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…
October is nearly over, and you know what that means right? It is pretty depressing, so I’m not surprised if you are having a hard time answering. Yeah, it means that we will soon be saying goodbye to the fall seasonals until next year. Oktoberfests are pretty much already gone. Fresh Hops, you still might be able to find some, if your really search, but they are nearly gone. Pumpkin Ales…oh good god, please don’t say it…sorry but, almost gone.
Sure, if pumpkin ales were all of a sudden available year round, they would probably lose their luster after a while. I kind of like it the way it is, though I wouldn’t mind if I could hoard some bottles and crack them open at some other time in the year, where the mood to strike. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s really hard to find bottles of the good stuff. It seems like the moment they hit the shelves, you blink and they’re gone. This element seems to add to the excitement around finding pumpkin ales on tap. You really have to keep your eyes and ears open and pounce when the opportunity presents itself to sip on that nectar of the great gourd.
Lucky for us here in the Seattle area, we have Elysian Brewing, kings of pumpkin mashing, right in our backyard. We get to attend The Great Pumpkin Beer Fest at their Capitol Hill location (read our review here), which is indeed great. But, it still doesn’t fulfill my unrelenting hunger for pumpkin and spice. I even made a batch at home this year…still want more.
In steps Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle, to provide that one last dance of the season. Tonight they will be tapping five pumpkin beers for their Plethora of Pumpkin celebration: Elysian Night Owl and Dark o the Moon, Southern Tier Pumpking, Schooner Exact Gutter Punkin, and Snipes Mountain Pumpkin Death. These gems will be available all day and night, and they’re happy to pour taster trays of all 5.
If you are like me, and your hunger for pumpkin is not unlike a zombie’s hunger for brains, lurch and groan, with arms outstretched in front of you, over to West Seattle’s finest beer bar and feed on the flesh (of a pumpkin please).
Yet again, Brouwer’s Cafe rises to the occasion and presented local beer drinkers with the best of local beer. An entire 5 day stint dedicated to Washington state brewers. From Naked City to Silver City, Peaks to Paradise, Snipes Mountain and Iron Horse, it was a tap list to remember.
This post will be more informal then our other event reviews: less time = less beer. One subject that absolutely must be breached is the recent trend in WA to infuse tea with beer. Our first experience was at Naked City, who, in the summer months, released an incredibly refreshing Ginger Peach Hefe where all of the the ginger and peach flavors came from infused herbal tea bags. This night, we must give honorable mention to Port Townsend Brewing Co. for their Green Tea Golden Ale. We are generally not inclined to jump on the golden ale train, but PT gave it a twist and the tea like essence really came through. Several people at our table voted this their favorite of the night. It is flavorful, clean and aromatic. The earthy green tea flavors really pop in the nose and playfully mingle with the light ale malts in the finish.
Yet another example came to us via Epic Ales Mathilda. Though we have very little information about the ingredients used, Timperial’s love for both tea and beer seemed most inspired by this concoction. It took some warming up, but this one seemed to grow on us like Ca…stan…za (Seinfeld reference, deal with it). Initially, there was questions about…chamomile…no…mint…possibly both? It was light in color and the epitome of curious in flavor. Respect for ingenuity.
Der Blokken, a brewery out on Bremerton Island which recently opened showcased their Brown Porter. I thought I was ordering an IPA and despite the mix up, was pleasantly surprised. Dark and chocolaty, it had some bittering qualities and a perfect body. Not too thin, not to syrupy, just right!
Next, and is this really a surprise, but Black Raven’s All Washington Fresh Hops was amazing! It tasted like peaches with a perfect pairing of a bittering hop profile.
