This St. Patrick’s Day long weekend (well I took a long weekend anyway) found me sipping my way around some of Seattle’s breweries and maxing out my cross-border beer allowance. There is always a great energy in Seattle, and this trip was no exception as Pike Place Market was awash with live music, tourists and emerald clad runners looking to put back on any calories they may have burned off during the morning’s run.
First stop for us was The Pike Brewing Co. a veritable Seattle institution. It was beyond packed thanks in part to the fact they were serving three dollar pints of Naughty Nellie and Kilt Lifter at a cash-bar located in the brewery basement. Deciding to opt-out of the hour-long wait for an actual table we saddled up to the bar to do a little reconnaissance. After flagging down the harried barkeep we worked our way through The Pike Sampler, which proffers the standard six offerings from Pike:
Naughty Nellie is a Golden Organic Artisan Ale named for the madam at LaSalle where Pike was founded (beer and brothels together at last). A crisp, light ale with a 4.7% ABV and IBU of 24. Safe choice for the hard-drinking St. Paddy’s crowd since it was very quaffable or as Pike puts it ‘light and curvy with plenty of sex appeal’.
Pike Pale Ale an heirloom amber, 5.0% ABV and IBU 32, with that classic nutty character and reddish-brown colour. Apparently this is the first beer Pike brewed in 1989.
Pike IPA India Pale Ale for those residing is some sort of beer exile for the last two hundred years- a golden amber pour with lots of in-your-face hop character; a little bit flower and a little bit soap. An ABV of 6.3% and IBU of 62. Rumour has it this beer is one of the ‘300 Beers to Try Before You Die’. Mark it off my bucket list then.
Pike Kilt Lifter a lovely Scotch Ale that is ruby-amber and full of sweet malt elements. ABV of 6.5% and IBU of 27, Kilt Lifter is well-balanced with some bitter hops and a bit of a smoky character.
Pike XXXXX Extra Stout boasts a 7.0% ABV and IBU 65. ‘Sensuous and X rated’ this deep amber black beer has a ton of roast coffee flavour, a little bit of sweet chocolate and a nice burnt aftertaste.
Pike Monk’s Uncle is a Tripel (read Belgian) Ale with the heftiest ABV at 9.0% and IBU 34. Yeasty and sweet, whoa boy is this one sweet, brewed with organic candy sugar. A bit of fruit and a dry finish but I think the sugars ate all the yeast (and it is not even supposed to work that way).
Pike Thoughts: Kilt Lifter and the Pale Ale were my favourite beers, great brewpub with a great location in the market, cool beer swag and fun atmosphere – I would like to offer a shout out to the very drunk Southern gentleman drinking solo at the bar and trying to read the script on my tattoo upside down; you just can’t stage those kind of Kodak moments.
Next stop was Elysian Brewing Company’s brewpub in the Capitol Hill district; another great location in a trendy little region of the city boasting lots of coffee, foodie joints and general hipster-ness. We managed to work our way through two taster flights this time round and the rule is the resident beer geek does the selecting for you …fun!
From the regular line-up we tried The Immortal IPA, Mens’ Room Red, Dragonstooth Stout, Wise ESB, Avatar Jasmine IPA and Idiot Sauvin IPA. From the specialty beer line-up we sampled:
Bifrost Winter Ale a 7.6% hop-heavy beer balanced with a couple of different malts. ‘Bold, hoppy and smooth’ is the description from the brewers. For those who have not watched Thor, Bifrost is the mythical bridge connecting the mortal world to the heavens in Norse mythology.
Ryezome a 6.2% ABV beer aptly described as a ‘hoppy red rye’. Tons of bitterness tempered with that distinctive soured sweetness, which is the hallmark of rye.
Loki Lager ‘a smooth Dortmund-style lager’ with 4.8% ABV. Golden in colour with that elusive balance of malt and hop that makes a highly drinkable ball-park beer. Named for the Norse god and jester Loki.
Mongrel ‘Cascadian dark saison’ weighing in at a respectable 8.2% ABV. A little earthiness to this one, lots of malt and an extremely dry finish but somehow not quite reaching that saison benchmark.
Cocoa Mole from New Belgium Brewing Co. A 9% ABV monster chock full of chocolate and heat but surprisingly easy to drink with sweet malts and decent body to temper the chili peppers.
Elysian Thoughts: I really loved the beers we tried especially the Avatar and Loki BUT (notice this is a big but) the whole experience was tainted by the awful food, we left it virtually untouched but were charged nonetheless, and by the very mediocre service, I don’t think we ever saw the same server twice. I was surprised to see how much my view of the beer selection was impacted by the rest of my visit.
In addition to our brewery visits, we went to Full Throttle Bottles for the first time to do a little beer shopping and it was a pretty amazing little store. Situated in an up-and-coming part of Seattle this store was overflowing with ambience, wicked beer selections, and knowledgeable staff more than willing to talk shop with fellow beer geeks. I highly recommend taking the time to visit this beer shop next time you are in the Seattle area.
Some other recommendations from my beer shopping include Adam and Fred from Hair of the Dog (two separate beers) and Noble Rot from Dogfish Head. All three were outstanding beers.