On Friday, Beer Blotter offered its 300th post! Over less than a year has elapsed since we first went public on BeerBlotter.com. We have a had a blast so far, and we look forward to much more ahead.
In almost 11 months, we have managed to put up more than 300 stories (this article is #302). From our editor’s first beer review of Lazy Magnolia’s Jefferson Stout to Mark Leavens’ review of sandwich board art over at Atlantic Crossing – we have come a long way.
While we look forward to big changes over here, we wanted to take a look into the past and discuss the three biggest, and most memorable, moments in our short history. We have visited Belgium, Holland, France, Canada, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland, New York, Washington DC, Portland, Chicago and more – all in that 11 month period.
These three moments stick out the most:
#3 — Beer Blotter Spawns From the New Orleans Beer Arrival & A Chicago Surprise
If you have ever visited New Orleans, you are probably aware that its almost impossible to find a good beer. You are almost assured of being stuck drinking some fruity concoction of a massive amount of liquor. Not anymore.
We visited New Orleans in the beginning of last November with little knowledge of any beer scene. But, we stumbled our way through bar after bar and discovered that craft beer does exist. In fact, we were floored with what we found; hope for a good future was established.
While we were in New Orleans, our editor was surprised with a no notice flight up to Chicago. It was her first visit – and a great opportunity to see an amazing world of craft beer. We visited the Publican, drank Three Floyds at the Map Room, bought a bounty of beer at Binnys and took in a Browns v. Bears game, before returning to New Orleans.
Upon returning, we decided to launch this site. Beer Blotter was born over a pint of Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout and NOLA Hopitoulas at the Avenue Pub. From that moment – 300 articles followed.
#2 — The Crew Visits West Flanders
The entire crew decided to throw down and take an excursion to Belgium, back in March. We planned the trip for a period of 12 months, holding epic Belgian beer tastings once a week until we left. As part of the trip, we decided to visit Germany, France and Holland as well.
Every day was filled with splendor. From the iconic bottle shops, to the revolutionary brewers, Belgium brought us to our knees. We saw Cantillon in Brussels, visited Moeder Lambis during its opening week, drank gallons at De Molen, sorted through bottles at Paters Vaetje, and gifted a Pliny the Elder to Hane at De Gans.
But, nothing was more epic than a one day visit to West Flanders. I had caught a pretty vicious cold that had put me out of commission for a few days, but I refused to allow it to defeat my trip to Westvleteren to catch Westy 12. I sucked it up, chugged some orange juice, bought some nose spray (so i could taste again) and we took off for West Flanders.
When we arrived at the Saint Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren – my cold cleared up. Whether this was an amazing intervention of the almighty himself or simply an incredulous recovery – we will never know. But, it all came together as my first Westy 12 was placed in front of me.
From there, we trucked on to St. Bernardus, visited a brewer’s cottage in Woesten, drove to France to sample Escambeq’s best (with a brewer who could not speak English), drank De Struisse’s finest in a living room at De Zon and enjoyed splendid wonders from the private collection of Alvinne’s owner. I’m unsure that this day could ever be eclipsed.
#1 — The Closing of Water Street Brewing & Alehouse
The number one moment is not a happy one. But, it certainly had a profound effect on me.
For days I labored over visiting my favorite beer spot before it would shut its doors, for the final time. In the end, I didn’t go. The horror was too much for me to handle.
If you never got a chance to read the hardest post I ever typed, take a gander now. For purposes of brevity, I will not relive the words that came to mind when I head that Water Street Brewing would close down. But if you were around me for those few days – you know it was always in my mind.
Bars come and go – that is for sure. Some bars leave way too early; that was the case with Water Street. Because of a legal spat that keeps the former Water Street brewing space vacant to this day (we just saw the space this past weekend and its still not even close to re-lease), Water Street was forced into early retirement.
But, like all great combatants, Water Street may rise again. Their Facebook page has provided snippets of hope to those of us who yearn to have Queen Nina pour us another IPA. Recently, Nina announced that Strange Brewfest would return this year! This was an amazingly welcoming sign that Water Street is still alive and kicking – somewhere.
300 posts of Beer Blotter has brought us this far and we vow to keep it going. In the next month, we hope to have our new site running, filled with gobs of media and more user friendly resources.
Stick with us, please. We’ve enjoyed your company.
Last week, I poured my heart out for Water Street Brewing in Port Townsend, Washington. The article became, by far and away, our widest read post. It was also mentioned in a few other places, including the brewery’s own webpage.
First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who gave us good comments on the article. I am so very happy to know that there are others out there that feel the same about that majestic place. The Port Townsend community surely held high regard for its favorite watering hole.
I wrote my eulogy to my favorite brewpub in a matter of about 15 minutes. I really wanted to have it go up the same day that they announced their closing. In doing so, I rambled about, refused a re-read and published. I now recognize that there are probably 1000 thoughts that I failed to mention, but I am fairly certain that I (or anyone for that matter) could write a novel about Water Street Brewing. The institution created 60 years worth of memories and nostalgia in about 6 years.
