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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

Brouwer’s Café
400 N. 35th St.
Seattle, WA 98103
206-267-BIER (2437)


In mid-April, on a mildly blustery Saturday, it seemed like as good a day as any to take a road trip to the eastern Washington town of Ellensburg, which, as reported in the April/May 2005 issue of the Celebrator, is home to Iron Horse Brewery, Washington’s newest micro. Owner-brewer Jim Quilter was there to meet me — as he is for anyone who drops by during his “shop hours” — and so I got the opportunity to taste the Iron Horse’s range of ales.

The Rodeo Extra Pale is a well-balanced pale ale, crisp and clean, the kind of beer that has come to be regarded as a West Coast classic, perfect for session drinking. For those looking for maltier flavors, Iron Horse Brown Ale is an obvious choice; hops take the backseat in this one, with well-developed malt flavors that finish well without being treacly or cloying.

Iron Horse IPA is the kind of ale that has made the Pacific Northwest so well known, abundant with Columbus and Cascade hops. I first had this one at my local during a month-long IPA festival, so I had a good idea of what to expect. I was not disappointed. The brewery’s flagship beer, Locomotive Red, also isn’t shy with the hops, being rich with Centennials and Cascades.

After visiting the brewery and talking with Quilter about his hopes and plans for a successful venture, we stopped in at The Tav, a popular multi-tap pub in downtown Ellensburg that was among the first in Washington state to feature Iron Horse ales on tap. As good as the beers are when sampled at the brewery, they’re even better when accompanied by some good pub food. Iron Horse ales are already appearing on tap in Seattle area pubs, and Quilter sells 12-ounce bottles as well. Here’s a toast wishing success to Quilter and his brewery.

Now that Seattle’s new Belgian beer bar and restaurant, Brouwer’s Café, has had a chance to settle in a bit, I’ve had the opportunity to stop in a few times. It’s an attractive place, including a long wood-topped bar, lots of wood-topped tables, and an interior that combines cement, metal and wood to dramatic effect. The mezzanine seating (and smoking) area is supported by steel bars attached to steel crossbeams on the ceiling. A skylight lets in plenty of natural light during the daytime; the interior is more intimately lit after sunset. There’s also outdoor seating right by the entry door.

Owner-brewer Jim Quilter was there — as he is for anyone who drops by during his “shop hours” — and I got to taste the Iron Horse’s range of ales.

The rack of taps is the most obvious attraction inside, with about 50 draft beers on offer, including at least a dozen Belgian beers as well as others from Germany, North America and the U.K. If the taps aren’t enough, there are even more bottled Belgian and North American beers behind the bar. The menu also has a Belgian tilt, featuring such classics as mussels with fries and Belgian beef carbonnade.

As should be expected with a new operation, Brouwer’s is still shaking down as the crew fine-tunes the operation, but it’s shaping up to be a worthwhile destination for Seattle residents and visitors seeking out a beer-rich experience.

I enjoyed another such beer-rich experience in April when I joined the Greater Everett Brewers League on a pub-crawl. We started at Hale’s Brewery and Pub, where owner Mike Hale was on hand to talk about his brewery and its beers. Hale’s has been expanding its range over the last few years. Mongoose IPA, which made its debut three years ago, has done well, becoming a popular example of the citrusy-bitter Pacific Northwest IPA style. More recently, Hale’s Red Menace Big Amber has been showing up on tap handles, and the name doesn’t lie; this 1.056 OG amber ale has a firm malt background of Carastan and Caramel malts, with just a touch of black malt to add depth to the color, and it’s hopped with 100% Centennials.

Also impressive is Hale’s new Abbey Ale, a Belgian-style departure from the brewery’s usual range of English-inspired ales, with a deep-golden color from pale, crystal and Munich malts; Saaz and Mount Hood hops to keep the sweetness in check; and a Belgian abbey-ale yeast that gives the beer a citrusy, fruity aroma. Belgian candy sugar is used to kick up the original gravity, resulting in a strong golden ale at 6.7% abv.

After starting out sampling several Hale’s ales with pub pizzas, the pub-crawlers hopped on Hale’s double-decker bus to go traveling in style. The next stop was a short distance down the road, at the Maritime Pacific brewery. Joe Carullo was on hand to show off the brewery and pour samples of the Vienna-style amber lager, to the appreciation of all attending.

The next bus stop was at Brouwer’s Café, where the pub-crawling crew shifted their attentions to the Belgian beers on tap, including tasty samples of Gouden Carolus Tripel and St. Bernardus 12. As if that wasn’t enough, a generous purchase of Bottleworks Imagination Series Sixth Anniversary gave all on hand an opportunity to sample this Belgian-style treat, an abbey brown ale brewed by Tom Munoz and crew at Redmond’s Far West Brewing Co.

By the time everyone was back on the Hale’s bus, they were in fine beery spirits, ready for the last stop of the crawl, the Collins Pub in central Seattle, where even more beery treats awaited the thirsty crew. I stayed at the Collins and wished the GEBL crawlers a fond bon voyage. I still had an evening ahead of me, to be taken up by a delicious multi-course brewer’s dinner featuring Elysian beers.

Seattle will present even more worthwhile events for beer drinkers this summer, with the NWSource.com Summer Brewfest kicking things off on Father’s Day Weekend, June 17–19. As is always the case with this Pacific Northwest tradition, now in its sixth year, it will feature around 54 purveyors, mostly offering beer but a few offering ciders, in the classy and grassy environs of St. Edward State Park, between Kirkland and Bothell on the northeastern shore of Lake Washington.

Two weekends later, on July 1–3, the 2005 edition of the Seattle International Beer Festival will kick into gear, offering beer lovers an impressive range of beers from Europe, North America and Japan, including what for me is a long-overdue opportunity to sample brews from Walking Man Brewery, whose powerful Homo Erectus and Somnambulator beers will be part of the beer lineup. Will I see you there? Hope I do. Have a great and beery summer!

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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