Huffing IPA

Moving On...

Decided to buy a domain and move everything to The new blog is on Wordpress and it looks rough because I haven't taken the time to play with the CSS Editor. I'll work on it.

I might keep something on LJ for any non-beer thoughts I want to vomit out. I hope you'll bookmark the new location or subscribe to the feed. I plan on stepping up my beer writing efforts this year. Given my track record, I realize that could be an empty promise. I hope not...
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Friday Five: My Year in Beer - 2008

Happy New Year. As usual, I'm late with all the stuff I wanted to get up about 2008. To get things started here are five highlights of my year in beer:

1. Virgin homebrewing experience - Gotta admit it was big deal to brew my own beer. I may've been overly critical of the results, but it was a great experience and the beer was good enough to drink. Everyone I gave a bottle to was surprised that it was as drinkable as it was for a first effort (maybe they were just blowing smoke). All the credit goes to Matt and Brad of the West Sound Brewers, who guided me through every step from steeping grains to bottling. Hopefully, I can brew another batch with their help before I take the training wheels off and try to do my own thing.

2. Writing - Had the chance to write for both Seattle Metblogs and in 2008. Neither turned out the way I hoped (partly my own fault), but I'm glad I had the opportunities and gained some experience blogging for other sites. I'm also feeling good about helping start the Bottleworks blog. The guys at the store (Trevor and Shaughn) have taken the idea and run with it, but I will still contribute from time to time.

3. Beer Douche of the Week - These comics were, by far, the most popular thing I've done since I started this blog. A few people have taken issue with the idea, but the overwhelming majority enjoy the hell out of them. Too bad I can't draw...I might be able to really do something with it...

4. Beer Trips & Festivals - It wasn't a big year for beer trips, but I did what I could with the time off and money I had. In February, I went to the Toronado Barleywine Fest in SF for the first time and was able to try Russian River's Pliny the Younger during my time there. In April, I headed to the East Coast for a week and explored DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia. In July, I took the train to Portland for my second OBF. I also returned to SF and Portland later in the year for beer weekends. On the home front, I went to as many festivals as I could, including all the ones at Brouwer's (Hopfest, Hard Liver, Sourfest, Big Wood) and most of the big ones like the Washington Beer Commission's Cask Fest and Washington Brewers Festival and the SIB.

5. Russian River beers come to Seattle - Maybe it'll make me sound like a drooling fanboy, but Russian River's stuff becoming available here was one of the most exciting things that happened in Seattle this year. Being able to have Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder and Damnation on a semi-regular basis is pretty great (not to mention being able to try Temptation at the Big Wood Fest and being the only place where Deviation was available). Still waiting to see Blind Pig in bottles...maybe this year?
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Friday Five: 5 Local Beer Spots Where I'm Likely To Be Found

1. Brouwer's - Simple reason to go here often: they have the best overall beer selection in Seattle. They care about beer and you know you're never gonna get an off taste from a dirty line (a fresh line is used every time a new beer is tapped). Also, the food is (arguably) better than any other beer place in town. Plenty of good veggie options and don't forget to check the fresh sheet. There's always something tasty on there.

2. Stumbling Monk - Tiny place with 10 or so taps of Belgians and American-made, Belgian-style beers and nothing above $6.50 a glass. They also have a good and reasonably-priced bottle list. Close to where I live and almost always a good place to spend some time and have a few. My only complaint is that it sometimes gets a little Capitol Hill-douchebaggy in there. My favorite time to go is right after they open at 6. You can have a few beers in peace and be on your way.

3. The Dray - I've already gone on and on about why I love this place. If I lived closer, it would be my local.

4. Elysian Capitol Hill - Not a huge fan of hanging out's probably the only place I go regularly where I have very little interaction with anyone at the bar. But it's on my way home and every couple weeks there's something new and interesting to try. The Arboreal Chestnut Brown Ale, Artemis IPA, Saison Poivre, Foster Child Australian Lager and Hubris Imperial IPA are just a few of the beers I've had there this year.

5. Hopvine - I have a love/hate relationship with this place. It's literally right behind my apt. building, so I end up here at least once a week. They usually have at least a few good beers on and they have $3 pints from 5-7 pm. They also have great soup and the other food (pizza, sandwiches, etc.) is decent. The main things that rub me the wrong way about this place are the shitty music the staff always plays (think weak-ass indie crap) and my hatred for the people that frequent the place. Almost every time I'm in here, I feel a strong urge to punch someone in the face. Also, on the beer-douche side, I don't think they give a shit about beer. The bartenders don't know much about the beers and, more often than you'd think, you'll get beers that don't taste the way they should.

