Want an American Beer? Good Luck

Finding a great American beer is not that hard to do if you are a craft beer lover. However for main-streamers, it is getting much, much harder. I am going to kick-start a firestorm of debate on this but when a foreign company buys the brewery, it is not American anymore. It is a foreign beer, brewed in America (at least for the time being). We all answer to the bean counters. Your local guy sold out and is sitting under a beach umbrella somewhere.

Full Sail Brewing (Hood River, OR) Acquired by Encore Consumer Capital – 3/9/15 – Ends Unique ESOP

With the acquisition of the Bend, OR, craft brew rising star 10 Barrel Brewing  and Seattle, WA stalwart Elysian Brewing by ABInBev there is a lot of joy in the marketplace and a deep sadness from craft beer purists. Winners here are ABInBev and 10 Barrel Brewing, and countless thousands of beer drinkers across the nation who now will be treated to some of the wonders of the 10 Barrel line-up. Losers are Bend locals and current 10 Barrel consumers who shared a convivial sense of ownership in the brewery, the brewers and the brand. ABInBev? Aren’t they an American company? Sadly, not in a legal sense. Read on.

Continue reading Want an American Beer? Good Luck

Small Brewers Rule

With all the angst over some bigger microbreweries selling off all or parts of their breweries to megacorpbreweries, it is refreshing to revisit some of the favorite small breweries around the area. This reminds me that the craft beer revolution is less about having Sam Adams beers on lots of taps around Boston, and whether Widmer, Ommegang, Goose Island and Boulevard are still considered “craft breweries”, and more how it is about small nano sized breweries making their mark and generating a local, almost neighborhood following.

Some are weekend only garage brewers, and some actually pay for retail space. Most do not have food – and that is fine by me – because that makes them able to be dog-friendly.

Here are a few that have had a couple anniversaries and are well worth going back to if you are out and about.

Odin Brewing (Tukwila) – Dog Friendly if not serving food

Odin is in the midst of a transition. They now have a taproom/pub in Tukwila near the Southcenter Mall. Over the next year they will be moving their brewing equipment from the current 5,000 sq ft brewhouse to this new location. This will give them some 12,000 feet of expansion room for their brewing operations. Norse themed goodness in a dozen different offerings. My favorites are the Freya’s Gold (Kolsch), Northern Darkness (Baltic Porter) and the spiced Abbey Ale.

Odin Collage

Counterbalance Brewing (South Park) – No dogs

counterbalance-logo-color-300px-noseattleA couple of coffee shop employees from Queen Anne Hill decided to start a new brewery in town. Head brewer and owner Frank Lawrence had been brewing beers at home for seven years. His Caffe Ladro colleague co-owner Jeff Howell, also is a homebrewer and craft beer lover. It turns out Frank had quite the knack for crafting consistently tastey and creative beers. After several years of a lot of “we should start our own brewery” chit-chat at local taprooms, they bit the proverbial bullet and DID IT.

Counterbalance 2

The “counterbalance theme” has many iterations as explained on their web site. Basically it comes down to balance – and a balanced beer is what you get there. The tap room opened in late January, 2015. They are already “packing them in” thanks to some beer tour buses and a thirsty local workforce.

I had the Abigale Blonde Ale, Counterbalance IPA, Bad Wolf Dark Ale and the Kushetka Russian Imperial Stout. I particularly liked the stout.

Brickyard Brewing (Woodinville) – Dog Friendly

Santa was good to me this year and gave me a coupon for a flight of eight Brickyard tastes and a growler fill. I had not been up that a way for quite some time, so it was good to visit again and see what was new. I run into brewer/owner/beer server extraordinaire Joe Montero at various festivals and other breweries from time to time. Their Masonry Oatmeal is top notch, especially with the stout flavored ice cream. Stout floats! Yummm.

