Mollusk Biru Sencha

mollusk biru sencha

Mollusk // Biru Sencha Green Tea Lager // Seattle, WA // 4.2% ABV

Color: Golden and slightly opaque with an airy head. 

Smell: Cracker and loose-leaf green tea. 

Taste: Earthy, bready , essences of floral jasmine, with a delicate finish. 

Overall: We've all heard the term yard beer, but this is a garden beer. Classy enough to serve at a wedding shower yet drinkable enough for all party-goers to enjoy - even Aunt Helen who only drinks Stella or a Riesling. The refreshing lager crisp you need with an elegant and floral touch. 

Reuben's Brews Mosaic Crush

Reuben's constantly surprises me with the consistent ratio of quality to quantity. They always have a huge list at the taproom and it feels like every time I go in there's something new. Currently, they have a taproom release going called the Crush Series. Starting with the Galaxy Crush, they moved onto the Loral, and now the Mosaic (the later two which have been invented and bred by Hop Breeding Company in Yakima, WA). 

As the craft beer scene has exploded over the past 20 years, so has hop production and breeding. Us hop heads in the Pacific Northwest have easy access to the largest region of hop agriculture, the Yakima Valley. And as the demand for more IPAs and hop-forward beers has increased, so has the ingenuity and breeding of varietals by botanists. The term "hoppy" or "hop bitterness" has entered a new level of complexity as new varietals are constantly developed. Reuben's has taken advantage of the abundance of strains and introduced the Crush Series devoted to the recognition and flavor profiles of these hops. 

Mosaic Hops: a newer hop breed introduced in 2012. It's science name is HBC 369 (damn she fine) and it's known for its tropical and floral properties. The Mosaic has been bred and engineered to contain an array of flavors and enhanced drinking experience, giving it versatility in how it can be used. Liked for both it's high alpha acid percentage and aromatic assets, it can be used in several types of beers from IPAs to saisons. The popularity of the Mosaic has increased dramatically with growers in Yakima increasing their production over 300% in the past 4 years. And there's good reason for it.

Reuben's Brews // Mosaic Crush IPA // Seattle, WA // 6% ABV 47 IBU

Color: A pale and slightly hazy straw yellow.

Smell: Tropical fruits, peach, blooming flowers, and citrus groves. 

Taste: Peach rings and underripe mango. Bright hops shine in the beginning of the profile but it goes down easy with a light mouthfeel. A juicy body with a dry finish.

Overall: The Mosaic Crush drinks like a session with the ABV of a standard IPA. Floral and fruity, it's light on the tongue and easy to throw back - totally crushable.

 

Fremont Dark Heron

For 15 years nerds from all around the Pacific Northwest journey to downtown Seattle to convene and discuss everything from comics to tv fan theories at the Emerald City Comic Con. Fremont Brewing is an official sponsor and beer representative for ECCC, brewing the Dark Heron just for this con. In the spirit of nerds everywhere, Fremont created a superhero of their own to represent this IPA. While I've never delved into the world of superhero comics (more of an RPG nerd myself), the striking visual of a dark heroine gracing the front of a beer was more than enough inspiration to indulge. 

"Our hero, Dark Heron, was exiled from her flock for daring to express herself differently from the rest. Forever banished from the heron fold, Dark Heron vowed to never sacrifice her right of free expression to the tyranny of conformity. Dark Heron stands as a beacon of light and justice, calling to all those who seek to protect the freedom of expression! Dare to be different!"

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Fremont Brewing // Dark Heron IPA // Seattle, WA // 6.6% ABV 60 IBU

Color: Light copper.

Smell: Fresh and clean, citrus and pine. 

Taste: Heavy for most of the profile, but has a clean citrus-hop finish. Still, the high dose of malt sits on the palate after each sip. 

Overall: A classic strong Seattle IPA to represent a kick-ass heroine. While it's not exceptionally different, it does represent the expressive brew style of Seattle, an omage I can appreciate.

