Quality beer in good form exists on this lovely island- you just have to put in work finding it. I’m slowly getting there. Since there is little to no information about the beer scene out here I’ll be attempting to put together a beer guide of sorts as I find the hot spots. It’s not all Budweiser (though it seems that way).
Pro-tip #1: If you come across an IPA, it’s most likely way out of date. Check that bottle date twice before dropping eight bucks at a bar on a bottle of (ABI-owned) Goose Island IPA.
Well, I must have moved again because that seems to be the only time I ever update this blog. And yes, I did move. Guam is my new home- another tour overseas, another island (this makes three for three, for those counting … Navy).
Oh, tropical islands and beer. You two are made for each other and yet you don’t get along in any meaningful way. Dark beers are shunned and hoppy beers and destroyed. I’m left with pale lagers … not pilsners, which I would love, but pale lagers. Those ubiquitous beach club beers that are solely used as a cold way to buzz the tourists before they move on to silver rum cocktails.
It’s been difficult finding beer worth a damn (if you hadn’t figured that out already). There are a small number of bars that have a solid tap list, yet the most interesting beers are the ones you don’t waste your money on since they didn’t make it here intact. My quest for a good beer won’t end anytime soon, but I have found the white flag and I’m ironing it so when it is time to give up at least it’ll be nice and crisp (unlike any of the beers I’ve had so far … zing!)
So what am I to do? Well, right now I’m writing a blog about my sadness. Other than that, I am drinking plenty of rum and whiskey. I like rum and whiskey. But I love beer. Le sigh.
Lets get to the point of this blog, which is actually supposed to be a happy post. Because I did find a good beer that hadn’t been beaten and bloodied beyond recognition.
De Ranke XX Bitter (now the blog title makes sense, yeh?) is a sip of fresh beer. It’s floral and bright citrus, it’s layered with healthy coriander, pepper, and a little heat and it’s steadied by some solid biscuit malt is like warm sunshine on my shoulders. It hasn’t been turned into a sweet cardboard mess.
The only downer is I bought one bottle when I should have bought them out.
Well, my recaps of the peninsula breweries is definitely behind. On the bright side, my visits to these breweries is chugging forward. I’ve got a few in the queue, so let’s get one knocked out right now.
A few weeks back, my wife and I ventured out on a drizzly day to Bainbridge Island and made a stop to the local brewery cleverly named: Bainbridge Island Brewing. Oh, those creative business types. It just so happened to coincide with Washington Beer Open House, so not only did we kick back a couple tasty brews, we got a guided tour of their cramped but effective brewing space.
Bainbridge is located in what feels like a hybrid industrial park and strip mall. It’s interior has a craftsman, nearly a log cabin feel to it with lots of natural wood. A relatively small downstairs is augmented with a loft offering quite a bit more seating. While they don’t offer up food of their own (other than simple snacks. We had cheese and crackers) they do bring in a rotation of food trucks (with the schedule on a big chalkboard) and you can always bring in whatever else you might want to chew on.
But why do we really go to breweries? It’s not the food or the atmosphere even. We go for the beer. Bainbridge brews up many tasty beers and they seem to be slowly expanding into the barrel aged and sour realm lately, too. We shared a couple flights plus added a couple tasters and got through pretty much their entire lineup that day. I’m not generally a fan of fruited IPAs but their Grapefruit IPA was solid and might be the best of the style that I’ve had. Their new sour, Res Judicata, was tart, tasty and a solid first offering. It has me excited to see what else they might pump out in that capacity.
We enjoyed a tour of the brew house by the head brewery and co-founder. He took the time to explain the ins and outs of their system, the highs and lows of their current size, what is pushing them forward and holding them back. It was a very honest and refreshing conversation.
Listening and drinking
Looking through the fermentors
Bainbridge is doing some good stuff out of a fairly packed environment. Their bottled offerings are getting easier to find and their tap only brews are definitely worth trying if you see them on somewhere. I’d be more of a regular if Bainbridge Island weren’t so damn far out.
You’ll notice this is quite late. Quite. But, if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see that it was hard to keep up during the previous day’s slate of games and this is day three. My wife says it’s because this bender has moved to day three. I think it’s because … well I think she is right.
There are fewer games today so there should be fewer drinks, right? Wrong. Well, maybe right. Hell, I don’t know. Clarity isn’t my strong suit right now.
Today started like they all should. Coffee with booze. I moved on to a sessionable ale while I watch my bracket fade to black when Villanova lost. new Belgium Dayblazer was on point if you open your mind a bit and realize straight sessionable ales aren’t flavor powerhouses. Once my bracket was shit, I needed a pick me up so I moved to Pelican Brewing’s Captain of the Coast Wee Heavy. That is a helluva beer. Easily the best I’ve had in quite some time. I hate using this word for beer but it really fits here: Luxurious. After getting a through that beautiful beer, I opened a German Lager of joy, Hirsch Doppelbock. It’s a malty delight of dark and delicious proportions.
