Russian River STS Pils

A trip back home to Northern California means a break from PNW style beers (which apparently I'm really good at doing) to visit Russian River Brewing Co right down the road in Santa Rosa, California. And luckily since I made the drive back to Seattle, I could bring as many bottles of beer (and wine) back with me as I pleased. Russian River adapted the Eastern European style of brewing to craft this dynamic and delicious pilsner. If you think pilsners are weak and unexciting, I suggest searching outside the American pilsner style. 

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Russian River Brewing // STS Czech Style Pilsner // Santa Rosa, CA // 5.3% ABV

Color: Translucent (though it is unfiltered), bright, straw-yellow

Smell: Toasted pale malt, summer grain, yeast

Taste: This is a pilsner with a kick! Mellow at first with a bubbly mouthfeel and ends in  grassy bitterness. 

Overall: Summer in a bottle. When you get into craft beer sometimes it's hard to go back to the more mellow lager. But Russian River proves they kickass at brewing any beer, lager or ale. Next time you're at your favorite brewery go for the lager and see what quality you'll taste. 

Astronomy on Tap

Being good friends with an astro-biologist has several perks: access to the University of Washington planetarium, a forced promise to tell me all intel on aliens when he works for NASA, and dope space events that involve beer. Astronomy on Tap is a large organization that started out in New York City and now has events as far away as Chile. I was lucky to find out the April edition of this astro-awesome event was in my backyard at Hilliard's Beer in Ballard, Seattle. 

It's no secret Seattle is a city of nerds but I was shocked by the turn out. The large warehouse that Hilliard's occupies was filled to the brim with a ten minute wait for beer. I wasn't complaining though - all these people are out here to support local beer and hear lectures on space! This is my type of crowd. Hilliard's offered a deal where if you purchased an Astronomy on Tap stein, you got a dollar off all beer during this event and more to come. Needless to say I've got some new kickass glassware. 

I sipped on the house IPA Boombox, and stood among the crowd to hear two talks and participate in astro trivia. Turns out I don't remember anything from Astronomy 101 in college. But I did walk away with new knowledge on how we can potentially travel to the nearest star (Alpha Centauri) in my lifetime through the power of lasers, and how atoms that were formed in the Big Bang still exists within all of us. 

 

Hilliard's Beer // Boombox IPA // Seattle, WA // 6.5% ABV // 70 IBU

Color: Dark amber and burnt orange

Smell: Bold citrus, herbal, sweet malt.

Taste: Hop bitterness up front but rounded out by rich caramel ESB pale malt. Has a long, lingering finish. 

Overall: I'm no stranger to the Boombox IPA. As I said before, Hilliard's is one of the closest breweries to my apartment. But it's a classic as it takes on the Seattle specific style of IPA, plenty of hops but still balanced heavy and dark from a generous amount of malt. It's a hefty one! 

Astronomy on Tap was introspective, philosophical, and informative, the type of discussion you want to have over a beer. To hear my podcast episode with this astro-biologist friend Jake, head over to my podcast page and share a beer with us. As the Astronomy on Tap motto goes, science is better with beer. Isn't everything? 

Cloudburst Darkenfloxx

Cloudburst Brewing // Darkenfluxx Imperial Stout // Seattle, WA // 9.1% ABV // 60 IBU

There's something so sweet about getting off work and having a freshly tapped beer after hours. And what's especially sweet is this seasonal hurrah to stouts from the ever-killin'-it Cloudburst Brewing. This may have been the last batch of Darkenfloxx for the year as the brewery has officially tapped out. But when it was brewing, they used hazelnut oil extract to perfect this imperial stout. 

Color: Black with a thick, parchment paper head. 

Smell: Straight-up like a hazelnut latte. 

Taste: A mosaic of flavors that starts with hop bitterness. moves to coffee boldness, then chocolate sweetness and leaves just a bit on nuttiness on the palate. 

Overall: While I would have preferred such a decadent stout in the beginning of Winter, I won't say no to it now. The brewers were generous with the hazelnut oil in the nose, but the taste is well balanced by the hops and coffee from local Lighthouse Roasters. Bottom line - who needs coffee with hazelnut creamer when you have the Darkenfloxx? 

