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March 27, 2015 at 7:51am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Second Round baby!

Bar Bistro's mac and cheese (pictured) battles the mac and cheese from The Galley at 7 Seas Brewing today. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

FRIDAY, MARCH 27: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

It's a simple equation: elbow macaroni plus cheese equals mac and cheese. But hidden within this simple formula is a universe of variety. Stovetop or baked? Macaroni or penne? Bacon or crab? Everyone who makes this classic American staple, from national fast-food joints to local mom and pops, has choices to make. And in those choices lie the path to greatness.

The field of 64 South Sound mac and cheese dishes has been voted down to 32 in the mother of all mac and cheese brackets. You've seen the carnage: chain restaurants fell, powerhouses butted heads and lobster mac and cheese dishes are making a run at the prize. Welcome to the Second Round. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Eleven Eleven (1111 S. 11th St., Tacoma) vs. Farrelli's Pizza (4870 Yelm Hwy., Lacey)

It's good to be bearded brothers Justin and Rob Peterson. Their co-venture Galley food truck in front of 7 Seas Brewery was victorious in the First Round. Their Valley restaurant and bar down the street from the Tacoma Dome also won. And their first venture, the Eleven Eleven, beat Farrelli's Pizza in Lacey yesterday, capturing 86 percent of the votes. It's safe to assume the beards stay, in more ways than one.

Game 2: Smoke + Cedar (2013 S. Cedar St., Tacoma) vs. Johnny's Seafood Market & Bistro (1199 Dock St., Tacoma)

In the closest battle of the day, although it wasn't that close, Smoke + Cedar grabbed 72 percent of the vote for the win. Surprisingly, Johnny's Seafood's patio on a glorious sunny day wasn't a factor. Once Smoke + Cedar's skillet full of owner Gordon Naccarato's version of the Augusta National pimento cheese recipe got hot, it was over. Smoke + Cedar moves into the Second Round and a March 30 date with Eleven Eleven.

Game 3: Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (454 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma) vs. Homestead Restaurant & Bakery (7837 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma)

Maxwell's took second place in last year's Tournament of Burgers. Their experience came to the forefront during yesterday's game against the barn-dwelling Homestead. Ignoring the late-afternoon penalty the Homestead received for counting their chickens before they hatched, Maxwell's 81 percent of the vote victory came from the one-two punch of sharp white cheddar and crispy bacon. Maxwell's moves into the Second Round.

Game 4: Ramblin Jacks (520 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia) vs. H.G. Bistro (1618 E. Main Ave., Puyallup)

Ramblin Jacks must have been rambling too much. The downtown Olympia Southern-influenced American barbecue and pizza joint was all over the place during their game with H.G. Bistro, the popular downtown Puyallup restaurant with a killer happy hour. H.G. Bistro included Facebook posts as part of their game plan, a plan that also included cooking tasty mac and cheese. H.G. Bistro grabbed 76 percent of the vote and moves into the Second Round and a March 30 date with Maxwell's.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

Elven Eleven

Smoke + Cedar

Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge

H.G. Bistro

The daily mac and cheese battles here on Served in the South Sound are sponsored by BITE Restaurant & Bar inside the Hotel Murano.

OK, let's check out today's Second Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.



Tomorrow's Second Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Harmon Brewery & Eatery (1938 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) vs. Over The Moon Café (709 Opera Alley, Tacoma)

Game 2: The Forum Tacoma (815 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) vs. BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma)

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Southern Kitchen (1716 Sixth Ave., Tacoma)

Game 4: Westside Tavern (1815 Harrison Ave. NW, Olympia) vs. El Gaucho (2119 Pacific Ave., Tacoma)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 24, 2015 at 8:02am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Day 6 First Round games and yesterday's winners

Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe serves a mac and cheese with prosciutto, pork belly, tomato or pesto options. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

TUESDAY, MARCH 24: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

The seed was planted last April during our Tournament of Burgers Championship party at Meconi's in downtown Tacoma. After taking second place to the Westside Tavern, Maxwell's chef Hudson Slater suggested mac and cheese for the Weekly Volcano's 2015 food tournament.

The South Sound Tournament of Mac and Cheese launched Thursday with 64 mac and cheese joints battling toward the championship game April 6. Follow along with the Tournament of Mac and Cheese bracket attached (below and to the right).

Without further ado, let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: C.I. Shenanigans (3017 Ruston Way, Tacoma) vs. Applebee's (10407 Gravelly Lake Dr. SW, Lakewood)

The nice thing about being a number one seed is it usually means you've got a paddy-cake game the first round. So was the case for Tacoma waterfront restaurant C.I. Shenanigans, which easily handled the 16-seeded Applebee's by securing more than 96 percent of the vote. Even better, Shenanigans survived the contest without wacky promotional schemes such as asking diners to rewrite popular songs with Applebee's menu items as the lyrics ... so bonus!

Game 2: Crown Bar (2705 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Tides Tavern (2925 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor)

Serving delicious mac and cheese to intoxicated masses on Sixth Avenue is business genius, probably why Tacoma's Crown Bar does it. However, name recognition also goes long way - and Tides Tavern has been slinging food and drinks wearing boat shoes for ages. In this contest, late night food carried the day, with the Crown Bar securing roughly 70 percent of the votes and winning easily.

