Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

December 16, 2014 at 7:26am

The Dark Walk: Engine House No. 9 and The Red Hot go big on the winter solstice

Engine House No. 9 will release its 2014 Snow Cru at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 21. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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During this time of year, it seems that no one can get enough of the celebrating, but some holidays are more noted by modern society than others. Nowadays, the winter solstice sometimes gets overlooked amid all the traditional eating and gift-giving days - but it's definitely significant. The winter solstice, Dec. 21 at 3:03 p.m., astronomically stands for the moment when the earth's axial tilt is farthest from the sun - directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. It also stands as the most ancient midwinter celebration and the source of many holiday traditions now associated with Christmas.

Throughout history, cultures around the globe have celebrated the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, as a time to reflect on the past year and look with hope to the coming year. Long ago, the winter solstice was a time communities came together in the uncertainty of living through the winter and enjoyed wine and beer that was ready to drink, but its significance was diminished after the spread of Christianity. These days, after '60s counterculture helped revive its memory, people are more aware of the solstice tradition from centuries ago.

A Winter Solstice Parade will be held in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood. It's doubtful the druid and pagan communities will be out in full force, dressed in magnificent costumes and singing incantations while waving luminous willow lanterns. No, this parade is a staggering affair between The Red Hot's Darkest Day and Engine House No. 9's 2014 Snow Cru release party. I do expect to see a BIC lighter or two.

"It's unfortunate the two celebrations landed on the same day. It wasn't planned that way," says Todd McLaughlin, bartender at Engine House No. 9. "You'd think since our staff drinks over there after shifts, and their staff drinks over here, that the big beer celebrations would have been planned on different days."

McLaughlin believes the two events happening at the same time is actually a good thing, bringing the beer community together due to the short walk between the two establishments. After all, the winter solstice has a social and spiritual element. At the time of greatest darkness, the solstice has been a beacon of light. There could be hugging and laughing at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Pine. There could be exchanging of beer and beard suggestions and alcohol by volume warnings. There are many ways to celebrate the solstice, but only the souls at The Red Hot and Engine House No. 9 could, by chance, create an observance loaded with symbolism, and robust, full-bodied beers with rich color and flavor.

At E9, the celebration centers on the release of head brewer Shane Johns' annual Snow Cru winter ale. This year, Johns blended his E9 Imperial Stout, Barrel Aged Belgian Dark Strong, Old English Barley Wine and Thunder Buddies Barley Wine to create a complex beer showcasing the characteristics of barrel aging. With the 2014 Snow Cru, Johns creates complexity centering on oak, in a multitude of forms, by brewing high-gravity beers in complementary styles, aging them in different barrel formats and then blending them together to achieve harmonious new flavor. As a finished beer, the 2014 Snow Cru will be dark, rich and complex.

In addition to the Snow Cru release, E9 will pour a bunch of their beers - from special barrel-aged house beers to double IPAs to wild ales - all pushing the upper end of the ABV meter. Here is what to expect Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m.: 2014 Snow Cru (of course), Life of Pi (ker), 2013 Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Passenger, 2013 Holy Diver, Barrel Aged Tripel, Nefelibata, Rhubarb Wild, VOLTRON 1.0, Viva la France Farmhouse, Vieux Monde Saison, Peabody Ale, Raspberry Farmhouse and the Peach Raspberry Tacoma Weiss. The Barrel Aged Triple and Raspberry Farmhouse might be new to folks. All these E9 beers will stay on tap until they blow.

The Red Hot's third annual Darkest Day begins at 9 a.m., pairing with its Sunday breakfast. Obviously, since it's a tavern specializing in craft beers and hot dogs, it will pour dark creations from breweries - 16 of them: 2011 Deschutes Abyss, 2012 Deschutes Abyss, 2014 Deschutes Abyss, 2012 Deschutes Black Butte XXIV, 2013 Deschutes Black Butte XXV, 2014 Deschutes Black Butte XXVI, Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti with cherries, Fremont Kentucky Dark Star, Fremont Kentucky Coffee Dark Star, Fremont Kentucky Spiced Dark Star, Midnight Sun Berserker, Midnight Sun Son of Berserker, Midnight Sun Bar Fly Smoked Imperial Stout, Naked City Big Lebrewski, Two Beers Sour Barrel Aged Jive Espresso Stout and Walking Man Jaywalker Imperial Stout. All these beers will be 5.5-ounce pours only, ordered by number, and when they're gone, they're gone. The Red Hot's celebration of the longest night comes with a cool T-shirt.

Sunday at the corner of Sixth and Pine will be a day of high alcohol warmth, lots of viscosity or mouth feel, assertive spices and bitterness and monstrous amounts of sweet, malty flavor. Society makes us feel weird and bad for sitting around in bars while the sun is still up (unless sports are on TV - then anything goes). On the winter solstice, you can feel good about hunkering down at your Sixth Avenue neighborhood bar when it's only 4 p.m., because it's probably dark out. And you can't really be depressed about it when you're looped on dark, heavy beers.

ENGINE HOUSE NO. 9, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21, 611 N. Pine St., Tacoma, no cover, 253.272.3435

THE RED HOT, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 21, 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.779.0229

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Served, a blog by the Weekly Volcano, is the region’s feedbag of fresh chow daily, local restaurant news, New Beer Column, bar and restaurant openings and closings, breaking culinary news and breaking culinary ground - all brought to the table with a dollop of Internet frivolity on top.

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