Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Beer #302-358 / Day #53-61: Sleepless Sampling In Seattle

Last week progressed like most weeks, with the exception of it being my birthday on Thursday.  Since Camille already threw me a huge beer birthday bash the previous weekend, I felt like my birthday had already happened, so Thursday mostly felt like just another day.  In spite of the anti-climactic nature of the day, The Wife and The Boy set up a perfect evening at home enjoying take-out sushi, and watching “The Big Year”.  Do they know me or what?  To treat myself, I popped the cap on one of the special bottles I had squirreled away from the unwashed masses during my beer party.  Courtesy of the generous Mr. Larry McQuaide, I enjoyed my very first tasting of a Fifty Fifty beer.  This brewery is based in Truckee, a town the size of a postage stamp, which could be considered “the middle of nowhere” were it not a through point for travelers to Lake Tahoe.  On the rare occasions when I see their bottles, they’re on the expensive side, averaging $20-$30 minimum, but very highly regarded in beer nerd circles.  Those nerds knew what they were doing when they got their mustaches in a wax over this joint.  I have yet to sample their Eclipse Series, but this B.A.R.T. (Barrel Aged Really Tasty) brew is exactly what the name implies.  A rich, viscous, and deeply satisfying ale, brewed with honey, aged in barrels, and destined for my stomach as often as possible.

