There’s no shortage of craft breweries in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. We’ve got Hale’s, Bad Jimmy’s, Maritime Pacific, Populuxe, Peddler, Stoup, Hilliard’s, NW Peaks and Urban Family. They’re all fine breweries and I have a few favorites among them. However, there’s still one more Ballard brewery I haven’t mentioned yet, and they are definitely one of my favorites. That brewery is Reuben’s Brews.
Opened in August of 2012 by Adam Robbings (along with the help and support of his wife and Reuben’s mother, Grace), Reuben’s Brews quickly gained a reputation for making some of Ballard’s best brews. Their American Rye and Roggenbier (both multiple award winners) were two of my early favorites and I’m a big fan of their Blimey That’s Bitter Triple IPA and their rare and extremely popular Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout. They also just teamed up with the crew at Brouwer’s Cafe to brew the Brouwer’s 10th Anniversary beer: Gobsmacked Imperial IPA.
I’m dating myself a bit with this reference, but there was a TV show that debuted back in the mid 90’s called The Drew Carey Show. Whatever your feelings about the show, the one thing I remember about it the most is that the main character, Drew, had a (likely illegal) microbrewery in his garage. His specialty was a coffee flavored brew, which was dubbed: Buzz Beer. If I remember correctly, the sitcom-ish tag line for the beer was: “Stay up and get drunk all over again!” (a reference to the supposed caffeine content of the brew).
Buzz beer may have just been a fantasy in a former TV sitcom but today many coffee flavored beers are quite popular. Two Beers Brewing Company (CBM Sponsor), for example, has been making their Jive Espresso Stout (seasonally available from November to February) for several years. Now, joining their seasonal can series of beers is their newest coffee inspired brew: Cold Brew Coffee Brown Ale. This new Spring seasonal can release joins Two Beers’ other seasonal cans: Day Hike Summer Session Ale (Summer) and Grey Skies Dark Pale Ale (Winter).
It may only be early March, but Spring has indeed sprung in the Northwest. While the East, Midwest and even the South have been having a pretty harsh winter, we have, for the most part, been unseasonably warm this year. I don’t really hear anyone complaining, except perhaps ski and snowboard fans, who had a rather limited season this year.
Perhaps all those disappointed winter sports fans can console themselves with the realization that barleywine season has arrived. The biggest and boldest beers of the year are here. Get out there and get yourself some. This year’s ‘Barleywine Bacchanal’ (with a rotating selection of at least 30 barleywines on tap each day) has already been going at Beveridge Place Pub since this past Saturday, February 28th and will continue through this coming Saturday, March 7th. Also, coming up late next week is the 13th annual Hard Liver Barleywine Festival at Brouwer’s Cafe.
When most people think of Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood they think, of course, of Georgetown Brewing Company on Denver Avenue South just off Lucille Street, but they also think primarily of that stretch of Airport way between Corson Avenue South and 13th Avenue South. Y’know, the stretch that contains all those well known spots like Flying Squirrel Pizza, Zippy’s Giant Burgers, Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt, Hallava Falafel, Fonda La Catrina, Full Throttle Bottles, Machine House Brewing Company, Fran’s Choclates, Jules Mae’s Saloon, Hitchcock Deli, Smarty Pants, the 9lb Hammer and more.
That’s not all there is to Georgetown though. It stretches to the West to 99/East Marginal Way South and the Duwamish waterway. You know the area. It’s where you’ll find Sound Homebrew Supply, Katsu Burger, Matt’s Famous Chili Dogs and South Seattle Community College – Georgetown. It’s also where you’ll find one of Seattle’s newest breweries, Counterbalance Brewing Company.
Starting your own brewery can be a big decision. Some people ponder the idea for years before taking any action. Others just feel that spark and jump right in. In a way, both of these are the case for Outer Planet Brewing Company founders Renato Martins and Jim Stoccardo.
Now, stay with me here. A few years back Renato was Jim’s brother’s boss at Microsoft. Jim is an artist by trade but has been homebrewing since the mid 90’s. One afternoon when they all got together Renato and Jim started talking and Renato, considering brewing an art as well (which indeed it is), felt that spark and asked Jim if he’d ever considered opening a brewery. Honestly, what homebrewer hasn’t at least considered the idea at one point or another? Jim had, of course, thought about it but didn’t know if he had the means on his own. Renato proposed that Jim take care of the brewing, and he’d take care of the business end of things. Jim agreed. They scarped together what money they could, borrowed a bit more from friends and family and Outer Planet Brewing Company was born.
