Last night I attended a tasting event for four new beers from Ninkasi Brewing out of Eugene, Oregon at Olaf’s (formerly the Copper Gate) in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Probably known best for their Flagship Series of beers: Total Domination IPA, Tricerahops Double IPA and Oatis Oatmeal Stout (and Vanilla Oatis) – and of course their Seasonal Series release: Sleigh’r, Ninkasi wants to bring more attention to some of their Special Release Series, Prismatic Series and Single Hop Series offerings.
The venue selected for this tasting, Olaf’s, is… uh… interesting to say the least. I never made it there when it was still the Copper Gate, but I have seen some photos. If you know the place, then you know about the Viking Ship-shaped bar and the vagina-shaped entrance to the ‘Pussy Lounge’. The old ship bar is gone, replaced with a more traditional style bar top, but the vagina door and the Pussy Lounge remain. Decked out with plush red velvet booths and big screen TV on one side, and 5 pinball machines on the other, the Pussy Lounge is a quirky little place to hang out and enjoy a few drinks and snacks. The Juicy Lucy burger and the corn dogs are popular choices.
The four Ninkasi beers I tasted at Olaf’s last night included:
Pravda Bohemian Style Lager (From Ninkasi’s Prismatic Series):
I’m not usually a big lager drinker. I prefer ales most of the time, but Pravda was pretty good. Clean and Golden in color, it had a slightly spicy aroma with a subtle floral hop aroma. Very crisp with a slight sweetness, it was very easy-drinking. A very solid lager. If you know a buddy who’s still drinking Bud, Miller or Coors, pick them up a six pack of this and let them taste what they’ve been missing.
ReNEWAle 2014 (From Ninkasi’s Seasonal Release Series):
A bit of a hybrid, ReNEWAle is a Pale Ale brewed with a German Altbier yeast strain. A beautiful, clear copper hue, this one had almost a slight almond type flavor and the unique flavor imparted by the alt yeast strain was easily detectable. A bit on the hoppy side for an Alt, but in good way with light floral and piney hop notes.
Dawn of the Red India Red Ale (From Ninkasi’s Special Release Series):
OK. This one tastes NOTHING like brains. Zombies wouldn’t care for it. However, if you enjoy a good India Red ale with a beautiful copper/red hue, wonderful citrusy hop aroma and flavors like tropical pineapple and guava notes, this may be the beer for you. Less assertive than an IPA, the tropical flavors were quite apparent, but without any un-necessary abundance of sweetness to take away from the right level of hop bitterness. To enhance the experience, Olaf’s was playing Dawn Of The Dead (1978) on the big screen. Classic.
Mosaic Single Hop (From Ninkasi’s Single Hop Series):
Mosaic is a newer hop variety, devel0ped in 2012 by the Hop Breeding Company. It provides a ‘clean’ bitterness with notes of both citrus and pine. Ninkasi captured the essence of the Mosaic hop quite well in this offering. A bit lighter in body than I was expecting, with a clear pale/orange hue, it had a wonderful hop aroma as well as flavor that brought out the citrus, pine and a few slightly ‘catty’ notes. I usually lean more towards more citrusy single hop offerings, but this one was crisp, clean and easy to drink. Single hop beers are also a great way to familiarize yourself with the particular characteristics of different hop varieties. I suggest you try Ninkasi’s Mosaic, but also try to get your hands on some other single hop beers: Citra, Simcoe and Cascade are some of my favorites. Ninkasi also makes two other Single Hop Series beers: Azacca and Mandarina. Both were released near the end of 2013, so you may still be able to find some around.
I’ve always enjoyed Ninkasi’s beers. In fact, I don’t believe there’s ever been a beer of theirs I’ve tried that I didn’t like at least a little. Ninkasi knows their craft and the quality and sheer number of different beers they put out is pretty amazing. You can see their entire lineup (including all of their ‘Archived’ beers), HERE on their website.
If you haven’t tried any of these new offerings yet, I suggest you pick up a few – perhaps for this weekend’s big Seahawks/49ers game (Go Hawks!). They’re all available now in local area bottle shops and even many grocery stores. As for Olaf’s, check it out for a quirky good time. I’d heard mixed reviews before going, but I really enjoyed it; a fun little neighborhood bar.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.