Game 3: Topside Bar and Grill (215 Wilkes St., Steilacoom) vs. Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma)

If there's a trend developing it's that Tournament of Mac and Cheese voters are wowed by unique toppings. Sure, and fancy mac and cheese can get you somewhere in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese, but it doesn't guarantee anything - and your cheese sauce foundation has to be sound before voters will get behind some of the stranger stuff. While Topside Bar and Grill gushes beautiful view and community feel, voters flocked toward the down home, Tailgate-style, Lit'l Smokies laden mac and cheese goodness of Engine House No. 9 in this contest, awarding the old firehouse roughly 83 percent of the vote.

Game 4: Paesan Kitchen and Bar (1705 Dock St., Tacoma) vs. Southbay Dickerson's BBQ (619 Legion Way NE, Olympia)

Fontina cheese is the star ingredient in Paesan Kitchen & Bar's gooey baked penne pasta, although the leeks, egg, mustard, chili flakes, grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs would tell you different, if they could. It's baked ... and so is Southbay Dickerson's BBQ after this battle. The downtown Olympia barbecue joint threw everything and the kitchen sink at Paesan, but the tiny Dock Street Tacoma's kitchen was too much for Dickerson's. With 88 percent of the votes, Paesan Kitchen and Bar advances to the Second Round and a March 29 date with Engine House No. 9.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

C.I. Shenanigans

Crown Bar

Engine House No. 9

Paesan Kitchen and Bar

The daily mac and cheese battles here on Served in the South Sound are sponsored by BITE Restaurant & Bar inside the Hotel Murano.

OK, let's check out today's First Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.




Tomorrow's First Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Metropolitan Market (2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma) vs. Uncle Thurm's Finger Lickin' Ribs & Chicken (3709 S. G St., Tacoma)

Game 2: Rosewood Café (3323 N. 26th St., Tacoma) vs. Serious Soul Café (35501 21st Ave. SW, Federal Way)

Game 3: Oakhouse Restaurant & Bar (8102 Zircon Dr. SW, Lakewood) vs. King Solomon's Reef (212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia)

Game 4: Mac N More (9323 Martin Way E., Lacey) vs. Silvers Saloon (2752 Pacific Ave. SE, Olympia)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 23, 2015 at 8:03am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: First Round action, plus yesterday's results

Engine House No. 9's Tailgate Mac And Cheese (pictured) takes on the Topside Bar & Grill in today's Tournament of Mac and Cheese action. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

MONDAY, MARCH 23: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

It's Monday, March 23, which means I tempt you with more South Sound mac and cheese battles in the Tournament of Mac and Cheese. First, a touch of mac and cheese history: Thomas Jefferson helped make macaroni and cheese popular in the United States after sampling it in Italy. He brought home a pasta maker and introduced the dish in 1802. Mac and cheese is obviously the food of presidents, for it was also Ronald Reagan's favorite. Reagan enjoyed a little dry mustard and Worcestershire in his mac and cheese.

Without further ado, let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: Harmon Brewery & Eatery vs. McNamara's Pub & Eatery

Unexpectedly, this was an epic battle ... the kind of thing Tournament of Mac and Cheese "instant classics" are made of. A surprisingly low scoring affair, with much of the action on defense, the fifth seeded Harmon Brewery & Eatery and the 12th seeded McNamara's Pub & Eatery were in a dead heat - literally tied - going into the final hours of the competition. Back at Weekly Volcano World Headquarters, Tournament of Mac and Cheese officials frantically discussed what to do in the case of a tie? Overtime? Coin flip? See which establishment could deliver mac and cheese to our Lakewood office the fastest? In the end, The Harmon edged out the win, securing exactly 52.94 percent of the vote. This one will go down in the history books.

Game 2: Over The Moon Café vs. Quickie Too

Over The Moon Cafe quickly comes to the lips of many when discussing the best South Sound mac and cheese. So, perhaps it's no surprise that the romantic café tucked in Tacoma's Opera Alley frequented by lunching ladies and lovers alike did serious damage in yesterday's action, kicking Niombi and James Howell's beloved vegan restaurant to the curb while garnering 59 percent of the vote. Over The Moon Cafe moves on as a mac and cheese to reckon with in later rounds of Tournament of Mac and Cheese action.

Game 3: Westside Tavern vs. The Swiss Restaurant & Pub

Westside Tavern and The Swiss Restaurant & Pub battled back and forth all day, changing leads several times. It's our guess that Westside Tavern's Facebook push might have made the difference as the Westside Olympia joint ended up edging out The Swiss with 59 percent of the votes.

Game 4: El Gaucho vs. Panera Bread

The other close game was El Gaucho vs. Panera Bread. We dropped by both restaurants yesterday to check out the behind-the-scenes game day action. Surprisingly, the quieter one - El Gaucho -ended up winning with 55 percent of the votes. It could be that the downtown Tacoma fine-dining restaurant was pushing their Washington wines hard. Smart move. El Gaucho will meet Westside Tavern in the second Round March 28. Lives will change after this one.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

Harmon Brewery & Eatery

Over The Moon Cafe

Westside Tavern

El Gaucho

The daily mac and cheese battles here on Served in the South Sound are sponsored by BITE Restaurant & Bar inside the Hotel Murano.

OK, let's check out today's First Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.



