Category Archives: Pacific Northwest

Urban Beer Hike in Seattle

Our trip to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without going on an Urban Beer Hike. Conveniently, we are friends with the guru of Urban Beer Hikes, Dave Doran, who was gracious enough to organize a UBH for our visit. Scheduled for Thursday afternoon, our walk would take us from industrial South Seattle to trendy Capitol Hill.

Our first stop, Georgetown Brewing

The hike started at 1pm at Georgetown Brewing. Merideth and I first visited Georgetown Brewing during the Year in Beer at their old facility a couple of blocks away. The previous location in the old Rainier Brewery malt house was dimly lit and showed it’s age. The new facility, while not really looking like it on the exterior, was much more modern. Walking through the Star Trek-like automatic sliding entrance doors, we entered a brightly-lit tasting room. The stainless bar was on the right with three well-marked stations: samples, keg sales and growler fills. We arrived early, but a short time later our guide Dave, his wife Mandy and their sidekick, Link, joined us.

Merideth enjoying the Georgetown Porter

I seem to remember on our first visit in 2008 drinking pints at Georgetown. But this time it was only sample pours. Given that we had a long day of beer drinking ahead, starting with samples was probably fortuitous. Georgetown was all about the growler fill and at only $6 & $7 per fill (depending on which beer), we observed a steady stream of mid-afternoon customers exchanging empty growlers for full ones while we sampled a few of their brews.

We passed on the ubiquitous Manny’s and started with Johnny Utah, a wonderful 3.99% ABV session IPA. I think the session IPA is a great trend and the Johnny Utah was the latest star example I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. Really light in body, but still packing the hop punch that I enjoy. Even Merideth, the self-avowed non-hophead, loved Johnny Utah. Roger’s Pilsner, Lucille IPA and Georgetown Porter rounded out our samples. Loving the Johnny Utah, I went back for seconds before we moved on to our next stop.

The beer list at Hudson

Lunch was next on the agenda. After a short half mile walk through a gritty industrial area, we arrived at Hudson, a nondescript roadside diner. It’s brick exterior and interior reminded me of the 1970s and walking in, I wondered why Dave brought us here.

Merideth and I passed on the draft Miller High Life and canned PBR and both ordered the Fremont Brewing Summer Solstice Ale. We only had a small sample at brewery the previous day so it was nice to finally get a pint of this much talked about brew. For lunch, we both had the large and delicious fish tacos. I finished our time at Hudson with Big Al’s IPA. The brewery was on our target list for trip but it looked more and more like we wouldn’t make it there, so,I took the opportunity to try their beer.

Sitting at the horseshoe-shaped bar, we watched cars speed by on the busy road. I could see that Hudson would be easy to miss by drivers rushing past trying to get from point A to point B. To miss this place would be unfortunate because Hudson is a real gem.

Two Beers Brewery

We could see our next stop from our seats at Hudson. Painted a bright yellow, Two Beers Brewery was our first new brewery of the day. Housed in an industrial park, the brewery’s loading dock was transformed into a mini beer garden during opening hours. We took advantage of the beautiful Seattle afternoon and grabbed one of the outside tables.

Here, we were joined by our friend and Urban Beer Hike regular, Chris Devlin. In the company of so much Seattle beer knowledge, I jumped the gun. Without asking for advice, I automatically ordered the Evo. IPA. I have to say, it was quite a strange beer. I was much smarter on my second choice and ordered what our fearless leader ordered, Sodo Brown. A much more enjoyable brew.

The skyline view...

After three stops relatively close together, we finally reached the first mile plus stretch of the day. The longer stretch came at a good time as the beers had been piling up. It was time for a longer break that comes with a well-planned Urban Beer Hike.

The walk up First Avenue was the most scenic of the day so far as the Seattle skyline loomed in front of us. Midway though this stretch our quintet plus a dog became a sextet plus a dog. We were joined by Eric from goodbeertrips.com. After introductions, we continued on our journey to Schooner Exact Brewing.

Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen at Schooner Exact

Schooner Exact, another new brewery for us, was set back from the street. I could imagine driving right on by if Merideth and I had been in a car. (In fact, after we left we were stopped a short distance away by a carload of people looking for the brewery.) Also located in an industrial space, Schooner’s small tasting room had the feel of  a neighborhood bar. Our group, again increased by one with the addition of Plus Russ, each ordered a beer and sat outside on their patio.

Of the breweries we visited on our UBH, Schooner Exact was my favorite. There were eight beers available and all the beers we tasted were well made. Merideth started with their wonderful Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen. I, of course, started with the 3-Grid IPA. My second beer was Gateway Golden. Of the seasonals, I took a sip of the Berliner Weisse. While not as tart as I would like, it was still puckery good.

