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Previous Pint Pleasures - June 1998

Guinness Eileen

Pike Pub and Brewery, 1415 First Avenue, Downtown

The Pike Pub and Brewery is located downstairs in Pike Place Market's South Arcade, on the spot of what was once the wonderfully ancient and dusty maze of Shorey's Used Books (which has since moved to newer digs in Fremont.) The atmosphere is quite different now: the Pike Pub is a spacious, split-level bar and restaurant, with a separate "Cigar Room", a smoking/game room with darts, foosball, and several TV monitors for televised sports. So what do you do if you smoke but don't like games, or if you're a sports fan who doesn't like smoke? This seems a bit unfair, doesn't it?

My visit to the Pike Pub was on a Tuesday afternoon during Happy Hour, which runs from 4:30 to 6:00 PM every day. As opposed to McMenamin's Happy Hour, only one or two of Pike's beers are available at reduced prices. Since their Scotch Ale was the special today, as well as the only beer on cask for the day -- and most Scotch Ales don't appeal to me much, normally being too malty and sweet -- I opted for a pint of Pike IPA (6.5% ABV), one of my favorite local beers. In fact, if I ever actually got to taste a cask-conditioned pint of Pike IPA, it might be the most amazing beer experience I could possibly have in Seattle. And the problem with experiencing the ultimate is there's nothing left to which one can aspire. So I've got plenty of time...

This particular pint of Pike IPA was very hoppy as well as intensely full-flavored, like pouring a party of interesting, charming, well-dressed, and witty people into my mouth all at once. I could hear them all talking with each sip, and there was a tango in the background. Wait -- now it's Charlie Parker, now Shane Macgowan, now Edith Piaf, and now the Lounge Lizards reuniting for a performance that a digeridu? No I think it's just a chorus of button accordions playing a little Kurt Weill.

I supposed I've never tasted such an auditory beer before. It's really quite attractive: smooth, clear, rusty red with amber highlights, rather like a fine retriever with silky soft hair. Yes, I even detect a warm dog smell -- a clean dog smell, that is -- with hints of -- of -- oh, damn, that Happy Hour food is getting in the way! Well, it tastes amber glass coffee table in a Moroccan hotel lobby. Oh, now I'm all confused...

Pike also features a fine XXXXX Stout, (6% ABV), a Pale Ale (4.75%), an Amber Ale, an Irish Ale, and Opening Day Ale or ODA (6.2%). The regular price of a 16-ounce pint is $3.50. This month they also have two of their own Belgian-style beers on tap. I do love Chimay, a fine Belgian brew; but Pike's Belgian brews are much stronger in alcohol than my pint of 6.5% IPA was. And seeing as how I needed to walk home -- alone, with no one handy to pick me up if I fell down -- I stuck with the IPA for this visit.

Although the food here seems to get good reviews everywhere else, I personally would not recommend eating at the Pike Pub. Among me and my various friends who've had dinner here, I have to say it's a unanimous opinion: we all think the food sucks. Truly. Now, I've never had their cous-cous, which looks and smells pretty good, and Max and I don't eat red meat, so perhaps they specialize in certain dishes. In fact, they may very well prepare something brilliant with beef or pork or lamb; I just don't know anyone personally who's ever ordered anything remotely close to "brilliant." Whatever you do, don't order a spelt-grain-crusted pizza. It's the farthest thing from any reasonable concept of the term "pizza", an organic co-op hippie-farmed eco-friendly fiber-rich thick malty glop of a pasty "dough" covered with completely unreasonable topping combinations, like something you might be served with a glass of carrot juice from a Grateful Dead-splattered hippie roach coach in Eugene, Oregon. Now, for some of you this may sound intriguing; but please, just don't do it! Don't! If you want pizza call Pizzeria Pagliacci instead, or go to Piecora's in Capitol Hill or Guido's in Green Lake or almost anywhere else in town. Please.

Back to the beer and the pub itself: the basic decor centers around the giant brewing tanks, which fire up occasionally with a wonderfully thick, liquid gushing sound. Here and there you'll spot the occasional checkerboard pattern, a few leather couches, and the rest is filled in with wooden tavern chairs. Aside from all the beer signs, labels, and English beer mirrors covering the walls, it's not the most interesting atmosphere. But the beer itself is well worth the visit.

Oh my god -- the four men sitting across from me are talking about beer. "I'm not much of a beer drinker myself, so I don't know what you mean by smooth." "Well, to me Budweiser is well, harsh..." These guys came for the food and the sports, obviously.

I'm not trying to imply that all sports fans are uneducated idiots as far as beer is concerned. But, well, maybe I am trying to imply that. But you'll have to excuse me -- I'm simply not a sports fan. I'll enjoy the occasional Mariners game, but that's about as far as I'll go -- and it's only because I can get a pint of Full Sail Amber Ale at the Kingdome. At $4.75 it's way overpriced, of course, but what do you expect?

While I'm on the subject, there's this weird custom at baseball games that I don't quite understand called "The Wave". It's where everybody in a section of the stadium will stand up, wave their arms above their heads, and yell loudly. And it goes around section by section, creating a wave. I guess this happens at football and soccer games as well -- maybe at all spectator sporting events; I don't really know. Do they do it at golf and chess tournaments?

But it gets really boring to see this, and it doesn't really seem to help the players on the field at all. I think it's time they retire "The Wave" and start "The Moon". Wouldn't that be a beautiful sight: a solid mass of buttocks baring themselves in a wave around the stadium, like the phases of the moon?

And what about those huge mouthfuls that every professional baseball player seems to be chewing away on? I mean, you see baseball players spit out stuff all the time, but you never see them put anything into their mouths in the first place. So I've got a theory: perhaps when young promising rookies are pulled out of the minors and into the major leagues, they undergo a simple operation -- day surgery, naturally -- where their stomachs are divided into four parts. This way they can stuff whatever the hell it is they stuff into their mouths -- chewing tobacco, jumbo packages of gum, candle wax, beef gristle, rye grass -- before the ballgame starts, and they can keep working on that same wad throughout the whole nine innings, swallowing it and then chewing it and then swallowing it and chewing it and swallowing it and chewing it, spitting little bits out here and there. It makes sense to me. About as much sense as those $4.75 pints.