April/May 2003
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In the Pacific Northwest, breweries are opening anew and expanding; new festivals are coming; new pubs are being planned.

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Puget Soundings

Beer in the Pacific Northwest

by Don Scheidt

     After some relatively quiet times, there is much to tell in the Pacific Northwest, or so it seems. Breweries are changing hands, opening anew and expanding; new festivals have either had their debuts or are yet to come; new pubs are being planned to bring even more selection to lovers of good beer.

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     The Pacific Rim Brewing Company, a small brewery on the very southern edge of Seattle, has new owners. Scott Swanson and Erik Barber seem enthusiastic and ready to go with their newly acquired venture. They do have some continuity; Pacific Rim Brewmaster Scott Lord continues to brew his current line of ales. So fans of the brewery's Alki Ale will see their beer available on taps and at the brewery's new on-premises taproom. A new American-style hoppy bitter pale ale, Rat City IPA, is in the works and should be out in springtime. "Rat City" is a nickname sometimes used disparagingly, sometimes fondly, for the White Center neighborhood that is home to Pacific Rim. The brewery hosted a Grand Opening party for its taproom on March╩1, 2003.

     Manny Chao, formerly with Mac & Jack's in Redmond, east of Seattle, has teamed up with a business partner to start up Georgetown Brewing in a historic old building with brewery ties in south Seattle's Georgetown District. The brewery's owners will try to dial in what they feel will be the perfect set of ales to get their new venture off the ground.

     The Elysian Brewery used to have a second little satellite brewery in downtown Seattle's GameWorks video game entertainment center, but that's been gone for quite a while now. Plans for a second Elysian site have recently come to fruition, however; the new Elysian Tangle Town brewery and restaurant will be in northern Seattle at the location of the former Honey Bear bakery. In fact, it is likely to be up and running by the time this edition of the Celebrator hits the streets.

     Farther southeast, in very suburban Kent-Covington at the new Druid's Glen golf course development, a new restaurant with its own brewery will go into operation around the first part of June. Shawn Loring will be running the kettles and filling the fermenters. The new operation will be dubbed Maple Valley Brewing. Shawn plans to brew a pilsner, an amber ale, an ESB, a brown ale and a porter for starters. Before being recruited to run Maple Valley, Shawn had a good run at the Seattle University Village branch of the Ram sports bar brewery chain for several years.

     Fans of the highly regarded Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish will have a more urban alternative soon. Jay Meecham is remodeling an old neighborhood tavern in Seattle's Whittier neighborhood, an area at the western foot of Phinney Ridge. I used to live nearby, and it's obvious that Jay and crew will be putting a lot of work into remodeling the old place into the new venture. The Barking Dog, scheduled to open as early as June 2003, will sport 20 handles and offer a solid menu of good pub food.

     Seattle continues to stand out with beer festivals and special events, too. January╩18 saw the first-ever Hard Liver Barley Wine Fest, put on by the hard-working Bottleworks guys at the Phinney Neighborhood Association's hall, a former schoolhouse converted into a multipurpose home for the association. More than two dozen impressive, strong barley wines from across the Pacific Northwest as well as California and Montana were featured, including vintage beers from Fish, Rogue and Sierra Nevada, along with a generous range from other regional brewers. The proceeds went to support the association. If there was any downside, it was simply that the event lasted only two hours. Here's hoping that the 2004 Hard Liver Barley Wine Fest will last at least twice as long.

     The Bottleworks crew, never willing to rest on their laurels, followed up a few weeks later with a Beer, Chocolate, and Belgian Buffet at the Celtic Bayou on February╩9. The event included some excellent Belgian ales as well as some tasty Far West Ireland beers brewed by Tom Munoz and crew. The beer tasting started with Snowplow Farmhouse Ale before heading into the first Belgian ale of the afternoon, Bottleworks Krullekop Tripel. One of two beers custom-brewed for the shop by De Proef Brouwerij in Belgium, this full-bodied strong golden ale has just the right touch of hop bite. It was a great starter beer to accompany the vegetable, fruit and cheese assortment.

     Next was mussels cooked in Krullekop Tripel, and Oud Beersel Kriek accompanied the mussels. This beer was among the last of its kind, as the Oud Beersel lambic brewery and blender closed in late 2002. Enjoy while you can, as Oud Beersel Kriek with a classic bowl of mussels is a marriage made in culinary heaven.