The Most Interesting Cut-Out In The World
The next day my real adventure began, when Infest headed to Seattle for the weekend.  After the driest winter in memory, our flight to Seattle coincided with the arrival of a massive storm, the biggest, they say, in the last four years.  Our flight out of Bob Hope Airport was late, so I passed the time with some average airport brews, Widmer Hopside Down IPL and Red Hook Long Hammer, which actually helped me relax and not lose my patience with constant delays. Considering the high powered storm, I was surprised our eventual departure wasn’t more violent.  Regardless, I was cool as a cucumber thanks to a shot of bourbon, and a few Alaskan Amber ales aboard the flight.  Kudos to Alaska Airlines for deviating outside of the Busch camp, and offering something regional.  Domino and I ensured the short flight was a toasty one, and we cracked up about everything possible, including a few glimpses of the brillo-haired gal in front of us reading “Fifty Shades Of Grey” on her Nook.
For once, Seattle weather was nicer than SoCal.  Brisk, beautiful, musty with history.  I love this city, for much more than just the simple reason that the greater Sea-Tac area is my birthplace, in addition to the multitude of relatives who have never left.  In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot claim Seattle proper as my hometown, but rather Tacoma, which is a city that forever remains the butt of every joke (“Tacoma? Oh, you mean Aroma? Heh heh…”).
Shorty's: No, it's not a brothel
Despite the late arrival, show promoter Mike Crow, Iron Lung bandmates Jensen Ward and Jon Kortland, old friend Lauren Garaventa, and Japanese visitor and Far East beer geek Kemmy Dreadeye met up with us.  We all checked out Shorty’s, a bar with an old school pinball theme, and a few decent local taps to properly christen my Pacific Northwest adventure.  Crowded, but a decent place to hang thanks to multiple booths; the tables at each booth are formerly-enjoyed, lit-up pinball machines. Loud, trippy, and thanks to Mr. Crow, the drinks kept flowing.  And thanks to Mr. Fireball and several regional pints - Hale's Ales, Maritime Pacific, Georgetown Brewing - I was spinning, in need of nourishment.  I stumbled next door to Rocco’s for the most superior BBQ chicken pizza slice I’ve had in my life.  Is it the greatest slice because it IS the greatest, or is it the greatest slice because when you’re hammered at 1:30am, just about anything that goes in your mouth tastes like the world’s greatest invention?  All I know is I was on the verge of tearful rapture in my drunken, ravenous state. Before I knew it they were flashing the flights at Rocco's and Shorty's, sending the inebriated masses into the streets.  I found my friends and capped off the night with more food at 13 Coins, a bizarrely awesome "fancy" restaurant trapped in 1966.  It was 4am when my head hit the pillow.
This is what 13 Coins, 6 beers, and 3AM look like.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t wake up until Noon on Saturday.  Show day.  I couldn’t go too overboard because I needed to play that evening.  But it was still early enough to get a taste, and still sober up before hitting the stage.  I’m not one of those guys who performs well drunk, so I time my pre-show drinking far enough in advance to allow ample normalization time.  I followed my bandmates to the central hub of tourism, Pike Place Market.  On the way over, we took a pit stop at Top Pot Doughnuts, a fancy newfangled donut shop.  I was fully expecting an array of overly frou-frou, hipster specialty donuts, but I was wrong.  There were no maple bacon chorizo donuts, and no amber rosepedal dusted truffle donuts.  Just the classic styles created with perfection.  I grabbed a triple shot of espresso and a chocolate old fashioned.  Unlike my drunken, hazy, “world’s greatest” revelation from the evening before, I was perfectly sober, and fully aware that this WAS one of the greatest donut places I’ve patronized.  The simple chocolate old fashioned was in no way oily or greasy, and the chocolate was delicious, actual chocolate, and not the cheap, dark brown colored, sugar glaze that I’m used to.   We made it to Pike Place, and fought our way down the main thoroughfare, shoulder to shoulder with our fellow, chilly, mouth-breathing tourists.  We darted in and out of side tables, tasting endless free samples, but there is only so much pepper jelly and chili coated almonds one person can consume.  I was antsy to find the Pike Brewery and start tasting.  
Brewery where I couldn't get a brew
After mentioning the brewery for a third and fourth time, Domino recognized my jonesing, and suggested I find it, and they meet us later.  I obliged, but sadly it was not meant to be.  Pike Brewery looked like a funky, multi-leveled, less contrived version of TGIFridays.  I bypassed the tables, and bee-lined for the bar.  There were no seats and a line five-deep at the front of the bar to order a beer.  I waited impatiently for 10 minutes, making no progress, then reluctantly left.  I wanted a beer, but the idea of combat tasting didn’t appeal to me.  Unfamiliar with the area, and unsure which direction to head next, I roamed the street anxious, and agitated.  Like, REALLY agitated.  What was my problem?  I experienced a brief moment of fear.  Am I just now officially an alcoholic?  Have I become that haggard, Bukowskian stereotype who gets the shakes every morning unless he tips the bottle?  Then I realized, it was 1pm, and I hadn’t eaten anything but a small doughnut and a couple spicy jelly samples off toothpicks....
No food, triple espresso, agitated… bingo. 
Equally possible that espresso shakes are a thin veil for symptoms of my true alcoholism.  Regardless, I trudged forward.
I remembered from my trip to Seattle last year that Elysian had a pub location somewhere downtown, and I was determined to reward myself with a visit this time.  I looked up the address on my user-unfriendly BlackBerry. 1221 Pike.
I was at the 100 block of Pike.  Only 12 blocks.
No problem. 
Elysian + Me = TLF
No problem until I finished hiking the 12 blocks in 40 degree weather only to realize Elysian was at 1221 EAST Pike.  I was on West Pike.  DAMMIT!  No choice but to keep walking.  I passed Victrola Coffee Roasters which 9 out of 10 times I would have stopped at, had it not been for the fact I was hungry and pissed off, mostly because of my current coffee buzz.  No need to stoke the fire.  I forged on until finally, like Mecca, the Elysian brewery appeared.  Neighborhoody, comfortable, inviting.  That was the immediate in-the-door vibe of Elysian.  I bellied up to the bar to indulge myself, only to be met by a disappointingly unpersonable, unwaveringly unsmiling bartender.  He gave me zero information on any of the taps, and appeared to be doing me a favor by eventually taking my order.  I ordered a deliciously Dagwood-esque French dip sandwich, and a few flights.  30 seconds after ordering my second flight, I heard the bartender crack to his co-worker it was “Sampler Hell Day”.  Thanks, brother.  Funny thing is it happens to coincide with “No Fucking Tip Day”.  I didn't realize I’m such a jerk by actually ordering what you're serving.  I knew he wasn’t the brewer, and as such, resigned myself to not penalize the beer for the actions of one aloof hipster.   The superior beers and outstanding food made it worth sticking around.  Every pour was a winner, my favorites being the Serenity Now Saison, Smoke And Awe, Doom Golden Treacle Pale Ale, and the knockout punch was delivered by one of my favorite stouts in recent memory, the Bourbon Barrel Aged Dragonstooth Stout.
I headed back to the room and split a couple pre-show bottles with Denunzio and Barfield, the Ninkasi Sleigh’r and Elysian Savant IPA.  Then it was off to the club, El Corazon.  This was the first time INFEST has played Seattle, and the overall line-up was beefier than a Pike’s Market jerky stand - Infest, Iron Lung, Gehenna, Warcry, and Gag – so the turnout was solid, and every band played to a packed house.  Some old friends like Mike from Capitalist Casualties came out, as well as my cousins Jeff & Scott  Wilson.  After a Lucille IPA, and a double tequila shot courtesy of formerly-Fresno Krystina and her entourage of gents, I was good to go.  I don’t play drunk, so I cut myself off for the duration of the gig.  Every band was energetic, powerful, loud, crushing, and inspiring.  Infest hit the stage last, and the room came unglued.  I was expecting a so-so response, maybe some excitement, but mostly a lot of standing around.  In my opinion, this was one of the most chaotic, and thus, most fun shows we’ve done.  A ridiculous amount of stagediving and overall excitement propelled the evening along quickly.  The amps were so loud on stage, I couldn’t hear any drums or vocals to ground me, so I relied on intuition and watched Bob the drummer for obvious change cues.  Somehow it all worked out, and before I knew it, it was all over.

