Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

Posts made in: January, 2015 (24) Currently Viewing: 1 - 10 of 24

January 2, 2015 at 10:36am

The Original Pancake House boosts Sixth Avenue's Boulevard of Breakfast

The Original Pancake House on Tacoma's Sixth avenue offers a truly diverse selection of pancakes - various combinations of eggs, milk and flour, fried or baked. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

There are so many breakfast options I think we ought to rename the strip. Maybe "Sausage Street" is more appropriate, or "Rise and Shine Road." Seriously, think about it: chilaquilles from Masa, Shakabrah's magic potatoes, elk hash from Dirty Oscar's Annex, Old Milwaukee Café's huckleberry hotcakes or Engine House 9's California Benedict. The culinary options available on the Ave first thing in the AM (particularly on the weekends) are mighty and diverse. And now, The Boulevard of Breakfast has welcomed a new morning dining staple in The Original Pancake House.

As of Dec. 23, OPH, which serves up breakfast only morning, noon and night in the space that Primo Grill used to call home, has joined the ranks of Sixth Ave. breakfast establishments.

Read Jackie Fender's full review of The Original Pancake House in the Restaurant section.

Filed under: Breakfast, Tacoma,

January 2, 2015 at 11:34am

Mac and Cheese Madness: Harmon Brewery & Eatery

The Harmon Brewery & Eatery serves their mac and cheese creamy. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

The Franciscan Polar Plaza ice-skating rink has, at its heart, attempted to bring life to a patch of land that has been, well, a little barren for the past few years. Tollefson Plaza has been criticized by many as a hefty investment with little return for the community. On-again, off-again efforts to turn the public plaza into something noticeably public have met with limited success. If downtown were brimming with daytime shoppers, Tollefson Plaza might attract a few people. But until then, organizers say, it's up to local organizations to make it a destination. Thanks to the Tacoma Art Museum, with backing from the Franciscan Health, Tollefson Plaza is full of life during the holiday season - although much of that life falls on its ass.

For the past three years I have booked live music every Saturday during the ice rink's run. I've witnessed amazing music, holiday cheer, hipsters falling right on their skinny-jeans bums, and couples, awash in love, rosy from the fresh air, celebrating their wedding proposals on ice. I've also seen a fare share on concussions and broken bones.

The musicians are good sports. Most Saturday nights have seen temperatures below freezing. Melodies have been twisted due to frozen digits and chilly deep breaths.

To accompany the new "Art of the American West" exhibit in the new Haub Family Collection wing at TAM, I booked bluegrass, country rock and old-timey bands at the rink. The Cottonwood Cutups, SweetKiss Momma, Shotgun Kitchen, The Rusty Cleavers, Dixie Highway and Forest Beutel added an awesome soundtrack for butterfly jumps, cherry-flips, layback spins - but mostly skating moves such as the unstable skating, the fall, the skid and the mixed-gender collision. This Saturday, Jan. 3, The Oly Mountain Boys bring it all home from 7-9 p.m.

What the hell does this have to do with mac and cheese?

While the musicians freeze their asses off, I typically take a long intermission and warm up with a Manhattan from a neighboring restaurant or bar. Two weeks ago, I made my way down Pacific Avenue for a delicious Manhattan made by lovely bartender Katie at Harmon Brewery & Eatery. It was there I discovered the Harmon's delicious creamy crab mac and cheese.

If ever there was a loaded dish, it is this. A huge dish full of cheese, Dungeness crab and nostalgia, and so hearty it can warm the coldest night. Elbow macaroni are enmeshed in creamy cheese sauce of Parmesan, Asiago, cotija as well as a cheddar/jack blend. A giant bowl arrives full of pasta, in what appears to be a simply creamy, cheese sauce flavored with Dungeness crab. But try to take a bite and you'll find that the stringy bits of cheese pasta are wholly enmeshed in the sauce. Better to take the scoop-and-shovel approach to eating this one. At $16.99, the giant bowl of comfort food will easily fill two bellies.

