Each year, as Fall approaches in the Northwest, it’s hop harvest time. That can only mean one thing: Fresh Hop IPAs are coming. Most beers are brewed using kilned or dried hops, usually in the form of compressed hop pellets. Fresh Hop or Wet Hop beers, on the other hand, utilize fresh, un-kilned hops straight off the vine. This allows them to retain all of their natural oils (some of which can be lost or reduced during the kilning/drying process), and impart a more Earthy and natural character to the finished beer.
When brewing a Fresh Hop Ale, the hops must be utilized with 24 – 48 hours after picking to ensure freshness. Any longer and they’ll start to become soggy and begin to develop mildew and rot. So, when the season arrives, you’ll see plenty of trucks from local breweries making day-trips up to the Yakima Valley to procure their fresh hops for brewing.
Since I live in the South end, I’ve been a bit of an advocate for Seattle’s many South end breweries. Back in 2015 I even published an article encouraging craft beer lovers to check out all of the breweries in SoDo, Georgetown, South Park and Columbia City. As I pointed out in that article, the South end rivals Ballard for the sheer number of breweries you can visit, albeit spread out a bit more than the concentration in Ballard.
In order to continue encouraging craft beer fans to visit Seattle’s South end breweries, they have come together to form the South Seattle Brewery Coalition (SSBC), which encourages you to “be disloyal” and drink someone else’s beer. According to the SSBC: “We love challenging one another to make better beer, to provide more excellent service, and to better educate the wonderful people who have chosen to support our businesses.”
Seattle’s South end craft beer scene has really grown up. Less than a decade ago, it was a struggle to find any craft breweries (besides Georgetown Brewing or Pyramid Brewing) South of downtown. Now, the South end rivals Ballard for the sheer number of breweries you can visit (if you include SoDo, Georgetown and Columbia City).
One of the South End breweries that’s been around the longest is Schooner Exact Brewing Company. They started as a small nano-brewery back in 2007 and have grown steadily into an excellent craft brewery and restaurant. Now, several expansions, remodels and menu changes later, Schooner Exact is just about ready to celebrate their 10th Anniversary with a 10-day long celebration.
Schooner Exact Brewing Company has been busy lately. In addition to keeping the great beers and delicious food flowing at their 1st Avenue South location and their recent attendance at the 2016 American Craft Beer Experience Japan in Tokyo, they’ve also been busy with their latest expansion (including a new kitchen, restaurant, bar and, of course, more brewing space). You can see a few photos of the remodel work on their Facebook page.
You can tell Winter isn’t far off at Schooner Exact, when they release Hoppy The Woodsman, which arrived just last month. Now, with the first day of Winter just over two weeks away, Schooner Exact is ready to release their Bourbon Aged Imperial Porter this coming Thursday.
Today, Monday May 16th, is day number 5 of Seattle Beer Week #8, which means we’re about halfway through. Things kicked off last Thursday at Reuben’s Brews with the official tapping of the first keg of the official Seattle Beer Week beer: Daily Pale, followed by the opening night pub crawl. I had to drop by Reuben’s, of course, for the kickoff and then found my way to Beveridge Place Pub for stop #3 on the crawl.
Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood gets a lot of attention for the number of breweries in such a small area, and rightly so. Ballard has, to many, become known as Seattle’s ‘Brewery District’. The South End however, if you include SoDo, Georgetown and South Park, actually rivals Ballard in the number of available breweries to visit. There’s even more if you include the Columbia City area of Rainier Avenue South.
Not every brewery in Seattle offers food. In fact, quite a few local breweries have found that having their own kitchen is not entirely essential, given Seattle’s extensive network of food trucks which they call on to provide the food to accompany their beers. It’s a great partnership that benefits both the breweries and the local food truck community. At times, however, this arrangement isn’t ideal. I don’t know of any local brewery that has a food truck on hand every time they’re open, so finding food to accompany that delicious craft beer you’re enjoying can sometimes be hit or miss.
As a result, some breweries have decided to add kitchens as they expand. One such brewery is Schooner Exact Brewing Company in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. They launched back in 2006, opened their first small taproom in 2009 and then, in 2012, added a family-friendly restaurant serving up appetizers, salads, sandwiches and a few other items. Since then, their menu has continued to expand and just last year they did a kitchen upgrade.
Back in 2008, a few friends (including Ian Roberts, Matthew Younts and Mike Baker) were wandering around the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and realized how many of the great beers they were seeing there were from the Pacific Northwest. That simple realization became the spark that helped them decide Seattle needed its own annual celebration of all things craft beer. Less than a year later, Seattle Beer Week was born.
Kicking off in 2009, Seattle Beer Week (SBW) has grown steadily each year. This year there are well over 300 different events, spanning 11 days. That’s incredible. The first Seattle Beer Week that I attended and covered was the 3rd annual, in 2011. That year, there were fewer than 200 total events – still a very respectable number for such a young festival.
With so much going on over the 11 days of Seattle Beer Week, from May 8th to May 18th, you’ll want to take a little time to look over the complete list of events on Seattle Beer Week’s website, and decide which ones you’d like to attend. If you’re entertaining notions of attending every single event, you can abandon them now. Unless you have the ability to teleport and/or replicate yourself, as well as the ability to drink more beer than any human being would likely be able to consume safely, then you’re pretty much out of luck.
Penumbra: “(Definition-a partial shadow, as in an eclipse, between regions of complete shadow and complete illumination) – AKA the darkness that defines the silver lining.”
We’re fortunate here in the Northwest to have a plethora of craft beer festivals and events; far too many to name them all here. You can usually find at least one craft beer-related festival or other event going on somewhere around the Sound just about every week/weekend of the year (and often, far more than just one). We also have a few notable music festivals in town but, so far, nobody has successfully combined both types of events into a single beer and music festival that does justice to both the beer and the music. Penumbra is here to change that.
It took me quite a while to get into Belgian beers. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them – more that I just didn’t know them. I was so accustomed to drinking regular, American ale styles like Pale Ale, IPA, Brown Ale, Stout, etc. that I wasn’t accustomed to leaving my regular comfort zone with my beer choices.
Sometime in the last decade or so, however, I realized this limitation and forced myself to start branching out and start drinking a wider variety of beer styles, including Belgians; and I’m so glad I did. Now, Belgian beers are some of my favorites to enjoy. There are a wide variety of Belgian styles to choose from as well, with a wide range of flavors and aromas from musty, hay-like farmhouse ales, to the citrus, clove or bubblegummy aromas and flavors in many Saisons, Belgian Pales or Belgian Golden ales and more.