and here in Washington we have some amazingly creative brewers, they just need a longer season to pour.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I love fresh hop beers. It’s the one style in particular that makes me happy I live in the Pacific Northwest. I know other parts of the country are growing hops, but our Yakima Valley is the hop growing heartland, and local brewers are taking full advantage of this bounty. Fresh hop beers are made by taking freshly picked hops (thus the name), and adding them to a beer within hours of harvest. The result is a bright herbaceous bitterness that tends to showcase the true flavors of the hop varieties. Hardcore hop heads were a little late getting on the bandwagon, as fresh hop beers don’t always pack the big hop punch and long resinous finish of India Pale Ales brewed with the conventional concentrated pelletized hops. For me, a well made fresh hop beer has supplanted the Oktoberfest as the harbinger of the fall season. The one drawback of our local dearth of hoppy goodness, it is that is tough to try them all, and keep them all straight. That being said, Fremont Brewing’s Fresh Hop Cowiche Canyon left a lasting impression on me that has not faded.
Normally when I try a beer for the first time, I smell it first to get a sense of what I’m in for, then I sit down with pen and paper in hand, and jot down my first, then lasting impressions. With this beer, after I poured it in the glass, I was clearing the last of our dinner dishes, listening to my kids rustle around upstairs when they should have been going to bed, and just took a sip while I was turning the TV on. I was totally caught off guard by Fremont’s huge ruby red grapefruit and tamarind bitterness-from organic Simcoe and Citra hops-right up front. Like a good fresh hop beer should, the hops gave way to a nice barley malt breadiness (don’t care if that’s not a word), balancing the flavors nicely. I taste a lot of beers and it’s rare that I am blown away by one sip, but my first thought after tasting this beer was that I should run out to the store to get another. I decided to sit down, relax, and drink it in slowly. When I finally got around to smelling it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the aroma was. All I could think of was orange Fruit Stripe gum, but I think my wife got a little closer with creamsicle. I could go on and on about this beer, but I think the best thing to do would be to implore you to find this gem and drink it ASAP!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
For anyone that likes to prepare Asian inspired dishes at home, the Ginger Pale Ale from Trade Route Brewing should be right next to the soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar. Brewed with ginger, galangal, and orange peel, and very low on the bitterness scale, this ginger pale is ideal for anything from slow braising meat, to delicate dressings.
Before the explosion of the craft beer movement, beer in recipes did not add a whole lot of flavor to the finished product. Now, as brewers become more creative with adjuncts, beer is stepping out of the shadows to play a more prominent role in cooking. The classic four ingredients in beer-water, malt, hops and yeast-are now merely the base canvas for brewer’s artistry. Ingredients like pumpkin, basil, jasmine, cherries, and ginger, are opening a wealth of possibilities for chefs to add more flavors, which is always a good thing, right?
Don’t get me wrong. Trade Route’s Ginger Pale Ale is not the beer equivalent of cooking wine. It is meant to be consumed in a pint glass first and foremost; especially in the summer. It is refreshing, light, and drinkable with nice body and texture. So whatever you end up cooking with it, be it in a marinade, a broth, or sauce, make sure you buy a few extra bottles to drink with your meal!
Trade Route Brewing is located on 1091 Valentine Ave SE, Pacific Washington 98047. Take a little road trip, and visit their taproom.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
In the 90’s Red Hook’s ESB was the beer that every Seattle bar had on tap. In the 2000’s it was Mac & Jack’s Amber. Hopefully, in this decade that beer will be the 3 Grid IPA from Schooner Exact. I’m not a real creature of habit when it comes to craft beer: there are just too many good ones to try, but I could drink this beer every day. The 3 Grid IPA has a nice soft foamy head, like a hop infused bubble bath (if I owned the brewery, I would bathe in it), and loaded with Yakima hop varieties like Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, and Amarillo, 3 Grid is hoppy, but drinkable. The citrusy tamarind bitterness doesn’t stick to your palate, and is nicely balanced with a firm malty texture. “We wanted to make a session IPA”, co-founder Matt Mclung once told me. When some hear the term “session beer” they think of something mild and limp; this beer is neither one of those things, but it is perfect if you are out with your friends having a few.