Tomorrow's First Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: Masa (2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Steel Creek American Whiskey Co. (1114 Broadway, Tacoma)

Game 2: Chambers Bay Grill (6320 Grandview Dr. W., University Place) vs. Lunchbox Laboratory (4901 Point Fosdick Dr. NW, Gig Harbor)

Game 3: Ricardo's Restaurant (5211 Lacey Blvd. SE, Lacey) vs. Oly Rockfish Grill (700 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia)

Game 4: Top of Tacoma Bar and Café (3529 McKinley Ave. E., Tacoma) vs. South Bay Pub & Eatery (3323 S. Bay Road NE, Olympia)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 20, 2015 at 8:14am

Tournament of Mac and Cheese: Yesterday's results, today's First Round games ...

Pacific Grill's Mexi Mac + Cheese (pictured) faces off with Tugboat Annie's radiatore pasta mac and cheese today. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

FRIDAY, MARCH 20: FOUR MAC AND CHEESE GAMES ON THE DOCKET >>>

Following on the successful heels of the Weekly Volcano's 2014 Tournament of Burgers, we present a new NCAA Basketball tournament-like event.  We're hosting daily games that pit one restaurant against another, leaving it to you, the reader, to decide the final outcomes all the way down to a final four and then a grand championship. (For newbie readers, Olympia's Westside Tavern edged out Tacoma's Maxwell's Restaurant in the final seconds of last year's Tournament of Burgers.) 

This year, we pit 64 South Sound restaurants offering the ultimate comfort food - macaroni and cheese.

Without further ado, let's take a gander at yesterday's results, and then preview today's matches. ...

Yesterday's Results

Game 1: STINK Cheese & Meat vs. Penny's on the Blvd.

STINK Cheese & Meat stuck to the winning formula: a mac and cheese roux of mild and sharp cheddar with a quarter stick of cream cheese, which helps bind it together. STINK's weekly rotating gourmet mac and cheese dishes are complex and textbook perfect, whether it's a truffle version or the fun cheeseburger mac and cheese. This foundation can grabs wins alone, but STINK dropped a bomb on Penny's on the Blvd. when the Tacoma Triangle District über deli announced their converting their neighboring wine bar into a Spanish Tapas restaurant. BAM! STINK dominated from start to finish, grabbing 82 percent of the votes, and a trip to the Second Round.

Game 2: Sorci's Italian Café vs. Doyle's Public House

Sorci's Italian Café is a quaint spot nestled in downtown Sumner, with beautiful outdoor seating on their back patio, and at night, its interior is the center of romance with dim lighting, candles and soft music in the background. Doyle's Public House has Jameson Irish whiskey ... oh, and delicious mac and cheese. The United Kingdom-style pub put the dispsy-doo double-a-roo on Sorci's, securing 85 percent of the votes from way at the end of the stovetop, BANG! Doyle's will face STINK in Second Round action March 27.

Game 3: The Hub vs. Viva Tacoma

A veteran of the Weekly Volcano's food tournaments, The Hub channeled its experience and put the hurt on vegetarian restaurant Viva Tacoma in Thursday's First Round action. Grabbing 71 percent of the votes, the Stadium District pizza and beer hub dominated the stove the entire game, only letting up slightly when Viva unleashed a whole bunch of texturized vegetable protein. The Hub moves into the Second Round.

Game 4: Boathouse 19 vs. Red Robin

Boathouse 19 grabbed Red Robin by the beak and kicked them out of the nest with a whopping 97 percent of the votes. Boathouse 9 moves to the Second Round, facing The Hub March 27.

Let's weed through the cheese. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

STINK Cheese & Meat

Doyle's Public House

The Hub

Boathouse 19

The daily mac and cheese battles here on Served in the South Sound are sponsored by BITE Restaurant & Bar inside the Hotel Murano.

OK, let's check out today's First Round mac and cheese battles. Vote for one mac and cheese dish per battle. Voting for today's mac and cheese battles ends at 11:45 p.m.




Tomorrow's First Round Mac and Cheese Battles

Game 1: The Forum Tacoma (815 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) vs. Sparks Firehouse Deli (621 5th St., Puyallup)

Game 2: BITE at Hotel Murano (1320 Broadway, Tacoma) vs. Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que (1901 S. 72nd St., Tacoma)

Game 3: Marrow Kitchen + Bar (2717 Sixth Ave., Tacoma) vs. Great American Casino (10117 S. Tacoma Way, Lakewood)

Game 4: RAM Restaurant & Brewery (10019 59th Ave. SW, Lakewood) vs. Southern Kitchen (1716 Sixth Ave., Tacoma)

At 6 p.m. Monday, April 6, join us at McNamara's Pub & Eatery in DuPont for the Official Tournament of Mac and Cheese Party - our winner will be announced during halftime of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.

March 18, 2015 at 11:49am

Taste Gig Harbor this weekend

Morso Wine Bar will serve its morsels at the Taste of Gig Harbor March 21. Photo courtesy of Facebook

There's a troll that lives under the bridge. He grimaces and holds me for ransom, then gobbles up my money every time I try to return home to Tacoma. Well, I mean, there isn't, but there may as well be. It's that damn toll. The toll makes Gig Harbor seem like some far off rumored land when really it's just a hop away. This is precisely why the Taste of Gig Harbor wasn't even a blip on my radar, and for that I feel ashamed. How could I have missed this fundraising celebration of Gig Harbor's culinary prowess and sense of community?

