If you live in the Seattle area and you like beer enough to read this blog, chances are pretty good that you will be hitting up Big Wood Fest at Brouwer’s Cafe, if not on opening night (Thursday Dec. 2), at some point this coming weekend. Hopefully you have already gazed upon the outstanding preliminary list which can be found on our site here and on Brouwer’s blog.
Clearly, there’s a lot of options to chose from, and all of us, most unfortunately, only have one measly liver to assist us in tackling them. This is where we come in. We drink a lot of beer. We have been to BWF several times now. If you want to make sure that you order your barrel aged beers wisely, heed our advice. We don’t think that you will be disappointed.
I’ve decided to choose my top 15. These are the beers that I plan to sample, based on the current list. It’s my game plan. I know what you are thinking, and yes, I actually do think that I can try 15 beers. When bb.com goes to big beer events at Brouwer’s, where there is never a cover, we make sure to roll deep. We bring out as many friends as possible, we direct them on what to order, and then we drink their beers (of course we let them drink ours too). Always be sure to order the smallest size that is offered, every time. These events are all about getting your hands, and tastes buds, on as many special and rare beers as possible.
This list is, as always with Brouwer’s events, subject to change because it is very likely that the final list will include a few eye-popping secrets. This year I’m hoping to see a few more special Hair of the Dog beers, more vintage Bottleworks Anniversary beers like barrel aged Ivan the Terrible, and maybe some more killer locals like Petite Mort from Black Raven or some Big Time treats.
Deviation is the best Russian River beer that I have ever had (and that puts it very high on my all time list, if not at the top). Also, Bottleworks periodically pulls some out of their cellar and sells it for nearly $100 a bottle. I think I bought it for $15. This beer is the epitome of rare and the epitome of mind-blowingly delicious. Please, don’t order this so that I can drink it all, that is, if it really does still exist…
As soon as I flipped my calendar to October, I immediately began to have thoughts of pumpkin beers. The countdown began to the weekend of October 16 and Elysian Brewing Co.’s Great Pumpkin Beer Fest. High profile names were released a couple of weeks before the event- Russian River, Jolly Pumpkin, Avery and Allagash. I could barely contain myself as thoughts of pumpkins danced in my head.
Pumpkin beers are an interesting breed. I find that people are disappointed when the beer doesn’t ooze pumpkin flavor. Although the juice of this large gourd does tickle my taste buds, I find the balance of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice just as tantalizing. Pumpkin beers are experimental and open for innovative interpretation which is why this particular beer fest is one I cannot miss.
Dick Cantwell, head brewer and owner of Elysian Brewing Co. is at the forefront of pumpkin beers. Not only does Dick host this event at his brewery’s Capital Hill location, he brews not one but eight (or more) pumpkin beers for this special weekend.
Elysian Pumpkin beers:
Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, The Great Pumpkin, Dark o’ the Moon Pumpkin Stout, Hansel & Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner, Kaiser Kurbis Pumpkin Hefeweizen, PK-47 Pumpkin Malt Liquor, Jack-O-Bite and Mr. Yuck Sour Pumpkin Ale
Enough introduction, the time has come and gone. We have enjoyed, tasted and conquered all that is the Great Pumpkin Beer Fest. There were beers to remember, beers that didn’t live up to our expectations, glorious weather and hassles of space. The Good,The Not So Good and The Awesome of Elysian’s 6th Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Fest:
- The event takes place outside and today it was sunny and crisp out. Elysian was decorated with mounds of hay, pumpkins and corn stalks. If this doesn’t put you in a festive autumn mood, then there is something seriously wrong with you. SERIOUSLY.
- The taster glass is a 4 oz (glass) snifter with an evil pumpkin face. This creative glassware is coveted by beer fest goers all around Seattle.
- Beers from all over the country: California, Michigan, Delaware, Massachusetts, Washington and more!
- Silver City’s Punk Rauchen - a pumpkin rauchbier where instead of smoking the barley like a traditional German style rauchbier they smoked pumpkins for 6 hours over apple-wood. This beer tastes like sausage, as most rauchbiers do, but also has an earthy smoothness that I attribute to the pumpkins.
- Snipes Mountain Pumpkin Death Stout- first of all, I am really into Snipes Brewing Co. and think they produce only top-notch beers. This is no exception. I always get excited when I see pumpkin infused stouts because I love stouts and I am always curious to see if the brewer is able to bring the pumpkin flavors and spices to the forefront of a style that is already overwhelmed with roasted malt flavors. Pumpkins do not inherently have a lot of flavor and here, in the Pumpkin Death Stout it is minimal. The beer however is very enjoyable, smooth and creamy.
