2017 Beer in Review

There’s still a few weeks left in 2017 but all of the major beer events are over for the year.  Competition season has wrapped up, festivals are long since over, our homebrew club holiday party was this past weekend putting a bow on the club year as well. This past year was pretty interesting when I looked back on it even though some things didn’t go as planned.

Brewing: I didn’t brew as much this year as I have in the past couple of years.  I am brewing today what will be my 8th and final batch of the year, a repeat of my Rum “Barrel” Aged tropical stout.  For comparison, I brewed 12 batches in 2016 and 11 in 2015.  However, what I lacked in quantity I made up for in quality.  As I outlined in my Competition Review post, I managed to win 8 awards with three different beers.  2 Bronze and 3 Silver for my Belgian Dark Strong, 2 Bronze for my Belgian Wit and a Silver for my CDA.  I have some lofty goals for 2018 so hopefully this momentum continues.

Judging: I also didn’t judge as much this year as I have in years past, which was unfortunate but things just didn’t line up as well.  I started the year with a really unique opportunity to judge commercial beers at the Best of Craft Beer Awards in Bend.  My wife and I will be returning to BCBA in 2018, myself as a judge and her as a steward.  Besides schedule, another reason I didn’t judge as much is I got more involved in the administrative side of competitions, serving as Cellarmaster at SheBrew and Judge Director for both Heart of Cascadia and Fall Classic. This year I took the 10 week BJCP styles class offered by the OBC and took the tasting exam in June.  I wasn’t happy with my score, but I did increase from a 68 to a 76 and increased my rank from Recognized to Certified.  I re-took the tasting exam again in November and have not received my score yet, but based on talking to the proctors afterwards I feel really good about how I did.  I’m nervous about taking the written exam, but I am hoping to eventually make National rank.

Travel: The highlight of this year had to be the trip to Denver.  15 breweries in 4 days and that just barely scratched the surface of the beer scene there.  New Belgium was awesome, I can’t recommend strongly enough doing the tour there.  Our friends who we were visiting there have now moved back to Oregon, which is great, but now that means we need another excuse to go back.  Someday, I’d like to attend GABF.  We also visited new breweries in Astoria (Reach Break), Salem (Xicha) and a couple places in Seattle (Reuben’s Brews and 9 Yards).

Job:  June marked 1 year at my job at Portland Brewing, so now I’m at about a year and a half.  Things are still going well.  I’m hoping I might have an opportunity next year to do some Siebel training courses. If I do I’ll be sure to write about it here. I’m still learning a lot and the networking opportunities have been pretty crazy.  I’ve been doing some testing for smaller breweries in our lab and it feels really good to help out other members of the community.  There is really a lot more cooperation for us than competition.  At least in Portland.

Looking Ahead: 2018 looks to be pretty interesting, starting the year out with a trip to Mexico and returning to Best of Craft Beer, then over the summer we’re going to be travelling to Houston to work as volunteers at a large event there and then visit family in Austin, so another “not beer” related trip, but we’ll squeeze a few places in, especially in Austin.  The National Homebrewers Conference is coming to Portland next year, sadly the same weekend that we’ll be in Houston so we’ll miss it, but we’ll get to help with some of the set up and I plan on judging the preliminary round of the competition which will be in Portland this year as well.  Also, next year it’s my wife’s turn on the Board of the OBC, serving as Secretary, so our club involvement will ratchet up yet again after taking it kinda easy this year.

So, cheers to 2017 and here’s to 2018!

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2017 Competition Recap

I sometimes joke about not being a competitive person, at which point my wife looks at me sideways like “Really?” I think I associate competitive in my head with that guy or girl from high school who played seven sports and went to a private college on a tennis scholarship. I didn’t play sports growing up, but was in the marching band and competed both in marching and concert bands. In college, I played video games, did Ham radio competitions, started playing fantasy football and hockey and then eventually got into distance running.  So naturally, I started entering competitions almost immediately after starting homebrewing.  My first entry was my second ever batch and my first medal (a new brewer award) came on my 5th batch.

The 2017 Competition season has come to an end and it was very interesting and successful, although it didn’t start out that way.  I didn’t have any success in the early competitions, including a crushingly low score for my Cascadian Dark Ale in the NHC Regionals. Decent scores at KLCC, Spring Fling and Heart of Cascadia, but no medals.

