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April 30, 2015 at 6:09am

Three ideas for Mother's Day

Whether you are taking mom out for a Mother's Day brunch, or you're making it happen for yourself and taking the hubby and kids with you, there are three options you might like in the South Sound.  But hurry, reservations will help grease the skids.

1. Bottomless Booze?

You read that right.  Smoke+Cedar, the brainchild of local celeb chef Gordon Naccarato not only has sweeping views of green (it's on a golf course), but also all you can drink Mamosas and Bloody Mary's.  Literally, they're bottomless.  AND, the food is mighty good as well. This is not a buffet, you order finely crafted selections from an extensive menu.  Reservations are here

2. Waterfront

Looking for seascapes - sea lions frolicking and big ships steaming by?  CI Shenigans on Ruston Way gives you majestic mountains, islands and water at their gorgeous location.  This is also finely crafted food, and they do a nice brunch starting at 9:30 a.m.  Make your reservation here

3. Economical

Not everyone wants fancy, sometimes a great breakfast joint is what you and your loved ones prefer.  The Homestead in Lakewood is just the ticket.  The place is wall to wall antiques and timber with water served from mason jars and portions large and satisfying.  The Homestead is serving up a Mother's Day THREE course dinner starting at $9.99.  Click here.

Filed under: Holidays,

February 17, 2015 at 12:25pm

Happy Chinese New Year!

This year, the Spring Festival falls on Feb. 19. For 15 days, Chinese families around the globe are returning to their homes for half a month of feasting, money-stuffed red envelopes and much-needed bonding to honor the Year of the Goat.

One of the great things about living in the Great Melting Pot is it's always some Americans' holiday. For a half-Anglo, half-Latino dude from L.A. and Oklahoma, I know a surprising amount about Chinese New Year. Chalk it up to too many hours spent in Chinese buffets, but also to genuine interest in the culture. My Oklahoma friends and I threw a Chinese New Year party each February; it gave me the chance to show off my burgeoning wok skills. Oh, make no mistake, I can still throw down a half-decent Buddha's delight, the vegetarian medley traditionally served around that time because the end of its Cantonese name, fat choy, sounds like the phrase for prosperity. Don't delve too deeply into the black "hair weed" that thickens the dish, though. Instead, think of it as Chinese black eyed peas, and bon appetit.

Much like Westerners' spring cleaning ritual, the Ch?njié (Spring Festival) of the Chinese lunar New Year gives families a festive reason to spruce up the house, clearing the way for all that good luck to come. It's a time of reunion, when red decorations appear, firecrackers get 'sploded, and money is liberally distributed in red envelopes. Why all that red? A Nián Shòu is a mythical, leonine beast. Legends tell us that a Nian used to attack a certain village each year on New Year's Day. The villagers left food in front of their doors in hopes the man-eater would devour it and amscray, until finally, the gods hinted to a local hero that he should consider hanging red banners and lighting fireworks instead. The Nian, secretly terrified of the color red, hit the bricks and was never seen again-unless you believe a story that it was later captured by a Taoist monk, Hóngj?n L?oz?", who wore red undies and thereby scared the Nian into serving as his personal show pony.

It may surprise you to learn there's no real agreement on which numerical year this is in the Chinese calendar. That's because mainland Chinese tend to not to assign numbers to years, and scholars outside the country never quite agreed on when their calendar should start. We do know that as of this Thursday, Feb. 19, the twelve-year astrological cycle lands on the Year of the Goat, sometimes prettied up as Year of the Ram. In America, goats are known for their stubbornness. That's true in China as well, but they're also thought of as kind, peaceable and popular, if not a bit clingy (cf. those adorable kid videos on YouTube).

So how should you, fellow Yank, celebrate the Spring Festival? Aside from the fireworks where legal, red banners, good-luck messages, and gifts of money to stubborn but popular Volcano bloggers, I recommend getting your eat on. (I know. I recommend that for every occasion.  It's a thing I do. Shut up.) A downside of being ethnic-American is one often has to work hardest on one's own cultural holiday, as my cousins could attest every Cinco de Mayo. So yes, my beloved Main Chinese Buffet will be open in Lacey, as will the always delicious Indochine in Tacoma. You might also brave the crowds at Din Tai Fung up in Bellevue, my wife's favorite restaurant on the planet. Have a family photo taken. By all means, have a drink. The traditional toast is "g?n b?"i," which means "empty cup" or "bottoms up!" Then wish each other a hearty "gong hey fat choy," meaning "congratulations and prosperity." Teenagers are free to add the jokey suffix "hóngb?o nálái": "now gimme a red envelope!" More jao gok dumplings, anyone?

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Holidays, Lacey, Tacoma,

December 30, 2014 at 10:25am

Beer Here: Happy New Beer and upcoming events

Happy New Year!