High School Chemistry teacher Matt Mclung and his wife Heather, started Schooner Exact (with a third partner, now gone) with a ½ barrel pilot brewing system they bought on Craig’s list, and set up shop in an Active Space in West Seattle, not far from where the Denny Party’s ship-The Schooner Exact-first landed in landed in Seattle in 1851. The 3 Grid name is also a nod to Seattle history, referring to the three grids of traffic, resulting from a land dispute between three of Seattle’s founding fathers. Their current brewery is located in Georgetown, and features a tap room to enjoy a fresh pint, or fill up a growler. Stop in and say hi; this brewery is one of the reasons Seattle is a great place to live.
Friday, July 8, 2011
While the success of the Georgetown Brewery has been built on Manny’s Pale Ale (many Seattleites think Manny’s is the name of the brewery), it is their Georgetown Porter that keeps me driving down south to fill up my growler. Originally known as the 9 Pound Porter, a nod to one of Georgetown’s oldest and revered watering holes-the name was recently changed when the Magic Hat Brewery threatened legal action because they claimed the name infringed on their #9 beer. Georgetown Brewing’s founders, Manny Chao and Roger Bialous changed the name after consulting with the 9 Pound Hammer’s owners to make sure it was ok, but it is no coincidence that the arm holding the hammer on the logo is the same for the 9 Pound Hammer. You can probably guess who the “suck it” refers to.
Legal issues aside, this beer is one tasty porter. Chocolate malt, a hint of coffee bitterness, and a clean finish make the Georgetown Porter drinkable, but not too heavy, and I think the original porters in the London markets (for whom the style is named after) would be proud. Given the fact that this porter is not too sweet, and not too bitter, but still has depth of flavor, it is ideal for a wide variety of cooking applications, ranging from pulled pork to beer and cheese soup. Georgetown’s brewery and retail store are located just south of Qwest and Safeco fields, and they have the cheapest growlers in town ($6 for a half-gallon). The growlers are filled with a counter pressure system that eliminates any excess air, so the growlers will keep in the fridge for at least two weeks unopened, but the only time I have it last that long is when I was away on vacation!
Friday, June 24, 2011
I generally find Scotch Ales to have a sticky malt character that I just don’t care for. However, take a Scotch Ale and age it on American white oak, and count me in. This isn’t a beer that you will crave right after work, or at a backyard barbeque. The Fat Woody’s blend of vanilla, molasses, brandy, a little smokiness from the peated malt, just begs to be poured into a snifter and sipped on after a hearty meal. Silver city ages their Fat Scotch Ale for six months in oak, and if you ever get the chance to taste the two beers side by side, the difference is extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong, the Fat Scotch is an extremely well made Scotch Ale; I just don’t care for the style. The oak aged version on the other hand, is one of those beers that you sip on slowly, and every swallow is just pure liquid relaxation. I don’t smoke cigars, but whenever I have the Fat Woody, I kind of want one. If you do smoke cigars, this is your beer to pair it with. Available in 220z. bottles at most quality bottle shops, grab two: one to drink now, and cellar the other one for the first cold day when fall is easing into winter. Enjoy!
Friday, June 10, 2011
Herbert’s Legendary is brewed every year to honor one of the Godfathers of Washington brewing, Bert Grant. Grant was born in Scotland, but made his way to the Yakima Valley in 1967, and worked as a hop scientist, where he was known to carry a bottle of hop oil, to give a little life to the weak American beers of the time. He opened one of Washington’s first microbreweries and brewpubs in 1982, where his beers were among the few in America to catch the eye of famed beer writer Michael Jackson (not that one), in the early editions of Beer Companion. Chief among Grant’s early brewing accomplishments was his India Pale Ale. It was a bold, overly hopped (for the time) IPA that paved the way for the hop bombs that are now commonplace. Every year a different brewery makes a big, aggressively hopped IPA to honor his legacy, and brewers come from all over the state to help out, bring their own hops, and expertise to a recipe that is essentially the same, but produces http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifwildly different results each year.