Talking with Cody from Epic Ales

We didn’t think we were going to get to visit our next stop but luck was somewhat on our side. Outside of their normal tasting room hours, we continued our journey up First Avenue towards downtown Seattle when we found Cody from Epic Ales on a smoke break out front of his building. He was gracious enough to pour us a few beers.

Epic Ales motto is “New Adventure in Beer Drinking” and that it was. The first beer, Solar Trans Amplifier was a spin on a Belgian Wit with rice, ginger and chamomile. Very enjoyable, STA was quite refreshing after a day of walking. Cinco Plantas, a Saison, was the second beer. Brewed with Epazote, a Mexican spice, this brew was very unique and hard to peg. One taste was enough for me.

We entered downtown Seattle on our next leg, a one and half mile trek to Collins Pub. It was much less crowded than the night before and our group, minus Link, all found a seat at the bar. Seven hours into our hike, I’m not sure we were still going strong, but we were still going despite things getting a bit fuzzy.

Chris Devlin being Chris Devlin at Collins Pub

My first beer was Pliny the Elder, mainly so I could get on my soap box and complain that people in Seattle could get PtE, while I couldn’t despite living only three hours from the brewery. Rant over, I next enjoyed a  Double Mountain Hop Lava, one of my favorite Oregon brews.

We had one more stop after Collins Pub. The walk to Stumbling Monk was the longest stretch of the day, two miles, and also included the only hills of the day’s Urban Beer Hike. The walk up to Capitol Hill was pleasant in the warm Seattle evening, but by the time, we reached Stumbling Monk, we were done. I had one final beer, Russian River Damnation while Merideth abstained. We bade farewell to our friends and grabbed a taxi back to our hotel.

In the end, we covered over six miles and stopped at four breweries and three beer bars. It was quite a day and we want to thank Dave from urbanbeerhikes.com for organizing it for us.

View all the images from the Urban Beer Hike…

Scarves Up

I was very excited a few months ago when the Seattle Sounders v. Manchester United exhibition match was announced. Not that Seattle’s beer scene wasn’t enough of a reason to make a trip to the Pacific Northwest, but seeing our first ever Sounders match against one of the best teams in the world was the push we needed to schedule our first visit to the Emerald City since the Year in Beer.

The welcoming sign at Fremont Brewing

We had the afternoon to kill before the match so naturally we occupied our time with beery pursuits. Planning the brewery stops on this trip proved somewhat difficult and the first stop, Fremont Brewing, was a good example of this. They have an Urban Beer Garden, where they open up the brewery to visitors and pour their beer. Normally this would be a good thing, but the limited opening hours didn’t fit into the rest of our schedule. Luckily, Fremont Brewing also has regular drop in hours where people can pick up bottles, growlers and kegs. So that’s what we did.

We arrived right at around noon. Standing in their small tasting room/retail shop we could see the brewery workers busily plying their trade. One worker was able to take a moment to pour us a few samples–Universal Pale Ale, Solstice Ale and Interurban IPA. I knew that this was going to be quick stop, but after tasting the samples, I was doubly disappointed that we couldn’t fit the Urban Beer Garden into our schedule. We quickly grabbed bottles of the Solstice Ale and IPA and were back out the door in under ten minutes.

Lunch at Brouwer's

Lunch was next on the agenda so Merideth and I made the short journey from Fremont Brewing to Brouwer’s Café. Seattle’s world-famous beer bar was sparsely crowded as Merideth and I grabbed two seats at the bar. Scanning the beer list, I have to admit I was a tad disappointed in the range of  Washington beer choices. There were some excellent brews on the draft list but I just didn’t feel inspired. I started with the Big Time Perspective IPA, a nice brew with a refreshing citrus sherbet flavor. Merideth began with Elite Pilsner from American Brewing. I followed my IPA up with another IPA, the same Boundary Bay IPA I had the previous day at the brewery.

When traveling, our usual normal healthier eating goes out the door, especially when bacon is on the menu. Merideth went with the Brouwer’s Speakeasy, a turkey sandwich with bacon. My bacon-y treat was the sandwich special, a BLT with heirloom tomatoes. Both were quite pork-a-licious!

Chuck's 85th St. Market

After a quick visit to the Theo chocolate factory for desert, we were on our way to our last stop before heading to downtown Seattle for the Sounders match. Driving to Naked City Brewery and Taphouse we came across a sign in front of a corner market that said “Tap Room & Growler Fills.” Curious, Merideth and I popped into Chuck’s 85th St. Market.