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Flycaster Brewing (Totem Lake) – dog friendly

Now that Jeremy Eubanks has his Flycaster Brewing operation open and generating decent traffic, he is expanding hours and turning much of the brewing operations over to other brewers while he concentrates on – well if you go solely off his Facebook posts – fly fishing trips, vacations with the family and a love of TJack (Seahawk backup QB). He still  sandwiches a MSFT BI job in there somehow. Usually, his beers are on the lighter side (blonde, ipa, pale, red) but on this visit they had a winter ale that was good, and a coffee porter that was really good.

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Twelve Bar Brews (Woodinville) – Dog Friendly

12BarslogoThe last time I was in owner/brewer Kirk Hilse’s music themed fine establishment, it was just him and me, separated by a counter. His side had a few taps. My side had a cement floor right next to the front door. Not even a chair. His hours were like blink and you missed it, but I enjoyed his beers at several local festivals. He celebrated his third year in operation this past October.

What a difference today. He took over a couple offices next door and has a beautiful cozy, dare I say intimate, taproom with guitars, and other musical instruments serving as an integral part of the decor. I had the Turnaround Red Northwest Ale. At 40 IBUs I was expecting a bit of a bite, but somehow he has tamed his hops. They were very flavorful and aromatic. He bottles his bigger sellers and uses a distributor to expand his reach throughout Washington and Idaho.

12BBCollage

Big Block Brewing (Sammammish)

Located in a residential cul-de-sac on the Sammammish plateau, tucked inside a large, two-car garage, is yet another Eastside nanobrewery named Big Block Brewing, in honor of the big block car engines.

Owner John Julum has been producing beer at home for about 20 years. Julum and his wife, Michele, operate Big Block Brewery, the only licensed brewery in the city of Sammamish. It’s considered a nanobrewery because of its 15-keg-per-week capacity. But bigger tanks are on the way.

BigBlockCollage

The brewery and taproom take up most of the Julums’ two-car garage, although the business’s namesake, a 1967 Ford Galaxie with a big-block engine, sits out in the driveway. The Julums often have 11 beers on tap, and sell beer in growlers, kegs and pints out of their taproom. You may see them on local taps around town soon.

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POSTDOC Grand Opening

A new small brewery opens officially today, Feb 27, in Redmond with a great line-up of quality craft beer. Kilty MacSporran (Scottish Ale), Homeroom (Belgian Rye), Goldilocks (Belgian Blonde), Hogus Maximus (an 11% 100+ IBM hop monster), along with a porter,  red, coffee porter, Irish stout, and several lower IBU IPAs,  are just the start for this beautiful neighborhood brewhouse.

No food yet. But it is dog friendly.

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I Went Down to Elysian Fields and . . .

ya know what? I had fun. I went down to try the three Harpoon Brewery IPAs that Elysian has to tap after the Seahawks blew the Super Bowl. Harpoon is a great brewery in Boston,  MA. I had the pleasure of visiting there a couple summers ago and found a good friend in their Irish Stout. These IPAs are all good, around 45 IBUs and ranging from 4.5 to 10.2% ABV. Nice hop flavor and well balanced.

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Go down and try them. While you are there, treat yourself to a Perseus Porter and a Dragonstooth Stout. I did. And I am a happier person for the experience.

Budweiser Anti-Craft Beer Ad – Fail

Budweiser-logo
Budweiser – for people who don’t care what their beer tastes like.

Budweiser strayed from their usual heart-tugging puppies and horsies in their annual Super Bowl ads this year and actually talked about their product. They try to sell “the experience,” not what their fizzy yellow piss tastes like. In this ad, they pretty much say that they don’t think beer drinkers ought to care what the beer tastes like. Just shut up, sit down, and drink our beer. Beechwood aged? What the hell is that? They also do a good job of sucking you into the us versus them mentality. They maintain that their yellow stuff is the only beer you will ever need, and all the other styles are for weenies. They make AMERICAN beer. Although, they are owned by a Belgian beer consortium.