I’ve won a few medals here and there, but I entered 2017 with a plan.  That plan didn’t totally work out, but what happened in it’s place was still pretty great.  In December of 2016 I brewed a Belgian Dark Strong. The original plan was to bottle condition for nearly an entire year and not break it out until the Fall Classic in November. My curiousity got the best of me and I tasted it after 6 months and it tasted awesome, so I decided to enter it into the State Fair.  It didn’t medal, but I got some good feedback on it.  Around this same time, a couple of my homebrewing friends tasted it and gave me some feedback and at this point I knew I wanted to re-brew it and make some changes, so I was no longer trying to hold on to this until summer of 2018.  I started entering the BDS into competitions to start getting more feedback.

The first competition I entered it into was the Lane County fair, along with my Belgian Wit that I had made because I had most of the ingredients already on hand.  They started out in different categories but due to being a small comp they combined all the Belgians together and I ended up competing against myself. The Dark Strong took third place in the combined Belgian category.

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I found it humorous that they mailed my my $4.00 premium as well.

For the next couple of competitions the BDS and the Wit were all I had ready. It was too hot for me to brew during the main part of the summer (June, July, August).  The next event was the Rocktoberfest Competition in Redmond.  I sent in the BDS and the Wit and this time, they stayed in separate categories and I happened to take 3rd place in both.

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I was getting pretty excited at this point.  To have the same beer medal multiple times was pretty amazing.  Little did I know at the time that that trend was going to continue.  The next competition was the Sasquatch Homebrew Competition in Eugene.  This event had a limited number of categories, but one happened to be Trappist, so I sent in the Belgian Dark Strong.  This time it took Second place.  Even while it was winning medals it still seemed to be improving with time, another testament to the bottle conditioning process.

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Huge ribbon from Sasquatch.

The next event was a new event called the Salem Harvest Classic, run by Capitol Brewers in Salem.  I once again submitted the BDS and the Wit and managed to double dip again.  This time, 2nd place for the BDS and 3rd place for the Wit.  I felt like I was picking up steam coming into our club competition, the Fall Classic.  I was out of bottles of the Wit, and now that it was cool enough again, I brewed up a American Pale Ale and another version of my Cascadian Dark Ale.  The CDA scored well but didn’t medal, and my Pale Ale had a carbonation issue so it didn’t do well either, but lo and behold the Belgian Dark Strong took second place.  After 4 years of entering the competition, and being heavily involved in running it the last 3 years (including two years of labeling the medals) I had finally taken home a Fall Classic medal.  I’d say this one certainly meant the most.  Everyone there was so excited for me to win, and that kind of support is what makes the hobby run.  Also, late that night when we finally made it home, my Salem Harvest Classic medals had come in the mail and were waiting for me.

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I was now out of Belgian Dark Strong bottles to enter, so it’s run was over, but when it was all said and done, two bronze medals and three silver medals.  I’ve already brewed the 2018 batch and it’s currently doing it’s thing in the bottles. The first entry for that batch will be the NHC Regionals in April so we’ll see how it does then.

The last competition of the season was the Joint Novembeerfest and Puget Sound Pro-Am.  I entered the pale ale and the CDA into this competition and the Pale Ale got a decent score and good feedback but no medal. The CDA, on the other hand, took third place in Specialty IPA, which is always a very competitive category.  I was extremely happy with this result.  The two other medals I’ve won with my CDA were in custom categories for CDA only.  Specialty IPA includes all the new styles like Red IPA, Belgian IPA and New England Style IPA.

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Before 2017 I had four medals (1 bronze, 3 silver).  Now I have 12.  That’s very impressive.  I didn’t take first place in a category or win best in show or anything like that, but I tripled the number of ribbons and medals hanging on my wall and I’m pretty stoked about that.

I have two goals for 2018.  Understandably, there’s a good chance this won’t happen, but isn’t that the point of setting goals?

First, I want to get on the scoreboard of the Oregon State Homebrewer of the Year.  Not win the whole thing, or even finish top 10, but just get my name on there.  To score points in OSHBOTY you have to get first place in a category, so by default that means one of my goals is also to score my first gold medal in a category.