Gig Harbor is full of delectable and diverse dining options including fine dining digs The Green.House, burger joint Blazing Onion, classy Morso Wine Bar, exotic eats at Moctezuma's and Gateway to India, neighborhood restaurant and bar The Hub at Gig Harbor, neighborhood digs at Tides Tavern, golf-guru-go-to Canterwood Golf and Country Club and even culinary academic institute Bates Technical College, all of which have or are participating in this year's Taste of Gig Harbor's festivities on March 21.

The idea is that participating establishments set up kiosks along Tacoma Narrows Airport, and attendees choose which grub to nibble - or which libations to sip; count Heritage Distilling Company among the sponsors, which means you'll find something to pair perfectly with everything, regardless of what cuisine you choose. While noshing and sipping, take in live and silent auctions, a wine game and raffles, and mingle with fellow community minded folks. Proceeds benefit the Gig Harbor Rotary Club. That means warm fuzzies and a full belly plus, if you're lucky, prized booty won from bidding done well.

Now in its 24th year, Taste of Gig Harbor is in the business of fundraising while also bringing people together over the one thing that has successfully brought people together for eons: food. This is likely the reason why the festivities serve as the club's largest fundraising event of the year, because there is nothing more in this world that will bring the masses together better than food, drink and a worthy cause.

Founded in 1974, the Rotary has been standing true to the "service above self" motto while its members invest their time in deeds like placing Connie's Clock at the Bogue Viewing Platform in Gig Harbor's Finholm District, rebuilding the Orthopedic Guild that benefits Mary Bridge Children's hospital, building the public restrooms and pavilion in Skansie Brothers Park, and refurbishing and donating the Midway School building to the Gig Harbor History Museum. This is work that takes passion, vision and dollars.

So use this as an excuse to urban spelunk in our sister city, which is just a short drive over the bridge along with a million dollar toll (OK, OK, it's only $5.50), and dine on some good grub for a good cause.

TASTE OF GIG HARBOR, 5:30-10 p.m., Saturday, March 21, Tacoma Narrows Airport, 1188 26th Ave. NW, Gig Harbor, tasteofgigharbor.com

March 11, 2015 at 11:27am

Beer Here: Breakside, Pelican, Spinnaker Bay, Hops of March IPA, St. Patrick's Day ...

The new 7 Seas Brewing growlers arrive this weekend. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Hello South Sound beer enthusiasts. Here is your workout leading up to St. Patrick's Day. ...

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11

From a three-barrel brewing system in Woodlawn, Oregon in 2010 to a 20,000 barrels per year in Milwaukie, just south of Portland, Breakside Brewing may hold the record for the highest number of different beers brewed in a year - 83 in 2012, 92 in 2011 and 100 in 2013. The Red Hot hosts the crew from Breakside for a few of their more unique and rare offerings, including the GABF-award-winning Wanderlust IPA, Liquid Sunshine Pilsner, Lunch Break ISA, Safe Word Triple IPA, Tropicalia Saison, New World Bruin, La Tormenta Sour, Salted Caramel Stout and Bourbon Barrel Aztec. Tapping begins at 5 p.m.

The Puyallup River Alehouse turns into a Raven's Nest when Black Raven Brewing Company out of Redmond, Washington, flies in at 6 p.m. Black Raven was opened in 2009 by Robert "Beaux" Bowman, who honed his brewing skills at Mac & Jack's Brewing, the now-defunct Far West Ireland Brewing and a few other local breweries. Cross your fingers for some Black Raven barrel-ages.

Thrill-seeking accountant Marcy Larson and chemical engineer Geoff Larson, both 28, founded Alaskan Brewing Co. in 1986 - Juneau, Alaska's first brewery since Prohibition. From the historically based Alaskan Amber recipe to alder-smoked malts and Sitka spruce tips, Alaskan beers reflect Juneau's local brewing history and innovation. Alaskan's rotating spring seasonal this year is the Big Mountain Pale Ale. Made with a variety of hops, its flavors range from tropical fruit to resinous pine. Six Alaskan beers will be served at Pint & Quarts Lacey beginning at 6 p.m. Go drink a Sitka spruce.

If you're thinking cider, then head to Pint Defiance from 5-7 p.m. and hang out with No. 6 Cider Company out of Seattle. Named after the hand-dug railway tunnel that lead to the expansion in the Pacific Northwest, No. 6 created hand-crafted ciders such as Honey Ginger Cider, Pomegranate Cider and others next to the railway.

THURSDAY, MARCH 12

Beachfront Pelican Pub & Brewery sits just off the dunes in the resort town of Pacific City, Oregon. Pelican's magnificent view beats the view out of The Copper Door in Tacoma's Stadium District, but it's all good through the bottom of a pint of Red Lantern IPA, Silverspot IPA, Stormwatcher's Winterfest and other Pelican brews, which will stick their beaks into Copper Door from 6-9 p.m.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13

Do you purposefully walk under every ladder? Seek out black cats? Open umbrellas inside all the time? Then why not toast your affinity - or respect - for superstition with some Hopworks Urban Brewery beers at Gravity Beer Market in Olympia. The Portland, Oregon brewery will pour Galactic Imperial Red Ale, Motherland Russian Imperial Stout, Nonstop Hef Hop, Survival stout and Rise Up Red Ale from 5-7 p.m.

Loosen up your drinking arms and test-run your offensive-to-the-Irish-community T-shirt at the St. Patrick's Day Pre-funk & Release Party at Puyallup River Alehouse. Puyallup River Brewing will be unleashing their springtime seasonals - St. Paddy's Day stout, Springtime Brown Ale and Green Cream Ale - beginning at 6 p.m. They'll also be tapping a keg of Cockrell Hard Ciders' Green Apple Cider. How do like them apples?