14th Annual Hard Liver Barleywine Festival

Brouwer's Cafe, a Belgian beer hall locally owned in Seattle, held the 14th annual Hard Liver Festival on February 27th. The legendary festival is the beer event of the season known for the tap take over of 49 barleywines from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Some even dare to attempt the entire list.  But no matter how you approach the it, Hard Liver Fest functions as the perfect event to make it through the especially wet, gray winter. Even with a line around the block starting before 10am, I was able to get a table with several industry folks, among them the owner of the company. As Hard Liver was a packed festival, even inside a massive beer hall, all staff donned shirts labelled Size and Number, a reminder to customers how to order drinks on such an extensive list: all barelywines were numbered and ordered in either 3oz or 6oz.

 

I have to admit, this was the hardest event to blog during. With so many amazing barelywines to choose from, it's hard not to want to try them all! And with drinking, discussions, and general camaraderie, Hard Liver turned more into an open event of rosy-cheeked beer lovers enjoying the party. And when you're enjoying everyone's company it can be hard to work. Therefore, I chose my 3 favorite barleywines and reduced the reviews to name, color, and a one-liner tasting note.

 

Big Time Brewing // Old Wooly Barleywine // Seattle, WA // 9% ABV

Color: Deep, auburn orange, carmel brown

Taste: Hop forward, not drenched in malt sweetness but still remains flavors of carmel and dried fruit. a PNW take on barleywine

 

Ecliptic Brewing // Orange Giant Barrel Aged Barelywine // Portland, OR // 12.5% ABV

Color: Hazy deep, dark amber

Taste: Incredibly smooth and sweet. Orange blossoms are flowering in the nose while the caramel and dark fruit keep you warm in the spring breeze. 

 

Evil Twin Brewing // Freudian Slip Barelywine // Brooklyn, New York // 10.3% ABV

Color: Dark copper, burnt orange

Taste: A complex mix of minerality, spice, piney hop bitnessness and dark fruit sweetness. 

HUB Abominable Winter Ale

Hopworks Urban Brewing // Abominable Winter Ale // Portland, OR // 7.3% ABV // 70 IBU

I can't seem to get enough of the HUB Abominable this winter! Also you have to make do with the glassware you own when you don't have a snifter...

Color: Amber, cedar, barley brown

Smell: Earthy and floral with a slight tinge of sweetness and spice

Taste: Subtle yet complex balance of winter spices and malt sweetness that still allows the citrus hoppiness to come through, giving it a true Pacific Northwest characteristic. 

Overall: A winter ale that I'll come back to again and again. A great balance of winter flavors without the heaviness often associated with winter ales. 

Holy Mountain One Year Anniversary

January 23rd marked the one year anniversary of my favorite Seattle brewery's taproom. Holy Mountain is consistently pushing the boundaries of how PNW beer should be brewed. You're never going to find a typical IPA on tap here. There's never been a beer by them that I haven't LOVED. Not to mention, their taproom is my happy place.  An elusive spot with an esoteric neon sign, high ceilings, minimal aesthetics, with a white and pine palate. 

With many an ambrosia to choose from, I decided to review just two. And as January is barrel aged beer season, you know I had to go for those. 

 

Holy Mountain // Clarette Barrel Aged Sour // Seattle, WA // 5%

Color: Grapefruit, tangerine, deep coral, the sunrise of your dreams. 

Smell: Ripe cherries and raspberries, mild funk. 

Taste: Mildly sour, followed quickly by the cherry and raspberry, but finishes dry. 

Overall: While there are a lot of flavors going on, it's never too dominated by one aspect. An even flow of tartness, sourness, and funk. By barrel aging, the wild yeast is allowed to slowly sour the beer, giving it a more refined flavor.  I'm new to the world of sours but holy shit could I drink this all day. 

 

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Holy Mountain // Cherry Bourbon King's Head // Seattle, WA // 9.5%

Color: Black with a creamy, parchment paper head. 

Smell: Chocolate covered cherries, boozy bourbon. 

Taste:  Rich bourbon, chocolate, light fruit, with an earthy, oak  finish. 

Overall: The King's Head is a regular favorite at Holy Mountain (especially on nitro - HM does nitro like no one else). But add cherries and bourbon and you have me melting into the floor. It's a romantic winter evening.  

