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Puget Soundings : Beer in the Pacific Northwest
By Don Scheidt


Iron Horse Brewery
1000 Prospect St., Suite 4
Ellensburg, WA 98926

Roslyn Brewing Co.
208 Pennsylvania Ave.
Roslyn, WA 98941


It’s been a busy (and dry) winter in the Pacific Northwest, with brewfests big and small, and strong beers brewed for the season. A new microbrewery is up and running, and the long-awaited Brouwer's Café emerged after months of planning and construction.

Two festivals, “Hops and Props” and “Hops on Equinox,” were the big events of the season, but there were also mini-fests at pubs in the area, including the Collins Pub’s first-ever Real Strong Beer festival, Elysian’s Winter Beer Festival, and Beveridge Place Pub’s Barleywine Bacchanal. March also featured a month-long promotion for beer and food at good pubs and brewpubs in Seattle.

Washington’s newest microbrewery, Iron Horse Brewery, is based in Ellensburg, a ranching, farming and college town in the Kittitas Valley, east of the Cascade Mountains. The brewery is a one-man operation run by Jim Quilter, whose brewing experience includes stints at Sierra Nevada Brewing, Butte Creek Brewing and Mad River Brewery in California. Quilter originally wanted to open a brewpub but settled for opening a microbrewery when the brewpub plans didn’t work out.

Iron Horse is currently packaging in kegs only, so these beers are available only on tap. Quilter is busy making Rodeo Extra Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Locomotive Red Ale, and he is supplying taps in pubs and restaurants in his region. With luck, we might get to see some of his beers cross the Cascades to what eastern Washingtonians call “the Coast” or “the West Side.” Iron Horse had a stand at the Hops on Equinox spring beer festival, and with any luck, this will help create the impetus that gets Iron Horse beers on tap in the Seattle area.

Iron Horse isn’t the only craft brewery in Kittitas County; Roslyn Brewing is continuing operations into its 15th year under new owners Kent Larimer, Paul Angelos and Mike Payne, who bought the brewery in July 2004. Roslyn Brewing produces dark Roslyn Lager and pale Brookside Lager, and plans to get more beer — bottled and kegged — into “West Side” shops and pubs in the coming year.

New beers and good pub food — it’s a fine time to enjoy great beer in Washington.

Brouwer's Café, located in Seattle’s Fremont district, shares ownership with Seattle’s Bottleworks specialty beer store and shares a similar dedication to sybaritic pleasures, with 40 (or more) taps, a menu featuring Belgian specialties, a selection of Scotch (good bourbon, too?) and more. Just a month after opening, Brouwer's will also host the 2005 edition of the Hard Liver Barley Wine Festival, promising at least 40 high-potency barley wines.

Rather than hold the festival on a single evening, as has been done in the past, this one will follow the pattern of San Francisco's famous Toronado Barleywine Festival, running over the course of an entire week. Brouwer's won’t be the first in town to do this, however; west Seattle’s Beveridge Place Pub also featured its own Barleywine Bacchanal in early March, rotating a selection of 30 barley wines on 12 taps throughout the week.

The Collins Pub also ran its own Real Strong Beer Festival over President’s Day weekend, featuring an impressive selection of strong beers — not just barley wines, but winter ales, unique high-gravity brews and Val-Dieu abbey brown ale from Belgium. Seth Howard and crew added special items to the menu, including an excellent leg of lamb platter with horseradish mashed potatoes, and a superb “Mussels Royale” plate that featured mussels served in butterfly shells with melted cheese and pancetta. The richness of these dishes matched well with the impressive array of strong beers on tap. The three-year-old Alaskan Smoked Porter that I’d enjoyed there the night before was well worth the time, too.

Elysian Brewery followed up with its own always-excellent Winter Ale Festival on the weekend after President’s Day, featuring 19 ales of the winter season, including three Belgian delights on tap, among them the very rare Avec les Bons Voeux from Brasserie Dupont. Domestics featured Elysian’s BiFröst and Dave’s Winter Whim (a wheat beer), two vintages of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, and winter ales from Big Time, Watertown Brewing, Hale’s, Elliott Bay, Boundary Bay, Pyramid, Snoqualmie Falls, Full Sail, Hair of the Dog and New Belgium.

Good pub food has come a long way in the Pacific Northwest, and March featured a month-long promotion of great pub cuisine in what was billed as the “Great Seattle Pub Quest.” Ten pubs and two brewpubs joined in the event: the three Seattle Ale House pubs – 74th Street, Hilltop and Columbia City – joined the Latona and the Hopvine (two of Bob Brenlin’s three pubs), along with the Collins Pub, the Barking Dog, the Nickerson Street Saloon, the Virginia Inn, Buckley’s, Hale’s Brewery Pub and the Pike Brewery and Pub. The promotion featured “Great Pub Cuisine” nights, Sunday through Thursday, featuring signature Pub Quest menus for $12. This promotion was also tied in to the Hops on Equinox Spring Beer Festival on March 25–26.

New beers, good pub food and even more to enjoy, including a subtly smoky new rauchbier from Baron Brewing and the new Weizenrock strong wheat ale brewed by Larry Rock and Dick Cantwell at Elysian TangleTown — it’s a fine time to enjoy great beer in Washington. Next time, I’ll have a preview of the Summer Brewfest coming in June, and more on Brouwer's Café.

Don Scheidt is an associate editor of the Celebrator Beer News and author of the Northwest BrewPage (nwbrewpage.com). He also writes about beer for the Seattle Weekly (seattleweekly.com) and can be reached via e-mail at dgs1300@hotmail.com.


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