Anacortes Brewery and Rockfish Grill had the honor/daunting task of paying homage this brewing pioneer, and they continued to make Grant proud with this year’s addition. When making an IPA to honor a hop expert, it can be easy to go overboard with the hops, and create a disjointed mish-mash of bitterness. However, every Washington brewer I have ever met has a great deal of respect for Bert Grant, and every year that respect is shown in Herbert’s Legendary with a wide spectrum of hop bitterness and aroma, but most importantly it is tempered with balance and restraint. Grant once told Michael Jackson that, “all beers should be hoppier”. I doubt he would say that about the beer that continues his legacy every year when it rolls out for The Cask Beer Festival in April. Anacortes’ version is slightly citrusy, a little bit of pine/spruce bitterness. It is hop forward, like it is supposed to be, but also balanced and drinkable. This is a beer that needs to be sought out every year, and it definitely helps to make The Cask Beer Festival one of the best beer events in the packed calendar that is the Washington beer scene. Cheers Bert, every beer lover in Washington owes you a debt of gratitude that hopefully will never be forgotten.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
I’m not a huge of fan of brown ales. I remember when I was younger and had a few extra dollars in my pocket I would splurge on a six pack of the famous English brown ale (the one that rhymes w/ New-tassel) . Before the wealth of riches that has become the American craft beer scene today, that was a splurge worthy beer. Now…not so much. There are some worthy English browns, but there have been excellent examples of this style made a little bit closer to home. Hale’s, Maritime Pacific, Georgetown Brewing, and the old Winthrop brewery have all churned out some fine brown ales. However, the brown ale has never really taken off in Seattle. It is one of those in between styles. Not hoppy enough for the IPA folk, too dark for the casual drinker, and not dark enough for the stout/porter people. Where does that leave the brown ale? Luckily the two guys at two beers Brewing were undaunted by the brown’s low profile, and made a damn good unfiltered brown ale, that evokes the tradition of English brewing (Samuel Smith’s), but is also bold and unique. Classic nutty and cocoa powder flavors are present, a little hint of vanilla, and just enough hops to offset those sweet flavors. This is not a brownish beer. The SoDo Brown Ale (named after the brewery’s location in Seattle), this is a baby step down from a porter in both color and body, but approachable, and definitely drinkable.
Let go of what you think brown ales are, take a break from the hops, and enjoy this great beer from the guys at Two Beers. SoDo Brown is an excellent food beer and would go well with anything from a burger, fish and chips, or foie gras. Nice job Joel and Mark!
Sunday, April 3, 2011
The Pilsner may be the most popular style around the world, but amongst craft beer lovers it tends to take a backseat to bigger, bolder flavors. After years of Super Bowl commercials featuring 55 calorie beers that promise “great Pilsner taste”, and deliver watered down corn and rice, there may be a little bit of a backlash against the Pilsner. Due to their long fermentation time, it is a difficult style for craft brewers to produce. Pilsners take 6-8 weeks to ferment, while a top fermenting ale takes only 2 weeks. They are tricky to make, as the clean, simple flavor of a well made Pilsner makes it difficult to hide any flaws. As a lover of craft, small batch beer, it pains me say that I think this style is generally better left to a bigger brewery that has the technology to produce it consistently. Before you go getting your beer snob panties in a bunch, I mean a bigger brewery like Trumer, Victory, or any number of German breweries like Ayinger or Spaten, not the American macro “Pilsner style” fakie versions. Are there small breweries in the U.S. that make great Pilsners? Of course there are, and Chuckanut Brewery from Bellingham is one of them.
