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.


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.


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.

PhotoGrid_1422084774359         PhotoGrid_1422163497653          PhotoGrid_1422085670631

(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.


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

A Little Super Bowl Wagering


Beer Bloggers. Yes you. Especially you in Massachusetts, or the region sometimes known as “New England” (as opposed to Old England???). I know Boston does not have very many breweries, but they do have a couple to speak of in Sam Adams and Harpoon. With the plethora of great breweries in Seattle and the upcoming Superbowl between the “luck-infested” Seahawks and the “underinflated” Patriots (aka “limp”) I thought it would be a good time for a little friendly wager just amongst us bloggers.


I take Seattle, straight up. You take the Pats. Seahawks win Super Bowl XLIX and you must send me a prominent, decent tasting beer from your area. Pats get really “lucky” (meaning Brady survives the first half without a concussion and Gronk doesn’t rip some kind of ligament or wrench his back after a Chancellor hit) and actually win without some kind of cheating scandal, I will send you a bottle of your choice from one of the Seattle area’s many fine breweries. Continue reading

Big Beer Festivals Coming Up


Three great beer sampling events are coming up that you will not want to miss. So much good beer in such a short time. Hoppy Trails is planning on covering all three this year.


Strange Brewfest 2015

  • January 23-24, Port Townsend WA

“When we held the first Strange Brewfest in January 2005, it was a bit of a muted affair. A handful of breweries made their way to the peninsula, embraced our concept of concocting strangely inspired potations, and we celebrated under the cold, gray skies of the PNW.”

Now in its eleventh iteration, they promise to crank it up a notch this year. This is a must-attend event. A visit to Port Townsend Brewing is mandatory too if you are even semi-interested in great craft beer.

Previously on HTBN – Strange Brew 2014 and Strange Brew 2012


The 6th Annual Belgianfest will take place on Saturday, January 31st, 2015 at  Bell Harbor International Conference Center on Seattle’s waterfront. Advance tickets are available now.

Belgianfest highlights the fascinating beer culture of Belgium by showcasing 80+ Belgian-style beers crafted by Washington breweries. Featured beer styles include Tripels, Dubbels, Saisons, Wits, Abbeys and Lambics. All of the beers will be brewed with Belgian yeast.

Pike Brewing Chocofest

  • February 8 – Seattle Pike Place Market

The Pike 2015 Chocofest is set for Sunday, February 8 from 6pm to 9pm and will take place on three levels at the Pike Pub & Brewery. The event will feature over 100 different beer, cider, wine, spirit and food vendors, including many local businesses. The cost is $50 and includes all food, a commemorative tasting glass and 10 drink tickets. You can buy tickets online here.

More info from Pike:

It’s been called “the best event of the year!” Now in its seventh year, what started as a gathering of beer and chocolate lovers in Pike’s Museum Room, has turned into a nationally recognized and anticipated feast of the senses. This romantic event takes place on Sunday, February 8, 2015, on three levels and includes local and imported beer and chocolate, wine, cider, mead, and spirits, along with desserts, oysters, and savory foods from many of Seattle’s top restaurants and hotels.”

Small Brewers Rule


With all the angst over some bigger microbreweries selling off all or parts of their breweries to megabreweries, 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 about how it is about small nano sized breweries making their mark and generating a local, almost neighborhood following.

The problem is – there are getting to be too many of them to cover as a journalist on a regular basis. I was out visiting the other day, and learned that there are two new breweries that just opened nearby. 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)

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

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.


Flycaster Brewing (Totem Lake)

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.


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.


Other small Eastside breweries you can actually visit include:

  • Triplehorn Brewing
  • Dirty Bucket Brewing
  • Foggy Noggin Brewing
  • Bushnell Brewing
  • Blue Lightning Brewing
  • Postdoc Brewing
  • HiFi Brewing
  • Big Block Brewing
  • Issaquah Brewhouse / Rogue Ales Brewing

And of course the not so small Eastside breweries:

  • Black Raven Brewing
  • Mac & Jacks Brewing
  • Red Hook Brewing

Best of Western Washington – Beer Stuff


vmhZ5EeI_400x400KING5 and Evening Magazine run a Best of Western Washington popularity poll every year with massive amounts of categories that are still not precise enough, especially for beer-related “Bests.”

Best Beer Blog is not its own category, but instead it is tucked into a social media, Food Bloggers category. Why? Beer bloggers usually don’t blog about food.

Anyway, it is time to give Kendall Jones a big shout out as having the Best Beer Blog in Western Washington, the Washington Beer Blog. I read it all the time. Note that his blog did not finish first in the category Wa_BeerBlog_Header(#9 of 96), so he didn’t get the cool plaque. Some crummy recipe blogger gets that. Which makes no sense to me. That’s like putting brewpubs in with all the restaurants.

That said, guess who got the second most votes in the Food Blog category that is primarily a beer blogger – yep – you got it – Hoppy Trails Beer News! Right here.

“Hoppy Trails Beer News – Ranked #29 of 96 for Best Food Blog

There are several other beer bloggers around here that I follow; Seattle Beer News, being another great source of local beer information.

The beer-related Top 5’s for this year are:

Best Beer Selection – Nightlife

Best Brewpub – Nightife

Best Beer Store – Specialty Food & Drink

If you haven’t tried some of these places – please do. And keep reading the beer blogs!

What’s New and Newsy?


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thCADRNE1QYup. A store right here on this web site. Pretty cool huh? Click on the banner at the top of the page, or right here, and start shopping. Shirts, books, movies, homebrewing supplies, festival gear, with more to come all the time.

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