- Elysian Brewing Co.’s Jack-O-Bite- we were pleasantly surprised by this beer which is a pumpkin ale aged in Jack Daniels barrels. This beer had a bite and lived up to its name. It had warming qualities and the spices were reminiscent of a winter ale. Delicious.
The Not So Good
- Planning a huge event is no easy task. Debriefing is proactive and there is always room for improvement. We hope that the Great Pumpkin Beer Fest will someday celebrate its 25th Annual fest. The Great Pumpkin Fest has outgrown the parking lot of the brewery. Within 30 minutes of opening the flood gates, there was barely room to stand. Problem solver: expand to all three Elysian venues, although this might complicate the logistics, it would spread the crowd. Another option would be to expand to the park across the street or to some other space that is connected to the brewery.
- Long lines-Due to the large number of people, there were very long lines to get your beers. Although these lines moved rather quickly, the lines, no matter what station, were around 30 people deep. A lot of people I spoke to would just get a beer and get back on line for the next one on their list. Problem solver: Instead of having 1 person pouring 2-4 beers, have 2-3 people pouring at each station. People love to volunteer to pour at events- tap into these willing beer lovers.
- Confusion about what line led to what station. Due to the small space, lines crossed each other and merged into the masses. I found myself accidentally waiting on line for the wrong station on a couple of occasions. This would be alleviated by the two suggestions above.
- No food outside. Now, I understand that it would be too much to staff the outside area. Problem Solver: Instead of sending wait staff out to take and deliver orders, hire an outside vendor. Something simple will do, such as a sausage stand or roasted corn. People are there for the beer, not food necessarily. However, it would be nice to stay outside, enjoying the fest while getting something in your stomach, especially because the inside was packed full of people sitting and enjoying their meal.
Besides the Good and the few tiny Not So Goods, there are some AWESOMES! Please note: all of the awesomeness are beer related. I did not get to try all of the beers, as I am only human and not all of the beers were pouring during my visit.
- Elysian’s Great Pumpkin- If you recall earlier in this article when I discuss the average beer drinker’s expectations of pumpkin beers having an easily detected pumpkin flavor, well this is the beer that hits it out of the park. One sip and its as though you are drinking pumpkin juice. It isn’t very sweet, it is slightly bitter, thick in texture and pumpkin to the core. No wonder this festival is named after the beer (or vice versa).
- Iron Hill’s Bruce Camp Ale- their Imperial Pumpkin Ale aged in bourbon barrels was my introduction to this Pennsylvania brewery and man, am I impressed. Caramel in color with a bubble gum, sweet liquor scent. The thick mouth-feel creates a sensation as if there are sugar crystals are melting into your taste buds. As the flavor profile develops, the bourbon sweetness transitions into a slight funk. As the beer warms, the transition become smoother, just like a stiff bourbon drink.
- Russian River’s Pumpkin Sour- As I crossed the threshold into the pouring area, I quickly scanned the signs for Russian River. A quintessential Vinny sour with a citrus scent, it tasted like Temptation infused with spices. The sourness was bold and the spices complemented the citrus tartness.
- Jolly Pumpkin’s La Parcela- this sour beer aged in American oak with added coco was more earthy than tart (I generally expect more tartness from a sour ale. The smell was hypnotic with a combination of cinnamon and apples warming my soul. A smooth body with mellow flavors that begin to intensify as the sip develops. A harvest spice paired with earthy flavors followed by a subtle sweetness.
What a great day– one that will go down in infamy. There were unexpected breweries that produced exemplary beers, weather was on our side (for once) and the love of beer in the air was palpable.
The Northwest Brewing News has rolled out its annual Reader’s Choice Poll – its time to vote. The Brewing News is a national brewing publication, severed into seven regional publications. Our good friend Geoff Kaiser writes for the Northwest edition, when he’s not manning the ship at Seattle Beer News.
Every year, the Brewing News holds a poll asking its readers to select the very best in the Northwest. Categories for best brewery, brewpub, bar, beer store, home brew shop and perhaps the most heated category – best bartender – are divided state by state. You may vote on the best Northwest beer for each style, as well.