HARMON BREWERY & EATERY, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.2739

LINK: Video of Katie mixing a Manhattan at the Harmon

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

January 5, 2015 at 10:03am

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with bartender Tessa Rhodes of Masa

You'll find Tessa Rhodes behind the bar at Masa in Tacoma's Sixth Avenue neighborhood ... unless "Halloween" is on the tube somewhere. 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 Tessa Rhodes.

Server Banner Girl, Jan. 5-11, 2015

Tessa Rhodes

"Dark, deep red and full of zing, the Bloody Mary at the Harvester Restaurant's lounge is a patriotic salute to drinking - patriotic meaning one sip of bartender Tessa's concoction and I'm immediately at attention." I wrote that under the barfly pseudonym "Brad Allen" in the Oct. 23, 2006 issue of the Weekly Volcano. Tessa Rhodes, the bartender in the back lounge of the Tacoma Stadium District restaurant, was known for her Bloody Marys, serving them strong with a lime slice instead of celery. Rhodes has been pouring her enthusiasm into drinks for more than 16 years in Tacoma, including Hank's, Chopstix and her current gig - eight years at Masa. Besides delicious, well-crafted drinks, she's always good for an honest, interesting conversation.

Why do you like to serve?

"I have been a bartender for almost 17 years. I love the interaction with people - creating relationships and learning more about them. Also, the job is very active. I love going to work and knowing it'll be the same, but different, all at the same time. I'm not just sitting around."

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

"I have many friends in the service industry. I don't really have a favorite. I love all my peeps."

What are you most proud to serve?

"Honestly, after being in the industry for as long as I have, I most proud to serve a good product. I believe in great food and a drink that is made to perfection - which I believe we have at Masa."

What's your drink of choice?

"Well, I've enjoyed all types of alcohol, but I prefer Raspberry Stoli with 7 Up and a splash of cran." 

Favorite movie?

"That's a hard one. I do have to say I'm an '80s kid.  But, secretly I am an old horror movie junkie. I own them all and most of the new good ones. It's definitely a toss up between the Exorcist and Halloween. If I could get away with watching one of those on a weekly basis, I would." 

What don't you serve?  

"151. If you are taking shots of that you just want to throw up on yourself and there is so much more to enjoying yourself and your night in the bar." 

What's on your radar at Masa?

"We've been serving great and tasty new food and drink specials. And, I am always excited when we make new changes to the menu - which usually happens once a year. Also, being a part of our nightlife that is exciting, fun and providing a place for the guests to come and have a great night dancing with friends and family."

MASA, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11-2 a.m. Thursday and Friday, 9:30-2 a.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.254.0560

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

LINK: South Sound Happy Hour App

Filed under: Served Banner Models, Tacoma,

January 5, 2015 at 12:49pm

208 Garfield Beer Geek offers beer-tasting classes in January

208 Garfield in Parkland will host a series of beer-tasting classes using the Siebel Institute Basic Sensory Training Kit.

New Year resolutions are a manifestation of looking back and seeing all the foolhardy, self-serving, reprehensible qualities that have so bedeviled you in the past, then resolving to do better in the upcoming year. But, within the first few weeks of January, approximately 100 million Americans walk the same path. It's a path filled with empty promises to quit smoking, lose weight and exercise more. Trying to quit smoking can be as tough as Parker Posey in Dazed and Confused. And even though you're totally BFF with Mother Earth these days, did you really need those jeans made from cotton grown by blind monks? Maybe make this the year you get a grip on your finances. Consider education as a resolution. Expand the horizons of your mind. Put your mind to the test, because with every new thing you learn, another door opens. This could be something as easy as reading a novel, or learning the science behind tasting beer.

If building skills to distinguish between beer flavors is your resolution, then Pacific Lutheran University Sous-chef Erick Swenson has your, er, tongue. His four-part, beer-tasting class launches Sunday at 208 Garfield restaurant, running consecutive Sundays through Feb. 1. Titled "Perfecting Your Inner Beer Geek," Swenson is the perfect geek to teach the class. When he's not creating cuisine at PLU's dining facilities or catering departments, Swenson runs the monthly beer nights at neighboring restaurant, 208 Garfield. The brain trust at 208 Garfield endearingly dubs Swenson their resident "beer geek," encouraging him to help with their beer selection. In return, Swenson oversees the food production at the PLU commissary kitchen that supplies 208. With 20 years in the culinary field, it's surprising 208 doesn't call Swenson their "food geek."