Post show we loitered and I tried a tasty Deschutes Red Chair, plus some underwhelming Pyramid Hefe & Mac And Jack’s African Amber.  It was 12:30am, but I was ready to go.  We cruised across town to catch the last few songs of Defiance from Portland, catch up with a few more friends, and try a few more brews… the excellent Ninkasi Oatis Stout and the decidedly non-excellent Rainier Beer.  Many regions of the country have their own local crappy beer.  Rainier is it.  It’s the Natty Bo, the Lone Star, or Old Style of the Pacific Northwest.  All too soon, we were given the bum's rush, and we followed with yet another early morning trip to 13 Coins, and this time it was packed to the gills with ousted club goers.  We smashed into a booth, enjoyed our spoils, and I crashed at 4am yet again.

On Sunday, our flight home was in the evening, so I had plenty of time, provided I woke up at a decent hour.  So, I set my alarm and met up with some of my family, the Wilson Family... my Aunt Julie & Uncle Brad, and their sons Jeff & Scott who were at the show on Saturday nite.  They were kind enough to shuttle me back to their home at Alki Beach, where we enjoyed brunch, and got caught up. Brad had afternoon obligations, so Julie and the boys were kind enough to indulge my beer tooth, and agreed to tote me around to a couple classic locations in West Seattle.  First stop, Beveridge Place Pub. The best part is the cross street is actually called Beveridge Place. It was meant to be.  This place is sprawling and comfortable, and the bartender was upbeat, knowledgeable, and accommodating.  If I lived up here, I'd be a regular.  They were just kicking off their annual Barleywine Bacchanal fest, with roughly 30 taps dedicated to barleywine, including many rarities and a few vertical tastings as well.  I grabbed a sampler of six, and as expected, they were small but mighty.  In addition to my Bainbridge Island, Hale's Ales, and Sound Brewery selections, I opted for the rare chance to try a vertical of Alaskan Barley Wine Ale from 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Collectively they all covered that toothsome spectrum of flavors one would hope for.... the sweetness, mustiness, mild pucker, and full-bodied punch. And after only six samplers, I was already feeling a tad light in the loafers, so I suggested we move along. 
Don't know this guy, but we're united by beer
Next stop was a favorite from last year's visit, Beer Junction, another West Seattle staple.  Not only do they have the best taps in the area, but they have an adjoining bottle shop which is arguably also the best around.  I considered packing a mixed case and checking it on the plane, but they only had boxes, not packing material, and rather than running around to drug stores finding bubble wrap and packing tape, I accepted the fact that it wasn't practical, and simply enjoyed what I could on the spot.  I went for an 8 glass flight of PNW greatness... Stoup, Boneyard, 10 Barrel, Maritime Pacific, 7 Seas, Laurelwood, Naked City... Wow.  This wasn't going to happen again anytime soon, so I relished every second.  All too soon, it was time to head to the airport, so my Aunt gave my soggy ass the heave ho, and after a last minute Fremont IPA at Sea-Tac, I was bouncing my way home, ready for a decent night's sleep, to dream frothy dreams of this drizzly beer mecca of the North.