When going through this poll, we noticed that we hit a few stumbling blocks. How do you pick between Hair of the Dog & Cascade Brewing? Is Uber Tavern a better place to grab a beer than The Dray? What the heck is down in Northern California? Don’t be ashamed to have to Rate Beer yourself a group of candidates, as long as you have actually experienced the pub, brewery or beer you intend to choose. But, if you are stuck – let us recommend a few:
Best Imperial IPA
Even with heavyweights like Russian River, Hopworks, Walking Man and Midnight Sun in the mix, and with Washington rising stars Boundary Bay and Port Townsend making their own cases – there can still be only one choice for us. Black Raven’s Wisdom Seeker licked the competition at Brouwers Hopfest. We have no reservations about this choice.
Best Strong Ale
The Northwest has always somewhat lacked in the big beer categories. But, there is no doubt that one strong ale has dominated the Northwest for many year – Hair of the Dog’s Fred. Alan Sprints has been making this beer for ages. If you have a vintage bottle laying around, you know what makes this complex ale so special. Vote with confidence.
Best Sour Beer
For years, I would probably have said that Russian River had this category killed with Consecration. But after recently tasting Cascade Brewing’s Noyeaux, I have reservations. Noyeaux was recently described in a post by our very own Timperial Stout. Check this one out before you mark down one of Russian River’s excellent choices.
Best NorCal Brewpub
We pushed Russian River out of the competition above, but here they take the cake. Backed by unprecedented selection and incredible beer food – there is no better place to grab a collection of beer and a delicious meal.
Best Washington Brewery
Some would say Boundary Bay has the history and fanfare to deserve this award. Some would say that Black Raven is the young gun that should take the title. We don’t disagree, but lets consider a 3rd choice – Snipes Mountain Brewing? You might think we are crazy but the Sunnyside, Washington brewer has been turning heads. Just about everything that brewer Chris Miller has put out of late, has shocked and awed. Food for thought.
Best Washington Bartender
Wow, we have some great bartenders up here in Seattle. We have a ton of love for Rachel up at Naked City, Natasha at The Dray and certainly Amy, down at Collins Pub. These three wonderful ladies have excellent beer IQs and care about their patrons. This gives them serious consideration.
But, to find someone who can advise, entertain, and take excellent care of you, all without being a giant asshole – priceless. Chris Cavanaugh is that guy. Chris can be found at three, count them, three amazing beer spots in Seattle. Once a fixture at Brouwers Cafe, Chris had to leave to tackle cancer. Once he returned to the bar, Chris grabbed spots at Elysian Brewing (Capitol Hill), The Stumbling Monk, and time behind the bar at Brouwers Cafe. There is one reason that he is at these three places – everyone loves him! Chris will give you great attention, wonderful advice, and excellent entertainment. Not once have we ever heard one person dislike him. Vote for this man.
So take a stab at the poll and let your voice be heard! You can access the poll by following this link. Got any other suggestions for choices, please post them in the comments below.
Enjoyed on 9/30/2010
Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
Location: Milton, DE
Beer: Burton Baton
Presentation: 12 oz. – Brown Glass Bottle – Capped
Style: American Style Imperial India Pale Ale blended with an English Old Ale
Hops: Warrior, Glacier
This is a blended beer that we’ve been brewing for the past several years and it’s recently been gaining in popularity.
For Burton Baton we first brew two ‘threads’ or batches of beer: an English-style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA. After fermenting the separate beers in our stainless tanks, the two are transferred and blended together in one of our large oak tanks. Burton Baton sits on the wood for about a month.
When enjoying the Burton Baton, you’ll find an awesome blend of the citrus notes from Northwestern hops melding with woody, vanilla notes from the oak. The wood also tends to mellow the 10% of the beer – so tread cautiously!
Beer Advocate: A- (4.13)
Rate Beer: 98 (3.74)
When I had this beer at Brouwer’s Hopfest I had forgotten how delicious it was. If you saw our review of said fest here, you probably noticed that it was our second favorite out of everything we tried, which was nearly 40 hopped up brews. It would be wrong of me to say that I’m surprised, after all, DFH is a force to be reckoned with. One can only fantasize about how those results could have been effected were 120 Minute IPA involved. Honestly, I don’t think that it would have mattered, at least for me. Never-the-less, ever since my re-discovery of the Baton, I have been unable to mosey past it in the bottleshops without grabbing one.
