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Posts made in: October, 2014 (40) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 40

October 1, 2014 at 4:13pm

7 Seas Brewing and 253 Heart release 253 Pilsner, nonprofits to benefit

7 Seas Brewing and 253 Heart have released 253 Pilsner, a lager with a portion of the proceeds benefiting local nonprofits. Courtesy photo

Two years ago, Tacoma resident Catherine Masucci brought together two of her creative friends. Turns out, they had a mutual admiration for each other.

"It was on a visit to 7 Seas in early 2012 when I discovered a 253 Heart sticker on one of the brewery's windows. I took a photo and texted it to my friend Steve Naccarato," Masucci explains. "I've always been a fan of the 253 Heart because I feel that it encompasses the love and pride the people of this area have for our great community," says Masucci.

"I thought, why not bring two local favorites together?"

Masucci contacted 7 Seas Brewing co-owner Mike Runion and suggested he meet her friend Steve, torchbearer of the 253 Heart.

The two men met.

The 253 Pilsner is on the street today.

"Even before there was talk of beer, we loved the design of 253 Heart and what it means," says Runion, who owns the Gig Harbor brewery with head brewer Travis Guterson. "It strikes a cord with us. It stands for pride of where you live - a love of place. And beyond the 253, the message is still there: No matter where you are from, it's about caring and having pride where you live."

The day the two men met there was indeed talk of a collaborative beer, but there was also talk of compassion, heart and give back to the community. Craft brewing companies such as 7 Seas Brewing have put the 253 on the map as the place to experience and purchase quality beer as well as support local causes. Now the Gig Harbor brewery will join forces with an even bigger Heart to support the community year-round.

The Heart

Before touring the world with his band, Motopony, artist/poet/musician Daniel Blue lived and breathed Tacoma. On Christmas Day, 2007, Blue doodled 253, turned the paper 90 degrees and saw that it had formed a heart. Over the next three years, the 253 Heart appeared on windshields, laptops, backpacks and anything owned by someone who held the area code close to his or her heart. Blue said the 253 Heart is about love of place. With music consuming his life, Blue passed the emblem to fellow Tacoma artist and friend, Steve Naccarato -  son of Stan, brother of Gordon -  a longtime Tacoman who had put his heart into baseball, acting, consulting on a primetime television show, opening restaurants including Shake Shake Shake, producing records, producing concerts, letterpress artistry, photography and the torch bearer of the 253 Heart. Naccarato has taken his second heart to heart commissioning artists to design products that showcase the creative energy and spirit of Pierce County, with a portion of the sales benefitting local charities.

Naccarato's Heart and heart beat harder after meeting Runion. Runion, a big presence with a heart to match, agreed their collaboration should have a strong charitable presence. A second meeting inked a mission to contribute $5,000 of 253 Pilsner sales to a revolving door of 501(c)(3) status nonprofits. The inaugural nonprofits were chosen based on current relationships. Naccarato believes strongly in Ben Warner and his Alchemy Indoor Skatepark and Education Center, the Tacoma-based organization striving to improving the relationship between skateboarders and the greater community - "to provide a free, dry, and safe place for local skaters to practice and develop their athletic, social, and educational skills," according to Warner.

"Ben is helping reshape the skateboard community here," says Naccarato. "He has such a passion for skateboarding. But, he has a big mountain to climb, with laws and perception. Resources are critical, and that's were we hope to help."

7 Seas Brewing chose Peninsula Hands On Art, an organization they believe in and have donated to in the past. Founded in 2003 by parents and local artists, the organization serves approximately 2,700 students in grades K-5 across six schools.

"Peninsula Hands On Art provides elementary schools with hands-on art projects taught by local artists around a particular curriculum. The money we raise will go toward purchasing materials," explains Runion.

Runion says the Peninsula art program is in place, but resources are crucial. He can see the program branching out from the peninsula and spreading across the 253.

"We wanted to find nonprofits where the money was really going to be used," Runion continues. "We wanted to work with nonprofits where five thousand dollars can make a huge change. If you want to make change happen, sometimes it just needs to happen from within. People who live in this community and want to make our community better can't expect others to come in and do it for us. The change has to come from within. That's why we want to give back, and work with nonprofits that are just getting off the ground."

"Money is so tight out there right now, and you can do only so many auctions and car washes," says Naccarato. "It's incumbent for the private sector to partner with the community and make it a better place to live."

The 253 Pilsner will have a dedicated section on the 253 Heart website explaining why the two businesses joined forces, why they love the area and detailed information about the beer.

