Commercial Beer

Rogue Farm Fresh Cocktail Competition Celebrates Gin & Craft Cocktails

Brewpublic - Sun, 03/24/2019 - 9:57pm
Newport, Ore. (March 21, 2019) — Rogue Ales & Spirits announces its first-ever cocktail competition, celebrating Rogue’s farm-grown Spruce Gin. Running from April 1–May 31, 2019, Rogue’s Farm Fresh Cocktail Competition invites bartenders and craft cocktail enthusiasts from all over the country to submit their best cocktail using Rogue Spruce Gin for a chance to win a trip to Rogue’s […]
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The beer world shocked and saddened by the passing of an icon: Matt Bonney

Washington Beer News - Sun, 03/24/2019 - 2:36pm

By Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog

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On Saturday, March 23rd the beer world was shocked to learn of the unexpected and untimely passing of a legend. Matt Bonney was the owner/operator of Toronado Seattle, one of the city’s best beer-focused bars. Matt celebrated his 45th birthday this past January.

A native of Wisconsin, Matt Bonney earned his well-deserved reputation in the beer world by working with three stalwart Seattle beer institutions: Bottleworks, Brouwer’s Cafe, and Burgundian. Over the course of 15 years, he literally helped build those businesses and their reputations.

All photos from Facebook.

In 2014, Matt Bonney opened his own beer institution, Toronado Seattle, which is located on NEV65th Street in the Roosevelt neighborhood. Matt Bonney’s reputation is not limited to the Seattle beer scene: he has friends and beer associates across the nation who will fondly remember and dearly miss him. Personally, I wish I’d known him better. Though we shared many beers and many cheers, I wish we could share many more. I will remember him for his larger-than-life personality, his ever-present smile, and his massive contribution to the world of craft beer here in Seattle and beyond.

At this time the circumstances of his passing are unclear. “He just didn’t wake up Saturday morning,” is what one of his good friends told me. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family, his friends, and especially his wife, Lynn.

 

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For the latest news and information about beer in and around Washington, visit Washington Beer Blog.

Categories: Commercial Beer Blogs

Block 15 Brewing To Host 2019 Oyster Week

Brewpublic - Sun, 03/24/2019 - 5:48am
Tweet Corvallis, OR — Join Block 15 Brewing throughout the first week of April for the debut of Oyster Week—a weeklong celebration of oysters hosted by Block 15 and Caves Bier & Kitchen. In addition to oyster themed food specials and events offered throughout the week, Block 15 will kick off Oyster Week with the […]
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T-Mobile Park – get used to the new name and the new menu at Seattle’s ballpark

Washington Beer News - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 12:49pm

By Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog

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It’s going to take a while for me to stop calling it Safeco Field. Old habits die hard. Centerplate, the company that handles the food and beverages program at T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) recently introduced this year’s food and beverage lineup. Some of the most popular features of the beer program are returning this year: lots of great beers in cans, cask-conditioned beers at every game, barrel-aged beers, and so on.

Yes, this is a beer blog. The Washington Beer Blog’s annual Beer at the Ballpark report is always very popular and very useful, and we will once again provide you with all the beautiful ballpark beer info before opening day, but first I’d like to introduce you to some of the items on the new food lineup. After all, that ballpark beer has to wash down something, right?

KuKu Fries from the HIt it Here Cafe. Photo by Kim Sharpe Jones.

Centerplate is committed to providing baseball fans with an authentic Seattle food experience at the ballpark, stuff that rises above what people typically expect at such a venue. “We like to think that our offering at Mariners games is like operating a hyperlocal restaurant for thousands of fans at once,” said Steve Dominguez, Centerplate Regional Vice President. “Our fans and guests are looking for menu items that authentically represent the community around them, and there is no better way to do this than working with our incredible local partners to provide a best-in-class experience.”

Fried Chicken Sammy, mentioned below, is my favorite new item at the ballpark. Photo by Kim Sharpe Jones.

I recently attended a preview of this year’s food lineup. Here are my favorite food items, which represent just part of the overall offerings.

Burgers – Not crappy burgers wrapped in foil and dried out under heat lamps, but seriously good burgers like you’d get at one of Seattle’s finer restaurants or burger joints. You have two options: The “Ethan Stowell Chef-Inspired Burger” at the Hit it Here Cafe and the “Big Woody Burger” from Li’l Woody’s in The Pen.