Second, I want to advance a beer to the finals of the National Homebrew Competition.  To do that, you have to medal in your category and score 30 plus points.  Again, I’m not looking to win anything in the finals, but just to have the chance. Taking first place in the NHC regionals would accomplish both my goals at once, so fingers crossed!

So there we have it, a look back on the past year and a look ahead to next year.

Xicha Brewing – Salem, OR

Over the holiday weekend, I had the opportunity to visit one of the newest breweries to open in the state, Xicha Brewing in Salem.  We were visiting friends in town and one of them was friends with the head brewer, so of course we had to check it out.  Apparently, the crew running the place are all West Salem natives and have a huge backing of community support.  They weren’t that busy when we got there on the early afternoon of Black Friday, but apparently most nights they’ve been slammed and it was hopping by the time we left.

They’ve been open less than a month so the beer selection is somewhat limited, but still very solid.  They had five beers on when we were there.  An IPA, a pale ale, an Amarillo dry-hopped pale ale, a porter and a variant of the porter with Hatch chilies.  I believe we tried all of them aside from the standard pale ale.

The beer is solid and I expect it to continue to impress, but the reason you want to go here is the FOOD.  Cooking for them is the owners of Pura Vida Cocina in McMinnville, and it’s really unique Latin and South American food.  It’s similar to Mexican but with some unique twists.  I got Sopes, which was a crispy masa cup with their guava BBQ chicken, black beans, cheese and pickled cabbage.  It was really good and very different than anything I’ve ever had.  My wife got the daily special which was Venezuelan style shrimp arepas, which are a stuffed masa dish similar to a empenada but usually served open faced rather than fully closed (at least the two times I’ve seen them).

They are tucked away in an industrial park, but it’s well worth searching out.  I’m already looking forward to going back.  I literally cannot recommend it enough.

Backstage Pass to Whiskey

This is predominately a beer blog, but I also enjoy other spirits, and had a unique experience last night that I felt was worth writing about.  The McMenamins Back Stage Pass to Whiskey was a private, ticketed event with whiskeys from all around the world.  This was an amazing chance to broaden my horizons and taste a lot of different things.  We were given a glass and tokens to enjoy small tastings (1/2 oz?) of a long list of things, many rare and new to Oregon, and some that they only had a single bottle of. The beer tie-in is that my love for whiskey and love for barrel aged beers go hand in hand.  More and more we start to see wine, tequila and gin barrel aged beers, but the majority of barrel aged beers are bourbon/whiskey barrels.  I didn’t take extensive tasting notes, but a couple of things did pop out at me.

Scotch:

I’m not normally a fan of Scotch because I don’t like the smoky flavor.  I think I’m really sensitive to those phenols, and just don’t enjoy it.   A couple of the bottles they poured last night I could smell them from across the room.  Completely unintentionally, I began and ended my night with a Scotch.  The first sample I had was the Balvenie 14yr Caribbean Cask.  Finished for the last few months in rum barrels this whiskey was smooth and slightly sweet.  It was also not smoky at all, something I had gleaned from the online tasting notes.  The last sample of the night was the Oban Little Bay. This was was also supposedly not very smoky, and it wasn’t, but it was there.  Particularly in the finish.  It wasn’t to the point of being unpleasant, but it was noticeable.

Japanese:

McMenamins has always had a great selection of Japanese whiskys at their properties.  I only tried one last night since the Yamazaki 12yr, Yamazaki 18yr and Suntory Toki I’ve all had in the past.  I highly recommend the 18 year if you can find it.  The one I tried last night was the Nikka Coffey Grain.  I think the first time I saw this I misread it as “Coffee”, and interestingly enough, this whisky is very dark with a very slight roast note to it.  Quite tasty.

Irish:

I’m a big fan of Irish whiskey.  Bushmills is a go-to favorite of mine.  The first one I tried was the Knappogue Castle 12 Year, and it was pretty good, but I think it was a little sweet.  Tasting notes on the website list honey and marshmallow, which normally I would like but it was a bit off putting.  The other Irish I tried was Jameson Reserve Selection Black Barrel.  This one blew me away.  Very smooth, really nice easy sipper.  No one flavor dominated, very balanced. I was interested in the West Cork Limited Rum Cask, but it disappeared from the table so I think I missed my chance.  I did overhear someone say they weren’t impressed with it, but different strokes ya know?