A couple more places: one that used to be in the Top 5 and one that might crack the list in 2009:

Big Time - It used to be in my Top 5 earlier in the year, but I don't find myself going as often since the end of the summer. It has nothing to do with the beer. Along with Elysian, the Big Time is the best place to find new, interesting local beers. But since a few of my favorite bartenders left, I don't find myself wanting to spend as much time here.

Collins Pub - Only a short walk from my work, but I don't get here that often. Big reason for that is the crazy happy hour crowd, but I need to make it here more frequently. I went in a few days ago and they finally have a chalkboard draft list on the wall. A lot of good stuff on tap including: Pliny the Elder, Doggie Claws '07, Ninkasi Sleigh'r and the newest in New Belgium's Lips of Faith line, a Dunkel Weiss.
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2008 Beer Resolutions: Report Card

At the beginning of the year, I made some Beer Resolutions for 2008. Let's see how I did:

Buy homebrew supplies and brew my own beer: Didn't get my own homebrewing setup, but I did brew an American Pale Ale with the West Sound Brewers on Big Brew day. I wasn't that excited about the results, but it was drinkable. It was fun and I'd like to brew more and get better at it. Grade = B

Take several beer trips, including ones to the East Coast, Bend (OR), Portland (for another OBF), Denver (GABF) and either Victoria or Vancouver: Didn't do as much beer traveling as I'd like, but I went to Portland twice, once for OBF in July and once for a weekend in November. I also got to the East Coast in April and went beer hunting in DC, Baltimore & Philadelphia. Can't wait to go back to Philly...the 24 hours I spent there was one of my best beer days of the year. Grade = B-

Write about beer 3-4 times a week: No big surprise that I didn't follow through with this one. I was doing well there for awhile when Seattle Beer Examiner was going strong, but things went to shit the last couple months. I'll keep working on it. Grade = C

Attend as many of the local beer festivals and events as possible and continue to make friends in the local beer community: Skipped a few things, but managed to hit most of the festivals and big events. Met several cool people and plenty of blowhard douchebags along the way. My socially-retarded, introverted nature makes it difficult for me to "network" like some people do, but just getting out and drinking all over town has been good. Grade = B

Try at least 200 beers I've never had: Kicked ass on this one. My list is at 290 and counting. Look for my list of 10 or 20 most memorable beers of the year soon. Grade = A

Give podcasting another go with a new, revitalized format: Nope, but there's always hope for next year. I've got equipment, an idea and a name. Just have to motivate my partners in crime and get to it. Grade = I

Pay more attention to less hoppy styles of beer: See, I knew hop burnout was coming a year ago. When it hit hard, I tried to go off the hops for a month and went back to them after 8 days. This is still a work in progress... Grade = C-

Take steps toward being able to leave my current job and make a living doing something beer-related: Talked about it constantly, but didn't take any steps toward making it happen. I'm starting to think this isn't a realistic goal, but haven't completely given up hope. Grade = D

Take list-making and documenting to new OCD heights by keeping track of every beer I drink (see how long that lasts): After a couple weeks, I realized that I drink far too much beer to do this, so I settled for keeping track of all the beers I've never had (plus this year's seasonals that don't always taste the same). B-
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Friday Five: 5 Most Memorable Locally-Brewed Beers of 2008

Some would say I don't have any local beer pride. I'm pretty sure I've said that San Diego, Philadelphia and Portland are better beer-drinking destinations than Seattle. That's blasphemy to local beer enthusiasts, so I figured I'd better make amends by showing some love to the place where I live. In no specific order, here are my 5 Most Memorable Locally-Brewed Beers of 2008 (technically 8 since I had some ties):

1. Big Time Old Sol & Old Wooly - Big Time's summer release of Old Sol Wheatwine and winter release of Old Wooly Barleywine are among the most anticipated beer events in Seattle each year and they never disappoint. I can't tell you how they compared to last year's batches, but I can say they were both very tasty.

2. Elysian Arboreal Chestnut Brown - I'm always bitching about how we need more flavorful, locally-brewed session beers and Elysian came through with this one. I think it was around 4.5% and it packed in the usual maltiness of a brown ale with a crazy dry finish (I'm guessing from the chestnut flour). I only had a couple glasses of this, but I would've been happy to have many more.

3. Pike Cerveza Rosanna/Big Time Serrano Puzzano - Pike and Big Time both brewed chili beers around Cinco de Mayo and both were interesting and well-executed. The Serrano Puzzano was a little more in your face with the heat and that made it a slight favorite over the Rosanna for me. Hope they do these again in 2009.