Ethan Stowell Chef-Inspired Burger. Photo by Kim Sharpe Jones.

The Ethan Stowell burger is rich and delish, with Hempler’s bacon, Beecher’s dulcet cheese, grilled onions, and chili aioli: it’s a honkin’ big burger with a ton of flavor.

Photo by Kim Sharpe Jones.

The Big Woody burger is more like the burger you’d make in your backyard, assuming you’re a chef and not just a weekend warrior. It is juicy and served up fairly simply with bacon, cheddar, lettuce, onion, pickles, and tomato. They are both very good burgers: I liked the Ethan Stowell Burger and my burger-connoisseur wife preferred the Big Woody Burger.

Paseo’s pork sammy! Photo by Kim Sharpe Jones.

Pork and Corn – Paseo, which operates its Caribbean-inspired, sandwich-focused restaurant a couple blocks down the street from the ballpark, is now in the ballpark serving up two more of my favorite items: Caribbean Pork Sandwich and Corn on the Cob. Paseo’s passion for building great sandwiches is well-documented so I won’t go into details, but the corn deserves some explanation because corn on the cob generally doesn’t sound very sexy. Roasted corn (think Mexican street corn) smothered in garlic aioli, parmesan cheese, cilantro, and spices. You can even get a bucket of corn which includes several ears in a cardboard bucket! Available at Edgar’s Cantina and Edgar’s Homerun Porch.

Photo by Kim Sharpe Jones.

Grand Salami Sandwich – Available at Sultan of Swing Sandwich (section 105). A lot of salami and smoked provolone served with grainy mustard on a marbled rye baguette. It is simple, delicious, and filling. “Get out the mustard and the rye bread, Grandma. it’s Grand Salami time!”

Fried Chicken Breast Sandwich – Fat’s Chicken and Waffles, located in Seattle’s Central District, brings its amazing fried chicken to the show this year in the form of a mouth-watering sandwich (pictured near the top of the article). Served on a toasted bun with garlic aioli, pimento cheese, tomato, pickle, and greens. Crisp, tender, moist and perfectly seasoned.

We will have our ballpark beer report ready for you soon! Stay tuned.

 

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For the latest news and information about beer in and around Washington, visit Washington Beer Blog.

Categories: Commercial Beer Blogs

BeerAdvocate to Debut Beers by BeerAdvocate, a New App for Reviewing Beers

Brewpublic - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 7:16am
TweetJumping into the online app game of beer reviews will be BeerAdvocate with its new app, Beers by BeerAdvocate. The online beer review website that dates back to 1986 will join the beer review app craze that was created over eight years ago by Untappd. In developing Beers by BeerAdvocate over the course of the […]
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Proper Pint Taproom Collaborates With Level Beer on Up, Down, Left, Right, Hold Beer Start Pale Ale

Brewpublic - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 6:31am
The team at Proper Pint Taproom recently ventured out to Level Beer to collaborate on a new beer, Up, Down, Left, Right, Hold Beer Start. This new Pale Ale will be released on Saturday, March 23rd at Proper Pint from 3:00-7:00pm. Up, Down, Left, Right, Hold Beer Start was brewed with Citra, Azacca and Galaxy […]
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Ecliptic Brewing Releases New Year-Round IPA – Vega IPA

Brewpublic - Fri, 03/22/2019 - 6:23am
Tweet Portland, Oregon. Earth. (March 21, 2019)- Ecliptic Brewing is excited to announce a new year-round IPA. Vega IPA features an always evolving variety of hops with a focus on experimental and never before used options. The beer has been added to Ecliptic’s limited release series and will be available as draft only for the Ecliptic Brewing […]
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Mayfly Taproom & Bottle Shop Opens Today In North Portland

Brewpublic - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 11:45am
TweetPortland’s Kenton neighborhood is home to a new craft beer bar and bottle shop that opened today. Located in close proximity to the Kenton/North Denver Yellow Line MAX Stop, Mayfly Taproom & Bottle Shop serves 16 rotating taps of beer, cider and mead. Mayfly was founded by Ryan Born as he brings his many years […]
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Farmstrong Brewing is now producing nothing but “truly local” beer

Washington Beer News - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 8:58am

By Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog

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By now, most beer lovers know that farmers in the Pacific Northwest grow virtually all of the nation’s hops; however, the source of the grains used in our favorite beers is something of a mystery. Most, but not all, of the beers that we drink around here are made with barley grown in various places across North America, like Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming and so on. Yes, Washington farmers also grow barley, but not in enormous quantities like some other states. Wherever the barley is grown, most of it is then processed (malted) by large malting companies who sell the resulting malted barley to the nation’s breweries. (Learn about the malting process.)