Rye:

I’ve discovered somewhat recently that I really like Rye whiskey.  Sometimes more than their non-rye counterpart.  Buillett Bourbon is a classic, great neat or in a mixed drink, but in my opinion Buillett Rye is even better.  The first thing that caught my eye was the Whistlepig Straight Rye 15 year.  This is a brand I see online very often as trade bait and people in search of, so I had to try it.  It was pretty good, and I could get it here in Oregon, but at $85.00 a bottle, it’s not likely to find a place in my liquor cabinet anytime soon.  Next, I tried McMenamin’s newly released Billy Rye Whiskey, a rye version of their Billy Wheat Whiskey.  It was quite delicious and very heavy on oak and vanilla notes.  Super smooth, easy drinker.  Knob Creek Rye got a turn and it was solid and enjoyable.  Nothing jumped out of me but simply a “Yeah.. I like that” kind vibe.  Most Knob Creek I’ve had in the past has been good. Last was the High West Double Rye.  This was quite good, and very spicy.  It had a cinnamon-like quality to it’s spice.  Another beer tie-in, it took me a bit to realize that High West is the barrels used to make Lagunitas High Westified Imperial Coffee Stout.

Canadian:

I only tried one of the Canadian offerings, and I’m sad to say it wasn’t very good.  The Lot 40 seems to have a lot of praise online, but to me it came off very saccharin-sweet.  Artificial tasting and not a good kind of sweetness.  A friend of mine there, who happens to be an Edgefield distiller, told me Canada allows adding sweeteners to whiskey.  (Wikipedia says caramel color and flavour allowed, similar to Scotch).  Seems like a shame, it may have been pretty good otherwise.

Bourbon:

Not surprisingly, this table had the heavyweights.  I tried three from this table, starting with the Woodford Reserve Cosmic Selection, a special McMenamins exclusive blending.  It was super smooth and rich, very very nice.  More and more I’m seeing these type of special exclusive blends, or single barrel runs, where a certain bar will pick a barrel and then get every single bottle that comes from that barrel, exclusive to them.  Next was the I. W. Harper 15 yr.  I remember it being pretty solid, but not anything that blew me away.  Last was the one that stole the show.  The Bookers 25th Anniversary.  Adorned in gold wax and a red ribbon, I knew this bottle was rare when I saw it, but I didn’t actually know how rare until this morning when I looked it up.  I posted the following picture on Instagram,

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with the caption “Bookers 25yr.  I don’t want to know how much that bottle costs.”  When I looked this morning I realized I had transposed 25th Anniversary and 25 years old.  Obviously 25 year old Bourbon would be something special, but this was a one time release from 2014.  It appears to have been around $110 at release, but now the few bottles that remain are listed from $750-999 on a wine sales website.  Holy cow.  It was good, but I don’t think anything could be a Grand good.  Bookers is another brand I see often in online trades.  It seems to be popular for people how can’t normally get it.

So there we have it, a whirlwind world tour of the world of whisk(e)y!

Into the Woods – Bourbon County Edition

This post has been almost a year in the making.  On Black Friday, 2016, I went to a Goose Island Bourbon County Release.  The year before, I had been to a release, but got there late in the afternoon and all the bottles were gone.  I got to try several vintages on draft, which was great, but I decided that the following year I would head out early to get bottles.  6AM early in fact.  I secured my place in line and with less hassle than I expected (shout-out to John’s Marketplace) I received my allotment of bottles.  Two bottles of the base stout, one bottle of the Coffee variant and one bottle of the Barleywine.  In theory, I could have gone to a different release later in the day and picked up the same set again, but decided that four was enough.  The two bottles of Base Stout fit nicely into my small but growing collection of double bottles for my aging experiments.

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There wasn’t much reason to hang on to the Coffee stout or the Barleywine for long since those weren’t part of the aging experiment, but then we didn’t get to the Base Stout until late February.  Obviously, I’m not going to remember what these beers tasted like a year later, even with detailed tasting notes, but I still think it’s interesting to look back at them.