 The tally continues....

Sunday 2/23 - The Morning After the big beer birthday bash
  • STILLWATER ARTISINAL ALES WHY CAN'T IBU? BELGIAN IPA - Beer #302, post party recovery pint

Monday 2/24 
  • BRASSRIE D'ORVAL ORVAL - Beer #303, the classic 
  • DC BRAU BREWING COMPANY THE PUBLIC PALE ALE - Beer #304, East Coast contraband from Dave Witte
  • FRANZISKANER HEFE-WEISSBIER NATURTRUB - Beer #305, I see this everywhere & mistake it for something average, not true, this is a great hefe!
  • FEMSA CERVEJA BRASIL XINGU BLACK BEER - Beer #306, A Brazilian beer that tastes more like Coca Cola than anything, probably refreshing with spicy food.

Tuesday 2/25 - INFEST practice night in North Hollywood
  • SAINT ARCHER BREWING BLONDE ALE - Beer #307, it's blonde
  • ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING HEELCH O' HOPS IMPERIAL IPA - Beer #308, tasty Double hop bomb
  • SPEAKEASY PROHIBITION AMBER ALE - Beer #309, One of a recent crop of impressive ambers I've discovered
  • EPIC BREWING CO. BIG BAD BAPTIST IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #310, way more heavy on the coffee and chocolate dessertiness than I was prepared for.
  • BEAR REPUBLIC BREWING XP PALE ALE - Beer #311, inexpensive, easy to find, yet high quality, delicious, well-rounded, addictive

Wednesday 2/26 
  • PALM SPECIALE - Beer #312, good beer, old as time itself
  • HOEGAARDEN WIT 57 - Beer #313, purty good
  • MAMMOTH BREWING DOUBLE NUT BROWN PORTER - Beer #314, Thanks to Linda & Jordy Mitchell for toting this back from the Eastern Sierras.... Mammoth rules!

Thursday 2/27 - My birthday, showing restraint, sippin' and enjoying 
  • FIFTY FIFTY BREWING B.A.R.T. (BARREL AGED REALLY TASTY) - Beer #315, a five star beer if there ever was one, glad I hoarded this one.

Friday 2/28 - Seattle bound
  • WIDMER BROTHERS HOPSIDE DOWN INDIA PALE LAGER – Beer #316, at the Bob Hope Burbank Airport bar, decent for passing the time
  • REDHOOK LONG HAMMER IPA – Beer #317, another airport beer, not awesome, but does the trick when waiting through multiple flight delays
  • ALASKAN BREWING AMBER – Beer #318, thanks Alaska Air for carrying an above average beer on board
  • LAGUNITAS PILS CZECH STYLE – Beer #319, sipped from Mike Thorn’s bottle, walking between our motel and Shorty’s
  • HALE’S ALES SUPERGOOSE IPA – Beer #320, first tap of three at Shorty’s, pretty good local starters
  • GEORGETOWN BREWING MANNY’S PALE ALE – Beer #322, I remember enjoying it, but don't remember much else for the evening