A brewery doesn’t necessarily know, or care, about the origin of the barley beyond who processed and supplied it. After all, how different is two-row barley grown in Montana from two-row barley grown in Washington? Some breweries are very particular about the source and the processing of the grain, some are not. As far as consumers are concerned, it’s not really something we think about too much.

Farmstrong Brewing of Mount Vernon, Washington is working with Skagit Valley Malting and defying the notion that all grain is the same grain. Skagit Valley Malting is a comparatively small malted barley producer in Burlington, Washington that focuses on malting locally grown grains. Many breweries use malted barely from Skagit Valley Malting, but I am unaware of any breweries (of significant size) using nothing but malted barley from Skagit Valley Malting. That is, until now. Farmstrong Brewing recently announced that it is using nothing but barley grown locally and malted locally.

“Three years ago, Farmstrong opened its doors in Mount Vernon, Washington,” says Clay Christofferson of Farmstrong Brewing. “Within that time we’ve seen amazing growth, both in the industry we love and the place we call home. The Skagit Valley is home to not only some of the country’s most fertile farmland but also to an incredible community. Our focus has always remained on showcasing our county’s bounty and using as many local ingredients as possible. For years we’ve strived to create “truly local” beer, and while most of our creations could hold that title, we were unable to bring our two flagships under that banner… until now.”

“As of March 1, 2019, all our beer is now made from local grain,” Christofferson explains. “We’ve spent the last year working hand-in-hand with local farmers and maltsters to transfer the entirety of our recipes to Skagit Valley Malt. Every glass of Farmstrong beer now comes from grain that was grown, malted, and brewed within a 10-mile radius.”

According to Christofferson, this “estate brewing” approach allows Farmstrong to do something very uncommon in the beer industry: showcase the terroir of the land where the beer is brewed.

“Crafting award-winning beer while remaining agriculturally-independent is no longer a dream, but a reality,” he says.

Head brewer Thane Tupper spent the last few months reworking Farmstrong Brewing recipes to incorporate Skagit Valley Malting products. His efforts were directed by his experience brewing at Mac & Jack’s Brewing, Elysian Brewing, and pFriem Family Brewers. The trick is to migrate over to the new grains while maintaining the familiar, expected flavor profiles.

Brewers have described malted barley produced by Skagit Valley Malting as intense and rich compared to the typical barley provided by the larger producers. This is not at all a bad thing, but it certainly is a consideration and it does impact the flavor of the beer, so existing recipes for familiar beers require careful reformulation.

“It’s been a lot of work but it was worth it,” says Tupper. “As a brewer, I’m excited about new challenges and this one was very important to me and the rest of the team.”

When Thane joined the team back in 2017, Farmstrong Brewing was a familiar brand based largely on the success of two beers: Cold Beer Pilsner and La Raza Ambar. The beers were popular, but they were the brewery’s only beers that did not utilize local malted barley. When the company canned and released it’s Valley Gold Lager, it was Farmstrong’s first canned beer brandishing the “Grown Here. Malted Here. Brewed Here.” slogan. At that time they decided all of their beers should live up to that mantra and have been working to bring that plan to fruition. Now they have.

“The next time you taste a Farmstrong beer, know that it’s the freshest, most “truly local” beer we can brew,” says Christofferson. “We’re proud of that, and we hope you are, too.”

 

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For the latest news and information about beer in and around Washington, visit Washington Beer Blog.