Coffee Stout – 11-26-16: Super strong coffee aroma, like coffee grounds.  Flavor less coffee heavy, vanilla and bourbon with some coffee bitterness.  Thin mouthfeel.

I remember not loving the coffee variant.  Supposedly it changes every year, so I assume some years are better than others. We popped this one on Black Friday, so maybe it needed some aging to mellow the coffee? (4.25 stars)

Barleywine – 12-31-16: Dark fruit and bourbon aroma.  Dark fruit flavor, alcohol burn.  Thick mouthfeel.  Flavor lingers long on the palate.  Slight smokiness.

Looking back at these tasting notes doesn’t really do it justice.  The Barleywine stole the show.  Tasted side by side on release day I felt the barleywine was even better than the stout.  At the very least, the barleywine was ready to drink that day.  (4.75 stars)

Base Stout – 2-26-17: Sweet malt, vanilla, coconut aroma. Cola, vanilla, coconut flavor.  Light roast.  Medium mouthfeel.  Prickly carbonation.

Base Stout – 11-6-17: Strong raisin/dry fruit aroma.  Light vanilla, oak.  Roast burnt flavor, dark fruit, whiskey burning (aftertaste).  Thick mouthfeel, low carbonation.

Not too surprising results with the aged sample of the stout.  The oxidation character has emerged in the form of dark fruit, while the fresh barrel character (vanilla and coconut) has faded.  The bourbon has almost disappeared as well, expect for in that after taste/throat burn.  I can’t guarantee, since as I mentioned above, I don’t exactly remember the beer itself, but based on the tasting notes and the sensory characteristics associated I would wager a guess that I liked the fresh bottle better.  That’s not to say the aged bottle is “bad” per se… just different. (4.5 stars fresh).

So there we have it.  The slow tasting of the 2016 lineup of Bourbon County Brand Stout (and Barleywine).  2017 Black Friday is a couple weeks away and I’ll be curious to see what the line up is like this year.  Hopefully, the barleywine is just as good and the coffee variant is better.  The base stout I expect to be the “same”.  Supposedly, there is a blueberry and almond variant this year that’s supposed to be marzipan inspired, but I’m not sure if that one will make it to Oregon.  The Proprietors Variant is a Chicago only release. They also have a Reserve Stout, which is aged in 25 year old Bourbon Barrels, but that one is $75 (if I recall correctly) for a 22 ounce bottle, so the only way I’m getting to taste that one is if someone gives me a bottle, or pops it in my presence.

Industry Grumblings

There’s been a couple of interesting stories come out in the last week or so that I wanted to just touch on briefly.  Something is afoot at the Circle K.

First, we have the announcement that ABInBev will no longer be buying craft breweries! Hooray right? Well to quote Lee Corso… “Not so fast my friend!”.  This just seems to be a knee-jerk reaction (remember that lovely Super Bowl commercial?) to the backlash, which was pretty heavy for 10 Barrel and Elysian and then went nuclear with Wicked Weed.  Welp, we tried the whole takeover thing and that didn’t work, so I guess it’s back to business as usual.  Vine Pair touches on it briefly in their article, and I pretty much agree with my friend over at A Pint for Dionysus with his succinct commentary that this is pretty much just going back to the old days of InBev strong-arming distributors.  That’s just what big companies do.  Reminds me of when I discovered the dirty truth about how Wal Mart operates.  You make a local soda brand (not Coke or Pepsi), but you don’t package it in 24 packs…. Wal-Mart calls up and Goddammit you’re making 24 packs! They don’t give you a choice.

