AUG/SEP 2006 | REGIONAL | PACIFIC
Puget Soundings : Beer In The Pacific Northwest
By Don Scheidt
Summer started warm in the Puget Sound area, and there is
plenty of great beer to cool off the parched throats of beer
lovers looking for something refreshing. The summer got off
to a great start with the Washington Brewers Festival at Seattle
Center’s Fisher Pavilion. The event was well-organized
and well-attended, but one limitation was a damper for some.
The previous festivals held on Father’s Day weekend
at St. Edward State Park were family-friendly, but the powers
that be at Seattle Center changed that, allowing in only those
over 21. You can find great beer, a variety of brewpubs and
any number of good beer bars in Seattle, but there are still
reminders of the prohibitionist mentality that should have
been put out with the spent grain a long time ago.
The annual Seattle International Beerfest at Seattle Center,
at the very beginning of July, featured its usual excellent
array of beers from around the world. But again, we are reminded
by the beers we can’t get in Washington that it’s
challenging to do business here. Washington state liquor authorities
require that all beers sold in the state be “posted”
— essentially, registered — in order to be allowed
for retail sale. Other states have no such laws (and some
have even more ridiculously draconian state interference).
In spite of this, we manage to have access to an excellent
and increasing range of interesting, exceptional beer.
Elysian Brewing is on the rise once again, opening its third
location, Elysian Fields, just a short walk from Seattle’s
Qwest Field football stadium and not a terribly long walk
from baseball’s Safeco Field, at 542 First Avenue South
in Seattle. The newest Elysian brewpub is a substantial venture,
bigger than the original Elysian brewpub on Seattle’s
Capitol Hill and the smaller Elysian TangleTown in north Seattle.
Elysian Fields has a planned capacity of 400, providing significant
competition for the Pyramid Alehouse just down the street.
The new Elysian Fields brewpub should be
up and running not long after this edition of the Celebrator
hits the streets.
In spite of the stadium-friendly location, Elysian Fields
will be less a sports bar than a good place to go for the
good eats and great beers for which Elysian has become well-known
in the Pacific Northwest. Brewer Kevin Forhan is also well-known
in the brewing community, having served stints at Pike Brewing
and the Big Time brewpub. The newest Elysian brewpub should
be up and running not too long after this edition of the Celebrator
hits the streets.
Charles and Rose Ann Finkel have returned to the Seattle
beer scene by reacquiring the Pike Brewery and Pub from specialty
beer importer Merchant du Vin, a company Finkel founded in
the 1970s and grew to success before selling it several years
ago. Pike had been sold along with MdV, but the Finkels took
advantage of an opportunity to buy Pike back from MdV when
the importer put the craft brewery up for sale. The Finkels
have always been active in the Seattle beer community, so
it’s great to see them back in the saddle again. Welcome
back, Charles and Rose Ann!
Seattle also has a new specialist beer bar, Über, on
Aurora Avenue North. The pub itself isn’t terribly fancy,
just a little storefront place on a busy main road. But pull
up to the bar and take a look at what’s on tap and in
the coolers, and it’s immediately apparent that this
is no ordinary local pub. When it opened in late June, Über
featured an impressive range of imports on draught, including
Poperinge Hommelbier and Scotch de Silly from Belgium; St.
Georgen Kellerbier from Germany; and domestic favorites like
Lagunitas Pils and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
The coolers hold a superb selection of ales from all over,
heavy on Belgian and German specialties but with plenty of
beery representation from elsewhere, too. With the Duck Island
Saloon just a couple of blocks way, we have the makings of
a good little Aurora Avenue pub crawl in the works.
Washington’s brewers continue to work hard and creatively,
and every so often something interesting and new arrives on
the scene. Such was the case in June in Ellensburg, east of
the Cascades, where Iron Horse brewer/owner Jim Quilter offered
samples of his latest beer, a wheat and rye ale. It was deceptively
light in appearance, but tasting revealed a substantially
malt-laden beer with just a light touch of hops. This could
have been tagged an American-style blond weizenbock, but Quilter
has always been more about the beer and will probably continue
development on this unique brew — a real attraction
for those who like a big, strong malt monster that’s
deceptively easy to drink.
So there you have it for summer 2006. July is associated
with the date we celebrate American freedoms, and in the Pacific
Northwest, as always, that includes freedom of choice in great
beer, both locally made and from countries with long brewing
traditions. May it always be that way, as we evolve our own
traditions of brewing and beer culture.
Maybe I’ll see you at the Great American Beer Festival
this year, running September 28–30. I can tell you that
there will be, as always, no shortage of Pacific Northwest
brewers in attendance. Next time, I’ll have welcome
news on a local brewpub’s plans to expand by opening
a second location.
Don Scheidt is an associate editor of the
Celebrator Beer News and author of the Northwest
He also writes about beer for the Seattle Weekly (seattleweekly.com)
and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.