Categories: Commercial Beer Blogs

Redhook Brewery To Release El Sonido Mexican-Style Lager To Benefit SMASH

Brewpublic - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 8:17am
TweetLast year, Redhook Brewery released El Sonido, a Mexican inspired lager brewed at its Brewlab in Seattle and went on to become Brewlab’s most popular beer of 2018. Now El Sonido will join Redhook’s year-round lineup and will also benefit a very important charitable organization in Seattle. When released this month, El Sonido will partner […]
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Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization Annual Spring Fling Competition Returns April 26–28

Brewpublic - Thu, 03/21/2019 - 6:41am
Tweet Bend, OR – March 20, 2019 – The Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization (COHO) annual Spring Fling homebrew competition returns once again this April and is currently accepting entries. The event takes place the weekend of April 26–28, 2019, at the Aspen Ridge Retirement Community in Bend. Judging of the beers takes place Friday and […]
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TangleTown Public House taking over Elysian’s Tangletown brewpub

Washington Beer News - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 2:40pm

By Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog

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Changes are afoot at Elysian Brewing’s TangleTown brewpub in Seattle. As of now, the brewpub is closed, but there are plans to reopen in late April with a different format and a different owner. Simultaneously, the plans do and do not involve Elysian Brewing. Allow me to explain.

The neighborhood brewpub, located in that neighborhood between Wallingford and Green Lake, where the roads seem to ramble in all directions, opened more than 15 years ago. Recently, the lease was up for renewal, at which time the folks at Elysian Brewing and Anheuser-Busch decided not to pursue another lease. The company is currently involved in a big renovation at the original Elysian brewpub in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and perhaps didn’t have interest in embarking on another facelift at the Tangletown pub, which has stood essentially unchanged over the years. Whatever the case, the company decided to let Tangletown go.

Enter David Buhler, one of the original owners/founders of Elysian Brewing, to save the day. After some key changes and modifications, he will reopen the business as TangleTown Public House, operating the new business independent of Elysian Brewing and Anheuser-Busch. The new pub will offer a wide selection of beers from a number of different breweries.

TangleTown is currently closed and Buhler hopes to reopen at the end of April with a focus on a thoughtful selection of draft and canned beers from some of his favorite breweries. In a phone call, Buhler mentioned the likes of Aslan Brewing, Georgetown Brewing, Fremont Brewing, pFriem Family Brewers, and Chuckanut Brewery. “The stuff I drink at home,” he said.

One thing that will not change is the name on the lease. “I’m a signer on the original lease from 16 years ago,” says Buhler, who along with managing the restaurant over a decade ago helped shepherd Elysian Brewing into its current role as one of the largest beer brands in the country. “So, being the sole owner now and signing a new lease with the property owner is weirdly contiguous.”

Buhler says that taking over and reimagining TangleTown will not impact his position with Elysian. “I will continue to provide strategy advice to Elysian along with my role at Elysian as a national brand ambassador”.

TangleTown will now have 20 rotating draft beers and ciders on tap and Buhler hopes to make use of his many relationships in the craft beer and beverage industry, many of which span decades.

“I decided to keep the name TangleTown,” says Buhler. “When we opened this spot in 2003 the name Tangletown had fallen out of use; it is now the descriptor for this whole neighborhood. It seems appropriate that this legacy should continue. TangleTown will continue to serve high-quality food, beer, wine, cider and spirits. It will continue to serve the vast array of families that live in the area and it will add an intimate acoustic music space as well.”

In addition to everything else, Buhler is a musician with a few albums to his credit and part of the plan is to create a place where people can enjoy live music.

TangleTown Public House will be open on weekdays starting at 3:00, but not for lunch. On weekends they will open earlier to accommodate the brunch crowd. He imagines the new pub as a place where families are welcome, but as the evening hours approach the vibe changes into more of an adult-focused environment.

“I’m super excited to be part of the fabric of this community again,” says Buhler. “I can’t wait to greet you all and share a story with you.”

 

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For the latest news and information about beer in and around Washington, visit Washington Beer Blog.

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Crossbuck Brewing brings its beers to some of Seattle’s finest restaurants

Washington Beer News - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 10:27am

By Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog

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Back in January, we told you about Crossbuck Brewing. (Read our previous story.) Specifically, we shared the news that the brewery is now up and brewing in the old train depot near the heart of downtown Walla Walla, Washington. What we didn’t really explain in detail is that the brewery is part of the Fire & Vine Hospitality family of businesses, the same company that is behind some really, really good local restaurants, like El Gaucho’s three locations, The Lakehouse in downtown Bellevue, Agua by El Gaucho on Seattle’s waterfront, Aerlume near Pike Place Market, and others. (Complete list below.) Without digging into business details, it’s just easiest to say that Crossbuck Brewing is related to Fire & Vine Hospitality–they’re part of the family.