"It's where you can find out about projects related to the beer, follow the progress of the nonprofits, what happened to the funds, who will be the next nonprofits and a chance to nominate other nonprofits," says Runion. "And it's not just Tacoma, but Gig Harbor, University Place, Lakewood, Puyallup - It's the whole 253 area zone."

The Beer

A proponent of cans, due to the evils of sunlight and recycling costs of glass, 7 Seas Brewing will release the 253 Pilsner in gold cans.

"The 253 Pilsner can was produced by notable craft brew design leader Blindtiger - and it's striking," says Naccarato.  "We wanted to pay homage to the Tacoma brewers from a hundred years ago. Therefore, the can is old-school gold. 

"Not a lot of local brewers make Pilsners, but they did in the 1800s," continues Naccarato. "This Pilsner best represents the 253, its history - and 7 Seas has brewed a pale lager Pilsner better than the beer brewed back in the day."

"It took a while to put the whole project together due to the cans, but we strongly believe this is the way to do it," adds Runion. "We really wanted to bring back the old-school style, the gold can. We studied the old cans - the fonts, the colors, the styles. But, luckily, it won't taste like old tin cans."

Modern cans are coated in a water-based coating specially made to protect the beer.

7 Seas was the first microbrewery in Washington to can their beers. In 2008, weeks away from production, a fire destroyed their operation. They re-opened in a new Gig Harbor location and produced their first 7 Seas label key in July 2009. In 2012, the year they began producing canned beer, 7 Seas moved into an 11,000 square foot space in downtown Gig Harbor, which included a large taproom with 24 taps - with one tap devoted to a guest beer from a Washington brewery. Runion is a huge proponent of supporting the Washington beer industry.

Why a collaborative Pilsner?

"It's a nod to Tacoma's brewing history. Those breweries of yesteryear - the Hiedelbergs, the Columbias, the Olympias - produced old school light lagers," says Runion. "Lager take a lot longer to brew than ales. That's why craft brewers brew the ales. In two weeks, an ale is done. For a lager, it's more like six to twelve weeks. Sure, the financials are better to do ales. You can turn two to three times as many ales than lagers. But we have the space to brew lagers right now. And we always wanted to make a lager."

7 Seas Brewing co-owner and head brewer, Travis Guterson, brewed more than five test batches, with different hops and different malts, to try find the recipe they liked.

"Travis settled on Sterling and Cascade hops. It's a Northwest interpretation of a Pilsner," says Runion.

Hand-crafted with Northwest Pale and Pilsner malt, the 12-ounce gold can will go down easy at 5.2 percent alcohol by volume.

"We're super happy with the result," says Runion with a smile.

The 253 Pilsner will be delivered to distributors Tuesday and in stores beginning Wednesday. It will be available at bottle shops and independent grocery stores. In the spring, after the resets, the beer will find its way to the grocery store chains. The 253 Pilsner will be distributed up and down western Washington through 7 Seas' distributors.

A release party for the 253 Pilsner will be held at Shake Shake Shake in Tacoma's Stadium District, which is owned by Naccarato and his business partner, Robert Stocker. A date hasn't been nailed down, but expect nonprofits to be on-site to discuss their missions, and plenty of good beer to drink.

According to these two men, the whole idea is a charity first, and a beer second. They believe true fulfillment never comes from financial or material success. Happiness and deep sense of connection is their goal. Runion and Naccarato, and their cohorts, sit on the same mountaintop. Money comprises the base, but idealism, balance and good vibes more than tops the peak.

It just so happens the beer is delicious.

October 3, 2014 at 10:16am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Farrelli's Wood Fire Pizza

Farrelli's Wood Fire Pizza in Lacey serves a creamy mac and cheese with a spicy sausage option. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

President Thomas Jefferson allegedly ate mac and cheese when he was at home in Monticello. What makes American comfort food comforting is its monotony - that mercifully uninflected drone of starch and fat that we can eat without being required to think, that we can eat and eat and eat without needing to handle knives or really chew. That's how we do it here, and we're a superpower. Mac and cheese is how pasta might always be served if Americans had invented it: Plain, easy and cheap.

Farrelli's Wood Fire Pizza's mac and cheese is a mash up between simple and sly, childhood and adulthood, cheap and chic. Its mac is creamy, buttery and yet still classy - with the option of adding spicy sausage. It's meaty elbow macaroni swimming in mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan with a small blanket of cheddar and two buttery garlic focaccia strips.

Jefferson also allegedly enjoyed pull-tabs and Oktoberfest pizza. He would have enjoyed hanging at the hidden Farrelli's in Lacey. He would have enjoyed the mac and cheese even more.

Grab a baked dish of comfort and cheer on your favorite team in Farrelli's huge lounge.

