The Brewers: Schools Out, Beers In for Schooner Exact
***Today’s post comes to us from our good friend Mark Leavens, former brewer from the Gilligans Brewing outfit. Though Gilligans has shut down, Mark still home brews on a large scale and is planning some big things for the future. Mark has been invited to share beer stories on occasion at BeerBlotter.com.***
If you were listening closely enough on June 17th you would have heard Alice Cooper’s voice wailing, ‘Schoooooollls out for EVER’ at Schooner Exact Brewing Company. Minus black eye liner, fake blood, and necks being constricted by boas, this marked the day Schooner Exact owners Heather and Matt McClung officially ended their teaching careers to focus solely on brewing beer to share with us thirsty folk. But just because they are through with teaching, don’t expect Schooner Exact to stop schooling us with their beer!
After three and a half years of bouncing from an ActivSpace (f@#! them, see history of Gilligan’s Brew Co. and Two Beers Brew Co.) garage, to a shared warehouse space with Trade Route Brewing Co. in South Park, Schooner Exact has finally landed their own space in the SODO district of Seattle and upgraded to a 15 barrel brewing system!
A couple of friends and I had the opportunity to stop by their tap house/brewery the other day to congratulate Heather and Matt for quitting their day jobs. I assure you though, the kids will be fine. I’m a substitute teacher.
Located just south of the West Seattle Bridge/Spokane St. on 1st Ave. S., and just north of the bridge over the train tracks, Schooner Exact is admittedly not an easy place to reach for those of us living north of downtown. However, with sandwich boards labeled ‘BEER!’ set up out front, we knew exactly where to steer our bikes.
A huge loading dock covered with picnic tables provided ample outdoor seating and an appropriate entryway to beer school. With the 12’ tall loading door open, the brand new taproom seemed massive and yet very welcoming, especially with Heather at the helm behind the bar.
The tap list consisted of the Schooner Exact classics 3-Grid IPA, Regrade Pale Ale and Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen, which were accompanied by their Gateway Golden, King St. Brown, Seamstress Union Raspberry Wheat, and the infamous and award-winning Hoppy the Woodsman rounding out the lot. Teacher approved, these tap handles formed a superb single file line down the hallway of awesomeness.
Not wanting to jump right into the 9.6% ABV bourbon barrel aged Woodsman, I decided to start light and crisp with the easy drinking Golden Ale. If proposed with the proposition, I would have gladly consumed this pint of gold heaven all night long while partying at the moon tower, but there were more options to douse my taste buds that day, so it was time to move on to the malty rich Brown. Comprised of a blend of chocolate and special Belgian malts, this silky smooth ale slithered down the pipe while leaving a satisfyingly sweet finish with the palate.
Speaking of pipes, apparently if one is adventurous enough or at least willing to try something once, Heather and Matt will gladly serve up the ‘Shocker.’ This concoction is two parts pink (Raspberry Wheat), one part Brown and will leave you all tingly inside.
I didn’t get shocked or do any shocking this particular day, but I probably wouldn’t tell you that much about my personal life anyhow, so I’m just going to change the subject and let you decide whether or not to pull out, or should I say, put in the ‘shocker.’ By the way, the raspberry wheat was as thick and delicious as a wheat beer should be and had a strong fruity aroma.
So anyway, to contrast the sweetness it was time to part the cheeks, er, I mean open the mouth and hop away. 3-Grid IPA. Exceptional! This well-balanced brew is one of my favorite IPA’s being brewed in Seattle right now. It’s a must try for someone who prefers an IPA where the bitterness doesn’t destroy your sense of what anything else tastes like.
But for those hop heads out there, let it be known that Matt and his new brewing partner Dave ‘Hutch’inson (formerly of the Rogue Issaquah brewery and Georgetown Brewing) are putting out a series of experimental Imperial IPA’s, with the most recent one being called the ‘Virgil Gamachinator.’ Brewed with a ton of citrusy Amarillo hops, this behemoth rounds out at 87 IBU’s and 9% ABV! Find it and drink it.
To remind us again that beer school was still in session, Matt brought out the bourbon barrel aged Hoppy the Woodsman. Enter ‘giddy like a little school girl’ line. First introduced to me at the 2008 Winter Beer Fest, this brew has won 1st and 3rd place in back-to-back years of pouring at Hale’s. It has officially put the former high school chemistry teacher and Schooner Exact on the brewing podium while putting their beer on tap all over Seattle.
Go see and taste for yourself. You WILL be schooled!