I’m going to try to stick with things better the rest of the evening but I’m already drunk … so…
I took some time off work for arguably the best four days in sports: March Madness’ opening weekend. Four straight days of college basketball glory.
To properly celebrate I’m making way too much food and enjoy a beer or seven (and maybe some cocktails, too). I’ll be updating this post as we move along through the day.
7:00 a.m. : The Mrs. is a Winthrop alumna so that’s where our rooting is directed today. To get in the mood I put a couple pounds of raw peanuts in a stock put and brought them to boil. I’m not generally a fan of boiled peanuts but sometimes you need to take one for the team. First drink of the day was a few mugs of coffee with baileys to top it off. Gotta ease my way into the tournament.
11:00 a.m. : pork butt goes in the smoker and finishing up the last of my boozed up coffee. Four games going simultaneously. 12:30 p.m. : First beer of the day is Ten Pin Brewing Head Pin IPA. Well-balanced. The bitterness accompanied Winthrop’s loss to Butler quite well. 2:00 p.m. : Cracked open an aged-at-the-brewery Silver City Beautimus Weizenbock from circa 2010 … or so the bartender said. 4:00 p.m. : I needed something lighter as the early games ended and the late ones waited to start. Disappointed with the lack of upsets (other than MTSU) so far. 5:15 p.m. : The short break in games was harder than expected. Staying focused was hard. That Vienna Lager is to blame since it was a Modelo offering. Decided I needed to go small again and brought out Postdoc Kilty Macsporran Scottish Ale. Had to be drank today so I didn’t accidentally open it tomorrow, St. Patrick’s day. 6:30 p.m. : Dinner. Smoked a pork butt for the better part of the day. Delicious pulled pork is delicious. 7:50 p.m. : I needed to wash that tasty pork down with something so I grabbed a Ninkasi Believer. The name is more than appropriate for the games going I right now. I just wish the beer was sharper.
9:15 p.m. : It’s been a long day of basketball, cooking and boozing. Arizona is up by 21 on North Dakota with a little less than six to play and I’m pretty exhausted. My bracket isn’t busted but I have some tough outs already. Finishing up day one with a Fremont Dark Heron IPA. A fairly relaxed IPA especially coming from Fremont. Easy going but it’s simplicity leads to relaxed enjoyment.
I know I said in my previous post that I drink more IPAs than anyone really needs to, and that remains true. However, thinking about that got me yearning for a good IPA. As I was lingering in my grocer’s beer aisle, attempting to find something new and interesting in their standard grocery store* beer selection, a showdown was conjured in my mind. I wouldn’t drink one IPA, no, that is for the lot of you who drink sensibly. No, I would have three (my max if you know me well enough), on a school night, and pit them against each other in a winner take all of our IPA elders.
I’ve had the three here multiple times but none of them recently since I don’t get back to the standard bearers as often as I should. Are these IPAs standard bearers? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t care too much, either. They are all classics, which have been brewed for more than a decade each and all are wildly successful year-around beers. I know that the recipes have been tweaked some over the years, but these are the beers that launched thousands of imitators.
Stone IPA : Introduced 1997 : 6.9% – We’ll start with the oldest of the group, Stone IPA. It’s classic clear orange body topped by a white hat. Powerful citrus hop notes for sure inspired a multitude of IPAs in the last 20 years. Damn, it is bitter. Ya know how lots of the new tropical IPAs are full of bright fruits (which I totally dig, btw) but the bitterness seems a bit restrained? This IPA harkens back to those days when everyone cared about IBUs more than anything else. The flavor is almost masked by the bitterness! Still, it has tons of citrus and pine hop notes. Crystal malt adds some sweetness and rounds out the body. This is a full-on bitter powerhouse of an IPA.
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA : Introduced 2003 : 6% – I’ve moved on to Dogfish’s 60-minute IPA, which I’ve had the longest relationship with out of these three. I remember it being smooth and grassy, but either my memory has failed me or the beer has changed some over the years. The grass is still there but only in the background with pine and citrus elbowing their way to the front. The malt is muted but aides the overall balance. Not nearly as bitter as the Stone but still having a nice bite throughout. A well-balanced offering.
Ballast Point Sculpin IPA : Introduced 2005 (originally named Northstar) : 7% – The relative newcomer, Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA is a big time player especially on the west coast. I don’t remember drinking much of it when I was back east, but I can’t escape it out here. This is a grapefruit bomb and I’ve always enjoyed grapefruit in my IPAs (I don’t like grapefruited IPAs, however). Strong citrus notes throughout with a decent helping of crystal malt sweetness. A zesty, fruity, sweet IPA that many breweries seem to be emulating (cause, duh, it’s a huge success so why not emulate it). Tangy and bitter. Good stuff, here.