When you break this beer down to its core elements, it’s quite clear that Sam Calagione stepped into my psyche, rummaged around a bit, and popped out with a beer manifesto perfectly penned to make my knees wobble. I am gaga about old ales, gonzo about imperial IPAs and gung-ho about wood aged beers. Have your read my review of Great Divide‘s Hibernation, or my review of Russian River‘s Pliny the Elder? If you have, you probably got a sense of my intense passion for the styles. To blend the two, well, leave it to Sam to come up with that one. Yes, maybe it happens more than I know. Possibly, breweries do it and don’t advertise it as such. If they do, they should inform me and me only. I’ll keep that little nugget in the vault and acquire my fair share of the congenial cocktail for continued consumption.
If you haven’t done it already, I would highly recommend going to the Burton Baton page on the DFH website and watching the video of Sam describing the beer. The most interesting part is being able to see the wood vat that the beer ages in. It’s pretty epic.
A standard pour conjured a respectable head that rose like an ominous yellowish-white fog about an inch above the liquid. It took about 5 minutes to settle down to a thin foam and ring. The lacing is impressive, a dense slathering of porous paint on the inside of the glass. I gentle swirling of the brew causes the transparency of the glass to wither. The fluid itself is of a mysterious, cloudy amber hue that seems to vary from murky pond water brown to bright sunrise orange depending on the angle you hold it to the light.
The scent perplexes the mind with its unfathomable depth. I know not where to begin… The initial moment my nose hit the scent, I thought the wrong beer was in the bottle. There seemed to be coffee and cocoa emanating…from an IPA? As it warms just slightly, those notes seem to fade to the peripherals. Somewhere between then and when it’s warm enough to fully and properly experience, there are strong shots of lemon, blood orange, pine, and sweet baking doughs. The booze can be sensed early after the pour. Low temperatures do nothing to hide the 10%. It’s surprisingly medicinal, or nearly petroleum like with potency. To call this balanced in the nose is almost laughable. I mean yes, there is a gargantuan helping of lupulin here, and the gods themselves where heavy-handed with the malt bill, but to use the word balance seems to place some sort of neutrality tag on a beer that is far too massive to even fit on known scales. This is a beer for warriors, for Vikings, for kings of men. Wait, I haven’t even smelled it at proper temp yet let alone tasted it.
As it warms a bit more, a medicinal, syrupy hop quality really dominates, but all the while drizzled upon sweet buns hot out of the oven, soaked in rum. Sometimes granny gets a little nuts in the kitchen. Even more warmth leaves only the malt backbone and a nose hair singeing alcohol.
The mouthfeel is just as the smell would suggest, slick with sugars and minimal with effervescence. In this case, that’s what’s appropriate, and points are won for consistency. The words that I want to use to describe the flavors are bouncing around my head faster than I can collect them. The most striking of all is the re-emergence of what was inhaled at the very onset. Coffee? Again, I thought this was an IPA, and no, not a Cascadian dark version. Yes, there is some tinge of brown in the color, and lest we not forget the old ale swimming in our midst, but roasted malts? Clearly, nothing is off-limits for DFH.
The sweetness factor alone is multifaceted. I get a slight bubble gum quality along with the baked sweets. There is caramelized, near burnt sugar, which seems to play with the coffee and the hop bitterness to make a valiant attempt at blotting up the salivary glands. There are moments when my palette is left feeling chalky dry, but inevitably, the sugar cascade reigns supreme. No matter the juxtaposition in precipitants as I swallow, there is an undeniable need for more sips. Though, I must admit, that desire for more is mostly beset on the intrigue factor – intrigue for what happens before the swallow, to greater understand the ever emerging nuances in flavor.
And I mustn’t dare leave out the hops. Sure, they are in there – the piney, citrus aromas, the battling bitterness units… there is no mistake that this is a strong IPA, but the overall hop profile seems to lie in more of a supporting role. If you told me there was hop extract in this beer I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. There just isn’t enough room for the hop to substantially play on my taste buds. I couldn’t even begin to contemplate the varieties used, let alone where they may sit in the addition schedule. Does that hurt the score? Well, maybe to a very finite degree, but like I said, this is an IPA and there is no question about that. For the malt profile to be so brutally steadfast and for the ‘IPA’ moniker to still be obvious, how could one hold issue?
The aftertaste is the only flaw I can find here, but believe me, I’m stretching. The “burnt” flavors seem to latch on with the most strength after the fluid has passed. It’s a deep flavor that tells of the darker malts and the conditions of the wood that once housed the brew, or so I assume. 99% of the time, the byproduct of these elements brings me to my knees with delight. Here, I’m forlorn. For me, it’s not too different from being offered a fine cigar…or a Tom Waits album. I so badly want to have the experience enlighten me, but sadly, I just wasn’t built for it. I was, however, built for hop candy, and this is one of the supreme examples of just such a beer.