FARRELLI'S WOOD FIRE PIZZA, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 4870 Yelm Hwy. SE, Lacey, 360.493.2090, also in DuPont, Frederickson, Parkland, Sumner and Tacoma

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

LINK: The answer to why this mac and cheese column exists

October 3, 2014 at 12:25pm

Pacific Lutheran University student to compete at national chef competition

Jason Sipe, an MBA student and line cook at the Anderson University Center, has been selected to compete in the first-ever ment'or Young Chef Competition. Photo credit: John Froschauer/PLU

Pacific Luthern University announced one of its MBA students, Jason Sipe - a line cook at PLU's Anderson University Center - has been invited to the first-ever nationwide ment'or Young Chef Competition. The day before Halloween, Sipe will step into Chef Thomas Keller's acclaimed Bouchon Beverly Hills and compete for $10,000 - or $15,000 and "the stagiaire (internship) of a lifetime" at some of the nation's most well-respected restaurants - at the first-ever nationwide ment'or Young Chef Competition.

Let's read PLU's news release. ...

Read more...

Filed under: Contest, Tacoma,

October 3, 2014 at 1:31pm

Words & Photos: Harmon Brewing's 2014 Brewmaster's Dinner

Harmon Brewing's brewer and production manager Bill Lundeen kicked off the 16th annual Harmon Brewmaster's Dinner with a jig. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

One of the best things about this time of year is all of the Oktoberfest-centric dinners. Last night, the Harmon Brewery & Eatery held just such a dinner. It was a fun night; the jig Harmon brewer/production manager Bill Lundeen performed next to co-owner Pat Nagle (above) confirms the statement.

I sat next to Harmon co-owner Carole Ford and Harmon Brewing Director of Brewery Operations Jesse Holder most of the night. Discussion of beer, future releases, European adventures and best Chinese food locales filled the gaps when utensils and glassware didn't hide our mouths. Harmon's 5 Mile Drive IPA will eventually replace the flagship Point Defiance IPA, adding citrus Zythos hops to the original formula as well as a full percentage point increase in alcohol by volume to 7.2. It has a big hoppy flavor. Harmon is also on the verge of releasing several sours - including a sour saison, sour IPA - a strong ale paying homage to former Parkway Tavern manager John O'Gara who passed this spring, a barleywine, barrel-aged saison and a pumpkin spice blonde, which released today.

For the first course, we received a pretzel basket with beer cheese and mustard. It was paired with Harmon Brewing recently released Fall Ball Red, an Imperial Red Ale with an extra helping of Munich malt to give it a rich body. The night began at 7.8 percent ABV thank you very much.

For the salad course, the kitchen served an outstanding celery, radish and pear with Gorgonzola. Incredibly refreshing, the salad paired well with Harmon's session Creamsicle Pale Ale. The Madagascar Vanilla Beans flavor pops.

I'll be dreaming about the wild mushroom crostini for the next few days. The richly flavored mushrooms tempt me to grab the paired 5 Mile Drive IPA and head toward the Five Mile Drive at Point Defiance Park in search for the little buggers.

The main course came in three acts - bratwurst, beer-braised red cabbage and an absolutely delicious German potato salad created by Hilde Ford. Harmon's six malt, four hops Black Tartan CDA sat at the end of the long plate. This brew looks like a stout but drinks like a hoppy IPA.

And for dessert: a scoop of vanilla ice cream floated in a sea of Super Samurai Barleywine Ale to make an ice cream float. Harmon's single Sorachi Ace hop barleywine overpowered the ice cream. I spooned the 11 percent ABV beer as if it was going to evaporate.

Harmon's Oktoberfest celebrations continue tonight at the Harmon Brewery & Eatery and Harmon Tap Room. It's "Bring Your Own Mug Night" at the downtown Tacoma Harmon. Have your stein filled for the same price as a 16-ounce pint. Harmon caps it at 24-ounces. In Tacoma's Stadium District, the Tap Room will have Jagermeister drink specials, a cooking with beer class and 99 biodegradable balloons released into the sky at 7 p.m. while "99 Luftballoons" by Nena screams from speakers. Seriously.

HARMON BREWERY & EATERY, 1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.2739

HARMON TAP ROOM, 204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.212.2725

October 4, 2014 at 10:11am

Words & Photos: Oktoberfest Northwest at Washington State Fairgrounds

I know, I know. But really, every angle was sort of perfect. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Oktoberfest Northwest is a hilarious celebration of dirndls and German shepherd-sized beer mugs, and nothing you can ever do can prepare you for the onslaught of Bavarian kitsch. As it should be. As is the whole point, really. Nobody at the Washington State Fairgrounds yesterday really cared that the original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the wedding of a crown prince and a princess, but we should at least thank them for making their wedding into a multi-day festival for us commoners. We should toast the royal couple for allowing us to watch the baseball playoffs in lederhosen, to play beer pong in Alpin hats, to pose for photos with a gnome and his wife, to eat delicious fried pork from Gutes Essen Haus (so yum!), to wearing funny T-shirts and eat fudge (yes, that too!).