Narrows Brewing in Tacoma will release an ESB Friday in their taproom. It's the first Narrows brewing beer released by new head brewer Mike Davis.


SATURDAY, MARCH 14

Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel is dealing themselves in the beer festival game hosting their first annual Beer and Wine Festival from 1-5 p.m. For $20 advance (1.800.720.1788) or $25 at the door, you will receive a commemorative pint or wine glass, eight drink tickets and a straight line to Dick's Brewing Co., Hi-Fi Brewery, Mt. St. Helens Cellars and others.

When you think of a brewmaster, you probably envision a bearded fellow in a trucker hat. But not at Spinnaker Bay Brewery in the Hillamn City neighborhood in Seattle. The woman-founded, -owned, and -run brewery and taproom brews some damn strong, tasty beer without beards. Founded in 2012 by Janet Spindler and Elissa Pryor, Spinnaker creates "big flavorful beers with attitude," and those beers are boss this Saturday when they take over the taps at Morso Wine Bar in Gig Harbor from noon to 3 p.m.

Northwest Brewing Co. just outside of Sumner hosts a party with green beer and Dan Benz & Friendz on stage.

The new 7 Seas Brewing growlers will arrive in their taproom (3006 Judson St., Gig Harbor) Saturday at 11 a.m. This year's edition, once again, features imported glass from Germany and is decorated by Gig Harbor's Fresh Northwest Design. The growlers are $75, with a coupon for $2 off your next growler fill. For those who have last year's edition, grab your growler and drop in Friday to grab your same number (1-500).

SUNDAY, MARCH 15

It's March ... meaning Madness is in the air. Sixty-four well-oiled competitors (for the most part) will tip off and do battle - working their way through the tediously-constructed bracket and toward ultimate supremacy. We speak, of course, of the Weekly Volcano's Tournament of Mac and Cheese, which begins March 19 on our ServedintheSouthSound.com blog. Apparently, a college basketball tournament is also slated to go down this month. The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament selection announcement hits the tube Sunday, and the Harmon Tap Room in Tacoma will broadcast it beginning at 3 p.m. Ridding the wave of enthusiasm for our Tournament of Mac and Cheese, or more likely the hoops tourney, Harmon brewmasters Jeff Carlson has, once again, released his Hops of March IPA. Every March, Harmon releases this hoppy IPA, but rotates the hops. This year, the hops varieties of Magnum, Amarillo, Rainier, Cascade and Horizon - M.A.R.C.H. - were brewed with five malted barleys to give this medium- to full-bodied IPA (6.8 percent ABV, 90 IBUs) a brown color similar to a basketball. Nothing but the bottom of the pint, baby! Drink it up at one of Harmon's four houses of beer, including the Harmon Tap Room.

TUESDAY, MARCH 17

Your last name may not be O'Neil or McCarthy, but in the South Sound, we all have a little bit of Irish in us. Irish and Scotch-Irish served as crew aboard Spanish, English and U.S. vessels that explored the Puget Sound during the second half of the 18th century. They participated in land-based explorations as well. And now, here we are in this hodgepodge of a region. We're hardworking, tax-paying citizens (most of us any way), and we deserve the right to wear our finest green attire and down a pint at nine in the morning every bit as much as anyone who's authentically Irish. Fish Brewing Company will release this year's Over & Oat Oatmeal Stout and Hodgon's Double IPA at 5 p.m. in their Fish Tale Brewpub (515 Jefferson St. SE, Olympia). Westside Pints & Quarts (625 Black Lake Blvd. SW, Olympia) will pour Tullamores, Iron Horse Irish Death and Guinness. O'Blarney's Irish Pub (4411 Martin Way E., Olympia) will offer an outdoors Guinness VIP beer garden. The Forum (208 S. Meridian, Puyallup) will fire up the black and tans. Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. (610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma) will host a St. Patrick's Day party featuring new releases Belgian Golden Ale and Galaxy Session IPA. The Hub (1208 26th Ave. NW, Gig Harbor) will pour Green Pale Ale and Jameson Oak Soaked Stryker Stout during its St. Paddy's Day celebration.

February 3, 2015 at 3:01pm

Catch a beer flight in the South Sound

Grab a 7 Seas Brewing beer flight and land on their front patio. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Beer festivals are an excellent way to sample a wide range of craft breweries and styles. But if the festival scene doesn't sound appealing, beer fans can create their own diverse festival at their own pace on almost any day of the week - while also getting the most bang for your buck and more beer for your belly. The answer: flights.

Fortunately for those fickle souls among us, most South Sound breweries and a few bars and restaurants offer beer flights. If you can't decide what beer to taste on a night out, taste as many as possible with these various flights put together by beer aficionados. Some establishments, such as Narrows Brewing Company, remove the burden of choice by offering a curated flight - often featuring their most recent brewed beers.

Of course, many places offer build-your-own flights, which opens a door to endless possibilities (and hours of waffling back and forth). If you can't make up your mind or have no idea where to even start when picking the beers yourself, ask your server; he or she should be happy to help fill out your flight or offer suggestions to get you started.

Either way, beer flights can widen your beer knowledge or help a friend broaden a narrowly focused viewpoint, as well as be a cost-effective way to train your palate to recognize the differences between similar brews.