Tucked into the back of what looks like a typical neighborhood convenience store was a slice of craft beer heaven. On top of a pretty amazing bottled beer selection, Chuck’s had nine taps pouring local craft beer as well as a few national craft players. While checking out Chuck’s beer selection including his private stash, I indulged myself with a pint of Skagit River Del Rio Lager. Even the plastic cup didn’t deter me from thinking Chuck’s was a cool place.

The taster set at Naked City

We only had time at Naked City for a quick taster set. The five beers were some of the most eclectic of the trip ranging from Ewige Liebe Amber Weizen to Cherry Pi (a Kriek) to Double Header Oaked Imperial IPA. However, I’m not sure we were in the right mood to do eclectic. I was particularly excited about the Kriek when I saw it on the menu, but it had more of a raisin quality than cherry, which was a bit disappointing. Our favorite turned to be an IPA sample that the owner poured from the fermenter. Hopefully, on our next visit to Seattle, we will have time to give Naked City a proper visit.

The March to the Match

We arrived downtown a few hours before the Sounders-United match and were hoping to get a quick pint at Collins Pub before the “March to the Match.” Unfortunately, the throngs of fans wandering the downtown area didn’t bode well for getting a beer. Collins Pub was packed and after only a few minutes (and not even getting eye contact from the bartender), we gave up and left.

Denied a pre-match pint, we joined the large crowd of fans already congregated in Occidental Park for the short walk to the stadium. This was my first experience with the rabid support for the Sounders. As someone who dates his support of American professional soccer to the late 1970s attending Washington Diplomats matches, I found it to be a sight to behold. It brought a tear to my eye and tingles to my spine.

The Sounders faithful

The match really was a tale of two halves. The Sounders’ first team played strong in the first half but couldn’t convert any of their numerous chances. Manchester United went into the half with the 1-0 lead. Mass substitutions by the Sounders after the break and United’s introduction of Wayne Rooney, one of the world’s best players, turned the second half into a farce. United scored six goals on the Sounders’ second and third team including a hat-trick from Rooney. It would have been nice if the Sounders had played better but the experience of our first Sounders match was incredible.

View all the images from the Sounders v. Manchester United match…

The Glam Life of Beer Travel

Ah, the glamorous life of a beer traveler. Tuesday morning I awoke at 2:40am with a scheduled departure from our house at 3:30. Calls for the make-up girl at that ridiculously early hour prompted my friend Andie to respond with, “It doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s 3:30am!” This was just the beginning of the journey, though, as our flight from San Jose to Seattle left at 6:40am. Why in the world would we plan such a sadistic schedule? Well, first of all, I don’t make the schedule. But secondly, it’s one of the sacrifices one makes for the glorious reward of beer travel.

We arrived in Seattle at 8:30am and drove directly up to Bellingham. The home to a couple of fantastic breweries, no stop in Bellingham would be complete without a visit to Boundary Bay Brewing. We’d been there before, so it wasn’t new to “The List” but that didn’t matter because we knew  the beer would be fantastic.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the first pint of the day

They weren’t quite open when we arrived, so we anxiously waited outside for the door to open. While pacing the sidewalk, I peeked through the gaps in a hops-covered chain link fence to see a gem of a beer garden hidden below. Unfortunately it was overcast and breezy out, unusually cool weather for the Pacific Northwest in July, so the beer garden was not an option.

Instead, we sat at the bar an enjoyed a quick round. I opted for the Pilsner. With its surprisingly dark golden color and assertive flavor, this brew caught me off guard. I guess that’s what I get for ordering it by saying, “I’ll justhave the Pilsner.” I had immediately scolded myself for feeling like my choice of a (usually) subtle, lighter style of beer needed qualifying. One sip of the bold brew hit home the lesson that lighter styles do not necessarily equate to pale, flavorless beverages. Chris characterized his IPA and Glacier single hop IPA choices as “wonderfully well-crafted hoppy beers.”

The highlight stop of the day

After a quick stop, we were on to the beer highlight of the day: Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen. A short drive from Boundary Bay, Chuckanut is surrounded by a motorcycle shop and boat works. We drove in between the brewery and the pub (connected by an awning up above) to the convenient off-street parking lot. Like Boundary Bay, Chuckanut had a quaint outdoor seating area. The weather remained the same, however, so we opted for the cozy cafe-style inside.