So what’s it gonna be from the elder three? My pre-tasting guess was Dogfish Head had the winner but after this little get-together Stone came away as the clear winner. DFH and BP are brewing great IPAs but they are both solid seconds, for me. If we care about where our money goes (and I do) then I’d put the 60 Minute second and relegate Sculpin to third, but that’s a moral decision and not an enjoyment based outcome.
This was a fun grocery-store threesome. I haven’t had any of these in years and it was nice to get reacquainted with them. And damn, that Stone IPA is still fighting my tongue. Nice.
*I may need to remind you that I live in the heart of a good beer black hole. The local area is trying to improve but we still don’t have a good bottle shop in close vicinity. I buy more of my beer from the chain grocery than I’d like to admit.
Long time reader, first time caller …er, contributor to the Session. My first foray to this gathering of beer bloggers is session #120, Brown Beer, hosted by Fatal Glass of Beer, who says:
let’s buck the trend and contemplate brown beer. This might be brown ale, or the aforementioned English bitter; it could be a malty Belgian brune, a dubbel or a tart oud bruin; even a German dunkel might qualify.
Away we go.
I can trace my connection to brown beer all the way to my good beer infancy. The beer that started it all for me was Bells Porter, which is a lovely deep brown beer. However, when I narrowed my brown beer experiences down, I kept returning to one singular beer that played a remarkable role in my formative years.
Samuel Smiths Nut Brown ale is a beer that satisfied and inspired me to keep going down this rabbit hole. It pushed my passion for darker beers to full throttle. I snagged their Taddy Porter next, shortly after that I went after Westmalle Dubbel followed closely by McEwan’s Scotch Ale and then Abita’s Turbodog, which led to … well, you get the idea. Brown beer was my life and life was grand. I drank them, I brewed them, I chased them. I still do.
But, why? I surely didn’t keep track of why when I was learning to love beer so I’m looking back through frosty windows, but I believe those brown beers gave me a sense of comfort, substance, flavor, and balance. I enjoyed the occasional IPA because tons of hops were (are) cool and fun, but the beers that really spoke to me were brown and malty with a chewy body. The browns looked like beer should, too. They transported me to a London pub or a German bier hall where good beer was just … normal.
Sam’s Nut Brown inspired me so much that the second batch of homebrew I ever crafted was a clone of this ale. I specifically bought Beer Captured (Jeff and Tess Szamatulski) because I saw it had a recipe for this glorious brew. That is a story in and of itself, really. See, I brewed this beer just a couple weeks before I shipped off out for the Navy and a new life far from home. I left before I was even able to taste the fruits of my labor. Luckily, I figured out that this was going to happen early enough that I left my parents very detailed directions so they could bottle and store it in the basement (they did a great job) until my first shore leave came nearly a year later. The beer was all that I could have ever hoped for. Its malty and semi-sweet profile begged for round after round. I was so proud of it that I took bottles with me to all the get-togethers I could during that visit home, polishing off those five gallons with ease.
But time marches on and the beer world today is not what it was when I first joined the revolution 12-ish years ago. I drink more IPAs than anyone really needs to these days- they’re inescapable. Much like many relationships, we never had a falling out, but we drifted apart. I’d say hello every now and then but mostly sought out the new and exciting barrel aged sour and didn’t have time for this steady ale. I honestly don’t remember the last time I brought home a bottle. So, as I write, I am also enjoying a fine pint of Nut Brown.*
She’s just as friendly as I remember. The nutty and toasted malts leading to a mild chocolate, toffee and raisin backbone. The lingering dry finish bringing me back for another taste. Her brown body and curvaceous ruby highlights under the dirty blonde head are as beautiful today as they’ve ever been. Lovely.
Enjoying this brown again made me curious for a couple other noteworthy browns of my beer youth. Being in the PNW these days, I don’t have access to many of the beers I cut my teeth on when living in the Midwest, but I was able to find a couple of entries that fit the nostalgia bill.
Rogue Hazelnut Brown : 6% – I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding my first encounter with this ale. I do remember that this brown opened my young beer world to the possibilities of ingredients other than malt, hop, water and yeast. I was in awe of this brown for some time after I discovered it. I bought more and made everyone try it’s hazelnut and toasted malt profile. Such a luxurious brown beer. It’s still quite enjoyable. The balanced hazelnut stands out without being a one trick pony. I haven’t had this in years but enjoyed getting reacquainted.