Vertical flights demonstrate the way a specific beer can change when properly cellared, but they are more rare and usually reserved for special events. Finding several beers from a single brewery on tap is more common, providing a feel for a brewery's character. If you're in a restaurant or bar, multiple breweries most likely will be offered in a single flight.

Typically, flights land on a paddle or tray, six to eight small glasses full of beer, for a single price. Sometimes, the beers are priced a la carte.

My South Sound travels revealed most flights land with beers lightest to darkest. Generally, the lightest beers have a gentler character, lower ABV and lower hop bitterness than darker beers. If a dark beer is sampled before a light beer, it is likely that much of its character will be lost behind the forward charisma of the dark one.

Travis Guterson, head brewer at 7 Seas Brewing, suggests arranging his beers according to their hops content.

"Think about what's going to wreak the most havoc on your palate," says Guterson. "The rule of thumb is starting with the flavors that are going to be the more mellow, subtle, and move toward the more bold, hoppy flavors. Hops, in particular, tend to have a numbing effect on your senses. They can burn your taste buds out. We suggest not arranging by mellow to bold, but rather least hoppy to most hoppy. I'll put our Rotating Imperial Stout before our IPA, Ballz Deep Double IPA and Cascadian Dark Ale. Starting with our Belgian Style Blonde Ale is a good bet, then on to the Cutt's Amber, the 253 Pilsner, then the Stout, CDA and last, the IPAs. Of course, this is a bit beer geeky; the main goal is to taste several beers and have fun with friends."

My originally scheduled beer column for this week (different subject matter) was postponed due to technical difficulties. Since I logged some beer flight miles (didn't open the bag in the seat pocket once), I thought I'd post my beer flight column early (I had planned to visit many other establishments). Please check the reader board for how this affects your connecting flights.

7 Seas Brewing

The Gig Harbor brewery allows drinkers to mix and match any of their beers on tap. Each deep, handsome long-wooden crate comes with four ($5), six ($8) or eight ($10) 5-ounce glasses filled with whatever your heart desires. If you're one of those people who loathes making important decisions like what to drink on Friday night, you could just drink seasonals or IPAs. You could also drink single 5-ounce pours for $1.50. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3006 Judson St., Gig Harbor, 253.514.8129

Narrows Brewing Company

The waterfront brewery is the perfect place to while away sunny days sipping on Joe Walts' handiwork while watching boats float along the Narrows waterway. To try more beer for less money, order a flight of six 5.5- to 6-ounce pours for $10.50. Bartenders Mary and Taylor pick the beers, which typically are the most recently brewed beers. 2-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 9007 S. 19th St., Tacoma, 253.327.1400

Odd Otter Brewing Company

You can mix and match or go with a server's recommendation based upon your preferences, but you can't really go wrong with the beer available at Odd Otter Brewing Company in downtown Tacoma. Known for their unique flavors - Ottermelon Hefeweizen, Cozy Camper Amber, Momma Otter's Pancake Porter and on and on - Odd Otter serves their beer flights in a la carte 5-ounce tasters for $2 an Otter - which are discounted during happy hour. Their beer paddle holds six, but more can certainly ride shotgun. Warning: The beer slots on the paddle are very shallow so find a spot and stay put.11-2 a.m. Thursday-Sunday, 716 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.209.7064

Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.

Down the street from Odd Otter, historic Pacific Brewing only drilled five holes in the old logs they used to carry their flights. Don't cry South Sound, the pours are 7-ounces for $14, and you can pick the beers. You know how Pacific Brewing is: Go big or go home. Their Moon Yard Strong Ale (7.3% ABV/89 IBU) with strong hop flavor and bitterness (named after a neighboring railway yard) and Dirty Skoog IPA (8.1% ABV/73 IBU) double IPA (named after a rumored speakeasy in Old Tacoma during Prohibition) is how they think. 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.BEER

Pint Defiance

The specialty beer store and taproom on the edge of Fircrest doesn't offer beer flights, but rather a "Sunday Beer Sampler" from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Assistant Manager R.J. Adler runs the Sampler, typically choosing four 3- to 4-ounce pours from bottles out of the cooler, centered around a theme - a specific brewery, certain beer style, holidays, topical event or, if he can, his favorite sours. "It's a way to try a unique bottled beer without drinking all 22-ounces," says Adler. The price runs $4 to $5.50. Bonus: Pint Defiance's third annual Valentine's Day Chocolate & Beer Event will feature special draft releases paired with artisanal chocolate from local Cocoa Tantily Feb. 13 and 14. 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2049 Mildred St. W., Tacoma, 253.302.4240

The Red Hot

The Tacoma Sixth Avenue craft beer and hot dog joint will pour you 5-ounce tasters of any of the 24 beers on tap for $2 less than the posted price. No paddles ... unless you're a jerk. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.779.0229

Wingman Brewers

The Tacoma Dome District brewery serves a minimum of six 5.5-ounce pours for $12. According to head brewer Ken Thoburn, patrons will receive one of everything on tap that he has brewed. 2-9 p.m. Thursday, 2-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2-9 p.m. Sunday, 509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.256.5240

February 2, 2015 at 12:00pm

Served Blog Banner Girl: Q&A with bartender Brie Schafer of 7 Seas Brewing

A veteran of the restaurant industry, Brie Schafer is the newest bartender at 7 Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor. 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 Brie Schafer.

