Updated Jan 31, 2012 - 8:18 am
MountainBeer at NW Peaks Brewery
As a beer lover, I can’t imagine the decades prior to the micro brew revolution of the 1980s. A world void of hand crafted beer is as foreign to me as a town with no Thai or Vietnamese restaurant (How do people survive without pho??). What did people drink after work on Friday nights while they watched blu-rays on their hi-def plasma T.Vs? Oh that's right, they drank Olympia from stubbie bottles, lager from cans labeled “Beer” and watched black and white television from sets primarily made of wood.
Thank god for the 80s and the micro brew revolution.
There is another micro brew revolution going on right now, a nano brewing revolution. Nano breweries are ones that produce beer in shockingly small batches. Yet, because these batches are so small, many nano brewers are capable of advanced experimentation resulting in beer that goes above and beyond the favors we come to expect.
One of these nano operations in Seattle is NW Peaks Brewery, an establishment that up until recently was brewing its beer in fifteen gallon batches.
Kevin Klein, or Dr. Peaks as I like to refer to him as, is the owner of NW Peaks and has managed to not only stay afloat, but to thrive making nano batches of innovative, creative beer. Part of his success is due to a club he calls “MountainBeers”.
MountainBeers is a monthly growler club at NW Peaks that offers its members two different and unique brews every month. It works on a prepay system, and you can prepay for as many months as you would like. Members receive an email describing the two beers each month, you choose which one you would like, then you receive another email when your growler is ready to pick up.
The growler itself is worth a few months subscription. This portly, “Friar Tuck-esque", 2L growler is, well, just plain awesome. I recently took mine up to Boundary Bay Brewing for a fill and was immediate interrogated by the bartenders and waitstaff about where this “NW Peaks” is, and if all their growlers are so cool.
It’s in Ballard, and yes they are.
If the unique addition to your growler collection is not enough to convince you to join the MountainBeers, then let me tell you about the beer. Kevin Klein holds a doctorate in molecular biology from UW and has used this advanced understanding of biological activity to create beer that will make your taste buds dance and sing.
The first growler I received as a MountainBeer member in September of 2011, was the innovative and experimental Agassiz Acai. Named after Mt. Agassiz, this beer is brewed with more than 60 percent rice, with cooked rice added to the fermentor in order to leach out starches and some of the less desirable rice character. Sake yeast is added and after fermenting acai puree is mixed in leaving the beer with a slightly tart fruit flavor to compliment the dry rice back end. This beer is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of sour beers or interesting and unexpected flavors, you will love it. I love it.
October 2011, I received my second growler as a MountainBeer member, the Cave Ridge Rye Fresh Hop Pale. This beer was so fantastic it came in #3 on my Life By the Pint Top 5 Beers of the Year list , bested only by Fremont’s Bourbon Abominable Ale and Sound’s Monk’s Indiscretion.
In November, the beer I chose was the Annapurna Black Ale, a Northwest ale loaded with black malts and good amount of Cascade hops. This is my second favorite of the MountainBeers, just behind the Cave Ridge Rye, as it is a wonderful blend of smooth, rich malt flavors and a clean, crisp hop profile.
In December I chose the Snowfield Winter 2011, a winter warmer with a surprising hop forwardness and a chocolaty sweet, malt presence. The Snowfield Winter 2011 is a strong beer and the growlers from NW Peaks seem to be bottomless. I enjoyed every drop of the Snowfield Winter 2011, but at one point while consuming it, I sloppily exclaimed to my wife, “These are two person, or two night growlers”. But don't you worry, I manned up and finished it off. Tasty to the last sip.
What makes the MountainBeers club at NW Peaks special is the limited availability of these standout beers. When you pick up your growler from Kevin Klein, it feels good to know that the beer in your hand is available only to other MountainBeer members, and that it will be months until the general population can have a pint. It’s like an exclusive club of people, all who are one pint ahead of the rest of the beer community.
I also love the idea behind the MountainBeers club, Community Supported Brewing. It makes me happy to think that by prepaying for future growlers, I am helping to build a new addition to the North Seattle brewing family, one perfectly designed growler of beer at a time.
If you are skeptical about the MountainBeers growler club but are curious about NW Peaks Brewery and their wildly delicious beer, head out to Ballard in NW Seattle and visit the tasting room. Here you can sample one of several previous MountainBeers, and either join up, or have Dr. Peaks fill a single growler while you sip a pint. When that first wave of Annapurna Black Ale or Cave Ridge Rye washes over your taste buds, you will understand the excitement we have at here at Life By the Pint over this innovative, creative, outstanding NW Seattle nano-brewery and the MountainBeer community they are creating.
For more information on NW Peaks Brewery, including tap list, directions, hours and MountainBeer pricing, visit http://www.nwpeaksbrewery.com
Post and Photos by Dean Westling
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