Big Sky Moose Drool : 5.2% – This was a beer I had on my wish list for many years before finally getting to a state that served this malty delight. It was one of the first beers I HAD to have. So, when I finally stumbled upon a bottle I was in heaven. It was all I hoped for, and still is. Lightly roasted malts, chocolaty, toasted bread and deep dark fruits. A slightly sweet but also dry body and finish. A hearty and malty brown ale. I need to pick up more.
I didn’t expect my first contribution to the Session to be so full of nostalgia, but I’m not upset it turned out this way. Brown beers have always played a large role in my beer life. Porter has long been my favorite style followed by many malty, brown leaning beers. Dubbel, dunkle, stout, bock, etc. I sometimes have a difficult time remembering that good beer is good, even if it’s not new.
*the post was written while enjoying Samuel Smiths Nut Brown but edited and posted while enjoying a different brown hued beer, Negra Modelo. A tasty mainstream option.
Imperial stouts are great. I think that’s a fairly agreed upon statement. What’s not to love? Roasted malts, chocolate, sweetness, awesome. Winter is the perfect time for the style and the PNW makes some of the best. Does Northern California count as the PNW? As a midwesterner, I think it does. I was standing in the beer aisle while doing some grocery shopping recently and decided to grab a couple impys because nothing else stood out. They sat in my fridge for a few weeks and then decided a comparison would be a fun thing to do … because it’s kinda my thing. So, which NorCal imperial stout will punch out the other? I’m stoked to find out.
Sierra Nevada Narwhal – 10.2% : Pours black with a tall, dark brown head. A very slick, molasses, sticky roasted malt profile. Some burnt malts and dark chocolate but mostly a super bold and sweet molasses filled imperial stout. I mean, wow, this is sweet. The roasted notes are overpowered but the sweet malt, which kind of drowns everything out. The 10% is drowned by the sugars, which makes it fairly dangerous. It’s a real good impy, no doubt. It’s just a bit too sweet to be something I can have very often.
North Coast Old Rasputin – 9% : Thick black pour with a tall and firm deep tan head. Intense roasted malt notes, mild coffee, cocoa, light pine and earth notes. Full bodied. A bone dry finish increases the roasted feel on this imperial stout. A lingering bitter sweet burnt malt stays with you long after your sip is gone. Intensely dry and roasted and delicious. I should drink more of it.
There ya have it. Old Rasputin bests Narwhal in a battle of Northern California Imperial Stouts. The Narwhal is nice but too sweet for my liking. I used to enjoy the Rasputin rather often in my earlier craft beer days but have drifted away from it in recent years. It’s nice to have it again and reminded of just how great an imperial stout it is. I think it’s gonna start making a regular appearance in my fridge once again.
One of my beer goals for 2017 is to visit all breweries on the Kitsap Peninsula. Basically, anything north of the Tacoma Narrows bridge is fair game. And now, the race has begun.
I decided to start the adventure at a place I know well. Silver City is the big dog over here on the west sound and ships its beers far and wide. Last I checked, they were the fourth largest craft brewery in Washington. I won’t go into specifics about their beers because you’ve most likely had a pint of the Ridgetop Red, Nice Day IPA or any of their regulars. They even brewed the Seattle Beer Week beer, Sieben Braü lager … so they are totally big time.
The brewery taproom itself is actually pretty small and reserved. A few seats at the bar next to a small window to the packaging floor of the brewery greets you as you walk in. A lineup of 20 tap handles is front a center in case you forgot why you were there. Beer. Beer is why you are there. Some tables scattered among stacks of silent barrels aging a whole host of different brews adds some ambiance and gives a good reminder that you’re drinking at a very busy working brewery. They have a large chalkboard calendar with all their goings on in the main room of the bar so you can see what food truck will be in on what day, when that special release imperial porter is available, and when cask night is gonna be. It’s helpful. The service is always friendly, and as a native midwesterner, I enjoy the easy and relaxed friendly atmosphere they seem to promote. I enjoy Silver City but it’s a basic brewery taproom that seems to exist more to fill growlers and sell bottles and cans of their liquid than as a gathering spot to tie a few on. They are not trying to wow you with ambiance. They are trying to sell their beer in a friendly environment. I dig it.
I wouldn’t call myself a regular but I do stop in a few times a month and relax- generally over a pint of one of their pilot beers. They seem to have at least a couple going each time I’m in, in addition to the regular lineup and standard seasonals. They also brew a number of seasonal lagers, which needs to be a thing at more places. Lager. Yea. It’s the next new hotness that isn’t new at all but is awesome.
So yea, Silver City. It’s a damn’d fine brewery with a solid taproom offering up a good variety of their beers with some one-offs, too. It’s nice to have them nearby.
*This is solely about the brewery taproom in Bremerton. The flagship restaurant in Silverdale is a different beast all together. I rarely venture up there as its focus is casual dining and the tap list isn’t as extensive. And I write a beer blog, not a causal dining blog.