I get how easy it is to bash this bash held in a giant building in Puyallup, how ripe is the target, how irresistible to poke fun at polka, absurd hammering of nails into stumps, the zany obstacle course just to grab a beer, a 6-foot-2 beauty posing for snapshots and the cabbage rolls and the wiener dog races and Stein Run and whatever the hell else. Oktoberfest Northwest begs to be satirized, ridiculed, taunted from afar by the naysayers who've never been. It's easy. Also, pointless.

Because there's a terrific irony about denouncing Oktoberfest Northwest with anything resembling cultural or moral authority: the more you mock it, the dumber you look. And the better the oompah band sounds.

See, there is only one overarching, indisputable truth about Oktoberfest Northwest: You have to see it for yourself. You just have to go. But, read this first.

OKTOBERFEST NORTHWEST, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, Oct. 4, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, Washington State Fair and Events Center, Ninth and Meridian, Puyallup, $10 Saturday, $5 Sunday, oktoberfestnw.com

Hammerschlagen. Because not everything has to be subtle.

Or serious.

Or lonely.

Not sure. But sort of delicate and beautiful.

A simply irresistible photo.

Because every once in awhile, you just want to throw a bean bag into a hole.

More holes.

She laughed.

She posed.

Manuela Horn lit up Oktoberfest Northwest.

And that's not just the Hacker-Pschorr Weiss talking. Mostly. Manuela Horn, the most awesome human at the beer festival.

Doug and Lynn Mackey were there and in a land faraway, which could be a shot of the Tetons, really.

Honey, let me build us a weird giant chair and I'll guarantee you crazy people will climb up into it, K?

Too much Doug Mackey?

Is this better? Yes!

Bruno's European Restaurant, just keepin' it real, yo.

Gutes Essen Haus' pork schnitzel plate is the schnitzel.

Good times and signs at the Gutes Essen Haus.

This. This is pretty much describes the music I heard yesterday at Oktoberfest Northwest. REO Speedwagon? Skrillex? Iron Butterfly? Not really.

Screw your fancy million-dollar, light show. When you have "real" Oktoberfest style, this is how you roll.

These are your parents on Warsteiner Dunkel.

He or she would appear every so often and lead a dance, and it might look silly and strange, but it was actually quite beautiful, and I would like to hereby thank him, whoever he or she is.

Classic!

What happens after you drink a giant stein of Warsteiner Oktoberfest on stage.

Deer head? Check.

You didn't expect a dude in a yellow security jacket to bring in the ceremonial firkin, did you?

And the firkin parade was launched.

Of course Manuela Horn lead the firkin parade.

He was in the parade.

So were these folks.

Go ahead, just walk on by like this was the most normal thing you'll see all day, which it probably was.

After the tapping of the firkin, the only and most violent event at Oktoberfest Northwest. The moment when all the happy goodness of the event gets a bit too much, and the opportunity for free beer brings out the evil.

Beer Pong, not exactly anywhere near as badass as, say, a stein-holding contest. But who cares? This is, like, new school silly Oktoberfest.

... And a chance to bond over competition.

The last scene I saw headed out the door. Lovely, really.

LINK: More 2014 Oktoberfest events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

October 6, 2014 at 8:27am

Hotel Murano toasts Breast Cancer Awareness Month with Pretty in Pink

Drink Pink at the Hotel Murano during October. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

During October, BITE restaurant at Hotel Murano is supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month by serving up special Pretty in Pink cocktails to raise money for Keep A Breast Foundation.

"Richard Tibbot, our restaurant manager at Hotel Murano, came up with the recipe," says Tess Burick, the marketing coordinator for Provenance Hotels, owners of the hotel in downtown Tacoma.

The restaurant is donating $1 from the sale of each Pretty in Pink cocktail, made with Fris vodka, Pama Pomegranate Liqueur, a splash of pineapple juice and a raspberry resting at the bottom of the martini glass, a combination that results in a cocktail that's the same color as the famous breast cancer awareness ribbon.

Last night, I handed over $7 for one of these beauties. It's a perfectly balanced cocktail that's wonderfully tart and sweet.