Pale Ale is an extremely popular craft beer style. How many of you, as homebrewers, started out by trying to ‘copy’ your favorite Pale Ale? Granted, IPA is a bit more popular, especially here in the Northwest where many local IPAs are more assertively hoppy than IPAs from just about any other part of the U.S. Still, everyone needs a good go to Pale Ale.
The Washington Beer Commission puts on several different festivals each year. They include the Washington Brewer’s Festival, Bremerton Summer Brewfest, Everett Craft Beer Festival, Inland Northwest Craft Beer Festival, South Soud Craft Beer Festival and Belgianfest (which took place just last month down at Pier 66). They used to also host the Washington Cask Beer Festival but this year, the reins have been handed over to the Washington Brewer’s Guild.
Cask beers have a different character than beers you’ll find on tap, including the fact that they may be both served at warmer temperatures as well as being generally less carbonated. I think this allows you to explore other flavors and aromas you wouldn’t necessarily find in the very same beer if it was being served from a traditional keg rather than on cask.
Set to take place this year on Saturday, March 28th, the Washington Cask Beer Festival will feature cask-conditioned, unfiltered and unpasteurized beer from over 40 different Washington breweries. Also set to be on tap for this year’s festival is ‘Herbert’s Legendary Cask Festival Ale’, a special cask beer brewed collectively by the Washington brewers in memory of Bert Grant. Further details are below.
I’ve never given a lot of thought to bottle openers or to ‘venting’ cans. Since I drink the majority of my beer these days either on tap or from a growler, I don’t often have use for a bottle opener or much reason to vent a can. I’m also, in general, not a huge fan of cans anyway. I totally understand why they’re back, why so many craft breweries are canning their beers and why they’re popular but, if I have to purchase packaged beer, I’ve always preferred the bottle over the can. It’s just my personal preference.
In addition, my days of drinking straight from the bottle or the can are pretty much over. I used to drink beer that way, back in my college days, but no more. Perhaps some of you think that makes me a beer ‘snob’. I don’t agree. I just prefer to drink my beer as it was intended to be: out of a glass. Granted, if I’m offered a beer somewhere in a bottle or a can and there’s no glassware available, I will go ahead and drink it from the bottle/can. Again, it’s just not my preference.
Having said that, I know that I may be in the minority. Not everyone drinks the majority of their beer on tap or in growlers as I do. If they did, there wouldn’t be much of a reason for breweries to package their beers now would there? Also, I obviously have need of a bottle opener at times. Not every beer I drink comes from a tap or growler. We’ve also reached the point where some beers only come in cans. So I do occasionally find myself opening a can rather than a bottle. You can’t fight change. So, when the Snake Bite Co. contacted me about trying out their product, I figured I’d give it a look.
I enjoy a good Wee Heavy Scotch Ale when I can get one. The rich, malty and slightly smoky/peaty full flavor doesn’t agree with everyone but, when they’re made right, Scotch Ales are quite delicious. The problem is, not a whole lot of local breweries make a Scotch Ale with any regularity. One of my favorites from breweries in the Northwest is Fat Scotch from Silver City Brewing Company out on the Olympic peninsula. It’s especially good when you can get the more rare Fat Woody Scotch (bourbon barrel aged).
Another locally made Scotch Ale that’s very high on my list is the one from Bellevue Brewing Company (CBM Sponsor), which also comes in a more rare bourbon barrel aged variety. Unfortunately, it’s not quite bourbon barrel time yet (in bottles at least – the bourbon barrel aged version is on tap at the brewery right now but won’t be for long!), but the regular version of Bellevue Brewing’s Scotch Ale will be making its return in bottles on February 20th. This is one of Bellevue Brewing’s flagship beers (meaning that it’s always on tap at Bellevue Brewing), and the only flagship beer they bottle seasonally. Their other seasonally bottled beers include their Rye IPA and their Winter Ale (Summer & Winter, respectively).
Airways Brewing Company (CBM Sponsor) is obsessed with all things having to do with aviation. This should come as no surprise based on their name, and is obvious to anyone who has visited the brewery in Kent. Now, to help celebrate that obsession, Airways Brewing is releasing #AvGeek Hoppy Pale Ale. A limited edition Pale Ale Brewed in conjunction with AirlineReporter.com, #AvGeek Hoppy Pale Ale will be available in time for the annual Aviation Geek Fest (Feb. 21-22 in Seattle).