Color/Head/Retention [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.97
Odor [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.98
Carbonation/Mouthfeel [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.95
Hop Flavor [maximum of 3.00 points possible]: 2.79
Malt Flavor/Balance [maximum of 2.00 points possible]: 1.96
Finish/Aftertaste [maximum of 1.00 point possible]: 0.90
Total [maximum of 10.00 points possible]: 9.55
**Let me take a brief moment to apologize on the delay for our Hopfest in review article. We are working on something epic with two writers. For now, Erik provides a taste of our day.***
Every now and again, I run across a beer that’s so interesting, so tasty and so different than my normal preference, I become mildly obsessed with it, and spend most of my time trying to track it down. At Brouwer’s Hopfest last weekend, I found just such a beer.
Midnight Sun Brewing Co’s XXX Black Double IPA was my favorite beer of the festival. Before you ask, yes, I had a Wisdom Seeker and a Blind Pig and an Ace of Spades, and all the standouts. I even had a few very limited Firkins and a cask beer or two. Those were all exceptional, don’t get me wrong, but the XXX stood out for a couple good reasons.
Having spent most of the morning in a blissful hop-induced delirium, the surprise of XXX’s sweet, almost stouty malt profile was like taking a sip of lemonade on a hot day. The mouthfeel was almost as creamy as a good porter, but it finished strong with a not-to-dry, but fully developed hop bite.
Again, touting the wisdom of our very own Timperial Stout, balance is king. He taught be that over-emphasizing one flavor can lead to an underwhelming experience. I’m going to state my almost assuredly unpopular opinion that Russian River’s Blind Pig is a one-trick-pony. Sure, it’s an impressive trick, but drinking what is essentially hop extract got old after about 8 ounces.
Midnight Sun, however, has crafted a beer with such depth…such complexity, that one schooner wasn’t nearly enough. Unfortunately for me, I have to wait until January when they begin shipping it down to Washington, where it will be exclusively available in 22oz bottles for only a few months.
This was a good beer weekend.
A trip to Portland entailed Stone, Dogfish Head, Victory collaboration Saison Du Boef; Avery Maraja; Hair of the Dog Fred; Russian River Consecration; Double Mountain Saison and so much more! A trip to a new beer bar Apex was top notch (see our 52 weeks article later) and bottle shop, Beermongers was still impressive and reasonable priced!
As if that wasnt enough, we partook in an impromptu beer tour of Southern Washington up through Tacoma. With a Dogfish Head Sah’ Tea at Parkplace Tavern in Tacoma and a Lagunitas Lil’ Sumin’ Wild in Olympia, letting go of the weekend was very difficult. But there is a whole week ahead of us and plenty of beer events.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Captain Lawrence Imperial Porter and 2 Casks tonight!: Peekskill, New York
6:00PM-10:00PM @ Birdsall
Tonight a keg of Captain Lawrence’s new Imperial Porter will be tapped along with two exclusive CL gravity casks: Kolsch & Freshchester(dry hopped with Cascade hops). Dont miss out on this full Captain Lawrence line up, including a couple of new draught additions.
Tuesday, July, 20, 2010
Deschutes Night: Seattle, Washington
6:00PM-9:00PM @ Naked City Brewery and Taphouse
Tonight, Naked City features Bend, Oregon brewery, Deschutes. Known for amazing beers such as Abyss, the tap list includes Miss Spelt, Hop in the Dark, Jubel 2010 and Greenlakes Organic Ale. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Hoppin’ Frog Tasting: Shawnee, Kansas
7:00PM-9:00PM @ Barley’s Brewhouse
I am really happy to see Hoppin’ Frog, this Ohio based brewery get some love outside of its home state. Tonight, for $20.00 you can taste the following (they are all o’ so good) with some delicious food pairings: Wild Frog Wheat, B.O.R.R.I.S the Crusher Stout Paired with Teriyiaki glazed Wings, Mean Manalishi, paired with Fish and Chips, Silk Porter paired with our Chocolate Tort and Hoppin’ to Heaven IPA.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
25 Tap Bells Night: Grand Rapids, Michigan
6:00PM-2:00AM @ HopCat
I know we have posted a couple of events similar to this one, but it is so amazing. 25 taps of Bell’s Brewery beers tonight including: Two Hearted Ale (poured from a tap and from a firkin), the Cherry Stout and an ’08 Expedition Stout. SO good….so good.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Meet the Brewer of Brooklyn Brewing Co.: New Orleans, Louisiana
10:00PM- 12:00AM @ The Avenue Pub
We all know how much we love this place. So lets take this place in all of its glory and throw some Brooklyn Brewing beers on tap. Sold! Tonight, for $12.00, meet Garrett Oliver, head brewer and taste a sample of 5 amazing brews.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Barleywine Fest: Largo, Florida
5:00PM-11:00:M @ Willard’s Tap House
Granted its not barleywine season. Its summer after all. However, stop by Willard’s tonight and sample some flavorful beers including: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot, Southern Tier Back Burnner and Avery Hog Heaven (a hoppy barleywine).