The pink cocktail promotion is also happening at other Provenance hotels' restaurants:

Miller's Guild at Hotel Max (Seattle): Calling Dr. Cosmo ($10) is made with Wodka Vodka, cranberry orange shrub and Scrappy's Lime Bitters;

Jackknife at Sentinel (Portland): The Left Handed Gun ($12) is made with Vida Mezcal, Dolin Genepy, grenadine, and lime;

Imperial at Hotel Lucia (Portland): The Harlequin ($10) is made with gin, aperol and lemon juice;

Driftwood Room at Hotel deluxe (Portland): The Rose Colored Glasses ($10) is made with gin, rose syrup, fresh lemon juice and champagne.

The Pretty in Pink cocktail is available through the month at BITE located on the fourth floor at Hotel Murano and in the hotel's lobby bar.

BITE AT HOTEL MURANO, 1320 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.591.4151

Filed under: Benefits, Booze, Tacoma,

October 6, 2014 at 10:37am

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with Sherilyn Lightner of Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen

Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen Bar Manager Sherilyn Lightner is ready to serve you in downtown Olympia. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Every week we swap out the Served banner art above, introducing you to the people who serve food and drinks in the South Sound. This week, meet Sherilyn Lightner.

Server Banner Girl, Oct. 6-12, 2014

Sherilyn Lightner

Sherilyn Lightner runs the bar at Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen, the Prohibition-era speakeasy in downtown Olympia. She has been bar mistress at Dillingers since it opened Jan. 28 of this year. She was a month away from moving to Portland, Oregon, in search of her next bartending challenge when she was asked to be part of the Dillingers team. It was her first opportunity to open a bar from the ground up, thoughtfully choosing all of the products and compiling the cocktail menu to suit the tone and theme of Dillingers, while offering something different for Olympia.

She began bartending nearly 11 years ago at Mercato Ristorante next to the Olympia Farmers Market. Since then, she has bartended at Waterstreet Café and Acqua Via, both in Olympia, and Juno in Seattle. What began as a job during college has turned into her passion.

Bartending can mean different things to different people. For Lightner, it is an art form, a craft, to be honed and perfected. Part of her journey has included entering competitions. Next year will be her third year competing in Speed Rack, an all-female, nationwide bartending competition that raises money for breast cancer research. The competition is held in eight major cities, including Seattle where Lightner will be competing. Participants go head to head, and are judged on speed and accuracy of four classic cocktails, picked at random, by four judges. According to Lightner, it's humbling, exhilarating and nerve racking.

Why do you serve?

"I love hospitality. If I had the time and the means, I would host intimate dinner parties every night. Serving is my way of doing just that. For a few hours, you are given the opportunity to create an experience for people, and it's a fun challenge to figure out what kind of experience they are looking for. It's an extreme honor to serve others, and be invited into their lives for a moment." 

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

"My favorite server in the South Sound is Andrew Buechel at Mercato Ristorante. He is the utmost professional, extremely attentive without being intrusive and he genuinely cares about hospitality. I call him ‘Champion', a nickname that he most definitely earned and deserves." 

What are you most proud to serve?

"I am most proud to serve any drink that a guest truly enjoys. I love broadening horizons, educating people about spirits and cocktails and turning people on to new things, but, ultimately, my job is to craft a drink that suits my guest. Whether that is a vodka and soda, or a Champs-Élysées, if you love it, I'm proud of it." 

What is your current drink of choice?

"I always love whiskey or cognac based cocktails. My ultimate go-to is the Vieux Carre, a blend of Cognac, Rye, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, and Peychauds and Angostura Bitters. It's like a Manhattan's richer, more sophisticated uncle. Or, a lovely glass of green Chartreuse with just a few ice cubes. You can never go wrong with Chartreuse." 

What is your favorite movie?

"Oy. That's a stressful question. I have different favorites based on different genres, or moods. However, if I had to pick ONE favorite, I would have to say Blade Runner. I could watch that film over and over, and never tire of it. SO good."

What don't you serve?

"I won't serve a drink that I can't stand behind. I taste nearly every cocktail I send out, because my name is attached to it. If it's not right, I won't serve it, and I'll keep working on it until it is right." 

What's on your radar at Dillingers?

"I want Dilllingers to continue to offer something different for Olympia. Now that we are established, I want to get into housemade infusions, barrel-aged cocktails, and more Dillingers originals. We will continue with pre-Prohibition and Prohibition-era cocktails as our main focus, but its a lot of fun to experiment, try new things and continue to challenge yourself. 

Meet Sherilyn Lightner: Dillingers Cocktails and Kitchen Chef Denise Alsonso will cook and Bar Mistress Sherilyn Lightner will pour champagne cocktails at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Bayview School of Cooking. The cost is $55. Reserve your space at 360.754.1448.