Ten ... nine ... Please, please tell me you're not at home while the clock's ticking. Not bidding adieu to the bucking Year of the Horse 2014 on the couch. Not munching stale popcorn. Not watching hair-gelled Ryan Seacrest hyperventilate you into Jan. 1. Eight ... seven ... six ... So that 2014 diet ended at 3 a.m. last New Year's Day when you went on a bleary-eyed Taco Time run. So you weren't nicer to your sister, never fixed the washing machine and have yet to visit your ailing grandmother. If you're resolving to drink more South Sound beers in 2015, now's your chance to get a jump on a resolution you just might keep. Five ... four ... Here are this week's local beer happenings to help push out with the old, and drink in with the new, or something - and no better way to set a tasty tone for the year than by ringing in 2015 while drinking beer. Three ... two ... one ...

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 31

The Harmon Brewing Co. Mobile will be racing down the highway New Year's Eve. First stop, a noon to 3 p.m. new Point Defiance IPA tasting at Olympia Total Wine & More, followed by a 4-7 p.m. PD IPA tasting at the Puyallup Total Wine & More with Spokane's No-Li Brewhouse in the house, too.

Beer will be flowing all over the South Sound New Year's Eve, including at taprooms. Puyallup River Alehouse invites Two Beers Brewing Co. and its sister business, Seattle Cider Co., to wear party hats at its downtown Puyallup locale, with raffle prizes and free champagne toast at midnight as part of the festivities. The long haul begins at 6 p.m.

Three Magnets Brewing Co. hosts a NYE shindig with Major Thompkins Imperial Oatmeal Stout in the firkin with figs, gates and bourbon, Wreathing Havoc Imperial Red Rye Ale in another firkin with cocoa nibs and Himalayan sea salt, and Whitewood Cider's Wassail Spiced Red Cap Cider in on the party, too.

Wanna have a Happy New Beer? Head over to Odd Otter Brewing Company for "An Otter New Year's Eve Party", kicking off at 8 p.m. The Tacoma brewery will be unleashing its holiday beer Winterface Ale at the party for those who score a limited number of tickets. A wristband reading "Have an Otter New Year - 2015" is proof you belong, with neighbor The Matador providing the munchies. The $49.99 ticket is available at oddotterbrewing.com.

The Red Hot will hold a Duvel toast at midnight.

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 7

Puyallup River Alehouse hosts Bainbridge Island Brewing for a brewer's night. They have been brewing Kommuter Kolsch, Bainbridge Pale Ale, Port Blakely Brown, Battle Point Stout and its most popular beer, Eagle Harbor IPA, since opening in June 2012. Will they bring their "Beeritos" - a brew that includes Cool Ranch Doritos - to the Alehouse? Drop by from 6-9 p.m. and find out, and maybe win a prize.

FUTURE THINGS ARE COMING

The beer hits your tongue. You try to identify different flavor components in the beer. Is it bitter? Earthy? Are there fruity flavors? Smoke? How about grassy, herbal flavors? Zeroing in on the various flavors in different beers will help you begin to isolate the styles that you like the most, at least according to beer geek Erick Swenson. The Pacific Lutheran University sous chef holds special beer nights at the school's neighboring restaurant 208 Garfield. In January, he's hosting the four-part "Perfecting Your Inner Beer geek" series using the Siebel Institute Sensory Training kit every Sunday afternoon, beginning Jan. 11. The cost is $10 each, or $36 for the series. To sign up, visit 208garfield.com.

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.

Hands On Children's Museum hosts "The Art & Science Behind Craft Brews" at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23. The museum will host beer tastings, beer-themed science experiments, art projects and more. The $25 admission fee includes free beer tastings and a souvenir glass. Barbecue will be available to purchase. Duh, adults only. Buy tickets at www.hocm.com/adultswim.

December 23, 2014 at 11:04am

Greatest Christmas carols paired with beers

Christmas is better with beer.

The International Society of Pairologists has released its definitive list of 10 Greatest Christmas Carols of All Time And The Beer That Pairs With Each. The revered group of retired piano tuners who are also home brewers spent the entire year of 2014 holed up in their headquarters in Orting, Washington, listening to more than 800 Christmas carols and drinking 7,200 beers.

According to Rudolph Pinglehead, the distinguished president of the society and co-writer of the unauthorized biography of Josef Mohr, the author of "Silent Night," the tuner home brewers listened to every Christmas carol at least 11 times. "Once for the lyrics, once for the tune, nine times to pair the perfect beer."

Pinglehead, who hails from Düren, Germany, said he is aware that everyone might not agree with the list. "We were strictly objective, and did not let sentimental associations or drunkenness cloud our judgment."

I was disappointed to see several favorite Christmas carols not included. Where is "O Tannenbaum?" Where is "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," "The Christmas Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?" How about "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?" The biggest outrage is the omission of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," Elmo and Patsy's poignant ballad of loss and redemption.

Nevertheless, we shouldn't let subjective partisanship ruin the holidays.

Without further ado, here are the 10 Greatest Christmas Carols of All Time And The Beer That Pairs With Each, with commentary and analysis by Pinglehead.