Server Banner Girl, Feb. 2-8, 2015

Brie Schafer

After many years at The Ram Restaurant & Brewery on South Hill Puyallup, several years at Marrow on Tacoma's Sixth Avenue and a short stint at Brix 25 in Gig Harbor, Brie Schafer has fully come into her own behind the taps at 7 Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor. She knows how to warm a room - even if the room is a huge taproom.

Why do you serve?

"I started in the industry when I was 15 - as a busser. It seemed like a fun first job. Quickly I fell in love with the family and friendships that come from working so close. I have stayed in the industry for 20 years now because I love people. I am a natural caretaker. I love to host and make people feel full, satisfied and buzzed. It just fits; I get to do what I love. I get to take care of people."

Who is your favorite server in the South Sound?

"Jacob O'neill at Marrow. When I first met Jacob he was still new in the industry. It has been a pleasure to watch him quickly became a true professional and craftsman."

What are you most proud to serve?

"Currently our Belgium style Blonde. It is delicious! All the beer in the taproom is made with much care and love. Mike, Travis and all the brewers have such a passion to make craft beer. It is easy to sell good product made by good people."

What's you current drink of choice?

"I know I should say beer, but ... Tits & Bouch! A shot of Titos and a glass of Kombucha is all this girl needs. I like fancy food and simple drinks."

What's your favorite movie?

"Goonies. It still makes me unreasonably happy. Goonies never die!!!"

What don't you serve?

"Bullshit. You get what you see with me! I am in a place in my life where I am able to be genuine and in a place in my career where I don't have to serve mass produced crap made by people who don't care."

What's on your radar at 7 Seas Brewing?

"7 Seas is constantly going out to the community doing fun things - bringing our tasty beer to all your pretty faces. We are constantly keeping it fresh with rotating seasonals too. Personally, I am looking forward to finding my place in this family of rad people."

7 SEAS BREWING, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3006 Judson St., Gig Harbor, 253.514.8129

LINK: Meet other South Sound servers

January 28, 2015 at 10:48am

Beer Here: Gigantic Brewing, Avery Brewing, Hop Valley, Tides' Tapmaster line-up ...

Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor kicks off its Tapmaster program - 16 beers in the 28 days - Super Bowl Sunday.

As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, I'm thinking about beer. Who wants to be sipping wine or cocktails? Sudsy brews are de rigueur. Here are a few South Sound craft beer events to hit before the big game. Maybe you'll walk away with your Super Bowl beers.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 28

Last week Double Mountain Brewing out of Hood River, Oregon, released their My Little Runaway-Belgian Style Cherry Ale. Like all beers at Double Mountain, the My Little Runaway is unfiltered for the purpose of preserving freshness and flavor. This cherry ale contains a small amount of natural fruit and yeast sediment that forms on the bottom of the bottle. No word if the beer will make an appearance at the Double Mountain Brewer's Night at Puyallup River Alehouse from 6-9 p.m.

Last month, Gigantic Brewing released its 2013 Massive! Barleywine. The aptly named barleywine always features one malt boiled for at least nine hours in the direct fire kettle, resulting in toffee and caramelized sugar malt flavors and evaporation over the long boil results in higher finished alcohol - 13.5 percent. Gigantic! Conquer this beer and meet its founder, Ben Love, when Pint Defiance hosts the Gigantic Brewing Company Brewer's Night from 5-7 p.m. The Portland brewery, which opened in 2011, will also tap its Gigantic IPA, Ginourmous IPA and Saboteur Baltic Porter. Go big!

In 1991, Homebrewer Jeff Lebesch opened New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. The brewing company has ridden its Fat Tire amber ale across the country - most recently building huge plants in North Carolina, especially Asheville. There are other reasons they have become so big and successful. Le Terroir, La Folie and Tart Lychee are three of those reasons, but there are dozens more. Chat up and drink New Belgium beers at The Swiss Restaurant and Pub, beginning at 6 p.m.

THURSDAY, JAN. 29

Hey kids! Want to black out before the Super Bowl? Then you're in luck, cause Avery Brewing is bringing its demonically strong Mephistopheles Stout to The Copper Door beer store and taproom. First brewed in 2005 as the third installment in Avery's "Demons of Ale" series, it measures in at 14.5 percent alcohol. That's evil. Take note Uber drivers: The Stadium District beer store will also pour Avery's Tweak, Lilikoi Kepolo, Ellie's Brown Ale, India Pale Ale and White Rascal. Of note is the White Rascal, which was brewed at New Belgium last year while Avery built a 96,000-square-foot facility in the Gunbarrel area of Boulder - so it can push out around half a million barrels of beer annually. The new plant opens Feb. 16. The Avery Brewing Night at The Copper Door runs 6-9 p.m. Thursday.

FRIDAY, JAN. 30

How did Dick's Brewing raise more than $5,700 for American Cancer Society's Relay for Life of Lewis County this past September? It held a home brew contest and invited folks to celebrate the winners with beer drinking, auctions and raffles. The winner for the 4th Annual Beer for a Cure was Tom Rzadzki and his Black Rye IPA. Friday, Dick's Brewing will host a release party for Tom's beer from 3-7:30 p.m., as well as and having Black Rye IPA on tap at the brewery tasting room and neighboring NW Sausage & Deli.