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

October 6, 2014 at 11:52am

Top Rung Brewing Co. to release new beers, increase hours and host Hoptober party

Top Rung Brewing Co.'s head brewer Jason Stoltz, left, chats with new hire Mike Besser, while the fifth batch of Prying Irons IPA ferments. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

"Hey! It's the Top Rung guys!"

I don't know how many times I have heard those words spoken with glee. I've heard the words at beer festivals, including the Washington Brewers Fest. I heard the words at beer events, including the recent soft opening of Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.

Top Rung Brewing Co. founders Casey Sobol and Jason Stoltz draw attention.

It could be the Thurston County firefighters are, well, firefighters, and good-looking ones to boot.

It could be they're genuinely nice guys.

Mostly, the home brewers turned brewery owners draw attention because they brew damn delicious beers.

Recently, huddled around Pint Defiance specialty beer store's taps, I witnessed customer after customer choose the Top Rung Prying Irons IPA after a taste comparison. Stoltz, head brewer, is currently fine-tuning his fifth batch of Prying Irons.

>>> Casey Sobol and Jason Stoltz pouring their Top Rung brews at the Washington Brewers Fest at Marymoor Park this past June. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

The duo opened their Lacey brewery in April. The career firefighters - 20 years for Sobol and seven for Stoltz - had been brewing in a garage between shifts at the McLane/Black Lake Fire Department. It became real when the duo's Hosechaser Blonde grabbed the Dick's Brewing "Beer for a Cure" home brewing contest top prize in 2012 - and they began to shadow Dick's brewer Parker Penley. After finding investors, including Olympia Brewfest founder Mike Marohn, they opened a 10-barrel production brewery with tasting room off Hogum Bay Lane. Currently on tap are the award-winning Hosechaser Blonde, Prying Irons IPA, Raspberry Wheat, Good Jake CDA and My Dog Scout Stout, which they often run through a Randall loaded with chocolate and coffee. Two weeks ago, they released their first red ale, the 360 Red (a complete 360-degree assessment must be complete in order to size up an incident) with Cascade and Nugget hops and malts Red X, 2-Row, oats and Chocolate. The firefighting motif carries over into their tasting room, which is family friendly. Snacks are available, but substantial food arrives via local food vendors and food trucks. They do allow patrons to bring in their own food or have it delivered.

>>> Top Rung Brewing Co.'s 360 Red

Top Rung Brewing will host a Hoptober party Saturday. I caught up with Operations Manager Sobol for party details, his latest hires and upcoming beer releases.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Tell me about the 360 Red.

CASEY SOBOL: This is the first Red we have done. We are very pleased with how it turned out. We've been happy with the color and balance. With all of our beers we may make some minor tweaks over time, but we are very pleased with the release of the Red.  We used a newer malt that we hadn't used before, Red X, and have been impressed with its performance and balance. It has received a great reception and is becoming very popular.  We expected that it would be a great offering to start in the fall. 

VOLCANO: Have you enjoyed running a brewery?

SOBOL: We enjoy the challenges and opportunities to come up with new recipes and the opportunity to see people enjoying our beer and talking about it.  We see ourselves as meeting a need in the community and providing people with a nice, relaxing atmosphere and place to congregate with family and friends while enjoying our craft beer.  It's also fun that both of us can brew and also do the "business" work. Obviously, the brewing is the fun!  But both Jason and I have divided up the work, and he took on the head brewer duties primarily and I took on the operations side of things. We both enjoy brewing.

VOLCANO: What did you not see coming once you turned on the machines?

SOBOL: Some of the time commitment and the challenges that create in trying to balance our time with our families, the brewery and our "full-time" jobs as firefighters. I think another challenge has been in distributing. We are self-distributing, which takes a significant amount of time and energy. I can't overemphasize the level of love and support we've received from our families in doing this and recognize the sacrifices that they have made as we fulfill our dreams and goals with the brewery and we can't thank them enough for that.

VOLCANO: I swear longtime beer blogger BrewDad poured me a Red Ale in your taproom Thursday.

SOBOL: Ahhh, Mike Besser.  We made the decision to hire two positions at the beginning of October, albeit sooner than we had anticipated doing.  But that decision was made as we found the amount of time we could commit to distribution wasn't where we wanted it to be and working in the tap room every night we were open in addition to our 24-hour fire department shifts was burning the candle at both ends a little too much.  We had the opportunity to meet Mike a couple years ago and he has been an excellent resource and extremely knowledgeable with beer.  He is well known, respected and has a very positive attitude.  Additionally, he has a wealth of contacts locally and we believe that he will be able to give the time and attention to our distribution that we want and help the brewery meet it's distribution goals.  We also hope to bottle in the near future, which will be another addition for distribution. Mike will also help with events and occasionally in the taproom.  In addition to Mike, we have hired Brittany who will work as a Tap Room associate and will also help with events and marketing.  They are both excellent additions to the Top Rung Brewing family. 