Second, we have the announcement that Harpoon Brewing has purchased Clown Shoes. Jeff Alworth touches on this in his blog post (READ HERE) and focuses on how different Harpoon and Clown Shoes are and how they won’t compete with each other, really.  Two things surprise me in all this.  First, I didn’t realize that Harpoon was doing well enough to buy someone.  I’ve heard of Harpoon and had a handful of their beers but they aren’t huge.  They don’t make it out here to the West Coast, that I know of, and they don’t have the same range as a “national craft” like Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams.  The second thing is, I didn’t realize Clown Shoes was not an actual brewery.  Apparently, they contract brew other places, so latching on to a bigger place (that has available tank space) makes perfect sense.  The most interesting angle of this is craft buying craft.  It has a similar ring to it as New Belgium snapping up Magnolia Brewing in San Francisco, although that aquisition was more about saving an icon that was going out of business.  The Harpoon/Clown Shoes merger is more about matching strength and strength.  I’m imagining this is going to be a strategy to combat the multinationals. Form large Craft conglomerates? We’ll see.  The most common comment on the Beervana Blog was “this is going to keep happening more often”.

Next, we have an article from the Chicago Tribune portending Doom and Gloom for American Light Lager.  The really quick synopsis is that Coors Light sales are down 3.4% and Bud Light sales are down 5.7%.  The article claims attrition from craft beer (which is growing) as well as the same “wine and spirits” song and dance that the High End made, but I’m not so sure.  The market as a whole is down, and has been for several years, and who’s going to hurt the most? The #1 and #2 beers in sales respectively.  This seems to be following the market trend as a whole.  While I’d love to celebrate craft beer “slaying the Giant” I’m going to pump the brakes on that.  Seems to be more correlation than causation.

Lastly, we have the Goose Island fiasco.  On October 19, roughly a month before release date (Black Friday, Nov 24th).  Goose Island announced in a blog post (HERE) that the Reserve Barleywine, aged in 35 year old Bourbon barrels, was not being released because it “didn’t taste like what we wanted it to”.  Obviously, everyone quickly jumped on the bash wagon and started yelling about “another infection”.  Perhaps rightfully so.  I don’t know what brewer speak for “doesn’t taste good” really means.  Everybody wants to lay blame on ABInBev, but I think that might be a little naive.  Is this ABInBev’s fault… yes… but only tangentially.  Follow me here.  When AB bought Goose, they bought a barrel program, with the idea to grow that barrel program.  My only experience with Goose is post buyout, so I don’t know how it used to be.  Apparently Bourbon County used to rot on the shelf until someone suddenly made it popular. AB wanted to latch on to that popularity, not surprisingly.  One thing I’ve learned from tours at places like de Garde and New Belgium is barrels are fickle creatures.  They are, quite literally, their own beast.  You’re working with yeast and bacteria and sometimes shit just goes sideways, it happens.  So, AB allowed Goose to expand from (fictional numbers for demonstration) 100 barrels to 1000 barrels, those odds of getting a bad barrel increase 10 fold as well.  This same thing likely could have happened even if Goose was still independent, it might just not have happened as quickly, so perhaps we can say AB accelerated the problem, but not so much “caused” it.  I didn’t experience the 2015 infected BCBS, but one thing I’ll give them credit for this year is they caught it (whatever it is) before release day.  That’s not as bad as rolling out a product and then immediately scrambling to buy it all back.  Also, 2015 was in the base stout (as I understand), whereas this is a one off, really experimental type thing.  To me, that’s not as bad.  This beer was already a dice roll to begin with.  I’m willing to give Goose a pass, but I will be paying attention to how things go in the future.  Hopefully they get it under control.  2016 was my first year going to the Black Friday release for Bourbon County, and I am planning to do it again this year.  We’ll see how long that continues, but for now I’m drinking the Kool-Aid.

Seattle Beer Scene

Perhaps it’s because I live in Portland and so I’m keyed in to every small detail of the Portland beer scene, especially comparisons to other regions, but it seems to me that Seattle doesn’t get a lot of hype as a beer town.  Perhaps it does and I just miss it, but at least to me it seems like an unknown waiting to be explored.

My wife and I just returned from a short weekend trip up to Seattle.  The purpose of the trip was a college soccer game and hanging out with family, so not at all a beercation, but since we were headed up that way, I offered to ferry homebrew samples up for one of the last competitions of the year, the Joint Novembeerfest and Puget Sound Pro-Am.  Yeah, it’s a mouthful.  I had a short list of a few places I wanted to hit while we were in town.