Hard to beat the view from Aerlume, one of Fire & Vine’s restaurants. (Photos by Kim Sharpe Jones.)

Crossbuck Brewing is now shipping beer to Seattle. Expect to see it at restaurants across the Fire & Vine family. Look for two beers in particular: Switcher Kolsch and NoPac IPA. I attended a tasting event recently where I sampled those two beers and a few others. They’re all good. Clean, true to style, and flawless, from the crisp, light and slightly sweet Switcher Kolsch to the lush, robust and coconut-tinged Kokomo Kokonut Porter. The NoPac IPA is a delightful throwback, a real Northwest IPA that is not hazy and juicy, but bracing, hoppy and bit bitter. The brewery does, of course, also produce a hazy IPA.

We were told that Aerlume, where the company held the tasting event, plans to put a selection of Crossbuck beers on tap. Maybe as many as six. Speaking of Aerlume, this new addition to the Fire & Vine family is absolutely gorgeous and happily located right between Cloudburst Brewing and Old Stove Brewing near Pike Place Market. You cannot beat the view, which will only get better as the viaduct comes down.

Crossbuck Brewing’s beers are distributed by NW Beverages.

Fire & Vine Hospitality’s list of restaurants:

  • Aerlume
  • Agua by El Gacho
  • Civility and Unrest
  • Crossbuck Brewery and Taproom
  • El Gaucho
  • Eritage Resort
  • The Lakehouse
  • Miler’s Guild
  • Walla Wall Steak Co.

Visit Fire & Vine’s website for more info about the company.

Here’s the announcement from Fire & Vine Hospitality about the arrival of beers from Crossbuck.

The beer is here! Fire & Vine Hospitality is excited to announce that Crossbuck Brewing beer is now on tap at all of our Western Washington restaurants including El Gaucho Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma, as well AQUA by El Gaucho, Miller’s Guild, The Lakehouse, Civility and Unrest and Aerlume. Crossbuck beers have been pouring at Eritage Resort, Walla Walla Steak Co and the Crossbuck tap room since October 2018. Our Puget Sound-area team selected two crowd-pleasing beers to serve at every Fire & Vine restaurant. Beginning today, the Switcher Kölsch and NoPac IPA will be available at all locations.

The NoPac IPA is a hops-forward trio of citrusy, piney and floral hop flavor from Chinook, Citra, Simcoe and Cascade hops. The flavor is balanced by a delicate malty sweetness on the finish. It pairs perfectly with the caramelized flavors of grilled meat cooked over live fire. The Switcher Kölsch is bright and clear with a soft malty sweetness, light spice and citrus notes from Mandarina Bavaria and Opal hops. Shellfish, salads and lighter fish dishes are a perfect match for the light, malty flavor of this German-style brew.

Every Crossbuck brew has a story and is crafted with locally sourced ingredients. Head brewer Steven Brack gets most of his hops from Yakima and Willamette Valley, and is also featuring Walla Walla Hops’ first harvest of a wild variety found in the Blue Mountains and replanted in their hop yard. “They have only gone through one harvest so far, but we have had some exciting results in our limited edition LOcAL SMaSH pale ale.”

Other releases currently available at Crossbuck Brewing taproom in Walla Walla include:

Xbuck Hazy Schmazy IPA
Udderly Mad Milk Stout
Harum-Scarum, Scotch Ale
Walloping Wheat, Bavarian Hefeweizen
Rugged Rye, Red Rye
10 : 10 To NoWhere Triple IPA

When asked how Steven decides which beers to make and why, he said “I always brew what I like to drink and hope others will like it too. I’m a curious drinker and I’m always looking for my next favorite… I’m a hopeful romantic and still haven’t found it yet but that doesn’t stop me from trying everything! There is always a specific beer for every occasion but I generally drink Pilsners, IPA’s and Porters/Stouts.”

Steven has a knack for developing clever names and descriptions for his beers. He says he generally loses sleep over each new beer name but that most come from a connection to his past or the history of the Walla Walla train depot building.

March will be a big month at the brewery to fill barrels for aging several fall/winter 2019 bottle release projects. Steven and his team also have several fun limited releases beers coming on tap soon. A Dry Stout, Helles and Pilsner will be in the tanks soon. As Steven says, “We need some immensely quaffable beers for spring, as it’s just around the corner, hopefully!”