Water Street Brewing had their final night at the old Water Street address on Thursday, June 24, 2010. In closing my article, I held out hope for a resurrection of my favorite spot. It appears that the prayers of many, may be answered.
Water Street Brewing’s owners have published the following blurb on to their website, offering hope to us all:
We, here at Water Street Brewing are currently working hard to find a new location and would love to ask our loyal friends to give us a helping hand. If you would like to share your experiences and opinions, it would go a long way to show how very much our community would like to see us reopen in a new home. Please either email us, or the Pennisula Daily News, or post your contribution to ourFacebook Fan Page. Thank YOU!
Needless to say, I wrote to them immediately. My position is simple: find a place with the character and atmosphere that bred great experiences for your patrons. An old dusty shoe would probably work – as long as the same people are there with the same love they once had.
I implore you all to e-mail them if you have an opinion about what they do next. The best way to follow their re-launch is to check their Facebook page. Hold out hope folks. Good things happen.
The first time I ever gazed upon the entryway, I shuddered. Isn’t this the iconic portal where Richard Gere once had a pint in an Officer and a Gentleman? It was. But it was so much more. It was the most inviting entry on the block. It only took one glance.
I remember walking up and thinking – this is everything a brewpub should be. Its an over-sized, over-vaulted, sun sprayed, open-aired masterpiece. We can fill the pool of demographics with a sample of the bar crowd. You could swim in the smell of fresh beer wort filling the air. It was everything I had dreamed of – and there was more to come.
Before I continue my heart-wrenching words, I want to say that I have put off this article for more than a year. I might be crazy; I might be frightened. I’m just not sure. But the essence of Water Street Brewing could not be bottled and it could not be served on an outside-viewing public. It was the inside of your dreams and the best that your imagination could muster.
But now, its soon to be gone. In roughly 30 hours, all that I knew of the bar I called “perfection” will be erased from its space on the waterfront in little ole Port Townsend. I have died a little inside.
But my memories will try and live on – at least what can be maintained from the few beer-engulfed images I took home with me. The images ingrained themselves so deeply, it would be nearly impossible to forget.
Walking in, you are met with scents, images, music and aura. I don’t think that I’ve ever felt aura before. I’m just not that type of person. I notice the layout, feel, and comfort of bars – i love them. But never before did I honestly feel a sense of excitement in the air, especially in a bar that was practically empty. You could just tell that a remarkable history and passion ran rampant through this place. I was now going to be a part of it.
I took a few glances before even thinking about sitting. The pharaoh and the demon mural, the mermaid, the stage, the blown glass, the old wood, the vaulted ceilings coated in $1 bills, the veranda with its collection of broken pool cues, the air, the light and the sound. It was magnificent.
Once I had returned to earth, we saddled up at the bar. We were greeted by the image of all that is respected and loved and intertwined in the aura of Water Street – Queen Nina. Nina Law – hello.
You have never been treated by a bartender until you spend an afternoon, evening, entire calendar day with Nina as your bar mate. She is spectacularly in love with this place, its constituents, and its craft. For quite some time, the house’s greatest and most love-filled beer has been named for her – Queen Nina IPA.
A bucket of pumpkin-colored, viscous, sweet-herbed IPA is poured. I remain calm, in awe of the surroundings. The man to my right immediately strikes up the conversation – howdy. He’s a man of many a year in Port Townsend. This is his home, the bar stool beside me. I am told of the wonderful things that the crowd of this place has done for this man. I am told of the minor contributions that he made to keep the place afloat in early 2009, when the bar almost went belly-up from a loss of income. The stuttering of his voice guaranteed the reality that I was in this magical place.
What next? Food from the soul? An inspiring chat with a stranger? Some impromptu live folk music? How about some fiddling? How about I rip this shirt off the wall and take off with my little piece of Water Street? I took it all.
Being from the Midwest, I have one food passion – wings. I know its a bit silly to get passionate about hot wings, but then again – have you been reading this article? Packed with love.
Anyways, the wings: perfection. I remember that Queen Nina brought out my platter and said – “you know what? thats the best damn wing order I’ve ever seen.” She was right. To this day, it might be the best dozen that I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Covered in fresh roasted garlic, rolled in tangy sauce, cooked to perfection, served with liquid gorgonzola. It was heaven for a wing man.
We spent at least an hour in each of the five separate spaces at Water Street’s 7,000 square foot warehouse of bar. Each space had its own comfort, each providing you with a different feel. Of course, we begun at the bar – which would rival the collegiality of a World Cup soccer team. But there are other spaces with their own great comfort.