"I have embraced the label of ‘geek'," says Swenson. "I use it as an alternative to ‘snob.' A geek is someone who finds a passion for a subject and then plunges in deep to learn as much about that subject as they can. A geek is excited about what they have learned and wants to share it with as many people as possible. In addition to that, a geek is looking for things to love about their subject where a snob would be looking for things they don't like. ‘Have you tried this? It is amazing,' says the geek. ‘I would never drink that. It's a domestic,' says the snob. I think that geeks are more fun to talk to and we want our events to be a fun experience with the chance to learn something."

Swenson has also been a home brewer for 17 years.

"I started with Charlie Papazian's books, of course, and I read as much as I could get my hands on. I also got a lot of useful advice from Beer Essentials and Larry's Brewing Supplies. I really went off the deep end when I read Ray Daniels' book, Designing Great Beer. That is the best primer for beer styles and ingredients that I have found. I have not taken any courses from the Siebel Institute but I was impressed with their website when I was researching Cicerone training. When I pitched the idea of doing a Sensory training course the Siebel Institute's kit made the most sense.

The Siebel Institute in Chicago, created by John E. Siebel in the mid-1800s, has graduated many a professional brewer. The school's training kits contain 24 vials of pre-measured "standards" representing some of the most important flavors and aromatics found in beer. With the help of the kits, Swenson will lead participants through four flavor trainings: earthy/spicy/acidic Jan. 11; vanilla/grainy/bitter Jan. 18; identifying flaws in beer Jan. 25; Cicerone Certification Program training Feb. 1. To reserve a spot, click here.

"We will be exploring six sensory characteristics per session by tasting the sample, comparing it to a neutral sample and then talking about the differences we taste," says Swenson. "I will be giving a short talk on each one of the samples to guide the tasting but it will be largely interactive. It is important when training the palate that you are able to make personal associations in your mind. For example, Duchesse de Bourgogne reminds me of a really nice raspberry vinegar and that is now what I look for in Flanders Sour Red beers. The samples have been roughly broken up into the four sessions. The first and second sessions will be mostly flavors that are common to specific styles of beer, the third session will be flaws in beer and the fourth session will cover the characteristics that are tested in the Certified Cicerone test. 

Zeroing in on the various flavors in different beers will help you begin to isolate the styles that you like the most. Is it bitter? Earthy? Are there fruity flavors? Smoke? How about grassy, herbal flavors? The tasting series offers a guided tour through important flavors in both brewing and drinking beer, but it is not officially sanctioned by the Siebel Institute or by the Cicerone program.

Where does Swenson get his beer geek on?

"At 208, of course," he replies. "I also enjoy the selection at the ParkWay. I have been following Wingman brewery since they started. I love their P-51 Porter, and I really like what Odd Otter Brewing is doing in downtown Tacoma. Mamma Otter's Pancake Porter ... wow!"

As I said, all those good intentions will fall by the wayside some time before Groundhog Day. A far easier resolution to uphold would involve adding awesomeness into your life rather than denying yourself it, such as Swenson's beer tasting series. That's why I typically start the year by promising myself to drink better beer than the year before. I haven't failed yet. And I wish you similar success.

PERFECTING YOUR INNER BEER GEEK, 2 p.m., Jan. 11, 18, 25 and Feb. 1, 208 Garfield, 208 Garfield St. S., Tacoma, $10 a class, $36 for series, 253.538.5990

Filed under: New Beer Column, Parkland, Tacoma,

January 6, 2015 at 10:41am

Top Rung Brewing Co. offers servicemember discounts

Casey Sobol, left, and Jason Stoltz founded Top Rung Brewing Co. in April 2014. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

For Lacey-based Top Rung Brewing Co., it's all about family, friendship and honoring those who serve with a great product, a terrific atmosphere and a heartfelt thank you.

It all began with a dream, hard work and the passion to serve the local community.