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Rooftop Summer Wheat beer Dinner: Raleigh, North Carolina
7:00PM-9:00PM @ the Busy Bee Cafe
Now, sometime deliciously appropriate for the summer months, a wheat beer celebration. It’ll be a little more laid back than Busy Bee’s usual beer dinner and is only $35 per person. Enjoy Blanche de Bruxelles, Schneider Weiss, Great Divide Dunkel Weiss, and Terrapin Gamma Ray all on draft for this 4 course dinner! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets or more info.
Whats in stock for your beer future? Plan on attending an event? Want us to post an event? Then please leave a comment or email us at email@example.com! Cheers!
Russian River Brewing has been the topic of discussion on this blog on several occasions. But none was more read and reviewed than our post on the 2010 release of Pliny the Younger, Beer Advocates, previous #1 beer in the world. (now #2)
Last spring, Vinnie sent some specialties to Philadelphia, including some of that delicious Pliny the Younger. Because the beer had not been registered with the state, officials raided bars that had it on tap and confiscated the goodness.
This is not going to happen again.
With Philly Beer Week in full bloom, Russian River made sure that their beers were registered this year. In fact, Vinnie is even poking a bit of fun at the ridiculous raid that probably resulted in a bunch of state troopers getting drunk on amazing beer that they didn’t even enjoy.
BeerNews.Org published a story that Russian River has registered “Registration Ale” and will be pouring it this week. From their site:
Earlier this spring, Russian River Brewing and a host of other breweries were caught in the middle of some controversy in Philadelphia. Officials raided some beer bars for unregistered beers and some brews were confiscated as a result. For Russian River Registration Ale, Vinnie Cilurzo made sure to properly register this one with the local liquor governing body. He asked me to keep this a secret back in April and I obliged. Not sure if it is new or a re-label of an existing beer in the catalog as he was pretty tight-lipped about it. People can enjoy it on tap around the city this week.
Who knows what’s in that keg – who cares. That beer is golden. I hope that everyone in Philly enjoys – it cost them $75.00 to get that puppy registered.
Seattle’s sustainable brewer, Fremont Brewing, is making a big splash. Amidst increasing exposure and growing popularity, Fremont Brewing is finally rolling out a canning line. Even more exciting (to us) is that Fremont has begun the process of producing sour beer, right here in Washington state.
Both of these items were disclosed by way of a blog post today at the brewery’s website. The blog post states that the brewery acquired a used canning system that will allow them to put beer in a can at impressive rates.
From the post:
The used caning line Matt scored for us arrived yesterday! It’s a manual system capable of canning 20 cases an hour. Now we just have to buy some cans (minimum order: 85,000) and soon you’ll see us in grocery stores — and elsewhere…
This is some pretty exciting stuff. If Fremont moves quickly, they will be the 3rd (2nd?) canner in the state of Washington. Whats great about this news is that shows that Fremont has fulfilled its dreams.
When the first announcements of Fremont’s launching were released, the press release promised canning – now they have fulfilled that lofty goal. Congrats Fremont, we cannot wait to crack a beer.
More interesting to many of us at BeerBlotter.com was the claim that Fremont began barreling its Universale Pale Ale in Cabernet barrels this week. That beer will be fermented using wild yeasts to create sour ale. Yum.
Washington brewers and sour ale have not historically joined forces. Minuscule batches of sour ales have been brewed in the past for super-limited releases from Elysian Brewing and Big Al Brewing, but nothing consistently produced and available to the public.
