Saturday, according to Seattle Beer Week‘s event schedule, seemed to be one of the biggest days of the who shebang. However, we had one last day to sop up the fun. This was Sunday. After this day, SBW would be on hiatus until next year. But let’s be perfectly clear, there’s always some craft beer-related fun to be had in the Emerald City. What a town! With places like Beveridge, Bottleworks, Malt and Vine, three Elysians, Stumbling Monk, Latona Pub, Uber Tavern, The Dray, Duck Island, etc etc etc, there really is no excuse for missing out on great beer in this wonderful city.
So, after coming to our second and final hoorah in town, and after being equipped with a wholesome and filling breakfast, we set out on our adventure. This day was the day of SBW’s “Last Call,” a finale to this eleven day celebration of great beer and the folks who love it. Last Call was to be held at the Hale’s Brewpub, where the kick-off ceremonies ignited things ten days prior. We had purchased our tickets in advance to ensure we’d not miss out on what was billed to be the best of the best. However, upon checking with some Seattle beer geeks we knew, it appeared that many were already burned out and their livers were demanding a break. Good thing we’d been living in Portland and were ready to put up a daily fight against the evil liver. We were a bit surprised to find that the organizers were still pushing tickets for the event. Why wasn’t such a supposedly cool event sold out?
It wasn’t until we had arrived in Seattle that we’d discovered that Last Call was running from noon until 5pm. I guess we needed to be on our toes and get quaffin’ early. There were still other spots in town we were set on visiting, so we needed a little warm up.
Sunday’s beer hunt started off a little frustrating at our first two stops. First off, we were anxious to get a taste of some Maritime Pacific brews (MPB). Corey Blodgett, former Oregon brewer at McMenamins (and one of their best to date), was now brewing here, so we were jazzed to try some of his brews. MPB had moved to a new location not so long ago. From their Ballard brewpub just down the street from Hale’s, MPC was now even closer in a new larger space in Fremont. Upon arriving to their Jolly Roger Taproom, it appeared closed, but there were no hours of operation posted in the window (at least we couldn’t find them). After walking around a bit, I called the number from their website. After a few rings, a woman answered “Hello?” “Is this Maritime Pacific?” I inquired. “Um yeah” she replied almost unsure. “What time are you open today?” I asked. A pause. “Um…11” she said before cutting in “Wait, it’s already past eleven. Hmmm. Maybe its 12. I don’t know. I don’t normally work here.” “No problem” I said “Do you fill kegs?” Again a long pause. After several minutes on the phone listening to this confused lady explain why she didn’t know anything about the place, its hours or keg sales (I just wanted to get off the phone), she noted that the bartender had just arrived. At first she said I should talk to him, then she said I should call back because he might not like being bothered upon just walking in. I agreed, but before I could get off the phone, she got him on the phone. “Hello” he said. “Sorry to bother you” I said, “but we’re from out of town for Seattle Beer Week and we’d like to get a keg fill. Do you fill 1/6 barrel kegs? “No. Just Half barrels and quarter barrels. You should go to a smaller brewery for that.” “Ok, thanks” I said. He hung up. Golly! It appeared the woman was trying hard to be helpful, but only leading us to more frustration. And the bartender, he was put off to help someone from out of town interested in spending money here. What was up with this place. We always love drinking MPB beers, but now we were considering not coming back. But we wanted to support Corey. Some advice for employees at any establishment: If you are opening, know the hours. If you are not open and don’t want to be bothered, don’t answer the phone. If you do answer the phone and someone is asking for something you do not offer, either kindly ask them to call back or offer alternatives to what they’re inquiring about. I would have spent money here, but instead, did not.
After checking out some chocolate samples at Theo’s Chocolates in the old Redhook Brewery of Seattle’s Fremont District, we jumped across the street to one of Seattle’s best beer establishments. Brouwer’s Cafe, owned by the same folks as Bottleworks, offers out of this world beer for the top notch connoisseur (as well as a world of bourbons, but that would only keep us from more beer). On Thursday May 20, Brouwer’s threw a sour party for SBW that showcased 40 sour and tart beers on tap. A mind-boggling lineup of wild ales, that in this day and age, beer geeks really fancy.
When we arrived at Brouwer’s Cafe, the selection of sours had considerable dwindled from Thursday, but was still amazing. One thing that has kept Brouwer’s from really kicking ass in our opinion, however, is the somewhat sterile atmosphere and the barkeep’s rush to get us to order. When there’s several dozen beers on the menu, a person, especially a beer geek, likes to think it over. Our server asked us three times if we were ready to order. The place was nearly empty and we were in no rush, but felt the barkeep, sort of a beer-know-it-all wanted us to make up our minds and quickly. Finally, after being coaxed a bit, I ordered a glass of 2006 Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek. Served in a 6 ounce glass for $6, this was another issue with Brouwer’s: price gouging. Now, a four year old Belgian Lambic is something you don’t just find anywhere, so I wasn’t going to squabble over the cost of this fine beer I’d likely not try again on draught for some time. However, later perusing the beer menu, we noticed most brews were exorbitantly priced. The cheap stuff was $5 for 12 ounces, and a handful of domestic sours from Cascade Brewing (one of our favorite breweries, mind you), including the Spring and Winter Goses, were each priced at $9 for 12 ounces. We didn’t even bother asking what the bottles from Hair of the Dog in the clear glass cooler were selling for.
When my partner Margaret went to use the restroom, the server at Brouwer’s continued pushing. I’d already settled in front of my Lou Pepe Kriek. “Do you know what she wants yet?” he asked. Was I the spokesperson for Margaret? Was she incapable of ordering her own beer? Was he really in that much of a hurry to sell the overpriced beer being offered? “I’m sorry. You’ll have to ask her” I responded. When Margaret reappeared, he continued on her until she finally made it clear that she would let him know when she was ready to order. When asking the bartender what she could expect from Avery’s Sui Genesis, he said “It’s tart and sour.” Really? A sour beer is sour? Wow. Thankfully it was a spectacular beer with a deep amber and soft off-white lacing. At over 10% ABV, Sui Genesis according to Avery (and we find this spot on)is “a complex ale, aged and artfully blended from several types of oak barrels, and displays a delightful lactic sourness complimented by hints of brett, oak, and acetic. Intricate yet bold, deeply complex yet surprisingly refreshing, Sui Generis was crafted in the tradition of perennial Tap Room favorites De Vogelbekdieren and Voltron.” The second release in Avery’s Barrel Series, this one was almost worth the $9/glass price tag. Almost.
Don’t get me wrong, Brouwer’s is a wonderful living museum of beer, but another experience of ours there was tainted by a pushy and seemingly arrogant bartender and prices that we’ve come to liken to highway robbery. Maybe we were wrong about the server. Maybe he wasn’t all that bad. So, I tried to make conversation with him and his correspondences played more like quips. He appeared to have no interest in what we said. Annoyingly he sang loudy along with the Kurt Cobain who blasted on the stereo (We love Nirvana, just not listening to an out of tune bartender croon along with them). When I told him we were going to Last Call at Hale’s, he acted put off that someone would consider going there and not staying to drink $9 glasses of Oregon beer. “Maybe we’ll come back after the other event” I told him. To this he responded “It will probably be too busy here by then.” …or not.
Overall, we were stoked to try a small glass of four-year-old Lou Pepe Kriek and a snifter of Avery Sui Genesis. However, we’ll likely avoid Brouwer’s in the future. Too bad, because their beer selection is to die for.
To be continued…