The craft beer brewery, who opened their facility and tasting room in the spring of 2014, is the product of a unique friendship and family collaboration. Casey Sobol, brewery operations manager and managing member, along with Jason Stoltz, head brewer and managing member, were both deeply passionate about brewing great beer. With the support of family, investors and friends, Top Rung Brewing was born.

However, both men have another important role: they work full-time as firefighters, serving the Olympia area.

With that in mind, Top Rung Brewing Co. is passionate about recognizing and supporting families; not only immediate families but the "family" of servicemembers, fellow firefighters and police officers who serve their country and communities. As a way of saying thank you, the brewer has created "Challenge Coin Saturday" to recognize military, firefighters and police officers. Patrons that show their challenge coins on Saturdays will receive a $1 discount on a pint (military ID will also be honored to receive the discount). Also, the same group of servicemebers may receive a $1 discount on their first pint Thursday-Sunday, unless they pull out a coin on Saturdays.

"Jason and I took on the ‘challenge coin' concept, which started in the military, and thought it would be a neat way to recognize people," explains Casey Sobol. "We wanted to do something to say thank you to the military, fire and police communities and to recognize their service to our country and our communities."

In addition to recognizing those who serve, Sobol said it's also important to recognize families too.

"When it comes to balance, we have to achieve that very delicately," says Sobol, the parent of two young daughters. "Working on this business and being a firefighter, well, it can be challenging at times, but we make it work.

"We are so thankful for our families and their support; that's why it was important to have Top Rung be family friendly. I wanted to be able to bring my girls here."

Seating is long wooden tables to accommodate groups and conversation. The brewery provides a variety of board games to borrow and play (in the warmer months, outdoor games are planned). While there is a television available for big game day viewing, the volume is off. It's a relaxed environment to enjoy family and friends (to note: snacks are available and patrons can bring their own food).

And, of course, there is some terrific beer.

All the brews have subtle and not-so-subtle firefighter-themed names. The Prying Irons IPA and the My Dog Scout Stout are patron favorites. The pumpkin ale was also a big hit in the fall. A light, easy drinking black lager winter release is in the works and the brewery also features a nice Cascadian dark ale, Good Jake CDA, that hop lovers will appreciate.

Other plans for the brewer for 2015? It is going to be an exciting year.

According to Sobol, they plan to start bottling their beer in the first quarter of this year in-house with limited release. A beer club is in the works that promises to be one of a kind.

Top Rung will also be offering their first beer pairing dinner and tasting Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. in their tap room.  The special dinner will offer a full menu, tastings, brewery tour and brewing overview. Tickets are $45 per person and available at the brewery. This event is limited to 26 people.

For more information on Top Rung, upcoming events, hours of operation, directions and more, visit them online at toprungbrewing.com or on Facebook.

Top Rung Brewery Co. is at 8343 Hogum Bay Lane NE in Lacey.

January 7, 2015 at 10:31am

Eat This Now: Shrimp and Grits

The Social Bar and Grill serves a spicy Shrimp and Grits dish. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

When you work in the restaurant industry there are some definite perks to the job. Typically those perks involve one of three things, in no particular order: the tips, the flexibility and the grub. I've been in the restaurant industry for more than a dozen years and can say, without a doubt; those three aspects are why I stay in the business. I have served at establishments with less than desirable food. I vowed to never allow monetary compensation to sway me again. Let's face it: after a craptastic day working a shift you picked up for someone else that garnered equally craptastic tips, your meal may be the only perk.

The grub is one of the reasons I remain at The Social Bar and Grill. Although I'm on the substitution list, The Social's fabulous fusion flavors from the Mediterranean, Pacific Islands, Spain and Central American coastlines - and their fun cocktails (OK, it's really all about the SBG Manhattan) - bombards my mind during decision time.

Currently, my favorite Social dish, and my Eat This Now recommendation, is their Shrimp and Grits. May Southern Belles are raising brows in doubt, but hear me out Though the Social's Shrimp and Grits is not a traditional take, it's so damn tasty you'll forgive all that. Meaty shrimp and cubed pork bits are sautéed with onions and bell peppers to perfection. There's some spectacular spicing going on that leaves each bite full of flavor with just a whisper of heat. Placed upon a generous serving of creamy grits and corn it's a divine entrée that serves up some bang for its buck. Every forkful carries multiple textures and superb flavors.