Fremont’s sour ale endeavor involves using a pale ale, aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels. The concoction may closely resemble that used to create Russian River Brewing’s Consecration (though no fruit was mentioned).
Lets just hope that Fremont sticks with this trend. Sour beer is a great seller and something that can raise a brewer’s profile considerably.
Hey, maybe they will even entertain the idea of canning their new sour creation? Its highly doubtful, but its been done – just ask Rodenbach, who’s Grand Cru can be found in cans throughout Belgium.
We cannot wait to try both of the new products from one of Washington’s finest.
Collaborative brewing is a trend that has been impossible to ignore lately. It’s rampant in the craft brewing community. Beer Blotter couldn’t be more excited about this. It’s a concept that we wholly embrace. Communicating, sharing, supporting, uplifting. We do our very best every day to create a dialogue. To talk to brewers, bar owners, bartenders, bar patrons…beer lovers of every kind, to teach and to learn. To build upon this incredible community, to be a constructive member, to both give and receive. It’s a small faction of a larger concept…life.
It’s a really good feeling to be a part of a sub-culture of like-minded souls. We love and respect beer, you love and respect beer, let’s hug. When breweries that exist in the same sub-genre of commerce and compete for the same consumer’s (our) money decide to hug instead of scratch and claw, we get a little emotional. It reinforces how special it is…this community of ours. Breweries supporting each other, coming together as colleagues, teaching and learning from each other, and creating something special for us all instead of stepping on each other to reach the top alone.
A warming, parallel example of this hand-in-hand approach to capitalism can be found in the independent music community. Though it is not as common as it once was, the split 7” epitomizes this concept. Two or more like-minded bands join together to release an EP length record or CD, most traditionally with one new song from each band and one cover of one the opposite band’s songs. This can be very valuable to the musicians because it allows for a co-mingling of fans. Where one listener may have supported one band on a split and previously been unaware of the other band(s) work, there now becomes an instant increase in listenership. A simple concept, the more folks that hear your work the more potential for success. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it, but it takes a special kind of someone to put it into play and not feel threatened. Most “corporations” wouldn’t dare.
One of the first collaboration beers that I remember being privy to was/is Collaboration Not Litigation, an incredibly cleverly named beer by Russian River Brewing and Avery Brewing. This cross-pollination spawned from the quandary that both breweries had a beer named Salvation, Avery’s a Belgian strong golden ale and Russian River’s a Belgian strong dark ale. Instead of taking it to litigation in the court room, they hashed it out in Avery’s Boulder, CO brewing space and blended the two. The resulting concoction was truly a masterpiece (not surprising at all when you observe the work of these two master-brewers) and it continues to be blended and bottles to date.
One of the very first series of collaboration beers came at the hands of the ever –industrious De Proef Brouwerij. The Signature Series began in 2007 with a collaboration with Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing. This Belgian strong pale ale could easily sustain my beer needs for the rest of eternity. So good! The second, Les Deux Brasseurs, saw Allagash assist in brewing a golden ale fermented with multiple strains of Brett.
At this point it was quite obvious that De Proef had a firm finger on the pulse of American Brewing. Any doubts that their choice in counterparts came with a roll of the dice were quickly squandered. And, above all, the prophesy embedded in the split 7” theory was brought to fruition. To Belgians: a starter course on the strength and boldness of American brewers, while simultaneously proving a knowledge and respect of tradition; to Americans: introduction to a great, and inspirational, international member of the “in it for the community” brewer. Just mild research on De Proef brings to light their revolutionary “brewery for hire” stance that simply epitomizes the collaborative spirit.
The third, and most recent, was with Bells Brewery. This was a smokey Belgian dark ale of much intrigue. The 2010 edition of the Signature Series will be an Imperial Flanders Red Ale brewed in collaboration with Terrapin Beer Co. of Athens, GA. Beer Blotter has one of each edition saved up in the cellar, and the addition of the 2010 release just may spawn a Signature Series Vertical Night. The recent announced that the first two editions will be re-released in mid-April of this year gives hope to the not-so-obsessive beer drinker/collector to reproduce just such a vertical.
Quite possibly the most notable collaboration in brewing history is the creation of Isabelle Proximus, or, the beer brewed by the Brett Pack. When a brew of any kind is made by the likes of Tomme Arthur (Port Brewing/Lost Abbey), Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River), Rob Tod (Allagash), Adam Avery (Avery) and Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head), beer nerds are going to freak. When that beer is a barrel aged sour ale inspired by Belgian lambics, game over!