We started at Reuben’s Brews in Old Ballard.  A friend of ours from the PNWHC works there and we made it a point to stop by while we were in town.  Unfortunately, it was the Saturday before Halloween and they were PACKED! The dining room is small, and there’s a little bit of outdoor seating but it was pretty cramped.  We both got one beer each and found a table.  The Life on Mars IPA and Black Imperial IPA were both solid, we enjoyed them while we decided where to head to next.  One thing that really impressed me about that Ballard neighborhood was, even though we didn’t get a chance to go anywhere else, there was NW Peaks Brewing, Peddler Brewing, and Lucky Envelope Brewing all within a 4 block radius. *Update to add: There was also a Lagunitas Tap Room in the neighborhood, which I just discovered is the old location of Hillards Brewing.  We got cans of Hillards as a giveaway at the first PNWHC 2 years ago and I thought it was really good. Sad to discover they are no longer in business. Apparently, they got bought by Odin Brewing and then dissolved.

After leaving Reuben’s we decided to walk up to Ballard Way where we had seen a couple of good looking restaurants while we were trying to find Reuben’s.  We ended up at the MacLeod’s Pub.  Known for their fish and chips (which were excellent) they also had an interesting selection of Scottish beers including McEwan’s and Belhaven, plus a list of 250 scotch whiskeys.  After some google sleuthing we discovered the Belhaven was made in Dunbar, Scotland, which is where one side of my wife’s family hails from.  Needless to say we had to try them.  The Scottish Ale on Nitro was OK, but it had a strange tartness to it, and seemed overly malty bordering on oxidation. We keep trying them, but it turns out neither my wife or I are big fans of beers on Nitro. Just not our jam.  Next we tried bottled versions of the Twisted Thistle IPA, their version of an American Style IPA and the 90/ Wee Heavy.  Both of those were quite good.

Our last stop of the night was close to our Air BnB, in Kenmore, called Nine Yards Brewing.  They were much more laid back and less crowded than Reuben’s and we discovered that this was a local hangout for Washington State fans. (U of Washington is IN Seattle, so the WSU fans/alums are in enemy territory).  We decided we would hang out a while and watch most of the game.  This gave us a chance to try several beers there.  It’s nice when places offer a 6-10 ounce short pour that’s a bit more than the typical 3-4oz “taster” but not a full pint.  Most of the bars we went to in Seattle called this size a Schooner, which is ironic to me because that brings up in my mind a giant Stein.  I’m not sure why.  Wikipedia tells me in Australia and the UK a schooner is smaller than a pint, whereas in Canada a schooner is a large mug, usually two US pints (32 ounces) but I can’t imagine where I would have heard either of those two references before.

Nine Yards started out a little shaky (in my opinion) but then improved as the night went on.  I got adventurous with my first beer and ordered a Marzen, which was good, but not great.  Next, I had noticed a couple of Randalls on the wall filled with fresh cut fruit.  I found the infusions on the menu and ordered the wheat with orange and it was incredible! The aroma was like squeezing a fresh wedge of orange, and the flavor was a subtle citrusyness added to the base beer.  I followed that with a Mosiac dry hopped pale ale that was really nice and then finished with a roasty milk stout that was really good.  The game started to get a little ugly in the wrong direction so we called it a night.

The next day before we left town, we met a friend for lunch up in Snohomish at the Trails End Taphouse.  For being a random, hole in the wall joint, they had an amazing beer selection.  The taps were mostly Seattle/Washington centered, but a couple Oregon offerings and then some really unique stuff like Founders Breakfast Stout and Firestone Walker Parabola (2013).  They also had a really awesome bottle selection, both for on premise and take home.  They had a lot of pretty sought after stuff such as Firestone Walker, Almanac, Founders, Bells, Stone, way too many to list.  Two bottles in particular caught my eye and then I had to make a really tough decision.  I had to decide between Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) and Fremont Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star.  They were roughly the same price, but realistically I could only get one.  Part of me thought I should get the KBS since I never really knew when I would see it again, but the other part of me said I should get the Fremont, since I was specifically hoping to find Dark Star while we were in town.  I struggled mightily over this while we ate (great food too!) and watched the Seahawks game.  When it was time to go I bit the bullet and chose the Fremont.  I hope I made the right choice, but on the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a wrong choice in this aspect.

So, short trip but got to experience some local Seattle flavor.  Cheers Seattle!