Seattle Beer Week’s End – Part Three

Despite a few bumps in the road that started our Sunday, we were pumped to experience Seattle Beer Week’s Last Call at Hale’s Palladium. The warehouse behind the Hale’s brewery carried a circus-esque theme of the back space that also houses the annual Moisture Festival, an springtime celebration of Comedy/Variete and Burlesque. On this particular Sunday, the Palladium was the arena for more than twenty Washington breweries to showcase standout and one-off brews. A farewell to SBW season two, Hale’s was a fittingly seasoned craft beer component of the overall Seattle experience.

When we arrived at the Palladium, no long lines were to be found. We quickly entered and took a quick look around. The breweries were arranged alphabetically around the two large rooms housing the event with the main sponsors of the week on stage. Immediately we gravitated toward Airways Brewing of Kent, Washington. Still in their infancy, we’d enjoyed our initial taste of their beer at Beveridge, and were stoked to try more of their brews. Brewer and founder Alex Dittmar poured tastes of their ESB and Oak Aged IPA. We initially opted for the latter and were confronted by bold and spicy American oak tinged  coupled with piquant hops. After a few moments, we got familiarized with Dittman, who was quite amicable, and discovered that his other full time job was with an airline. We really enjoyed meetin him and hearing about his experiences in the brewhouse. We look forward to visiting Airways in the not so distant future.

There were several interesting beers from breweries, most not seen in Oregon, to discover and contemplate at Last Call. In some ways, it was reminiscent of our wonderful experience at Strange Brew Fest in Port Townsend not long ago. A brew we’d been aware of for some time prior to this event was Big Al’s Sour Beer. After thoroughly enjoying Big Al’s Watermelon Sour at Strange Brew, we were stoked to get a sample of this fruity tart sipper.

The attitude was most positive and welcoming at Last Call. It was too bad the event didn’t sell out because it sure was a lot of fun. Had this been in Portland, you can be certain that tickets would have been really hard to come by. There were too many highlights to pull just one as tops for Last Call, however, here’s a look at some noteworthy beers we tried:

Chuckanut Sticke Alt: Bummed to have missed this one at Naked City’s Chuckanut Brewers Night the night before, we were doubly stoked to get an early glass of this one, as well as get to chat with Naked City proprietor Don Webb in the process.

Ram Seattle Big Horn Saison: Fruity and spicy was this fairly effervescent brew. We’ve made the U-District Ram a destination in past ventures to Seattle and have never been let down. Despite being a chain restaurant, these guys, like Rock Bottom, keep fresh and innovative brews continuously flowing. This Saison was a keeper.

Lazy Boy Nacho Pils: Our friend Shawn Loring doubles as a great brewer and a cool-ass dude. The Everett, Washington brewery, Lazy Boy is his brainchild and his beers are always worth a full pint. We opted for what Shawn modestly called a gimmicky brew. Made with five different chili peppers, Nacho Pils possesses no real heat. Light crisp, and worthy of its name, this lager was one of the best beers at Last Call…easily. Another spectacle was Shawn-Boy’s new Pale Ale which featured sharply floral and aromatic Northwest hops and a crisp, delicious malt underpinning.

Fremont Totonac B-Bomb: The area brewers of Fremont represented well and left a great taste in our mouths. Never having tried their beers before, it was safe to say that this was a brewery to reckon with. Focusing on sustainable and organic beers, Fremont put forth this slow-roasted winter ale aged in 15-year old bourbon barrels from Kentucky with organic vanilla bean pods, as well as their Solstice Single Hopped Pale which was perhaps the best summer session beer we’ve tried so far this year. Bright and floral high alpha hops elevated above a light and clean, easy drinkin’ body. It was also a distinct pleasure to chat with informative and friendly brewers Matt Lincecum and Casey Gish while sample these fine beers.

Port Townsend Luciferous Belgian Whiskey Sour: We spent a good amount of time chatting with brewer assistant and cellarman Michael Francis. Francis explained the elaborate development of this wild bug brew innoculated with Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, and Brettanomyces (among wild yeasts). Aged in bourbon casks, this beer was a great mistake that lived up to the “Whiskey Sour” name. Dark brown pour with a thick off-white head and an aroma of tart acetic, dark fruit, and mild goatiness, this one was a doozy. Some vanilla and perhaps some mild diacetyl, but overall, one of the zaniest brews of the lot on this fine day.

Pike Dry Wit: We’ve loved Pike Brewing for a while. In fact, it was our first brewery visit in Seattle some years back. We’d met talented brewer Drew Cluley at the Brewers Summer Games in Pacific City a few years ago and we have been really digging the brews he and Pike are putting forth. This new unfiltered white ale is the next summer seasonal to hit bottles from Pike. Folks should be enthused about its zest and carbonic gusto enough to swoop up at least a few bottles, if not more, this summer.

Elysian Woodruff Maibock: Does Elysian make a bad beer? We’ve yet to find it if so. This Maibock is a rendition of the Ambosia (available in 22 ounce bottles) that makes use of the sweet, pot-pourri herb known as woodruff, or galium odoratum. Also used to flavor Berliner-weiss beer, the woodruff in this matter makes for a flowery, spring-favorable bouquet of flavor unlike anything we’ve enjoyed in other beers. Awesome!

Naked City Fleur d’Elise Saison: Cheers to Naked City for making a very nice impression with us on this trip. Never having tasted their beers before, we were enamored by the complex artisan flavor profiles this new Seattle brewery managed to come up with while remaining relatively true to the roots of historic brewing. This dry but not too astringent prickly brew went the distance to refresh and quench our thirst while helping to cleanse the palate of many other cloying and fatiguing flavors.

Pyramid Outburst IPA: Possibly the very best beer at Last Call. We have tried this beer before and loved it, but truly it is easy to understand why Pyramid is one of Seattle’s best breweries (even if they brew the beer in Portland, Oregon). Outburst from their limited tap-only Ignition Series features a wealth of Northwest hop aromas derived from Nuggets, Chinooks, Centennials, and Simcoes. Smooth yet bitter and bold (8.5% ABV, 80 IBU), this brew can hold a candle to any double IPA (yes, Pliny, too!). If you haven’t tasted it yet, you have better soon. Only eight barrels were produced.

Flyers Pacemaker Porter: A thick chewy yet approachable porter that rocks your sense, Pacemaker was our last call at Last Call. Hearty and grubbin’, as a true American-style porter should be, the pacemaker also featured a bold hop bitterness. An assertive presence of  roasted, burnt malts mingled with caramel and chocolate goodness to send us off at last ding with a smile on our faces.

Thanks to all the organizers of this event. We really enjoyed meeting so many new friends and learning about many great Washington breweries from folks intimately involved with their production, promotion ,and distribution. Last call was all we’d hoped it would be and we were more than pleased to take part.

To be continued…