Life on the Peninsula (Part I)

We began our weekend heading north to the great Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, and as always, whatever beer we were afforded would be at the centerpiece of our everthirsting palates.

Our overriding purpose was to celebrate the marriage of two dear friends, Jean-Paul and Amy, who we have enjoyed the company of for many years. Our final destination was Sequim, Washington, known for scenic access points to both Port Townsend and Port Angeles in the heart of the giant and picturesque peninsula.

Before leaving town, there was a gravitating pull of Portland’s Roots Organic Brewery just blocks from our home. You see, at Roots, a special cask pour of their Island Red aged in bourbon was flowing from the hand pump. Tres bien. Soonafter this mouthwatering fill and a Craig Nicholls sighting, we hit the I-5 north as the sun began to make its decent, not only for the night, but seemingly for the dwindling summer.

Our first destination on this nearly four-hour one-way excursion was to be in Olympia. Capital city of the Evergreen State, Olympia is somewhat suffering for craft beer culture as compared to Portland (I guess this could be said of most anywhere in the world) but we were locked in on an old favorite, the Fishbowl Pub where Fishtale Ales and Leavenworth beers continue to flow. Here we settled for dinner and delicious pours of a German Pils and a piquant IPA. As I handed the keys off to my trusted partner, I opted for a nightcap of sorts that consisted of an extremely deep and robust midnight-colored Imperial Stout. As it warmed up, so did I, and the journey ahead seemed to be more exciting.Before leaving Olympia, we stopped at Tops Food in West Olympia to stock up on some bottled beer. Here we found a decent selection of bottled microbrews including Elysian’s Jasmine IPA in 22 ounce bottles as well as some utilitarian half-racks of Sierra Nevada’s Anniversary Ale and Samuel Adams’ Boston Lager.

After another hour plus on the road, we settled in for the night at a splendid site alongside the Hood Canal. At Seal Rock we pitched our tent beneath a lush canopy of domineering and protective trees. After waking to the steady downpour of rain the next morning, we saluted said trees and ventured on toward the top of the mighty peninsula. Before arriving at the ceremony in Sequim, we made a first time trip to Port Angeles. Here lies the launching point of the daily run ferry to next weekend’s Great Canadian Beer Fest in lovely Victoria Island. Port Angeles, however, not so lovely. A struggling blue collar town, Port Angeles has been suffering from economic depravity since the closure of its paper mill a few years back. A ruffian attitude surrounded a stymied economy that seemed to be driven by seafarers as much as the recent vampire romance film Twilight for which at a tourist shop bustled with patrons. One lonely brewery lives in Port Angeles. This is Peak Brewing. Just south of downtown, Peak employs organic practices on its 60 gallon set-up and offers a range of guest taps to loyal townsfolk. Upon our eager arrival, we ordered a four beer sample tray that I really wanted to like, but couldn’t. Infected beer at this level is unforgivable. Sour, buttery, and funky in a bad way brews can just not be ignored and overshadowed by good company.  On tap was the Lincoln Street Bitter, Peaks ESB, Wanda Fuca Gold and a Wedding Ale. After briefly chatting with brewer in training, Jeff, who admittedly didn’t have much of a palate for craft beer or the know how to produce it (head brewer known as Wild Ed was not present on this visit), our fears were actualized by the unfinishable small pours that simply sucked. It breaks my heart to trash on a small handmade brewer, but Peak just couldn’t find one I’d willingly finish here. The Lincoln Street Bitter was of a nice hazy blonde body but like the others just reeked with Pediococus and un-meant sour and metallic notes. Perhaps the worst was the ESB. Sour, diacetol, alcoholic and awful. If I had to rate it, I’d give it a straight F. The Wanda Fuca Gold poured a deep murky mustard hue and had prominent citrus hoppy nose, but there was unwanted funk that ran rampant with all these Peak brews. The hops only served to mask it momentarily. A match might mask a terrible fart for some time, but the fart is still there. The Wedding Ale kept in line with the problematic perception. Tawny amber bodied but the English yeast that laid victim to the Lactobacylic liability made this tasting four and no more. Guest taps of Laughing Dog Dogzilla Black IPA, Wells Bombardier and beers from Deschutes, Left Hand, 21st Amendment exemplified some concerted efforts though the house brew debauchery was, to say the least, disheartening.

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