4. Elysian Hubris Imperial IPA & Schooner Exact Dry-Hopped Cask 3-Grid IPA - You knew there had to be an IPA in here somewhere and there was a tie for most memorable. Batches of Elysian's Hubris seemed inconsistent, but the first time I had it at the Capitol Hill pub (and one other time at Elysian Fields), it was right up there with Big Time's Double Decade as the best made-in-Seattle IPA I've had. Equally memorable was Schooner Exact's dry-hopped cask of 3-Grid at its One Year Anniversary party at Beveridge Place back in January. I couldn't stop drinking it and must've had 4 pints over the course of the evening. I hope Schooner does something similar for their Two Year Anniversary next month.

5. Pike Entire Wood-Aged Stout - Didn't expect to like the Entire since I figured it might be too bourbony or hot with alcohol (9.5%), but it surprised me. Smooth as hell and everything was balanced so you got all the flavors without any one thing smacking you in the face. I've heard the bottled version may not be as impressive (maybe it needs to be "laid down"), but the draft batch I had at the Dray was impressive.

Some honorable mentions: Laughing Buddha showed a lot of creativity with their Ginger Pale Ale, Mango Weizen & Purple Yam Porter. They aren't beers I'd reach for often, but they're worth trying. Also, Kevin Forhan over at RAM Northgate made a lot of good beers. I tried most of them at festivals and can't remember the names of them, but I know there was a Saison that was very tasty. It's too bad RAM is in a damn mall...a place I'm not likely to go even though I'm interested in what he's doing.
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This Week in Seattle Beer (12/15 to 12/21)

The beer events just never stop. Here's what Seattle has this week (thanks to the commenters who helped me fill in the gaps in my original post):

Georgetown's Full Throttle Bottles is co-hosting a winter beer tasting with the BottleNeck Lounge tonight. $10 gets you four 4-ounce tastes plus a full pint. Beers served are: Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, Iron Horse Quilter's Irish Death, Gulden Draak Vintage Ale 2008 and Delirium Noel. In addition to the beer, there will be snacks, t-shirt giveaways and other merriment. Gets under way at 8pm at the BottleNeck at 23rd and Madison.

Also on Monday, yet another Big Time event. This one is a brewer's night at Latona Pub. Not sure what Bill Jenkins will be bringing, but I'm sure they'll have some good stuff. Things get started at 8pm.

Naked City Taphouse is hosting a brewer's night featuring Everett's Lazy Boy Brewing. Brewer/Owner Shawn Loring will be in attendance and all Lazy Boy beers will be pouring at Happy Hour prices. They'll also have raffles for brewery t-shirts and glassware. Things get started at 7pm.

The event formerly known as "Wreck the Randall" continues this year as the Santa & Friends Pub Crawl. This night of debauchery starts at 5pm at the Pub at Piper's Creek and makes stops at Brouwer's, The Dray and the Park Pub before finishing up at Duck Island at 8pm. Many of the revelers will be in costume, but all that's necessary for this night is the ability to drink a lot and the desire to spread holiday cheer (or something like that). At the Duck at 8pm, they'll be tapping a keg of Full Sail's Wreck the Halls Randallized with Centennial hops and a keg of He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA Randallized with rye whiskey wood chips.

12/15 to 12/17
Brouwer's is showcasing beers from Delaware's Dogfish Head this week. Several beers from Dogfish's lineup (60 Minute IPA, 90 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, Raison D' Etre, Chicory Stout & Punkin Ale) will be pouring all week. Special kegs will be tapped at 6pm each night from Monday-Wednesday. Monday is the 120 Minute IPA, Tuesday is World Wide Stout and Wednesday is Pangaea.

On Thursday night, West Seattle's Beveridge Place Pub is hosting their first sit-down tasting at the pub's new location. Admission is $40 and includes all beer tasting, snacks, tax and tip. Beers offered include: Palma Louca (Brazil), Hitachino Celebration ’06 (Japan), Hambleton Toleration (England), Anchor Our Special Ale ’07 Magnum (California), Hair of the Dog Fred Batch #? (Oregon), Quatre Centieme (Canada), Haand Dark Force Stout (Norway), and a few Belgian beers not on BP's regular menu. You have to pre-pay for this one and space is seriously limited, so give them a call and make sure there's still spots available. If you don't get a seat at the tasting, you can still enjoy good beer at BP...they're also going to be tapping a cask of Schooner Exact's 3-Grid IPA that night.
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Friday Five: 5 Go-To IPAs

I remember something on some blog somewhere a long time ago, where people answered 5 questions on Friday or wrote a list of 5 things. I can't remember exactly what it was. As a quick and easy thing to do, I thought I'd revive this Friday Five with a weekly list of beer-related stuff.

Today's list is Five Go-To IPAs. This year, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a hophead and I'm always gonna reach for IPAs and other hoppy beers first. There's no way to wean myself off them, so I have to embrace my addiction.