We look forward to pouring a pint of our newest Crossbuck beers at any of our Fire & Vine locations, as well as in the taproom in Walla Walla.

 

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For the latest news and information about beer in and around Washington, visit Washington Beer Blog.

Categories: Commercial Beer Blogs

Merchant du Vin Presents 2019 Orval Day

Brewpublic - Wed, 03/20/2019 - 4:00am
What began as a day that Sean Campbell from The BeerMongers celebrated one of his most highly regarded beers Orval Trappist Ale, now Orval Day has turned into a national campaign from the beer’s importer, Merchant du Vin. Now in its fourth year, Merchant du Vin brings together hundreds of bars from across the United […]
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Laurelwood Brewing Celebrates 18 Years + Lost in Happy Mountain Saison Collaboration

Brewpublic - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 10:54pm
On Thursday, March 21st, Laurelwood Brewing will celebrate its 18th Anniversary with a daylong celebration. The Portland brewer is also excited to announce the release of its latest beer, Lost in Happy Mountain Saison, a collaboration with Happy Mountain Kombucha Co. In honor of Laurelwood’s 18th birthday, pints of beer will spin back the clock […]
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Higgins Restaurant and pFriem Family Brewers Collaborate on Higgins 25th Anniversary Ale

Brewpublic - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 10:06pm
As Higgins continues its 25th Anniversary throughout the month of March, the longtime Portland restaurant has just released its beer that it collaborated on with pFriem Family Brewers. Higgins Anniversary Ale is a Belgian-style farmhouse saison that was brewed with Calamondin oranges, cardamon, and green peppercorn. The beer features notes of lemon and spice, though […]
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Book Review – Cheese Beer Wine Cider: A Field Guide to 75 Perfect Pairings

Brewpublic - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 3:57pm
TweetToday, Tuesday, March 19th, Steve Jones and Adam Lindsley release their new book, Cheese Beer Wine Cider: A Field Guide to 75 Perfect Pairings published by Countryman Press. This 224-page book dives into 75 intriguing cheese pairings that includes 25 with beer, 25 with cider and 25 with wine. Cheese Beer Wine Cider is that […]
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Support the tradition! The story behind WA Cask Beer Festival (this Saturday)

Washington Beer News - Tue, 03/19/2019 - 8:55am

By Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog

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The 20th Annual Washington Cask Beer Festival takes place this Saturday in Seattle. It is one of the area’s longest-running beer festivals. Today we share a story written for us by Bob Brenlin, the owner of three venerable beer-focused bars in Seattle: Latona Pub, Hopvine Pub, and Fiddler’s Inn. The first of the three, “the Latona,” opened in 1987, when finding good beer was no easy task. Bob was dedicated to the pursuit of hand-crafted, local beer and managed to focus on pouring it at a time when there were only 150 breweries in the entire nation. So who better to talk about the tradition of cask-conditioned beer and the tradition of Washington Cask Beer Festival. (See our previous post for more info and list of participating breweries.)

Twenty years of Cask. Preserving a tradition
by Bob Brenlin

Most people don’t walk into a craft beer around here and say, Hey I will have a cask. Though some folks know what it is, it is not the latest and greatest thing on the beer hit chart. The muddy mess of hazy, or a frantic sour, or sexy pilsner are more sought after than the comforting and warmish cask. There was a cask craze around here encouraged by the likes of Bert Grant and Mike Hale, early proponents of “real ale”, but more recently cask-conditioned beer is relegated to festivals or crazy beer aficionados, like Gary Sink at Beveridge Place Pub, which still hosts a monumental cask beer festival every year (Cask-O-Rama, pictured at the top of this post). Look, there is a cute little keg on the bar. I wonder what that is?

The Latona Pub had the first cask festival more than 20 years ago when the novelty of cask was something that created a buzz. It moved to Hales Ale Brewery later, and this week a milestone is being made this year as the Washington Brewer’s Guild celebrates the 20-year tradition of a cask beer festival.