Saturday 3/1 - A real taste of Seattle
  • ELYSIAN BREWING SPLIT SHOT ESPRESSO MILK STOUT – Beer #324, creamy nitro stout
  • ELYSIAN BREWING ODDLAND SPICED PEAR ALE – Beer #325, best fruit beer I remember having
  • ELYSIAN BREWING BETE BLANCHE BELGIAN STYLE TRIPEL – Beer #326, a classic on their roster
  • ELYSIAN BREWING SMOKE AND AWE – Beer #327, awesome, easy drinking, accessible rauch
  • ELYSIAN BREWING BOURBON BARREL AGED DRAGONSTOOTH STOUT – Beer #329, another in my ever-growing list of "favorite stouts"
  • ELYSIAN BREWING THE WISE ESB – Beer #330, one of the better ESBs overall
  • ELYSIAN BREWING ZEPHYRUS PILSNER – Beer #331, sessionable
  • ELYSIAN BREWING PERSEUS PORTER – Beer #333, really impressive
  • ELYSIAN BREWING DOOM GOLDEN TREACLE PALE ALE – Beer #334, best way to cap off the visit to this brewery... excellent!
  • NINKASI BREWING SLEIGH’R DARK DOUBLE ALT ALE – Beer #335, in-room, pre-show treat, thanks to Mike Crow
  • ELYSIAN BREWING SAVANT IPA – Beer #336, see above
  • GEORGETOWN BREWING LUCILLE IPA – Beer #337, On tap at El Corazon, decent IPA
  • DESCHUTES BREWERY RED CHAIR NWPA – Beer #338, Post-show at El Corazon, perfect beer for "hangin' out"
  • PYRAMID BREWERIES HEFEWEIZEN – Beer #339, Tried a sip from Jack Barfield, what I expected from Pyramid.
  • MAC AND JACK’S BREWING AFRICAN AMBER – Beer #340, OK amber from the area
  • NINKASI BREWING OATIS OATMEAL STOUT – Beer #341, Post show outing to some other bar, a post birthday brew as a treat from Ms. Loredi Violanta. Cheers!
  • PABST BREWING RAINIER BEER – Beer #342, When in Seattle....

Sunday 3/2 - Wrapping up Seattle with family
  • BAINBRIDGE ISLAND BREWING OAKED CHERRY TOE JAM BARLEYWINE (2013) – Beer #343, First of six barleywine samplers at Beveridge Place Pub.
  • SOUND BREWERY BARREL AGED OLD SCOUNDREL BARLEYWINE (2013) – Beer #345, Love this brewery, sad I didn't enjoy more when I had the chance
  • ALASKAN BREWING BARLEY WINE ALE (2009) – Beer #346,slightly sour, most unique of the Alaskan Barley Wine vertical tasting
  • ALASKAN BREWING BARLEY WINE ALE (2010) – Beer #347, great
  • ALASKAN BREWING BARLEY WINE ALE (2011) – Beer #348, my fave of the three
  • TWO BEERS BREWING IMMERSION AMBER – Beer #349, got a quick sip of my cousin Jeff's brew, not bad.
  • STOUP BREWING T2R HAYMAKER III IPA – Beer #350, total yum, the first of eight samplers at Beer Junction
  • BONEYARD BEER COMPANY RPM IPA – Beer #351, mmm hmm
  • 10 BARREL BREWING PROJECT: FAILED RED ALE – Beer #352, good one
  • 7 SEAS BREWING IMPERIAL OATMEAL RAISIN STOUT – Beer #354, big fan of 7 Seas, but thought I'd enjoy this more
  • 7 SEAS BREWING MAKER’S MARK BARREL AGED WHEELCHAIR BARLEYWINE – Beer #355, my favorite of all Beer Junction tasters
  • LAURELWOOD BREWING GOSE WHEAT ALE WITH SALT – Beer #356, not nearly as sour as your standard gose, more well-balanced
  • NAKED CITY BREWERY SCARLET STREET DOUBLE RED ALE – Beer #357, highly recommended imperial red
  • FREMONT BREWING INTERURBAN IPA – Beer #358, average IPA, what I'd expect at the airport

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