This is not a list of the five best IPAs I've ever had (think really insane shit like RR's Pliny the Younger) or what I think are necessarily the best IPAs on the planet (although a few of them are) since there are so many from the Midwest and East Coast I've never tried. This list is five IPAs that I've had enough to know that if I see them in a bar, I'm having one automatically. They're solid, reliable, go-to beers that I'd gladly sit and drink 3 or 4 of in a row.

1. Russian River Blind Pig

2. Green Flash West Coast

3. Port Wipeout

4. Bear Republic Racer 5

5. Caldera

Someone will probably say, "you live in Washington beers?" Boundary Bay, Anacortes, Big Time, Elysian, Walking Man, Schooner Exact, etc make fine IPAs, but I'm still reaching for these five from CA and OR first.

So what are your five go-to IPAs?
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Brouwer's Salute To Big Time's 20th

Walking into Brouwer's last night was almost like being at the Big Time six months ago. Almost no seats available at the bar and there's Nat, sporting his trademark tie and pacing back and forth drawing pints for the thirsty. Nachos, baked potatoes and pizza are coming out of the kitchen. It was as if Brouwer's had become the Big Time. If they'd brought in a shuffleboard table, the metamorphosis would've been complete.

The reason for this tranformation was Brouwer's paying tribute to Big Time's 20 years of brewing. All of Big Time's regular beers (Prime Time Pale, Atlas Amber, Coal Creek Porter, Scarlet Fire IPA, Bhagwan's Best IPA) were on tap along with limited stuff like the Hop de Mensonge Belgian IPA, 666 Belgian Strong Dark Ale and Yulefest Christmas Ale. Getting there early proved to be a good call, as bottles of Old Wooly were brought out and poured into snifters at around 6:30.

On the food side, Brouwer's kitchen staff put their spin on items from the Big Time menu. All the familiar offerings were there: pizza, sandwiches, nachos, baked potatoes and chili. I had a cup of the veggie chili and tried some of the nachos and both were extremely tasty. Not to knock the quality of Big Time's food, but if they made stuff this good I would look eat there often, not just when I was into my third beer and desperately needing something to soak up the alcohol.

Between all the events held at Big Time last week and this celebration at Brouwer's, the community did a great job recognizing the 20th anniversary of one of Seattle's best breweries. Hopefully, they have at least another 20 good years ahead of them...
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Big Time's 20th Anniversary Week: Cellar Night

Last week, the Big Time turned 20 and celebrated in style all week long. Monday was the release of the 2008 Old Wooly Barleywine. I went despite having just Amtrak-ed back from a crazy weekend of beer drinking in Portland (more on that later). The Wooly tasted good, but not so good that I wanted more than one glass. It's a big beer and a little goes a long way. They had bottles to go but I didn't grab any since the price went up to $13.50 each. The markup didn't seem to bother some folks, though...I saw several people taking home entire cases.

On Wednesday, I came back for Cellar Night. Head Brewer Bill Jenkins brought out all kinds of surprises in both kegs and bottles and the bar was more packed than it had been for Wooly night. I only stayed 30-40 minutes, so I can't be a completist about what was brought out during the entire night. While I was there, draft offerings included older vintages of Old Wooly, Old Sol Wheatwine, Damned Spot Scottish Ale, Trombipulator Tripel and a beer called Emeritus, which I was told was an Imperial IPA brewed by Jenkins and former BT brewer (now with RAM Northgate) Kevin Forhan back in 2005. I tried the Emeritus and it was interesting. Not much hoppiness there after 3 years, instead it came across more like a barleywine or old ale.

As cool as the tap selections were, the best part of the night was the bottle sale. Like the taps, these changed all night so I can only say what was there during the short time I stayed. For only $4.95 you could buy 22 oz. bombers of: 2005 Decade IPA, 2007 Damned Spot, and 2007 Powderfinger Rye. Also available at the same price were this year's versions of Trombipulator, Paxton's ESB, Kölsch 45, Nemesis Strong Ale and Brown Bombshell.

If all this wasn't enough, as I was about to leave they put two crazy selections on the board: 7 oz. bottles of the 1996 and 1998 Old Wooly. I ended up leaving with a bottle each of the Older Woolies and bombers of the Trombipulator and Nemesis. I probably should've bought more. Wonder how 10 and 12-year-old Wooly's gonna taste...
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It's Been A Crazy Week...

3 hours sleep and a lot of drinking at Brouwer's Big Wood Fest and Big Time's cask night has left me unable to write much. All I can do is try to stay awake at work and then make it home where I'll sleep like a bastard. I'll catch up on the activities of this crazy week soon. For now, enjoy the photo of Nat enjoying Big Wood in his own special way.

Stuff I need to write about over the next several days:

T-giving weekend in Portland
Big Time Cellar Night
Brouwer's Big Wood Fest
Big Time Cask Night
Bottleworks Trevor's 30th birthday bar crawl