Updated May 22, 2011 - 9:13 pm
The First Third, Seattle Beer Week Review
With all boilers firing, Seattle Beer Week is running at full steam, screaming down the tracks towards delicious fermented malt and hops. All weekend, beer lovers came out in waves to support the craft beer community and indulge in finely brewed beer. There was a vibe that was tangible, radiating out of various neighborhoods that pulled passersby in, growing, snowballing as pints were poured and refreshing ale was consumed.
Opening night at Maritime Brewing was an incredible way to kick off Seattle Beer Week. The sun was shining, the beer was flowing, and the Washingtonians who had gathered in the make-shift beer garden were pulsing with energy. The moment that my cask Decompression Ale touched my lips, I knew I was in my element. Beer in hand, warm sun on my back, steel drummer jamming out to Clapton's "Layla", I realized how perfect I felt. My neighborhood brewery hosting a opening night beer garden in the warm Seattle sun, does it get any better than that? Not to me. Good job Maritime Pacific Brewing, you brewed a delicious commemorative beer and hosted the perfect kick off event. Well done.
Departing Maritime we headed further into Ballard to Old Town Alehouse for the Upright Brewing night. With great food, an inviting atmosphere and beer from Upright Brewing, it was not surprising to find that it was packed with beer drinkers. I was a little disappointed to find that they were pouring only two beers from Upright, Five, an earthy pale, and Six, a dark rye ale, but Six is a finely crafted beer, exploding with complex flavors, so my disappointment was not long lasting. Old Town Alehouse was a bit understaffed, but the waitress was very friendly and apologetic, and the food was wonderful, making for an excellent beer and food event.
By the time I arrived home on Thursday, I had a slight tan from the Maritime beer garden, a full stomach from my delicious sausage sandwich at Old Town Alehouse, and a nice buzz from all the expertly brewed beer.
My next Seattle Beer Week tour started Saturday morning at The Dray in NW Seattle. We arrived at 1:00pm for the Hair of the Dog event, only to find out that the tapping of the HotD kegs was postponed until 3:00pm. Oh well, better just go home and clean house, or fold socks or something right? HA! No way. We posted up at a table and started ordering pints. My first beer was New Belgian's La Folie, a delightful sour ale that really started my day off on the right foot. After pints of Chuckanut Strong Ale, Maritime Pils, and Decompression, 3:00pm had arrived, and before we realized, the line to get a pint from Hair of the Dog was literally out the door and down the sidewalk. Once I had my hands on my first pint of Hair of the Dog's "Adam" it was easy to tell why.
The color of Adam is a dark cocoa, cloudy with a nonexistent head. The aroma is of molasses, honey and oak, with a hint of smoke. The flavor is malty and woody, a near perfect blend of burnt caramel, toffee, bitter chocolate and earthy wood notes. The mouth feel is heavy and sweet, with almost no perceptible alcohol, which is shocking considering Adam has an ABV of 10%. This is most definitely a slow sipper that would be perfect paired with a warm beef stew after a long day of snowboarding.
Up next was Hair of the Dog's Cherry Fred, which knocked everyone in my group on their butts. This beer is more a holiday confection then it is a pint of ale. The aroma is strong of cherries and sweet malt, making me think of chocolate nougat candies and cherry pie. The Cherry Fred is sweet with lots of toasted sugars and caramel tones all blending with a powerful cherry flavor making this beer taste a lot like it smells, candy-licious. The head is pink, the flavor rich, the color is black, and the ABV is 10%. This is a big, bold fruit beer. The Dray was a great place to spend a overcast afternoon, and the Hair of the Dog brews were unlike anything I've had before, yet it was time to go.
Hopping a bus, my thirsty group of pint pounding compadres headed south to Back in Black Stout Fest at Brouwer's in Fremont and as I expected, the joint was packed.
My first beer, Sierra Nevada's Empire Strikes Black, was an obvious choice, I love Sierra Nevada and I love Star Wars. Done and done, bring me a glass. The color of this imperial stout is as black as Vader's helmet with a tan head the color of Admiral Ackbar's skin ('Its a [BEER]!"). The aroma is hoppy and malty, with cocoa notes and an earthy element. Empire Strikes Black is hoppy for a imperial stout, sweet, with no smoke detected. A dark chocolate flavor is sustained in the middle which melds into a refreshing bitter citrus hop profile. Once again Sierra Nevada made a wonderful, full bodied beer.
Next up was Ninkasi Vanilla Oatis. The color is jet black with zero head, and the aroma is of bakers chocolate with vanilla tones. The flavor is much like the aroma, sweet, roasted malts, bitter cocoa with a strong vanilla flavor that overwhelms the back end. The mouth feel of Vanilla Oatis is very light, which was a bit of a surprise. This is a good beer, but not a great one. Something about the vanilla is overpowering and the lightness of the mouth feel is not what I expect from a stout. I like my stouts, well stout, not thin.
If you have never been to Brouwer's and you love beer, you owe it to yourself to go. The atmosphere reminds me of a drinking hall in a castle on a hillside in Belgium, stone walls, low lights and an large balcony to sit by, drinking and people watching the night away. The food is absolutely delightful. The carbonade, a traditional Belgian stew, is a hearty dish of exotic comfort food, the lamb burger is out of this world, and the rotating soups, (jalapeno corn chowder and smoked salmon chowder are Westling family favorites) are delectable.
I was disappointed to leave Stout Fest and end our first full day of Seattle Beer Week events, but my heart was warmed during the time I spent with my good friends over excellent beers. We departed into the dreary Seattle night and jumped on a bus home. Yet, arriving home I was pleasantly surprised to recall that before we had left for the day, I had placed a six pack of Maritime's Jolly Roger in the fridge for when I arrived home. Because, once the snowball of scrumptious, ambrosial micro beer is rolling, why try to stop it, right?
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