There is the restaurant area, directly in the airways of the kitchen (smell the shellfish!) and the brewery (smell the malt!). Then there is the cubby hole beneath the stairs – the perfect place to gather with cronies. Next, the upstairs veranda, full of pool tables, portals overlooking the bar from 20′ above and the malt mill! Last and certainly not least – the outside patio. Nestled beside the water, and a few feet from the brewery exhaust, its the perfect place to enjoy pitcher and a clambake.
You wanted music? How about some impromptu gypsy-folk, featuring a fiddle and guitar, on the old stage? If that’s not going on, Queen Nina is sure to keep the bar’s sound waves geared up on 1960s-1970s hippy rock. They keep it mellow.
I couldn’t leave if I wanted. To some extent, I never have. I wanted so badly to have that place in my memories, that I ripped an old shirt off the wall. It was the last shirt that remained from their economic near-collapse earlier in the year. They couldn’t afford new merchandise at the time, but Nina was more than happy to send me home with the last remaining article on the wall. Best $15 I ever spent. I wear that shirt once a week – no joke.
The first time I went – we stayed for about 8 hours. The next morning, we returned for another 5 hours. I know, that’s how much I loved it. You’d certainly think that cannot be duplicated.
After weeks of giving friends my elevator pitch on Water Street, we returned. They stopped in, had some wings, had some beer and loved every moment. But 3 hours was enough for them. They decided to check out the town. Not me. I stayed by myself, enjoying the crowd, enjoying the staff, and enjoying what would come to be my last and final glimpse into the one remaining bar, which is soaked in the love of its admirers.
So……call me a sap. Do it. I deserve it, but I do not apologize or regress from my statements in this article.
Maybe you didn’t think the bar resembles anything close to what I said? Well, just rest easy knowing that such a perception of a watering hole is possible. Know that a person could be so very much overwhelmed by the aura of an institution that it could reduce them to near tears upon learning of its demise.
Know all of that, and continue searching for your own place. Aura exists. Rest in peace – Water Street.
Stop #1 Water Street Brewing Co.:
It was a sunny yet windy summer day in July when we first stepped foot in Water Street Brewing Co.’s pub. Just in time for happy hour, we take a seat at the bar (would we have it any other way?).
The late afternoon sun streamed through the windows begging for a drink. As gusts of wind bellowed through the open bar door, a live banjo played to the rhythm of the outdoors.
From the moment you step foot into the wide open space you can’t help but notice the beautifully carved wooden bar and dollar bills stapled to the incredibly high ceiling. After ordering our first round of many to come, we sat back wondering how they got up there.
Queen Ninas Imperial IPA, 7%- bitter right off the tap. This beer opens up with a natural hoppy aroma. It is fresh, smooth and spikes the back of your throat with a tang of bitterness.
Mayor McPrior’s Irish Stout: medium brown in color. Coffee flavor with a hint of nuts. Slightly creamy but not thick. It has a nice, drinkable consistency.
Panama Red: stout like qualities but lighter in color. Hoppy and bitter combined with a prevalent malt flavor.
Accompanying our beers were a platter of well- crafted buffalo wings. Plump pieces of chicken smothered in spicy homemade buffalo sauce with fresh garlic were sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and scallions. Our experience was complete.
Water Street Brewing Co. is located at 639 Water Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368. A community brewpub supported and loved by locals. Check out Waterstreet’s winter beers, such as Burr’s Frosty Winter Ale and Chocolate Oatmeal Stout at the Winter Beer Festival the weekend of December 4, 2009 at Hales Brewery in Seattle, WA.
However, if this post has struck a cord and you MUST visit Water Street Brewing Co. in all its glory, then gear up for the 6th Annual Strange Beer Festival in Port Townsend, WA. Let the beer warm your soul in January as the streets surrounding the brew-pub are filled with belated holiday gifts of beer. Check back with Beer Blotter as we will keep you informed once the details about this event are released. Hope to see you there!
Stop #2 Port Townsend Brewery Co.
Upon arriving at Port Townsend Brewery, we walk through an outdoor beer garden equip with a live band and plenty of people into the tasting room. Peanuts are up for grabs on the bar and we are liking this place already. The tasting room/bar area is small with wooden walls, ceiling and bar top. Reminiscent of an isolated cabin, we feel on the outskirts of society, in the wilderness, eating peanuts and enjoying a beer.
Hop Diggity IPA, Cask Conditioned: incredible aroma of flowers, fruit. It smells as though it would taste like syrup. Instead it is crisp, not too bitter or hoppy in relation to other IPAs.
Strait Stout: black in color. Malty, sweet. Thick and smooth with a well rounded, crisp finish.
The only food this small bar sells include the following items: nuts, mixed nuts, and more nuts. So come with a full stomach or leave hungry.
Port Townsend Brewing Co, is located at 330 10th Street, #C, Port Townsend, WA 98368. During the warmer months, Port Townsend Brewing Co. is a short distance away from various campsites such as Old Fort Townsend and Fort Warden State Park.
Port Townsend, Washington is located on the Olympic Peninsula just across the Pudget Sound from Seattle.