Try it. You'll like it.

THE SOCIAL BAR AND GRILL, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 1715 Dock St., Tacoma, 253.301.3835

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

January 7, 2015 at 1:55pm

Beer Here: Hop Valley, Tacoma Runners, Guzzling For Gorillas, 7 Seas Brewing ...

Powerhouse restaurant & Brewery has unleashed its Jan-u-cherry saison. Best get on that before it's gone. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Well looky here, it's 2015. And we hope you rang in the New Year exactly how you wanted to. But just because some of us may have partied hard last week, doesn't mean we're not going to take January lying down. Hell no. We're going to get out there and live it - and so should you.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 7

Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery (454 E. Main, Puyallup) has been releasing its Sourhouse series of barrel-fermented saisons over the past month. This week, their merlot barrel fermented saison with dark cherries Jan-u-cherry has hit the snifters.

Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. (610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) proclaimed their New Year's resolution is a happy hour every Wednesday-Friday until 6 p.m. And it is so. Expect dollar off pints and discounts on growlers.

Puyallup River Alehouse (120 S. Meridian, Puyallup) hosts Bainbridge Island Brewing for a brewer's night, 6-9 p.m. Expect to drink Eagle Harbor IPA, Puget Sound Giant Hoptopus, Arrow Point Amber, and a barrel-aged olde ale.

THURSDAY, JAN. 8

Hop Valley Brewing Co. out of Eugene, Oregon, will head to the house of burgers and brisket - Stuck Junction Saloon in historic downtown Sumner - for brewer's night festivities and HVB beers, including Double D Blonde Ale, Alphadelic IPA, V.I.P (Vanilla Infused Porter) and Festaroo Winter Ale, their winter warmer. HVB rep Rob Brunsman will kick off the craziness at 6 p.m.

Forget light and low-carb beers. The Tacoma Runners have a better method for fighting fat: They run then drink beer. They're the classic drinking group with a running problem. They meet at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at a Pierce County alcohol-slinging joint, run 3 miles and then return to the starting line to celebrate. This week, the group will meet at the Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. for Moon Yard Ales, Dirty Skoogs IPA, Donkey Puncher ESB and elevated heart rates.

SUNDAY, JAN. 11

Pacific Lutheran University Sous-chef Erick Swenson offers a four-part, beer-tasting class launching Sunday at 208 Garfield restaurant, running consecutive Sundays through Feb. 1. Read the full story on Swenson's classes here.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 14

In the late '80s, only 248 mountain gorillas remained in the wild, no thanks to civil wars, dangerous diseases, poaching and the devastating consequences of increased habitat loss. And although the number of gorillas living in the wild has now risen to more than double thanks to the efforts of such groups as the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, the situation is still tenuous. Disease remains rampant, and logging and land development continue at an alarming rate. Clearly, there's only one thing to do: drink beer. Tacoma's Drinking for Conversation folks present "Guzzling for Gorillas," where 50 cents of every draft beer sold at Doyle's Public House will be donated to the MGCF. If you enjoyed Drinking for Lynx last month at the ParkWay, you'll certainly enjoy guzzling beers at Doyle's Public House (208 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma), beginning at 5 p.m. Who's wearing a gorilla suit that night?

7 Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor is unleashing head brewer Travis Gutterson on Pint Defiance (2049 Mildred St., Tacoma) to answer questions and hug it out with his fans, beginning at 5 p.m. In Gutterson's trunk will be a bunch of 2013 Wheelchair Barleywine. The Pint Defiance folks will also run 7 Seas' Rude Parrot IPA through a Randall full of fresh hops.

Harmon Brewing Co. will takeover the taps at Ammar's Mediterranean Grill (409 E. 26th St., by Tacoma Dome) from 5-7 p.m. You'll receive a raffle ticket with every Harmon beer.