 

The brewers at Holy Mountain has incredible talent and make sure all of their beers are well balanced. Even with adventurous takes on classics and barrel aging brews, they always produce  harmonious, heavenly beers. I was glad to be able to celebrate such an amazing local brewery. 

Postmark Winter Wheat

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Postmark Brewing // Winter Wheat Ale // Vancouver, BC                                                                                                       5.8% // 15 IBU

Postmark Brewing is a brilliant brew hall tucked in the corners of the eastside of downtown Vancouver. Almost missing the industrial building, I was taken aback by the subtle artistic architectural details. And once inside, it's a warm welcome: high ceilings, small decorative details, a painting of Leonardo DiCaprio in an Nepoleanic era. In the spirit of vacation, I opted for the only seasonal ale on the list. 

Color: Golden, light amber, not hazy - an indication of filtration.  

Smell: Mild malts, wheaty, grassy. 

Taste: Light winter spices make it a little bolder than most wheats. Still holds the average wheat characteristics, only in a slightly heavier winter style. 

Overall: It's supposed to be a winter ale but tastes more like a good summer ale. Without the title it would have been hard to distinguish this as a winter seasonal. My guesses are it had to be filtered because of it being brewed with spices, taking away some of the flavor. But it's a simple, conversationalist's beer. 

Steel Toad Saison Sauvignon

A recent best friend road trip to Vancouver lead us to several good eats and good brews. My girl couldn't have said it better, "Vancouver is full of good food, good beer, and good-looking people".  Vancouver is so close to Seattle and has familiar Pacific Northwest culture so we completely forgot that we're actually travelling into an international country, which means minimal cell use. Without the ability to use our phones for maps and beer recommendations,  this trip was one of true exploration.  Our first stop was at Steel Toad brewery in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. 

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Steel Toad // Saison Sauvignon // Vancouver, BC                                                                                                                 6.5%

Color: Hazy, canary yellow, saturated straw. 

Smell: Wine wine barrels, farmhouse funk, tropical fruits

Taste: Up front it is fresh but the fruit end note is delectable and not as crisp as a typical saison. It takes on the smooth, palatable finish of a white wine. Tropical fruit comes from a mix of the sauvignon blanc and New Zealand hops. 

Overall: The herbaceous characteristics of sauv blanc mixed with the tropical hops and baseline saison essence makes this a great afternoon brew to share with a friend on vacation. 

 

Randall Session Ale with Dill

Dear fellow craft beer drinkers: it has been a while since I've posted. And guess what happens when you take a hiatus then try to get back into the blogging game. You forget what the hell you're doing! So here's a sloppy post about late summer infusions that is already outdated by the time this will be published. 

While running around town on my day off I stopped into Fremont Brewing for a late September afternoon brew before finishing up boring adult errands. I noticed a Randall brew on tap and had to go for it. Unfortunately, I can't remember if it was a Fremont beer or a guest tap (possibly from Bellingham). Subsequently I didn't write down the ABV, the official name, or even where it's from. So you're just going to have to trust me on this one (real professional, I know). 

 

 Randall Session Ale with Dill //Tapped at Fremont Brewing                                                                                       ?? ABV // ?? IBU

What is a Randall? A Randall is a device invented by the beer-geniuses at Dogfish Head Brewing out in Delaware. It is a double chambered filter that infused flavor into beer. This device is a hop transducer that help enhance the flavors in brews and helps with beer to hop contact. In most cases, hops are put in the chamber  to create a more hop-centric beer. But it can also be used for flavor infusion. examples include espresso beans, wood chips, orange peels, and in this case, dill. Without further ado, the review: 

Color: dark golden straw with auburn tint. 

Smell:  Fresh hop, dill weed, vinegar, and lemon zest. 

Taste: You get that dill pickle flavor right up front! But it isn't overwhelming as it ends clean with a light citrus note and hop bitterness. It's like drinking up the last of Summer. 

Overall: I'm always down for a brew that's doing something different. And using a randall is the best way to do it. The second I saw it on the tap list I knew I  had to get a pint. It might be because I love anything pickled. Or it might be because I'm getting really exited about all the preserves that come along with the start of Fall. Either way - this is a fun session that you might not find anywhere else or ever again. But this what craft brewing is all about! Push the boundaries and create something different. Even if people aren't that into it, at least you're not brewing another run-of-the-mill IPA.