SATURDAY, JAN. 31

Eugene native and brewmaster Trevor Howard opened Hop Valley Brewing Friday, Feb. 13, 2009. Indeed, he and his father, Ron Howard, Jonas Kungys and Chuck Hare chose Friday the 13th. Good luck has only come their way, as Hop Valley has undergone incredible growth. Drop by the Pig Bar inside South Bay Dickerson's BBQ and get an early start on the brewery's six-year anniversary by sipping a healthy Hop Valley line-up, win prizes and get in on some tasty ribs from 6-9 p.m.

SUNDAY, FEB. 1

These days, South Sound pubs offer more activities than a cruise ship. Tides Tavern wants to make it crystal clear its 12th Annual Tapmaster program isn't about chugging yards of beer then taking a flying leap off the dock into the harbor. Instead, the popular watering hole in Gig Harbor wants you to enjoy its 16 taps through the month of February. Get to know each beer. Ask the beers questions. Ask the bartenders questions. If by happenstance you drink all 16 beers in the 28 days, the Tides will give you a nifty T-shirt and add your name to the wall of fame. Here is the 2015 Tapmaster beer (and cider) list: Fremont Pale Ale, Mac N Jacks IBIS IPA, Tides Tavern Long Ass Day X2IPA, American Brewing Blonde, Alaskan Amber, Tides Tavern Anniversary IPA, Manny's Pale Ale, Hilliard's Saison, Pacific Brewing Porter, Backyard Brewing Winchester Brown, Silver City Cold One Pilsner, Seattle Cider Company's Cider, Elysian Mens Room Red, Iron Horse Irish Death, 7 Seas Stout on nitro and Widmer Hefeweizen.

THURSDAY, FEB. 5

Plan Ahead: Engine House No. 9 will host a Trinity Brewing Night with five on tap and three different brews in bottles. Trinity head brewer and owner Jason Yester will be in the firehouse.

January 26, 2015 at 12:00pm

Harmon Brewing upgrades Stryker Stout

Harmon Brewing Co.'s Stryker Stout has a new recipe. Look for the upgraded stout in stores beginning Jan. 29. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

When you make a rock-solid stout that's named after the mighty combat teams at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, you get to be in my column. It doesn't hurt that it's also a delicious smooth stout made with oats, chocolate and hints of cherry. Here's the after action report. ...

Feb. 27, 2002, the U.S. Army officially named its medium-weight armored vehicle the Stryker after two unrelated infantrymen with the same last name - Pvt. Stuart S. Stryker (1945) and Spec. Robert F. Stryker (1967), both Medal of Honor recipients. The first Strykers arrived at Fort Lewis in May of that year, 14 vehicles for A Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Division. By June, the Strykers were training at the Yakima Training Center. July 1, the Army made it official creating the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, or SBCT. In September, the 3rd Infantry Brigade became the 3rd Stryker Brigade at Fort Lewis. Fort Lewis sent the first of the nation's Stryker brigades - 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - into action in the war in Iraq in 2003. The 3-2 SBCT also deployed to Iraq in 2003. In 2005, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division "Raiders" was formed and activated at Fort Lewis the following year. July 2010, the 5-2 SBCT was inactivated and reflagged as the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division "Lancers," at the reformatted Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In October 2011, the Harmon Brewing Co. released their Stryker Stout. Last March, during an hour inactivation ceremony, the 4-2 SBCT recognized for eight years of stellar service and became victim to the Army's downsizing from 45 to 33 active brigades. Last week, the Harmon Brewing Co. released a new recipe and look for their seasonal Stryker Stout, now on tap at the Harmon downtown and Tap Room in the Stadium District, as well as bottled for retail and on draft at its two Hub restaurants Jan. 29.

Harmon Brewing Co. co-owner Pat Nagle has a grip on the look and names of the beers he releases with his business partner, Carole Ford. Nagle, an enthusiast for everything outdoors, baseball and Tacoma, marries his passions with his products - a snowboarder on their Steep & Deep Winter Ale, kayaker on their Pt. Defiance IPA - but Nagle's mother takes the credit for naming their stout after the armored vehicle. She felt the servicemembers at JBLM should be recognized, and the Stryker Stout was born.

"We've always hosted lots of Hail and Farewell parties at the Harmon," Nagle told the Weekly Volcano. "The military is a huge thing for our local economy." Also, Nagle has had family members serve in the U.S. forces, including JBLM.

The Harmon's seasonal beers appear in October and are served on tap at the four restaurants for about four months. Nagle broke tradition in 2011, and decided to bottle Stryker Stout.

"We felt it was too good to be served just at our locations," he said.

The Harmon brewing team also thought it needed a new recipe.

"Mike Davis, who was the Harmon's head brewer for 15 years, brewed the Stryker Stout," said Jesse Holder, director of brewing operations at Harmon. "Jeff Carlson, our new head brewer for the last several years, wanted to change it up and put his mark on the important brew."

"The tweaks to the Stout are a little more 15L, Carafa Type II, Pale Chocolate, Flaked Oats and Chocolate Wheat," said Carlson. "I also added some 120L and Cherry Smoked malt."

The Stryker Stout's components are a combination of six different malted barleys including a special cherry smoked variety plus some chocolate wheat and rolled flaked oats for a smooth sipper with hints of cherry and a little smoke in the aroma and finish. A 7.3 percent alcohol by volume puts in the mid-range for stouts; its 46 IBU bitterness is similar to Guinness.

It's a stout to salute, as well as drink.

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

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

THE HUB, 203 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, 253.683.4606

THE HUB GIG HARBOR, 1208 28th Ave. NW, Gig Harbor, 253.853.1585

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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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