The Iron Horse Fresh Hop was a no brainer for Timperial, who sampled said beverage at the Yakima Fresh Hop fest 2 years ago and was floored. This years version may or may not be the same in recipe, but surely produced a similar reaction as the ’08 did in him. A near perfect example of a well balanced wet hopped IPA. It’s a cloudy dark amber with amazing lacing. The flavor profile is overwhelmingly syrupy sweet with a slight raw hop skunkiness in the nose and flavor. A sizable pine profile accompanies the cannabus in both fronts as well. Ultimately, very smooth in the mouth and a near perfect finish with little dryness and a lingering malt quality that rears many smiles.
Snipes 2 Fresh was another selection that took little to no effort to choose. If you live in WA and drink fresh hop beers, you have most likely tasted something that Snipes head brewer Chris Miller has had a hand in. He is the local fresh hop guru in these parts and has most recently assisted in the production of Black Raven’s and Naked City’s fresh hop IPAs. This version, like Iron Horse’s had a green hop skunkiness and a respectable pine nose. There was enough residual sweetness to make me happy, but not nearly on the plane of IHB. Here, bitterness takes the reigns above and beyond anything else. This is a great example of balance in a fresh hop and would be a supreme example for the newcommer.
At the recommendation of Brouwer’s manager Ian, a Yakima IPA 1 was ordered. Apparently, this is a different brew than the bottled version bearing the same name. It was clear bronze in color with a stark white head. I felt that this would have been a much more appropriate beer to begin with than to follow all of the above. It seemed a bit thin, but the malt core had some legs. This was a bitter bomb of an IPA with very little floral hop flavor. The malt profile made a gallant attempt at bringing balance, but inevitably it failed to compete against the bitter power that assaulted the back of the tongue well into the aftertaste.
Let us know which ones were your favorites!
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.
34 of 52 (hot damn!)
1118 Meade Rd.
Prosser, WA 99350
Type of Establishment: Brewery and tasting room.
Visit: In order to escape the deary weather of Seattle, we head east of the Cascade Mountain range to a dry, flat, desert like area of the state. Of course, a beer map has been established as we find all of the breweries worth checking out during our trip. Say “hello” to Whitstran, Snipes Mountain Brewery, Iron Horse and last but certainly not least, Horse Heaven Hills Brewery.
Beers on Tap–
Live Long Lager- a German Pilsner that smells like bananas
Honey Girl- a light beer with 25lbs of honey
Buck Off IPA
Dark Cherry Stout- on nitro
Ruby Spur- their most popular beer
Apricot Honey Light- for all you light beer drinkers….
Bottles: None. They do not bottle their beers. Growlers? You betcha. Bring your own and its only $10.00 to fill!
Food Options: No menu. Pretzels at the bar and a stash of vanilla ice cream (more on that later).
BAR OPINION: I walk up to Horse Heaven Hills Brewery, which in all honesty, isn’t much to look at from the outside. We walked past an outdoor patio and through a disheveled room with old recliners. Upon stepping into the tasting room, a
glistening brewing system dominates the backdrop, several empty tables and chairs collect in the room with a couple reading the newspaper over beers. Another man watches the University of Washington game, as we take a seat at the bar.
“3 schooners of Honey Girl, Buck Off IPA and of course, your Dark Cherry Stout.” As we sip the Honey Girl, Gary, one of the brewers fills us in on this interesting beer. At the very end of the boil, he dumps 25lbs
of honey in! You can taste the honey as it compliments the bitterness you would find in a pils. Thus creating a smooth finish and a taste that develops as it lingers on your palette. Buck Off IPA has three hop profiles, one for bittering, one for flavor and one for finish. Well balanced and dry hopped with Cascade hops. I love me some hops! Dark Cherry Stout was a must order for us. Served on nitro, this stout had body. It smells like cherry soda and the cherry flavors give this dry stout an extra, much welcomed kick.
The whole time we drank, we chatted with Gary and Dave. Two lifelong friends who brew as a hobby and have dreams of sharing their beer with others. We learned that the system was shipped via railroad from Alabama, that they brew on the weekends, that they are passionate about beer and love what they are doing. This is the best kind of brewer.