Founded by Will and Mari Kemper, formerly of Thomas Kemper fame, Chuckanut proves that technology can coexist with craft beer. After selling Thomas Kemper Lagers, Kemper served as a consultant and brew master to breweries all over the country and abroad, both small and large. In less than two years, Kemper’s high-tech, small batch brewery has won a fistful of medals at the Great American Beer Festival, including Best Small Brewer, and Best Small Brewery. Their Pilsner has won both bronze and gold in those two years. It is everything a great Pilsner should be; a mild fresh baked bread maltiness, herbaceous aromatic hop middle, a clean dry finish, and an effervescent carbonation that makes you wonder whether you should hop a plane to The Czech Republic, or Germany. Thank you Chuckanut for doing your part to restore the Pilsner’s good name in America!
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Originally brewed as a collaborative effort for the inaugural Seattle Beer Week, Pike Brewing’s Double IPA is the beer that launched one of the best beer events in the country. For those of you who like beer, and have never attended Seattle Beer Week, mark mid-to-late May on your calendar. SBW is like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, and Carnivale all in one for beer lovers. There are beer dinners, Iron Brewer (like Iron Chef, but with brewing), sour beer festival, some of the best brewers from Washington and all over the country showcasing their beers. I get giddy like a school girl just thinking about it. Every year a different brewery is chosen as the host, and brews a beer to kick off the festival. The Double IPA was a natural choice to showcase Washington’s proud hop growing tradition, and Seattleites love for a big, hoppy, IPA. Pike’s Double IPA gives proper respect to both.
When someone says, “do you want a beer?” most people have a style in mind that to them says beer. For my wife it is a porter or stout that is chocolaty, with a hint of coffee. For others it is a Pilsner that numbs your hand when pulled out of a cooler filled with icy water. For me, it is the big texture of a well crafted Double IPA that is generously hopped, with a firm malty balance. A good IPA evokes a sense of calm and relaxation; a time to just enjoy a moment. Whether that moment is both of my kids falling asleep, the end of a hard days work, or a good game on TV, a well rounded, hoppy beer like the Pike Double IPA is the beer I want. A big citrusy, grassy hop flavor up front is complimented nicely with just the right amount of alcohol and semi-sweet bready malt, make this IPA hearty, but drinkable. At 8% ABV it’s not a beer you can drink all night, but one to savor and enjoy.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to pair beer with. When sifting through the wide variety of choices at my local bottle shop, it reminds me how far American craft beer has come in the last twenty years. With maverick Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head going mainstream (which I regard as a good thing) with his show “Brew Masters”, the notion that “beer should taste like beer” is being replaced with, “if it tastes good drink it!” Adjuncts, like corn and rice, once used as filler to cut costs, are being replaced with ingredients like herbs, chocolate, spices, pumpkin, and honey to enhance the flavor of beer. These adjuncts, when used well, can make for some terrific beer pairings for turkey day. There’s beer for the football and snacks, beer with dinner (usually a few varieties), and beer with the pies. Our main pie was a sweet potato and pecan pie, so I chose the Mocha Death from Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, Washington. Despite the slightly intimidating moniker, Mocha Death is an approachable dark ale, brewed with espresso beans and pure cocoa. The result is exactly what you would expect and hope: dark roasted maltiness with just the right hint of coffee and bittersweet chocolate. The espresso beans and cocoa are added to their Quilter’s Irish Death dark ale, which weighs in at 7.8%ABV. Mocha Death is strong, but not over the top by any stretch of the imagination.