Chuckanut was a highly anticipated stop. We had tried their beers at GABF last year and thoroughly enjoyed them. More importantly to me, however, was that they specialize in German-style beers. Our sample set included a Blonde, Kolsch, British IPA, Pilsner, Alt, and Vienna Lager. In a rare agreement of what beer to have a pint of, both Chris and I chose the Kolsch. In fact, as I was to see later on the menu, Tuesday is Kolsch day where later that evening stanges of Kolsch could be had for only $1.50 each. We weren’t going to be around later that evening, but it was okay because we enjoyed our full pint of the deliciously refreshing brew.

Lunch at Chuckanut

Chuckanut has a full kitchen with menu offerings listing the use of fresh, local ingredients. My perfectly-sized individual pizza with shallot sauce, peaches, and thick-sliced bacon was quite light and paired well with my beer. Also not one to pass up bacon, Chris enjoyed a BLT with the tastiest yam tater tots I’ve ever had. (Okay, the only ones I’ve ever had, but you get the idea…)

Besides the excellent beer and food, we found the staff to be friendly. It was nice to be in like-minded company as I discovered that the bartender, Dillon was also a German beer-style fan. Toward the end of our visit, co-owner Mari Kemper took the time to chat with us. The tales of her and her husband Will’s brewing history was captivating. Not only was Will a partner in the original Thomas Kemper Brewery, this brewing couple has assisted with the establishment of craft breweries in the unlikely locations of Mexico and Turkey. Mari’s story about the many years of putting in hard work before finally opening Chuckanut made our beer travel look positively glamorous. It goes to show that it’s slow and steady hard work and not instant recognition that creates longevity in this business.

Crossing over...

We left Bellingham with a bit of giddiness; quite possibly due to the lack of sleep or perhaps because the town is a fun beer stop. Most likely, however, it was because we were headed into Canadia to visit family. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with my brother and his family, including a quick stop at Mission Springs Brewing in Mission, BC. The best part of the evening, however, was that even with telling the U.S. border agent that we’d walked into Canada, had nothing to declare, and had only been there a few hours, he let us back in. I giggled as we crossed the street to our rental car parked next to the discount gas station. Such is the glamorous life of a beer traveler…

View all the images from our first day…

New beergeek.TV Episode – Springtime in Portland

Peeps and beer on Easter weekend

“Springtime in Portland” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.

Our tenth visit to Portland was our first not attending the Oregon Brewers Festival. Admittedly it was quite strange walking through the waterfront park and not seeing the familiar large white festival tents.

With no festival to attend, we were free of concentrate on our primary mission, adding breweries to the List. We visited outlying breweries that in previous years we had missed. And we enjoyed a wonderful urban beer hike on a glorious springtime Saturday.

So enjoy our tenth visit to the Rose City…

For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.

A Portland Beer Hike

Our tenth visit to Portland was also a first for us. This trip to the Rose City was our first not during Oregon Brewers Festival. Those sunny and warm July days were our only reference point for Portland weather. But we’d heard that it can be quite rainy other times of year, especially in Spring. With an urban beer hike planned for the Saturday of Easter weekend, we traveled prepared for non-July conditions.

A beautiful morning in Portland

Thankfully, Mother Nature was smiling upon on Easter Eve. We left our downtown hotel on a gloriously sunny Saturday morning and were down to t-shirts before we reached the Burnside Bridge, our gateway to the East side of the Willamette River. The first leg of our beer hike was the longest, almost 3.5 miles. After crossing the bridge and a few slight lefts, we were strolling up East Sandy Blvd. destined for the Hollywood district.

Columbia River Brewing

The journey up East Sandy wasn’t that memorable except for passing a Voodoo Donuts shop. We wanted to try a one of their doughnuts but the long line inside discouraged us. We continued on. If I won’t stand in line for over-hyped beer, I certainly won’t stand in line for over-hyped doughnuts.

We reached Columbia River Brewing, just off East Sandy, in about an hour. Merideth immediately recognized the building as the Laurelwood we visited several years back, a fact later confirmed. There were only two other customers in the brewpub and we joined them at the bar. As further proof that it’s a small world, they were a Bay Area couple we met several years ago at a SF Beer Week event.

A well-deserved taster set at Columbia River Brewing

While we chatted with the couple and the bartender, we enjoyed our fourth straight nine beer sampler set of the trip. Merideth continued her search for the perfect Peep-beer pairing. Put to the test was Rose City Wheat, a raspberry Wheat, and Ground “N” Pound Double IPA. Of course the Peep went well with the IPA, as the super hoppy and sickly sweet balanced nicely. It didn’t go as well with the wheat, however. A prime example of fruit beer done right, the Rose City Wheat had a subtle, dry raspberry flavor; something the Peep’s sweetness completely overwhelmed.