VOLCANO: I hope Mike continues to write at brewdad.com.

SOBOL: He will. We certainly encourage Mike to continue with that independently.

VOLCANO: How many batches have been released at Top Rung?

SOBOL: We are now on our 18th batch of beer overall, which is our Trashed Pumpkin Ale (see below).  Our fifth batch of Prying Irons IPA is in the fermenter now. We also brewed our first pilot batch of our Double IPA, which will be released at our brewer's night at Pint Defiance Thursday, Oct. 9, and at the Washington Beer Commission's South Sound IPA Fest at Tacoma's Union Station, Oct. 18. We had hoped to release some in the taproom but ran short. We'll plan to brew more. In regards to the Prying Irons IPA recipe, there have been some minor changes and adjustments to the amount of caramel malt and hop additions. In scaling up our recipes we knew the IPA would be the hardest to replicate just because of the challenges with hop utilization. This proved to be true. Welcome to craft brewing.

VOLCANO: Have you been well received in the firefighting community?

SOBOL: Yes, we do get firefighters from all over who visit the brewery. It's great to talk with them and have them visit.  We were especially pleased to hold our 9/11 Memorial run event here at the brewery on September 11th.  It was pretty emotional, and we couldn't have been happier with the outcome to remember those lost. This will be an annual event.

VOLCANO: What's next for Top Rung? 

SOBOL: We plan to continue to step up our production and distribution around Thurston, Pierce and Lewis counties. We will also continue to work on releasing some additional beers as part of our line-up. We are starting to get in more of a groove with our scheduling and timing of beer releases. 

Coming up, we will be releasing our Pumpkin Ale at our Hoptober party Oct. 11 - as well as an Imperial Stout and a Black Lager.  We will also be brewing some other beers on our pilot system and releasing them as a "Pilot Series" for in the taproom only and special events. 

On Thursdays, we will continue to do our "Thirsty Thursday" and run a beer through our Randall. 

And lastly, we will start to open on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. in a couple weeks and will have the Seahawks on!

The Top Rung Brewing Co.'s Hoptober party will consume the taproom, front patio and the large parking lot behind the brewery from 2-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11. Expect barbecue food, games such as cornhole, ladder toss and Jenga. As mentioned, Top Rung's Pumpkin Ale will be released at the party. Bluegrass trio The Outlanders will perform three sets beginning at 6 p.m. There isn't a cover charge.

TOP RUNG BREWING COMPANY, 4-9 p.m. Thursday, 2-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8343 Hogum Bay Lane NE, Suite B, Lacey, 360.239.3043

Filed under: New Beer Column, Lacey,

October 7, 2014 at 10:50am

Cooking with Harmon Brewing Co.

Jesse Holder of Harmon Brewing Co. discusses the joy of vanilla ice cream and Super Samurai Barleywine Ale at Harmon's Brewmaster Dinner Oct. 2. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Beer isn't just for drinking, folks.

Eating beer isn't a new or even modern concept. According to Homecooking.com, beer production began nearly 8,000 years ago, and beer consumers of the very early days considered it a food staple. National Public Radio recently reported that ancient Egyptian and Sumerian physicians considered cooking with beer a healthy practice.

Good news for beer and food lovers of modern days, yes?

Beer is a well-established ingredient in a variety of succulent and mouth-watering dishes. The fall and winter seasons, with their bevy of rich and delicious foods, pair perfectly with beer as part of a recipe - and, of course, to pair with the food.

Tacoma-based Harmon Brewing Co.'s Jesse Holder, director of brewery operations, and head brewer Jeff Carlson have spent time in the kitchen tinkering with beer recipes. While most dishes are a hit, there may be a few that don't work out.

"While we drink plenty of beer, we are still only mad scientists in the kitchen, trying things that ninety percent of the time turn out great; there is still that off-dish that we had in a dream, that isn't quite up to our standards," says Holder. "It should be noted that we are in no way trained chefs."

However, trained chefs or not, these guys love to experiment and have a lot of fun talking about it. We had a little Q & A session with Holder and Carlson.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: What kinds of foods best lend themselves to being prepared with beer as an ingredient? 