15th Annual Hard Liver Barleywine Fest

February can be a hard month to get through. We've bared through the long winter days and insistent rain. But every year Brouwer's Cafe hosts Hard Liver - the barleywine fest to top them all. Barleywine is known for their high gravity, rich flavors and most importantly, high alcohol content. Its a type beer that is hard to consume outside of the dreads of winter. But when the gray drags on, we find comfort in camaraderie and dark, boozy beers.  

Hard Liver represents the celebration of the beers that get us through the dark days in the Pacific Northwest, as manifested by our cloudy brothers in England. But this style of brewing has expanded from the traditional English styles, especially in this region. 23 of the 48 tapped barleywines were from the PNW. Below are my three favorites from the event.

Holy Mountain // Deadfall Whiskey Barrel-Aged Stock Ale 2016 // Seattle, WA // 9% ABV

Color: Dark chocolate brown

Smell: Brown sugar, caramel, and plum

Taste: Carmel brûlée with dark chocolate drizzle and a bourbon nightcap. Vanilla essence and a slick mouthfeel.

Overall: Like the best truffle to every exist. Sweet but not overwhelming, complex but not coy. 

Skookum // Barren Wood Barleywine 2016  // Arlington, WA // 10.4% ABV

Color: Deep, wood-barrel brown.

Smell: An artisan caramel candy, oak

Taste: A light mouthfeel with sweetness that hangs only in the back of the throat like honey. The foundation of the profile is rooted in toffee, caramel, and chocolate flavors. 

Overall: Full bodied and full of flavor, lightly touching on the best qualities of a barleywine: caramel, toffee, fig, and of course, bourbon.

Lagunitas // Olde Gnarlywine 2011 // Petaluma, CA // 10.6% ABV

Color: Toasted orange, light amber.

Smell: Toffee and caramel

Taste: Light mouthfeel and an easy drink for a 5 year aged ale. Notes of caramel and candied orange.

Overall: While aging tends to increase sweetness and intensity, the 2011 Gnarlywine retains citrus notes, well balanced by the rich malt consistency.

3rd Annual Hop Mob Kickoff

Hop Mob is a roadshow and showcase of Washington-only triple IPAs. These beers go on the road around the state with several events down the I-5 corridor, but the kickoff event started at the infamous beer hall, Brouwer's Cafe. A panel of 12 judges tasted over 30 IIIPAs to determine the top 3 that reigned above the rest. Inspired by the hop craze caused by Russian River's Pliny the Younger, brewers in WA decided to take this madness into their own hands.

This year's winners:

1. Bale Breaker - Mount Saint Humulus

2. Georgetown Brewing - Boom Boom Boom

3. Reuben's Brews - Blimey That's Bitter

Below are my 3 favorites. 

Bale Breaker // Mount Saint Humulus // Yakima, WA // 9.3% ABV 100+ IBU

The winner of this year's competition may have the upper hand based on the access to the best and most abundant hops in the state. Or maybe they're just that good at brewing.  

Color: Bright, translucent orange.

Smell: Extremely aromatic tropical hops, made of Citra, Ekuanot, and Mosaic (the gem of Yakima Valley). 

Taste: Smooth mouthfeel and overall profile with grassy and grapefruit hops. 

Overall: Contains a beautiful and abundant hop flavor without ever being overpowered by the insane amount of malt it takes to make a triple IPA. I wouldn't even guess it was a IIIPA, besides the immediate buzz I got from 3oz.

 

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Skookum Brewery // Almost Made It // Arlington, WA // 9.5% ABV 85 IBU

Skookum is truly making their mark in the Washington beer scene by constantly putting out solid brews. And while there seemed to be a bias against the cloudier IIIPAs by the old school brewers, the Almost Made It (a reference to how they almost made it to 10%) had one of the more steady and well rounded profiles. 

Color: Hazy, bright yellow. 

Smell: Lemony, citrus hops. 

Taste: Incredibly juicy with a full, consistent body. No malt takeover - this was all hops. 

