While I was at ArtsEdge I attended the Pint of Seattle and tasted some of the Northwest microbrews in attendance. I would like to have tasted all 50 beers offered; but I only had a short time and there's only so much beer one 112-pound woman can drink at once while remaining eloquent. Nevertheless I did taste eleven of the selections. My notes follow:
Elliott Bay Brewery and Pub
4720 California Avenue Southwest
West Seattle, Washington
No Doubt Stout
My initial impression of this stout was "chocolatey but smooth." But it turned out to be like that small fragment of dark chocolate you spot lying on a white lace tablecloth next to a large festive dessert torte. It appears to be a shard inadvertently broken off the dessert. You snatch it up on the sly and steal away with it, hoping to savor its delights. But it's not all you hope for -- not gloriously decadent nor exquisite, but just, um, kind of there.
Hopjack Pale Ale
Beer. "Beer." Bier, biére, pivo, brewski, suds, "Six-er", cerveza. We're talking absolutely SMOOTH and nothing more. This is an easy beer, simple, predictable, nothing challenging about it. There's nothing here that would seduce you when you least expect it; oh no, breathe easy, it's far from that. It's like a 25-year marriage with 2.3 kids, all college-bound, of course -- and even the mortgage is paid off. No worries, no cares, no risk.
This porter makes me think of new tar on a damp day, the smokey steam rising up and curling through the manhole covers. But wait -- I'm in a dark wood den filled with old men smoking pipes and playing cribbage. Yes, that's it -- this is a cribbage beer! I can see a bit of it spilled on the red cedar cribbage board, the black brew beading up against the glazed finish. Aha, my man! Looks like I've managed to defeat you again!
Orchard Street Brewery
709 West Orchard Drive
Pale Ale (OPA)
This is a mighty peachy brew, and I don't mean fruity. It has a full, hoppy, natural character, like someone you would like to invite to all your social gatherings. You can count on this pale ale to always wear something interesting, sport a daring hairstyle, have great stories and jokes to tell, and be lots of fun even if nobody else shows up. This is a beer that knows how to wear hats.
Elysian Brewing Company
1221 East Pike Street
Capitol Hill, Seattle, Washington
Windigo Wild Rice
One taste of this beer makes me think of a fortune cookie sitting in the exact center of a small white porcelain plate, with a small bowl of spicy oil visible in the background, and over to the left are a pair of orange lacquer chopsticks. But what is that I smell? It's so subtle: rosewood, perhaps? Or just something on the breeze? Perhaps the scent of a little girl thinking of a cherry blossom?
I'm surprised! I usually don't like Pacific Northwest "Scotch ales". It's not that I have anything against Scotch ales in general, even though I'm part Scott-ish and recoil at that word "Scotch" when used as a nationality -- but I will admit I do love a fine single-malt Scotch, like Laphroig or Glenmorangie or...but wait, I've been sidetracked! Yes, sidetracked from this smooth-rolling Scotch ale, hoppy enough to lend a bit of a bumpy ride. It feels like the slow train from London to Edinburgh, except without those irritating British Rail armrests getting in the way when you want to relax. Yes, this ale is a long, vibrant train ride through that deep green, rough, mossy Northern countryside!
32 North Front Street
Plaid. Yes, this is a good plaid stout. Like plaid socks -- or am I thinking of argyle? Yes, perhaps a bit argyle, I suppose. But am I thinking diamonds rather than squares? I think it depends on how you look at the beer. I guess from this angle it's plaid leaning toward the smoothness of diamonds. And it's definitely a green, blue, and red plaid on a black background. Could that be the Grant tartan? Or could it be my own Innes clan tartan? Or is it simply the generic Stout Drinker's tartan? And should I be wearing a kilt while drinking this fine plaid stout?
Fish Brewing Company
515 Jefferson Street Southeast
Fish Tale IPA
This is my favorite readily-available Pacific Northwest bottled brew, and I also love it on draft. It even pleases my friend Celia, who normally prefers smoother ales. It's a perfect beer, perfect like the trout heads I used to line up on the cutting board when preparing Trouts in Jail, a delightful recipe consisting of vegetable-stuffed trouts wrapped in foil and baked. I would cut their heads off myself and sing "Fish Heads" to them while I prepared their bodies for baking. Unfortunately this disturbed Max a great deal; so I now have the fishmonger remove their heads first. Ah, but they still taste just as good, as does the Fish Tale IPA.
Woodland Brewing Company
8515 Greenwood Avenue North
Greenwood, Seattle, Washington
Nut Brown Ale
This tastes like a first attempt from this relatively new brewery. It reminds me of my older brother's early home brewing trials, back when I was a teenager. It brings me back to my parents' living room on a summer afternoon, the stereo playing whatever was popular at the moment. And my up-to-that-point-unmechanical brother was rebuilding his first car -- a Morris Minor, I believe it was. And the kids on the block were playing softball, and -- oh, I've gone forward a few years, and I'm in college...but wait! Of course, that's it! That's what I'm thinking: this is a collegiate brown ale!
Captains City Brewery
23 Front Street
This is a very sudden IPA, friendly yet direct -- a beer which might become upset if it noticed your mind was wandering away from the issue at hand. Punjab IPA is a bit needy, perhaps; but if you've got the time to let it take center stage, it can be quite witty. Ascerbic, perhaps, but witty nonetheless. And the world can always use another dry wit.
Full Sail Brewery
506 Columbia Street
Hood River, Oregon
From my experience through the past few years this ale has proved to be like the prodigal child you had great hopes for -- a future concert pianist, movie star, exotic zoo veterinarian -- but then she ends up as a part-time estimator for a vinyl sidewall installation company. And she moves from her gorgeous Spanish-style loft in the city to a plain two-bedroom suburban ranch house with a brown lawn.