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guinness eileen

Old Stove Brewing Company, 1901 Western Avenue, Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Late last summer my Bay Area friend Mistah Rick and I met for a few days in my old home of Seattle. Aside from seeing the sights and some old friends of mine we sampled quite a few breweries and brewpubs, spreading from Georgetown in the south to Lake City in the north. Sadly we were there for only three days, so we could barely make a dent in the city’s offerings. But there were two brewpubs that especially stood out.

On Friday morning we headed down to Pike Place Market, one of Seattle’s most famous areas. Having originally opened in 1907 as a farmers’ market, Pike Place Market now covers nine acres on several levels and is not only a popular tourist attraction but a great place for locals to shop for fish and seafood, produce, European baked goods, cheeses, ethnic foods, Native American art, handmade clothes and jewellery, crafts and collectibles, journals and comic books, magic tricks, chocolates, you name it. The very first Starbucks in the world is still operating here, often with a long queue of people. And the iconic bronze 500-pound piggybank which collects donations that benefit Market services still stands in front of the main fish counter, naturally attracting photographs. There are plenty of places to get a quick bite, sit down for a leisurely meal, or, on nice days, pick up a picnic to have in nearby Victor Steinbrueck Park.

As it was a warm summer day the place was crawling with tourists, so Rick and I headed toward the back of the market closer to the bay in search of lunch and a pint, and there we found the Old Stove Brewing Company. The humble door on Western Avenue belied the spacious, convivial restaurant and pub inside. The place was packed with drinkers and lunchers, but we were lucky enough to find a place at the end of a long red oak table near the patio, so we could see some of the view. We had a long day ahead of us, so we decided to go for a three-taster flight.

Our first choice had to be Jesus Brewed This (6.6% ABV), brewed with Cashmere and El Dorado hops. This is a hazy brew with suggestions of tropical fruit and it’s surprisingly smooooth. It turns out that the Jesus in the name is not that charismatic guys in sandals but the brewer of the beer, Jesus Garcia-Martinez. There’s almost an incense aura about this beer, like a headshop lit only by a black light.

Our second choice was Out of the Past West Coast IPA (7.5% ABV). Brewed with Simcoe, Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Palisades hops, it’s very floral, citrussy, and almost chewy. Third was Two-Pronged Crown IPA (6.5% ABV), brewed with Mosaic hops. This dank brew was lovely and definitely my favourite of the trio. It was heaven! And heaven doesn't have to be light and airy -- it can be very dank indeed.

For lunch we ordered a margarita pizza to split, which turned out to be delicious, and then, because we were so curious about it, we decided we had the time and the endurance to split a fourth 4-ounce taster, this time of Umbrella Not Included Juicy DIPA (9.5% ABV). A double IPA with passionfruit puree, orange peel, guava puree, and heavy doses of El Dorado, Citra, and Mandarina Bavaria hops, it was like carbonated fruit juice with a real tartness. It was a bit more dangerous than fruit juice, though -- quite a dangerous beer, and I'm glad the two of us were sharing these risky four ounces. This would be a great late-afternoon-on-the-patio drink, perhaps while watching the waves in the sea—but at this ABV you'd have to make sure there was a lifeguard on duty and be prepared to go to bed early. Not with the lifeguard, of course, unless you happened to fancy them… But we had our Elliott Bay view, with West Seattle across the water, and a pleasantly cool day with a blue sky streaked with clouds.

Stopping into the Old Stove had been an unexpected surprisingly wonderful experience, and the pub rates right up there in my opinion. Co-owned by Brian Stan and Chris Moore, the red oak tables are from the Moore family woods in Vicksburg, Michigan. Along with the vintage neon beer and brewery signs and vintage beer cans from the 1930s-1950s, there is a 1905-vintage cast iron Kalamazoo stove in the corner that’s used for heating, and the beers are pulled from antique stove handles. Hence the name of the brewery.

It was a shame we had to rush off, but the rest of our final day in Seattle awaited us.

PUB UPDATES:

  • GARDENERS REST, SHEFFIELD: One Sunday afternoon we met our friends Holly and Martin at this pub. Bear, their lovely Akita, was there as well. Frustratingly, and the first time I’ve ever experienced this from the Gardeners, there were no hoppy beers on at all, which was a bitter disappointment. After tasting nearly all of the available cask beers I don't even remember the names because they were so unimpressive, except for the Peach Melbear (4.4% ABV, Beartown Brewing, Congleton, Cheshire). Pale and brewed with peach and elderflower, this was actually quite a fun beer with an amazing aroma But I just didn't feel like I could commit myself to a whole pint. Andrew, in the meantime, went for Five Rivers (3.8% ABV, Sheffield Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which wasn’t as good as it sometimes has been, but the brewery seems to change the recipe at times. Mike had a pint of Crucible Best (3.8% ABV, Sheffield Brewing Company), and I finally went for a craft beer: Arise (Burning Sky Beer, Firle, East Sussex), which at least had a good hoppy taste. It was very hazy, but hey, it was good and I liked it.

  • HALLAMSHIRE, SEATTLE: One night after work I stopped in for a pint. There were no pale casks on that were hoppy and under 5% ABV, so I went for a key-keg pint of Green Mountain (4.3% ABV, Thornbridge Brewing Company, Bakewell, Derbyshire). This is a hazy Vermont Session IPA. And it's hoppy, with those lovely hops that I love so much. It's dry hopped with Galaxy, Mosaic, Citra, and Amarillo hops, and the malts are Pale, Wheat, and Caramalt. Wow! I haven't been in this pub for a long time, and I was surprised by what was playing on the music system when I walked in: "Turn Down Day" by the Cyrkle. I figured there would be nobody alive, especially in Sheffield, who would know of this song. It's a very poppy, clean, and sweet ditty from my teenybopper days. I preferred "Red Rubber Ball" by the same band, and I can still sing the entire song all the way through. I know…well, all of us punks had to have started somewhere…). Following on the music soundtrack was a Monkees track and some other pop-rock of the day, and then Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man". And then "Summer in the City" by the Lovin' Spoonful, followed by the Byrds’ "Hey Mr Spaceman". It was a very odd time warp that I’d stepped into -- but perhaps it was my hallucinogenic pint.

BOTTLED/CANNED BEER UPDATE:

  • Unbeliever Pina Colada Sour (4.9% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): I had a can of this one evening. Brewed with coconut, pineapple, and Sorachi Ace hops along with spices, it sounded great because I love coconut and pineapple. But it was a bit thin for a good sour beer and not, um, special enough. I was disappointed, because I do love a lot of Abbeydale's creations. Perhaps it was the new green and purple in my hair that was making me feel I just wanted more than that in my life.