For me, the Oatmeal Stout was really nice, but Hop Heaven, their 78 IBU, 7.5% ABV IPA was really heaven after a long walk. The real treat was getting to enjoy a pint of Hop Heaven since we were on foot.

Migration Brewing

After the hits and misses of the previous day, it was great to start our beer hike with a real winner in Columbia River Brewing. Our friend Mike joined us at Columbia River and accompanied us for the rest of the afternoon. Since we had more ground to cover, we reluctantly finished our brews and moved on.

Returning to East Sandy Blvd., we headed back the way we came, towards downtown Portland. After a little over a mile, we reached Migration Brewing.

Enjoying the sun and a Lupulin IPA at Migration

Planning an urban beer hike is more than just picking all the beer stops. The key to successful beer hike is building in pee stops at just the right intervals. We visited Migration on a beer hike during our visit to Portland last summer. We really liked the beer and atmosphere during our first visit, so we were happy to return. It’s location between point A (Columbia River Brewing) and point B (Burnside Brewing) was perfect for a quick toilet break and beer stop.

While the majority of customers were inside watching the Trail Blazers playoff game, our trio enjoyed the beautiful Portland weather outside on their patio. Merideth put the Migration Pale Ale to the Peep test, while Mike and I split a pitcher of the citrusy and delicious Lupulin IPA.

Merideth being difficult at Burnside

Business taken care of  and beer finished, we could now move on to point B, Burnside Brewing. We continued in the general direction we had been heading and after another mile we were sitting outside at Burnside Brewing pouring over the  their menu.

I have to admit, I was a bit worried at first. While Burnside looked like just another casual, former industrial space Portland brewery, seeing the word ‘confit’ on the food menu had my douche radar going off. We’re just not confit people. But once the taster set was in front of us, my fears were disappeared.

The taster set at Burnside Brewing

While only five beers, the lineup was eclectic. There was an interesting Oatmeal Pale Ale, probably the first I had ever tried. Chili beers still seem to be alive and well in Portland and Burnside’s entry was Sweet Heat, an Apricot and Scotch Bonnet Wheat. The apricot was wonderfully subtle. Unfortunately, the Scotch Bonnet wasn’t. The star for me and Merideth was ‘Le Bas et Lumiere”, their session Belgian-style table beer. A perfect brew for the weather and timely as we needed to start pacing.

Sour heaven, Cascade Barrel House

The out and back portion of our hike was done as we left Burnside and headed south. Crossing into Southeast Portland, it was only a short half mile before we were at our next stop, Cascade Barrel House, the “House of Sour.” Arriving late afternoon, the Barrel House was packed with Trail Blazer fans with their eyes glued to the television. We grabbed a few seats at one of the non-prime TV viewing tables.

Now that is a taster set

The taster set was an overwhelming 17 beers. Remarkably, that was not the most ever. In 2008, we ordered an 18 beer sampler set at Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage. When we did the 18, we had the advantage of Moose’s Tooth being the first stop of the day. Well into our beer hike, I have to confess that we weren’t in the condition to truly enjoy the bounty in front of us. But we liked the pretty colors. When we return to Portland, we’ll have to pay the Barrel House another visit and make it our first stop.

Merideth did get a new angle in her search for the Peep-beer pairing. Would the contrasting sour flavors of the Cascade beers match well with the sweetness of the candy?

Several of the beers stood out for different reasons. The Gose was very salty, much saltier than the one we had in Germany. I loved the Vine, a blend of soured Tripel, Blonde and Golden ales with white wine grapes. But the  ‘WOW’ beer for me was Barrel #2 Live Kriek. Already a huge fan of the style, I have to say now say Cascade makes on of my favorites.

Merideth enjoying a Peep and Ginger Beer

Luckily, the next leg of our hike only took us around the corner because I was almost done and dusted. We stopped at Green Dragon to try their house beers brewed next door at Buckman Village Brewery. After the diverse collection of beers at Cascade, we didn’t bat an eye at Chamomellow, their chamomile brew, or the Ginger Beer.

Our Portland beer hike finished at Green Dragon. Over the course of a half day, we walked approximately six miles and visited five beer spots.  The weather was great, the beer excellent and the company enjoyable. Had we wanted to extend our beer hike, we would have had many choices in the area surrounding Green Dragon, but we’d already had a big day and were ready to settle down to watch the Timbers FC match. Beer and Football; there ain’t no pity in the Rose City!

View all the Portland images