JEFF CARLSON: Any food can be prepared well with beer, depending on the style of the dish and beer. In most cases, beer pairs better than wine.  An example of this would be porters and stouts, some of Jesse's favorites, when cooking a chili. Any medium to full-bodied porter, such as our Puget Sound Porter, or stouts, such as our Stryker Stout, with plenty of chocolate and coffee notes, really help to add another level of flavor similar to a molé.  Another approach would be to mirror flavors found in both the dish and the beer, such as a malty amber with sweet barbeque.

JESSE HOLDER: Jeff likes to braise his ribs with our Expedition Amber or add a little in the sauce for pork chops; really, any meaty dishes work well with the amber. Honestly though, there is no single rule for pairing and cooking with beer, as with wine.  As in most cases, regarding trial and error, it can be hard, but once you create a hit, the rewards are fantastic.

VOLCANO: What style of beer is the best to work? 

CARLSON: Any beer can be used, but first you need to decide if you'll be complementing or contrasting the flavors in the beer or in the dish.  Malty beers for sweet foods is a great complementing element - sweet flavors versus sweet flavor - while hoppy beers complement sharp cheeses and spicy flavors - bold flavor versus bold flavor. 

VOLCANO: What are the most important tips for at-home cooks to know about using beer? 

HOLDER: In our experience, don't drink too much of the beer; you definitely want to save some for your dish and some for your guests.  Having to replace a vintage beer, with one that has less age or flavor, can really put a damper on the evening.

Beer is more complex than wine due to the vast variety and flavors currently on the market.  Stick to complementing flavors rather than contrasting the flavors when cooking with it.  Remember that when you cook with beer, the flavors become more intense and stronger.  The hops tend to concentrate quicker than malty sweetness - a brief simmering is essentially fool proof - but a reduction can change the flavors completely.  Use beer in brazing and sauces; don't just throw the beer in the recipe. And be careful to make sure the dish calls for it.

South Sound Seafood Skillet

18 oz. Harmon Mt. Takhoma Blonde

9 cloves garlic, crushed, divided

1 1/4 onion, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 lb. of Penn Cove Mussels, remove beards and clean

1 lb. steamer clams rinsed and cleaned

6 large Dungeness crab claws

1 1/2 lbs. salted butter

1 lemon, sliced

Add your favorite hot pepper sauce and Old Bay seasoning to taste

4 sauce dishes

2 skillets

1-4 empty bellies

Place large skillet over hot grill. Add Mt. Takhoma Blonde, half of the garlic, the onions and bay leaves. Bring to simmer and add shellfish.

In a spare skillet, melt butter. Divide melted butters across three side dishes. Add remaining garlic to one of the dishes and stir.  Squeeze juice from 1/3 of the lemon wedges into second dish of melted butter and stir. Add hot sauce and Old Bay to remaining dish and stir.

Remove shellfish from skillet, saving one cup of Mt. Takhoma Blonde liquid, and place the shellfish on a serving plate.  Strain reserved blonde into fourth sauce dish.

Serve shellfish immediately with assorted sauces.

SEE ALSO

Words and Photos from Harmon's 2014 Brewmaster's Dinner

October 7, 2014 at 11:33am

Eat This Now: Southwest Chipotle Chicken Pizza

Cross your fingers that Southwest Chipotle Chicken pizza can be delivered to your home. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

You'll notice a theme in my dining lately - take-out. I know, I know, there is good reason. I am a mother of four - two of which are 1 and 5 years of age, which equates to eating out becoming likened to wrangling a tornado of energy. Food peppers the tables and floor. Toddler sing-song wails shout out for more food or just out of sheer boredom. It is madness. So, besides the rare opportunity I get to slink away to dine in peace solo, take-out it is.

This week's Eat This Now recommendation is Sammy's Pizza, specifically the Southwest Chipotle Chicken. This pizza pie is described as a "fiesta in your mouth," with chipotle sauce laying down the foundations for loads of fun ingredients such as grilled chicken, red onion, roasted corn, black beans, fresh Roma tomatoes and cheddar cheese.

Bang! Pow!

It packs a lot of flavor, just a touch of spice and a bunch of yum.

If chipotle isn't your thing Sammy's Pizza has loads of traditional and gourmet toppings such as roasted garlic, coconut, cashews and basil. Plus you can easily be adventurous with their sauce options including a creamy garlic basil and smoky barbecue.

The good news for those who live in North Tacoma: Sammy's delivers! Check out sammyspizzatacoma.com to see if you're one of the lucky ones.

So while food still peppers the floor underfoot while the children holler and squeal in the background, at least my dogs are here to play maid a bit rather than some poor unsuspecting server who would prefer me to keep my gratuity and just stay home.

SAMMY'S PIZZA, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1308 N. I St., Tacoma, 253.627.4300

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

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