Gary and Dave educated us on their beers and beer in general. A sample of two beers straight from the fermentor: a dry hop IPA and a peppery saison give us a taste of what’s to come from Horse Heaven Hills. I mention how I have never experience a beer float. Within moments, a taster glass was filled with the Dark Cherry Stout and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I can go ahead and check that off my beer bucket list.
This was a wonderful experience. Not only were their beers innovative and delicious, it was inspirational to hear about their story as brewers. They are passionate about beer and grateful to have patrons who are interested in beer and appreciate the craft. We hope to see more of Horse Heaven Hills in the future!
Happy belated Father’s Day! I hope all you dads had time to enjoy a beer yesterday. We had a blast on Friday at the Washington Brewers festival so many amazing beers ranging from sour stouts (Snipes Mountain), to epic IPAs (Port Townsend) and bourbon barreled scotch ales (Black Raven). Its still winter in Seattle (today is the official first day of summer) but here are your events around the country.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Come Meet the Genius at Rattle-N-Hum: New York, New York
4:30PM-7:30PM @ Rattle-n-Hum
Seriously, 21 Dogfish Head beers will be pouring tonight- almost everyone you can think of- Black and Blue- CHECK, Midas Touch- CHECK, Burton Baton- CHECK. Meet the man behind it all, Sam Caligione. What a great way to start the week. For a full list click here.
Tuesday, May 22, 2010
Smuttynose Beer Dinner: Providence, Rhode Island
6:00PM-8:00PM @ The Melting Pot of Providence
This $50.00 beer dinner (Please mention “Beer Dinner” when making your reservations) will provide you with a 5 course meal consisting of fine cheeses, a curry dish, a decadent dessert plus many amazing beers from Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Lagunitas Tasting: Chicago, Illinois
8:00PM-10:00PM @ Fizz Bar and Grill
Tonight will showcase Lagunitas Brewing Company from Petaluma, California during a free tasting at 8 p.m. Fizz chef Weslie Bellini will pair light Mexican bites such as ceviche with the brews. Enjoy!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Three Floyds Tasting Night: Michigan City, Indiana
5:30PM – 7:00PM @ Sahara
This event is $15.00 a person which includes 6-7 Three Floyds brews and appetizers to complement these fine crafted beverages. Pray for Dreadnaught (their double IPA).
Friday, June 25, 2010
First Day of San Diego International Beer Festival: San Diego, California
4:00PM-8:00PM @ Del Mar Fairgrounds
Tickets are $37 if purchased in advance for a four-hour session and $43 at the gate. Ticket prices include admission to the 2010 San Diego County Fair. Tickets are sold through the Del Mar Fairgrounds Box Office or at www.Ticketmaster.com. For more information on the Festival and the San Diego County Fair, please visit www.sdfair.com/beer.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Bell’s Fermented Eclipse: Minneapolis, Minnesota
3:00PM-10:00PM @ Stub and Herb’s
Music, Bell’s Brewing Co. beer and BBQ- Check this out-Stub and Herb’s has some Expedition Stout Barrels that they will be chopping up and throwing in a smoker for bbqing chickens. That just sounds amazing. The Bell’s beer trailer will be outside pouring this lineup: Batch 9000, Black Note, Bourbon-Barrel Hell Hath No Fury, Oatmeal Stout (1st time tapped in MN) plus 3 other special taps that are apparently secret thus far. Also look for Expedition Stout, Cherry Stout, Double Cream, Kalamazoo and Rye Stout on tap.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Cheese Loves Beer VIII: Burlington, Vermont
1:30PM-3:30PM @ American Flatbread Burlington Hearth
Stop by today and sample artisanal cheese and craft beer pairings. This event will highlight cheese makers new to the local artisanal cheese scene and pairing them with the exceptional beers crafted by Zero Gravity Brewery. This event is very limited and a pre-paid reservation is necessary to attend. See the host at the restaurant, or e-mail email@example.com to make a reservation. Cost is $30 per person.