     To accompany our main course of classic Flemish-style beef stew (prepared with Urthel Tonicum Finiboldus Amber ale) and Belgian frites, we had hearty pours of the other Bottleworks custom brew, Van den Vern Grand Cru, a rich, reddish-brown ale much like a bigger and firmer abbey dubbel. The Urthel beer made its appearance immediately after: a deep amber ale brimming with fruity and gently spicy flavors. Then came dessert of Leonidas chocolates accompanied by Westmalle Dubbel, the classic Trappist ale, and La Trappe Quadrupel. La Trappe joins Oud Beersel on the List of Extinct Beers; the Dutch Trappist brewery is no more, as the Dutch Bavaria brewing company gets ready to introduce its non-Trappist replacement, Koningshoeven.

     At the end of the event, Tom Munoz had a few more surprises up his sleeve, with pitchers of Blackpool Stout (Blackpool being a literal English translation of Dublin's Gaelic name, Dubh Linn), Russian Imperial Stout, Sans Culottes Triple and the brand-new house Barley Wine.

     The following weekend, I took a break from all this Seattle beering, but only because the Toronado's Barleywine Fest was under way in San Francisco, and there was the Celebrator's 15th anniversary party, and there was no good reason to miss that, and since I'm normally up to no good, I was there too. But there's no rest for the wicked, and sure enough, the following weekend found me at Elysian's Winter Ale Festival, comparing Pyramid Snow Cap against Elysian Bifrost (in two vintages), Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale (also in two vintages), La Conner's Tannenbaum, Maritime Pacific's Jolly Roger, Boundary Bay's Cabin Fever, Hale's Wee Heavy, and╩-- what did I do with that list? There were a lot of great local wintertime beers on, but it was time to go down to Seattle's Museum of Flight for its first-ever Hops and Props Festival, gathering brewers from all over to serve beers among the vintage airplanes and exhibits on February╩22, 2003.

     Hops and Props started off with a special prefunction hosted by Ed Carfora of Manneken-Brussel Imports (MBI). Ed presented a range of well-known and highly regarded beers, starting with Schneider Aventinus, perhaps Germany's best-known weizenbock. The full range of Chimay Trappist ales followed, including the Premiere (red Cap), Grande Réserve (blue cap), and Cinq Cents (white cap, also known as Triple on draught). Ed provided history and details regarding each of the classic beers.

     To finish, a rich, full-bodied Triple Karmeliet was poured. Tasting samples of Chimay cheeses were served as a delicious and appropriate accompaniment. It was, as expected, a fine exposition and presentation of classic beers, with focus on the Chimay range.

     The prefunction finished just in time for the start of the main attraction, and there was no shortage of beer and good eats to be had at the Museum of Flight that evening. Washington brewers included Diamond Knot, Fish and Leavenworth, Hale's, Mac & Jack's, Orchard Street, Pacific Rim, Pike, Pyramid, Redhook and Snoqualmie Falls, joined from across the Columbia by BridgePort, Deschutes, Full Sail, Rogue and Widmer, as well as Alaskan Brewing, Anchor Brewing, Big Sky Brewing, Mendocino Brewing, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.

     The fests don't stop here. Another small barley wine fest was held at the Full Moon Saloon in west Seattle on March╩8, featuring six barley wines on tap. Could this event grow as big as the Toronado's?

     Springtime has become even more of a reason to celebrate, with Washington's first "Hops on Equinox," March╩28-29, 2003, at Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center. Featuring spring beers, this festival is organized by the same folks who have already made traditions out of other festivals, and of course we'll be seeing those again this year: the Summer Microbrew Festival at St. Edward State Park on June╩14-15, 2003; the Fremont Oktoberfest, a.k.a. "The Microbrew Festival Under the Bridge," September╩19-21, 2003; and even farther away, the Washington Cask Beer Festival in October and the PNA Beer Taste in November.

     If there are other festivals around the state, I'll be sure to let you know. In fact, I hear there's going to be a little Oktoberfest held in Odessa, Wash.╩--

Don Scheidt is the author of the Northwest BrewPage at www.nwbrewpage.com. He also edits BeerWeek. He can be reached via e-mail at dgs1300@hotmail.com.

Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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