SATURDAY, JAN. 17

Wingman Brewers (509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma) will host their annual Porterpalooza in which they'll offer creative variations on their flagship P-51 Porter, from 2-11 p.m. Expect to drink the following variations on their Porter theme: Coconut, Peanut Butter Cup, Vanilla Rum, Chili Pepper and Sichuan Pepper Corns, Maple Pecan, Chocolate Orange, Smoked Sea Salted Caramel, Mexican Chocolate and Cinnamon Raisin. Also available during PorterPalooza will be Wingman's Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Baby Flat Top, aged in Willet Distillery barrels from Kentucky. So good! A $5 cover secures a commemorative glass and a first pour; all other pours cost $4 each.

Bayview School of Cooking teams up with Elysian Brewing to present "New Year- New Beer, A Brewery Dinner with Elysian Brewing" at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. Bayview chefs and Elysian's regional manager will pair beers with a five-course dinner, and discuss all aspects at the school (516 W. Fourth Ave., Olympia). The dinner will include Avatar Jasmine IPA partnered with chicken wings in a spicy peanut sauce and the Split Shot Stout matched with coffee and ancho chili flat iron steak with a green chili apple relish and garlic mashed potatoes. Nice. Tickets are $75 and reservation is required at 360.754.1448.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 21

The Swiss Restaurant and Pub (1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma) has their beer dinners dialed in, offering multiple food courses paired with beer, beer production and history from brewers and reps, preparation details from the kitchen and lots of laughs. This month, Silver City Brewing teams up with The Swiss kitchen on a Wednesday night. Drop by the historic building with $40 to secure a delicious, fun time.

January 9, 2015 at 2:07pm

Mac and Cheese Madness: The Homestead Restaurant and Bakery

If you like it thick ...

Pop the cap on your Lipitor bottle mac-and-cheese lovers. This week's Mac and Cheese Madness column moseyed over to The Homestead Restaurant and Bakery.

South Tacoma Way's classic cowboy diner serves many winners below its wagon wheel ornamentation. "Bakery" is, indeed, part of its name, and the house-baked fluffy biscuits, coffee can bread, pies and cinnamon rolls confirm. The slow-roasted pot roast is a solid choice. And the awesome honky-tonk and early blues masters (John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Blind Willie McTell) bounce off the aged cedar walls.

It's three sunny side eggs, fried chicken and meatloaf all around. The pancakes are huge and fluffy; the omelets are decent, and the hash browns are perfect. 

The prices are ridiculously low across the board.

What makes a great mac and cheese is perhaps more intensely subjective than pizza crust preferences. Is it thick, creamy cheese sauce or a layer of cheesy crust? Some say it requires a generous topping of seasoned breadcrumbs, while others are staunchly anti-crumb. The Homestead's version ($4.25!) was elbow macaroni with an ultra-thick casserole concoction of Cheddar, American, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and seasoned breadcrumbs. It was not my thing. I found it too thick, with a Campbell's cream soup texture.

Did I mention you receive a free slice of housemade cream pie with dinner?

THE HOMESTEAD RESTAURANT AND BAKERY, breakfast, lunch, dinner, 7837 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma; 253.476.9000

LINK: More mac and cheese dishes in the South Sound

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

January 12, 2015 at 10:16am

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with bartender Renee Wagner of Stuck Junction Saloon

Renee Wagner will pour you a locally-made moonshine at Stuck Junction Saloon in downtown Sumner. 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 Renee Wagner.

Server Banner Girl, Jan. 12-18, 2015

Renee Wagner

Cynthia Soos, owner of the Pacific Coffee House in downtown Tacoma, opened Stuck Junction Saloon in March 2014 in downtown Sumner. The former Main Street Bar & Grill/Bottomz Up Bar & Grill/Sharkey's Pub spot has turned the kitchen around - thanks to Hawaiian native Rida Reed - serving mind-blowing burgers made from ground chuck and brisket from Puyallup's Blue Max Meats, as well as shined a spotlight on craft beers and opening the doors for a crowded house every Thursday for James Coates' open mic. Soos recruited her favorite bartender, Renee Wagner, from the former Nifty's Fifty's across from Tacoma Community College, to lead her bar staff. Wagner has a serious talent for multitasking - engaging and interacting with guests, making drinks, directing staff and keeping a clean bar.She also throws out an immediate eye contact and smile, putting waiting customers at ease.

