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JUL/JUL 2006 | REGIONAL | PACIFIC NW

Puget Soundings : Beer In The Pacific Northwest
By Don Scheidt

Was it all just a dream? The World Beer Cup and Craft Brewers Conference blew into Seattle in the second week of April, and for a week the city became Beertown U.S.A., the gathering point of many of the brewing industry’s best and brightest — and not just from the United States, either. There was brewing talent from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands and elsewhere, and for a mildly rainy early spring week, those in the know were treated to the best Seattle had to offer.

Centers of the beer universe included Hale’s, Elysian and Pike brewpubs, and special events were everywhere: Michael Jackson at Brouwer’s; Hans-Peter Drexler of Germany’s Schneider wheat-beer brewery at Feierabend; a keg of vintage La Trappe Quadrupel at the Beveridge Place Pub.

The Specialty Beer Wholesalers conference also brought together people who make it their business to deliver quality beers to the retail market. The World Beer Cup numbers were the eighth wonder of the world: 2,221 beers from 540 breweries in 56 countries, separated and judged in 85 categories. Washington state stood proud, tying with Colorado at 12 medals, with winners from Elysian Brewing, Walking Man Brewing, Rock Bottom, Boundary Bay, RAM/Big Horn Brewing, Silver City Brewing, Fish Brewing, Water Street Brewing and Snipes Mountain.

Neighboring Oregon also did well, with 11 medals, and California’s craft brewers took 25 medals. Brewers from outside the U.S.A. did well, too; perhaps it’s not a big surprise that German brewers took 28 medals, or that 15 medals were won by Belgian beers. Japanese craft brewers also took 10 medals, showing the growth and maturing of the specialty beer trade in that country.

It was a week in which good beer and great brewers got their well-deserved respect, and not just at conference events and seminars. Beer dinners were held every evening during the week, five on Monday alone, and more on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, culminating in the World Beer Cup awards dinner on Friday evening. Monday saw dinners at Elysian-TangleTown, featuring Ommegang, Duvel and Rodenbach; at Matt’s in the Market, featuring Elysian; at the Crow restaurant, featuring Sierra Nevada; at the Hilltop Ale House, featuring Alaskan Brewing; and at an invitation-only event at the Collins Pub, sponsored by Click Wholesale. All the dinners were well received, and the Collins Pub pulled out its best efforts for the special event, matching great food with an outstanding range of beers from the Click catalog.

Tuesday evening featured an “American Brewers in Belgium” dinner at the Latona Pub. The Union dinners were superb; chef Ethan Stowell’s cuisine provided stellar accompaniment to Unibroue’s beers on Wednesday, with Laurent-Xavier Gilbert from the brewery hosting the affair. The Union dinner on Thursday was one to remember: an eight-course extravaganza featuring beer and wine, as well as brewing-world luminaries Sam Calagione, Tomme Arthur and Michael Jackson, who signed copies of his latest edition of Great Beers of Belgium after dinner.

After all this, how could we return to normal? It helps to have a high standard of “normal,” and it also helps that the brewing world never stands still for very long in this corner of the world. Snoqualmie Falls Brewing, east of Seattle in the town of Snoqualmie, opened its taproom to the public just days before the Craft Brewers Conference, pouring a fine range of beers served along with good-value pub food. Brewer Shawn Loring has successfully moved and reopened his brewery, relocating from well southeast of Seattle to north of the city, in Everett, where it now does business as Lazy Boy Brewing.

I took a small contingent of friends up to Diamond Knot Brewing in Mukilteo, and after lunch and beer sampling there, we were treated to a tour of Diamond Knot’s new “B2” production brewery: a well-organized and busy craft-beer plant designed to supply a growing market with DK’s flavorful range of craft ales. Somewhere in there, Rogue Issaquah BrewHouse’s Arlen Harris found time to set aside a batch of the Imperial Stout he brewed for Bottleworks, and he aged it in some bourbon-oak barrels. The result was exquisite.

Summer’s coming, too, and with it come outdoor beer festivals. We may be spoiled for choice this year, with two festivals slated for Father’s Day weekend (see sidebar). The Seattle International Beerfest also returns, just before the Independence Day holiday.

UPCOMING EVENTS IN SEATTLE

Washington Brewers Festival
Presented by Washington Brewers Guild
June 17: 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
June 18: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
“The Mother of All Father’s Day Festivals”
Fisher Pavilion Lawn at Seattle Center
305 Harrison St.
Seattle, Wash.
washingtonbeer.com/wabf.htm

2006 Seattle International Beerfest
June 30: 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
July 1: Noon to 10:00 p.m.
July 2: Noon to 7:00 p.m.
St. Edward State Park
Juanita, Wash.
seattlebeerfest.com

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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