Iron Horse brings out Mocha Death in October, and it is a perfect beer for a brisk fall, or cold winter day. I am all for brewers breaking away from the notion that a cold weather seasonal needs to taste like a spice cake and a spruce tree had a 9% alcohol baby, so Mocha Death represents what great craft brewing is all about; bucking tradition, making beer that goes with a great meal, or just to enjoy after a hard day’s work.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
As a rule, I do generally do not include limited rarities on the best of Washington list. I feel that it’s a little cruel to describe a great beer and then say, “doesn’t that sound good? Well…you can’t get it.” Hopefully everyone who was lucky enough to get a bottle or pint of the Dark O’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout will encourage the good folks at Elysian to brew more next year. Elysian’s Great Pumpkin Beer Festival in mid October is drawing huge crowds every year with countless varieties of pumpkin beers, so they’re more than doing their part to spread word of pumpkin beers, I guess I would just like to see pumpkin beers available through Thanksgiving. I’m pushing for this extension because after one sip of the Dark O’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout, my first thought was that this beer would be perfect with Thanksgiving pies. Dark O’ the Moon has all of the characteristics of my ideal stout:creamy, hints of dark chocolate, with just a faint bitterness. DOM compliments these flavors with pronounced-but not overpowering pumpkin (added three times during the brewing process)-with just a little touch of cinnamon. In short, all of the flavors you would want to accompany your holiday pies.
So, to the folks at Elysian, please, please, please make more of this beer next year (and more Saison Poivre), so everyone in Seattle can have at least one bottle for Halloween, and one for Thanksgiving. Dark O’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout was an exceptional beer that woke up my palate and made me happy to be living during the craft beer revolution. I will be thinking of it wistfully this Thanksgiving.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I think you would be hard pressed to find a beer lover from Washington State that would argue that Boundary Bay’s Inside Passage Ale (a.k.a. India Pale Ale) does not belong on this list. In today’s beer culture West Coasters have been screaming for more and more hops, and breweries are obliging by continually upping the hop ante. I like a good hoppy IPA as much as the next guy (probably more), but not at the expense of texture and balance. Anyone can load a beer with copious amounts of hops. The art of the IPA is to make it hop forward, not too resinous, with a finish that lingers a little, but doesn’t wear out its welcome. Most importantly-and most frequntly ignored-a good IPA should have a fresh grain maltiness to help temper the hop bitterness. Boundary Bay has accomplished all of these things with their IPA.
The Inside Passage Ale has a bright grapefruity, pine forest hop flavor from local hops, a slight butterscotchy maltiness, and a bold texture that fills your palate. An odd part of Boundary Bay’s appeal is its inconsistency. Not that sometimes it is better than others inconisistent; it just varies a little from batch to batch. Sometimes the burnt orange color is a slightly different shade, sometimes the grapfruit is more pronounced, or it’s a little cloudier: little subltle differences to pique the regular drinkers interest.
Over the last fifteen years Boundary Bay’s Pub and Brewery have become a fixture in the Bellingham community, and is a must stop if you are in the area. Their beers can be found all over Washington, and if it is not pouring at your local pub, start bugging the owner to get it.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Dick Young’s sudden and premature passing last October was a serious blow to the Washington beer community. One small consolation is that his memory will continue through his great beer. If you want to raise a toast to Dick Young’s memory (as I still do every time I have one of his beers), the beer he would want to be toasted with is undoubtedly the Dick Danger Ale. A porter and pale ale hybrid, the Danger Ale is literally in a class all by itself, but also familiar and comforting as well. For me, I will always associate the Danger Ale with snowboarding at Crystal Mountain. A staple at their bar for as long as I can remember, the Danger Ale is the perfect beer for snow sports. It’s dark and roasty like a porter, but with a little caramel and light hop of a pale ale. The Danger is also low in alcohol so you could have one with lunch and not wrap your board/skis around a tree later in the afternoon.
Dick Danger Ale was Dick Young’s favorite beer, and I can see why. It’s got hints chocolate malt, but too much. It has a richer texture than a Pale, but is not at all heavy. Dick Danger is really a dark session beer. All of the flavors make it clear that he was well versed in the classic English styles, but decided to make something unique and new with those flavors. That spirit is everything the American Craft brewing revolution is all about. Fusing the familiar to create something original is what makes this the most exciting time in history to be a beer lover, and Washington is one of the greatest places in the world to enjoy great beers made with creativity, style, and artisan craftsmanship. I raise my glass to you Dick Young. May his legacy and his beers live on long after we are all gone.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
The Islander Pale Ale from Maritime Pacific Brewing makes the list because it is the all purpose go to guy in my fridge. Assertively hopped but not too heavy in body, it’s bitter enough for most hopheads, but still drinkable for guests who might not want a 80+ IBU double IPA, a rauchbier, a Flemish Sour, or any of the other beer geeky beers I may have on hand.