Why do you serve?

"It's all about the people. I love seeing new faces, as well as familiar faces, too. The full array of people keeps me smiling and on my toes."

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

"Rachel Wagner - ho happens to be my sister. She runs Legends, the bar at Denny's in Lakewood. Rachel has turned that bar upside down. It went from making no money to being a super successful, Bengals-hosting karaoke spot. I look up to her. She got me started in this bartending adventure."

What are you most proud to serve?

"Our food! It's fresh and never frozen. Our chef Rida Reed puts a spin on plain dishes; the execution is amazing. From burgers to seafood to pulled pork nachos - you can't go wrong."

What's your current drink of choice?

"The mojito. Stuck Junction serves it with fresh mint, fresh fruit and, with my spin of a housemade simple syrup ... I have become a muddling fool. The outcome is ridiculous good." 

Favorite movie?

"Hummmmmmmmm. I'm a sucker for a corky comedy - so Waiting and Grandma's Boy are up there pretty high on my list."

What don't you serve?

"Trash cans! And I don't miss it." 

What's on your radar at Stuck Junction Saloon? 

"Moonshine. We have a superb product from the RackHouse line by Parliament Distillery right here in Sumner. With flavors from Burn Box to Sour Cherry, Parliament puts a spin on it. And the finished product is amazing!"

STUCK JUNCTION SALOON, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Wednesday, 11-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1005 W. Main St., Sumner, 253.826.4408

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

LINK: South Sound Happy Hour App

Filed under: Served Banner Models, Sumner,

January 12, 2015 at 11:22am

Power to the Porter: Porterpalooza returns to Wingman Brewers

P-51 Porter's posterity will pour during Porterpalooza Jan. 17. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Poor Porter. What was once the most popular style of ale in 18th century London, Ireland and the American colonies - beloved by George Washington and a possible business adventure for Thomas Jefferson - the Porter fell on hard times. Roughians Pale Ales, Mild Brown Ales and Stouts shoved beer foam in Porters' face, eventually taking over Northern European taste buds. In mid-19th century America, German immigrants opened their long mohair coats with larger beers dangled inside, winning the hearts of Blue and Gray, as well as the Gold out West.

Oh, but Porter once had supporters. In the early 1700s, it was common for London pub patrons to ask for blends of the various available brews. Historical documents say the Brits called their mixed beer beverage "Three Threads" using a third of a pint each of ale, lager and a strong brew called "Twopenny." Eventually, bartenders told the Three Threadheads to take a flying leap off the London Bridge. Around 1730, a brewer named Harwood came up with a solution. He re-created the flavor of Three Threads into a single craft beer called Entire before it reached the pub. This beer came to be loved by porters and other physical laborers, and so earned its name, Porter.

But, a century later, PBS - Browns, Pales and Stouts - grabbed the public dollars, pushing Porter to the postern.

It wasn't until the late 20th century when bearded guys in Jean Vigne T-shirts, better known as American craft brewers, pulled the Porter out of the scrap heap, strapped on their prize power over finesse bibs, highly hopped the brew, incorporated smoked malts and placed it on a pedestal. The new American brewers created a smooth, balanced, dark brew with subtle roasted-malt flavors of coffee and chocolate bound by a sort of tart, minerally twine. OK, it wasn't a full-bodied, full-flavored and often full of alcohol Stout sitting in its leather chair by the fire, but rather one notch below, sharing the Stout's color but different in that it lacked the Stout's intense roastiness. That's so Porter - balanced, with modest levels of alcohol and plenty of room for delicate, complex aromas and flavors, sitting on a stool next to a trashcan fire, one notch higher than shivering Lager 20 feet away.

Does Porter have you now? Has its rise to power inspired you? Are you so joy-filled you spread your love for Porter on Instagram or SnapChat? Or fill a little locket with Porter and clasp it around your neck?

There's an even better way to show your love for Porter.