The story starts in November of 2005 when Sam Calagione was working on his second book, Extreme Brewing. In preparation for his drafting of said book he asked each member, of what would then become the Brett Pack, to take a trip to Belgium with him and tour numerous Gueze and Lambic producing breweries. Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen and Boon, amongst others were visited and studied. Amidst their travels and through various sour beer inspired (drunken) conversation, it became relevant that a collaborative Lambic inspired beer should be made back in the States.
In November of ’06 the travelers reconvened at Port Brewing in San Marcos, CA, each with 4 oak barrels and house cultures from their own sour brewing program in tow. One base beer was brewed under the direction of all 5 brewers and then aged in 18 of the barrels. After the aging, each was tasted and then a blending of 17 of the samples produced the final product. Beer Blotter had the distinct privilege of tasting this extremely rare beer both on tap and in the bottle thanks to the crafty folks over at Brouwer’s. It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, an orgasmic experience for the ages.
There have been so, so many more collaboration brews of note in the past few years that we will just have to wait until part two for more on them.
To be continued…
On Saturday beeradvocate.com announced, via their twitter feed, that the very long standing #1 on their list of the Best Beer on Planet Earth, Westvleteren 12, had been overtaken by Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Younger. This news comes in the wake of San Francisco Beer Week, which was kicked off with the annual release of said beer at the Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa, CA. The beer was completely drained from the coffers of the brewery in less than a day.
For all the rating nerds out there, BA has it at an A+ / 4.63, where Westvleteren 12 is at A+ / 4.62. Yes, an extremely thin margin. Just for a little perspective, the other beer rating giant, ratebeer.com, pegs the beer at #12 in its top beers in the world. Its elder uncle, Pliny the Elder, makes the list in the 18 position.
For those that don’t know, Russian River’s Pliny the Younger is a draft only triple IPA that weighs in at 11% abv and is a liquid hop candy delight poured from the chalice of God himself. It is pretty darn rare, but if you live on the West Coast, keep your eyes and ears peeled at all times, have a really fast car and no job, and know someone important in the bar industry, chances are at least plausible that you could get a taste. This is unlike the overtaken Westvleteren 12, which has been unanimously the best beer in the world for as long as I have been aware of these lists, and is even more difficult to acquire.
Westvleteren 12 is a bottle conditioned Belgian Trappist Ale brewed by Saint Sixtus Abbey in Northwest Belgium. Only 160,000 cases of 12 are produced each year and, with the exception of a very few number of crafty European beer bars, can only be purchased from the Abbey that brews it. To top it all off, due to the limited nature of the brew, the Abbey limits the amount of cases one can purchase at any one time.
Point is, as rare as Younger is, not many beers in the world are rarer than 12. One can assume, of course, that flavor plays a large role in the grand status of these beers as well. I have, luckily, had the fortune to taste the great Younger and can honestly say that I believe it is worth the hype. It is, well… a liquid hop candy delight poured from the chalice of God himself. I cannot, yet, tell you of the flavor majesty of 12, but Belgium is only a month away and you can be assured that Saint Sixtus Abbey is on the agenda.
Now, how can us Seattleites find Younger?
Sadly, the first Seattle keg has already been slain.
Collins Pub in Pioneer Square was the first Seattle bar to tap Younger, putting it on at 4:00 pm on Friday and announcing it, again via Twitter, at 12:41pm. The keg was kicked in 20 minutes. We do however believe that this was a 1/6 barrel keg (per rumor). We hold out some hope for 1/2 barrels elsewhere.
Your next chance: Naked City Taphouse in Greenwood. Today at 5:00 pm the next keg will be tapped alongside a keg of Elder. Naked City, yet again proving why it was rated the 42nd best beer bar in the world on ratebeer.com.
Beer Blotter has also caught wind of a tapping at Brouwer’s Café tonight (we don’t need to talk up Brouwer’s). Indications were that Brouwer’s would be tapping around 6:00 PM.
If you work today, or otherwise have a life not entirely dictated by beer, there may be more opportunities to savor Younger in the near future. Considering Brouwer’s relationship with Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they have more than one keg, and that they save it for Brett Pack night of Seattle Beer Week or for their annual IPA fest.
Beer Blotter, on the other hand, has a life entirely dictated by beer, and therefore will be found, most likely, at both Naked City and Brouwer’s tonight. Find us, say hi, and salute great beer!
Pliny the Younger, Best Beer in the World?