Now known as Washington Cask Beer Festival, and held at Seattle Center this Saturday, the event is one the oldest local beer fests and celebrates the tradition of beer served by traditional means as was done before refrigeration and standardized kegging became the norm. In the early days of beermaking, especially in the warmer climates such as England, beer was brewed and allowed to ferment in wood vessels and then served in that same vessel at cellar temperature. The process of fermentation in the keg created natural carbonation and a resulting flavor profile. Since there was no refrigeration readily available there was no other option but to let the yeasty beasties work at a warmer temperature. The yeast evolved to this, and there is a signature flavor profile because of it. In contrast, in cold climate brewing areas like Germany, cold temperatures and iceboxes slowed yeast down but also created a completely different beer experience. Lager, the beer we think of, comes from the process of “lagering” or cold temperature fermentation.

Beer is old as dirt and brewing beer is as simple as rain-soaking grain and harvesting the liquid. But today everything is about moving through life as quickly as possible. The industrialization of beermaking was a key to replicating pint after pint after pint. The keg itself changed. Today the vast majority of breweries use what is called a “straight sided bungless Sankey.” They are top-filled kegs that moved along on a conveyor belt and the cleaning, rinsing and filling process is automated. The cleaning, rinsing, filling and serving all happen through one fitting at the top of the keg.

The idea that beer is served at cellar temperature and that a bung (big cork on the side of the keg) is applied to a keg that is hand-filled is certainly quaint and is a thing of the past. An organization called CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) was established in England back in the 1970’s to make sure the tradition was carried on in merry old England. With nearly 200,000 members, it is one of the largest independent, voluntary consumer organizations in the world.

Cask beer poured in the traditional manner. From a “beer engine.”

Cask-conditioned beer is beer that undergoes secondary fermentation in the vessel in which it is served. As defined by CAMRA, “real ale finishes fermenting, conditioning and maturing in the container from which it is dispensed.” Interestingly, the cask fest is more about the vessel of beer rather than the beer itself. We are quickly approaching a bungless society. The bunghole will be gone as no brewer in their right mind wants to pound a bung on every keg. The only thing worse than pounding the bung in is taking it back out when the keg is empty. The resurgence of wood-aging beer is the only thing saving the bung. That and an anachronistic cask beer fest.

Cask-conditioned beer poured our way: straight from the keg.

But the flavor of cask beer is worth the effort. If done right, it is one of the freshest beer experiences available. If done wrong, it is flat and lifeless. Everything has a modern Northwest twist, and so does how we do cask-conditioned beer. We are not CAMRA approved; we are the colonies and we do things a bit differently. We have no concept of cellarmanship and making a cask-conditioned beer (and kegging it) is painful for the brewer. A specific keg is designated and then, before fermentation is complete, the beer is racked off into a firkin, a pin, or some old, discarded Golden Gate quarter barrel keg. Sugar, or some active wort, is added to create a secondary fermentation. “Regular” beer is force-carbonated, which means Co2 gas is forced, or diffused, into the beer.

The keg then needs to find a quiet place where the natural carbonation can take place. (Co2 is a byproduct of fermentation.) At some point, the keg should be vented to release the excess Co2. Then the keg (cask) is carefully transferred to a place for very careful pouring. Of course, we don’t have time for any of that; Cask Fest is a rush to pour and the typical venting and resting processes don’t take place.

The bunghole, that big cork in the side of the keg, also provides a place for dry-hopping individual kegs and that is where some exciting beer flavors can happen. Of course, one of our knowledgeable cask brewers thinks the bunghole has provided a means to make it “Strange brew fest.” Jalapeno IPA is not what CAMRA had in mind; However, dry hopping individual kegs is an exciting means to create a totally different beer experience. That is the excitement of cask and why brewers need to keep the tradition alive. The creativity of the event will always outweigh the cumbersome nature of making cask. The flavors will always be different than beer that is force-carbonated. There is a softness that you will never get from a beer on tap.

Preserve the bung and go to the cask fest while you can. Fewer brewers are taking the time to make cask-conditioned beer. Fewer brewers are participating this year. Fewer retailers even know what cask beer is or how to pour it.

Cask Beer Fest!

The tradition of cask should be passed on to future brewers, for not only does it maintain a tradition it maintains a beer style that is strikingly different because of the process used to create it. The Washington Cask Beer Festival is an experience that cannot be replicated. The beers served will be unlike anything typically served at your local pub. It is exciting to find so many casks in one place. Cask-conditioned beers will go the way of the dodo bird unless festivals and foolhardy retailers demand them. Support the tradition and support real ale.

 

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For the latest news and information about beer in and around Washington, visit Washington Beer Blog.

Categories: Commercial Beer Blogs

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