They make fun of craft beer although they have recently bought two popular – well, formerly popular – breweries in Washington (Elysian Brewing) and Oregon (10 Barrel Brewing), BOTH of which have earned their reputation due to a variety of styles and quality of taste – and ONE of which (Elysian) actually has brewed the Peach Pumpkin Ale that they poke fun at in the ad. They also bought Goose Island Brewing in Chicago and have a fake craft beer operation called Shock Top, that specializes in making beers with weird names and atypical ingredients.

Elysianpeachpumpkin

Irony aside, the Belgian-based brewing conglomerate AB-InBev, has seen a substantial  drop off in sales of Budweiser beer, reportedly around 50% over the past 10 years. Bud is just one of many brands they market in the US and around the world.

Don’t get me wrong. Bud is a good beer for certain occasions. Like beer chugging contests. Washing down cardboard crusted pizza. Or these clever ideas taken from food and drink writer Cris Carl:

  • Trap slugs and snails
  • Trap fruit flies
  • Distract bees and wasps from your outdoor gathering.
  • Get rid of mice
  • Cockroach trap
  • Fertilize your gardens
  • Fertilize your indoor plants
  • Get rid of brown spots in your lawn
  • Stain removal
  • Spruce up wooden furniture
  • Clean gold jewelry
  • Polishing brass
  • Loosen rusty bolts
  • Insulation

Friends don’t let friends drink Bud. Use it to kill rats instead. ABInBev rats.

Think You Know Beer? Think Again

shirt_14The peninsula’s January festival of beer mayhem (called Strange Brewfest) has ended. Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about making or tasting beer, dozens of WA craft brewers (and one that officially stopped being a craft brewer) put on their homebrewer caps and said, in essence, “Oh, ya? Try this!!”

The trip to Port Townsend, WA is always a scenic overkill, making you want to get out the tent, backpacks, and sleeping bags and live the wilderness life for a few days. Still relatively rural or deeply forested, the peninsula is a collection of farms, waterways and very cute, very small towns.

Poulsbo has long been the Nordic capital of the West Sound and boasts three great breweries that are radically different and uniquely supportive of one another. There are many other exceptional breweries not too far away in Port Orchard, Shelton, Bremerton, Silverdale, Gig Harbor, Port Angeles, Hood Canal, Kingston, Bainbridge Island and the destination of last weekend’s road trip, Port Townsend. No trip to Port Townsend is complete without a stop at the Port Townsend Brewery.

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First up was the new brewery in downtown Poulsbo, Slippery Pig Brewing. Not that the brewery itself is new, since it has been around since 2011 originally located on, yes, a pig farm. Owner Dave Lambert creates specialty beers based on traditional styles, with a local ingredients thrown in;  thistles, rhubarb and nettles. It also has some spot on evening entertainment featuring local bands of a variety of musical styles.

SlipperyPigNew

Then it was on to the Strange Brewfest. Forty brewers created concoctions for your enjoyment like:

Cool As A Cucumber Saison - Island Hopping Brewing
Cool As A Cucumber Saison – Island Hopping Brewing
  • Raspberry Mint Wheat
  • Mutha Sucka
  • Mocha Imperial Red
  • Miso Beery
  • Nacho Cheese Beerito
  • No Worry Curry
  • Tree Hugger
  • Choco Likity Yum Yum
  • Fruity Pebbles
  • Seven Bloody Seas
  • Sour Stout
  • Jalapeno Mole Stout
  • Sahti Juniper Saison
  • Fennel Amber Saison
  • Pine Needle Pale
  • Skittle Brau Blonde

Oh yes, the list goes on and on.

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(Click on the collages above for larger images)

After two days of tasting some pretty remarkable beers and some great food from the Shanghai Restaurant and Khu Larb Thai there needed to be one more adventure before heading to the ferry dock for the ride home – Valholl Brewing.

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Sorry to see this one end – but next weekend is Belgianfest!!!!