Overall: The most consistent IIIPA I had with matching aromatics and taste. From color to smell to taste, the profile drank exactly how it presented itself.

 

Reuben's Brews // Blimey That's Bitter // Seattle, WA // 10.5% ABV 80 IBU

The local guys at Reuben's have been brewing Blimey That's Bitter since 2014, as a direct response to Pliny the Younger. Because they've been working on Blimey for a few years and not just as an event beer, they've been able to fine tune it - which means putting 90% of the hops in the last 10 minutes of the boil. 

Color: Rosey, amber hue with a full, yellow head.

Smell: Orange citrus hops and pine. 

Taste: A fuller body that still maintains balance while allowing the malt to shine through, complimented by toasty, bitter orange peel.

Overall: One of the bolder IIIPAs of the night that still held impeccable balance while allowing delicate hints of sweet malt, orange, and pine to shine through.

Home for the Holidays

Visiting home for the holidays can mean a lot of things: dinner table political debates, meeting expectations, and a whole lot of "when did you get so big?"s. But it also means familiar hugs, country back roads, and the gathering of family around food and drinks. Usually when I'm back in Northern California, my visit lasts only a couple days, limiting the amount of breweries I can gallivant off to. But this trip I had more time to do some local haunting. Lucky for me, beer brings people together and I was able to do so with friends and family this season. While Sonoma County is home to some pioneers of craft brewing like Lagunitas and Russian River, I was seeking out smaller, up and coming breweries. The following are some of my favorites from the trip. Cheers!


Crooked Goat Brewing // Sebastopol, CA

Sebastopol is a little gem of a city in Sonoma County, know for it's hippie roots and hole-in-wall eateries and bars. In the past few years new development has yielded The Barlow: a spot for local restaurants, bars, roasteries and more. When I heard of a newer 10 barrel operation in the area, I knew it was a must go-to. The stainless steel aesthetic matched the sheet metal warehouse exterior, as well as complimented the tanks in the back. A large, stylized blackboard gave me a world of tasting opportunities, as well a crowler system so I could take some home too.

Krampus Seasonal IPA // 7.2% ABV

Color: A hazy, golden sunset

Smell: Citrus hops

Taste: Juicy grapefruit and piney hops define this ale, but the pale malt gives it a refreshing finish

Overall: While Crooked Goat seems to have a love affair with grapefruit flavors, they tried something new by dry hopping with German hops. A cordial ode to European style and traditions.

Tip: Try Krampus on nitro for a smoother mouthfeel without sacraficing the crispness. 

 

Silver Lining Vanilla Bean Stout // 6.0% ABV

Color: Black with a creamy head

Smell: Fresh brewed coffee and mellow hop aromas

Taste: Dark and toasty with the perfect amount of hops. The Madagascar vanilla bean is subtle enough to bring out the richness of a stout without being too sweet.

Overall: An incredibley drinkable stout commendable nuances that makes the Silver Lining truly shine. 


Petaluma Hills Brewing // Petaluma, CA

Located right across the street from the iconic Lagunitas taproom and brewery is the hidden-among-business-buildings Petaluma Hills Brewing. My stepdad's favorite spot, I met him there for an after work fix. Cozy yet simple, the taproom reflects the essence of this dairy town. And with two distilleries popping up on the same street, I foresee this once bland business park becoming a hub of local watering holes. 

Dated 1858 Ruby IPA with Dates // 6.9% ABV 80 IBU

This ruby IPA has dates steeped right into the tank to achieve a warm, dried fruit flavor. It's named after the year the city of Petaluma was incorporated and for the California medjool dates that are used. 

Color: Amber, date skin red.

Smell: Malt and dried fruit

Taste: Malt and date heavy at first, but with a nice hop finish to round out the flavor.

Overall: By using a rich and sweet fruit, the Dated takes on an almost Belgain aged flavor without the heaviness of an ale like that. A toast to this town and all it's brought to the world of craft beer.