Ken Thoburn, brewer-owner of Wingman Brewers in Tacoma, will pay homage to Porter during the brewery's annual Porterpalooza celebration Saturday, Jan. 17. On tap will be nine different Porters - all made by Wingman.

Thoburn and his crew will offer creative variations on their flagship P-51 Porter: Coconut, Peanut Butter Cup, Vanilla Rum, Chili Pepper and Sichuan Pepper Corns, Maple Pecan, Chocolate Orange, Smoked Sea Salted Caramel, Mexican Chocolate and Cinnamon Raisin. The celebration not only allow Thoburn and his crew to exhibit their Porter polish, but also select winners for a spot in the regular rotation. Porterpalooza gave birth to their staples Coconut Porter and the Peanut Butter Cup Porter.

"We brewed with Peanut Butter first for Strange Brewfest (Port Townsend) a few years ago making a peanut butter-coconut beer. After that, we decided to try the peanut butter-chocolate combination in our P-51 Porter for 2014 Porterpalooza last January," says Thoburn. "It was a huge hit, so we brought it back for the Washington Brewers Festival last June and since then, we've had non-stop requests to make it again. Since we cave easy to pressure from our customers, we decided to make it again for Porterpalooza 2015 - this time to also put it into 22-ounce bottles as a seasonal so everybody - not just those at Porterpalooza - can get their hands on it."

Thoburn says he learned the precise technique of adding copious amounts of peanut butter and chocolate to the post-fermented beer from the Big Al Brewing folks in Seattle.

"There has been much trial and error in trying to add oily products to beer," says Thoburn, "but we think we finally got it right."  

The P-51 Porter was Wingman's first real beer recipe. 

"It goes back to 2008 when Derrick (Moyer) and I were home brewing," explains Thoburn. "At the time, Lazy Boy Porter from Everett was my favorite beer around, so we tried to emulate that. The beer was initially made for a friends birthday and called ‘Nalty's Tall Order Porter' since he's a tall dude and asked us to make a Porter for his birthday party. The beer went over so well with our friends that it remains the only recipe we've never changed since Wingman started. We now make P-51 Porter for our taproom, local sale, can sales, Coconut Porter and now Peanut Butter Cup Porter. They are all the same base recipe made with Washington-grown barley and Moxie valley hops. I don't know exactly how much we make each year but I think it makes up around a fourth of our production ... it sure seems like I make it a lot."  

Thoburn feels he can control the amount of flavor in Porters best when he adds the flavoring components after fermentation. The exception to this is when he uses fresh fruit; he often ferments the beer with fresh fruit. He says ample aroma is lost during fermentation and the flavors of ingredients change greatly during fermentations, which is why he likes to add elements in afterward.  

What advice would Thoburn give an up-and-coming craft brewer when considering how to brew a Porter product? 

"Find a yeast you like," he says. "I love the flavors that we get from our traditional English Ale yeast.  The yeast is a bear to work with, but I think the end product is worth it.  After you have a yeast picked, it's time to decide if you want the beer to be chocolaty and smooth or roasty and bitter - or even some combination of those items. Selecting caramel malts and what kind of roasted malts you use and in what quantities can be tricky. As a professional brewer, I would never be able to come up with a recipe like P-51 now. It uses an absurd amount of specialty malts - malts that taste like caramel, chocolate, coffee, biscuit and such. It goes against conventional wisdom to brew a beer with so many specialty malts but when we made the recipe, we didn't know any better and turns out it works."  

Also available during Porterpalooza will be Wingman's Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Baby Flat Top Imperial Stout, aged in Willet Distillery barrels from Kentucky.

"The Big Baby Flat Top Imperial Stout" was at our Denizens of the Dark event last month and it will be in bottles during Porterpalooza," Thoburn says. "We have had it aging in barrels since last March and we're very excited to release in bottles as the second beer in our Bourbon Barrel Aged Series."  

A $5 cover secures a commemorative Porterpalooza glass and a first pour; all other pours cost $4 each.

If you're looking for a little decadence with a lot of history, pull up a stool at Porterpalooza and ask Thoburn to pull you a Porter.

PORTERPALOOZA, 2-11 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 17, Wingman Brewers, 509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, $5 cover, 253.256.5240

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

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