Maritime’s Flagship Red was the first Seattle beer I had when I moved here 17 years ago, but it is the Islander Pale that would evoke more memories if I were to ever move away. This is a beer that has helped define the category of American Pale Ale. The Islander vaguely resembles its English predecessor, but it has grown up and branched off from the mild bodied pales from Burton-on-Trent. Bolstered with a little wheat to add body and carbonation, and generously hopped with Yakima and Czech Republic varieties, this is a beer that is truly old world meets new world brewing. At only 5%ABV it makes a good session beer for a summer barbeque, or a Christmas party. While I am grateful for the wide variety of beer choices available in America’s beer renaissance, sometimes I just want a nice balance of fresh grain, solid body, and a pronounced hoppy finish that doesn’t wear out its welcome. Actually, it’s not just sometimes, this is a beer that I want often enough to be a staple in my fridge. I also love the mini-burgers at their pub in Ballard that they have been serving long before lil’ burgers were as trendy as they are now. Keep brewing “in the Northwest with imagination” Maritime!
Monday, May 10, 2010
At the bottom of the Black Raven tap handle it says, “Ales of great distinction and character”. A statement of that sort is like bringing your own pool cue to a bar; you better have the game to back it up. After an opening year filled with awards at Seattle’s Winter Beer Fest, multiple medals at The World Beer Cup in Chicago, and winning Beverage Place Pub’s IPA battle with the Trickster IPA- unseating reigning four year champion Boundary Bay. I’d say that’s backing it up.
The Trickster India Pale Ale is everything a Northwest IPA should be. A strong pine and fir tree hop flavor-like a Washington forest-with just the right amount of grapefruit bitterness, the Trickster is definitely hoppy, but doesn’t try to stuff a Yakima hop farm into every keg. The Trickster has a deep amber hue, and a nice carbonation level. Enough fizz to leave a solid lace down the glass, not so bubbly as to obscure the texture. I love a big double IPA as much as the next hophead, but most of the time I want a beer with some body and bitterness that doesn’t lay me out if I want to have a few. At 6.8% ABV the Trickster delivers on this front as well. Congratulations Black Raven, you’ve had a helluva first year, and I doubt that this will be your only beer that makes my list.
Monday, April 19, 2010
If there was an award in the beer world for most improved player, Snoqualmie's Spring Fever would win. It's always been a quality beer, and would still have made the cut at BeerandBeyond several years ago, but every year it seems to be fine tuned just a little. Spring Fever is a Belgian style Grand Cru (French for 'great growth'), the color of tawny port, with a little bit of coriander added. In the past I have viewed American versions of Belgian style beers the same way I think of Major League Soccer. I enjoy them both and am happy to support them, but they are just not quite as good as their European counterparts. That view has now changed for beer, almost for MLS. Spring Fever is now ready to compete with the Grand Cru's of Belgium. This beer has strong tropical fruit flavor, notably passion fruit and pineapple, but is balanced by just the right amount of hop aroma to reel in the sweetness and Belgian yeast esters. I didn't get much of the coriander flavor-which is by no means a criticism-it is just nicely blended with the other ingredients. A Belgian White will beat you over the head with coriander, the Spring Fever massages your palate with just a hint of spice. It did taste and feel like a little bit more than 7% ABV though. After finishing a 220z. bottle I had a little bit of a buzz, and I drank part of it with dinner. Again, not a criticism, just be careful if you have heavy machinery to operate later. Congratulations to the folks at Snoqualmie for continuing to improve this beer every year. There's a big difference between subtle tweaking and re-inventing the wheel!