1. "Santa Baby." As voiced by the sexy Eartha Kitt, this song asks the eternal question: "Santa honey, I really do believe in you, let's see if you believe in me." Eartha doesn't beat around the bush as she implores Santa to "hurry down the chimney tonight," and "fill up my sock." She assures Santa that she will wait up for him, and ends up with a provocative offer he can hardly refuse: "Come and trim my Christmas tree." Beer Pairing: The International Society of Pairologists found a spicy, dark rich beer to loosen up Santa. Seattle's Fremont Brewing took their Bourbon Barrel Abominable, aka B-Bomb - a winter ale with spicy aroma, dark roasted chocolate malt and rich notes of bourbon, wood and vanilla - and infused it with coffee and cinnamon to create the Coffee Cinnamon Bourbon Abominable. It's the bomb, Santa baby! Available at 99 Bottles in Federal Way, Gravity Beer Market in Olympia, Pint Defiance and The Copper Door in Tacoma

2. "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." This perennial favorite, sung by former jockey Jimmy Boyd, takes a humorous approach to a child's shocking discovery of his mother's infidelity. "Mommy" and "Santa Baby" are just two of many songs dealing with the theme of Santa as sugar daddy. Beer Pairing: The Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City, Oregon, brews a beer that pairs with Mommy's merry adulterer - Bad Santa. This mysterious dark elixir is filled with complex malt flavors and aromas with toasted malt and roast character, blending seamlessly to the alluring herbal hop aroma that comes from copious amounts of Fuggle hops. Bad Santa doesn't care if you've been naughty or nice, he just wants Mommy. Available at Gravity Beer Market, Pint Defiance and Tacoma Boys

3. "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas." Everyone loves this upbeat song by Burl Ives, who played the role of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - a large, brash and vulgar plantation millionaire who believes he has returned from the grave. Beer Pairing: Iron Fist Brewing out of Vista, California, makes a Dark Days Imperial Stout with 11 percent ABV. It's a pitch-black beauty aged in brandy barrels with a chocolate after taste. It's perfect for Big Daddy's dark side. Available at Gravity Beer Market and 99 Bottles 

4. "A Marshmallow World." This was a popular hit in the '50s, and deserves a comeback. The gifted Arthur Godfrey with the Chordettes and the Cherry Sisters performed it. Mr. Godfrey makes effective use of onomatopoeia as he croons, "It's a yum-yummie world, made for sweethearts." Beer Pairing: The yummy Candy Cane Porter by Harmon Brewing Co. pairs well with the song, as Candy Man Jeff Carlson who uses 13 candy canes per keg of the deep brown goodness. The peppermint is forward, almost overwhelming the roasted malt and cocoa notes. Carlson makes the world taste good. Available at the Harmon Tap Room in Tacoma

5. "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." The consensus among the pairologists was that the best version of this song about a vindictive voyeur - "He sees you while you're sleeping, he knows if you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake" - was done by the Beach Boys, with their sweet voices belying the dark theme of the song. You better watch out, indeed. Beer Pairing: And you better watch out for Maritime Pacific's Jolly Roger Christmas Ale, which is also sweet with just a hint of harsh booziness to it. The official insignia for this English Strong Ale style is a smiling skull-and-cross-bones, reminder to all to enjoy their Jolly, but afterward you better be good for goodness sake. Available at Gravity Beer Market, Pint Defiance, Tacoma Boys and The Copper Door

6. "Mele Kalikimaka." This is an admirable attempt to incorporate other cultural traditions into our provincial WASP celebration of Christmas. Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters tell the inspiring tale of the Three Wise Men getting lost on their way to Bethlehem, and ending up in Hawaii. Beer Pairing: Duh ... Tacoma's Wingman Brewers has planes and coconuts. It's Stratofortress Aged in Bourbon Barrels on dark rum-soaked cedar planks with notes of figs and ripe fruit will get you to Hawaii (aloha 11.4 percent!). Their P-51 Coconut Porter will keep you there (aloha 8 percent!). Available at Wingman Brewers' taproom, as well as Gravity Beer Market, 99 Bottles, Pint Defiance and The Copper Door

7. "Blue Christmas." This was the favorite song of many pairologists, with its complex use of "blue" as a trope. Blue snowflakes, blue memories, etc. We all agreed that only Elvis captures the full blueness of the carol, managing to say blue 13 times in his version. Beer Pairing: Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.'s Griswold's Winter Warmer, an easy drinking malty 8.5 percent ABV ale named after the Clark Griswold who was extremely blue after his employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs. "Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one," says Griswold. "I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?" Available at Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. in Tacoma

8. "Grandma's Homemade Christmas Card." There are many Christmas carols about Grandma, but our panel believed that this song says it all. Merle Haggard sings of his elderly grandma making a Christmas card out of scraps of discarded magazine inserts. Beer Pairing: 53 Peaks Brewing Co.'s Nut Brown. You'll have to go over many rivers and through many woods to reach Grandma's House, a Denver brewhouse and pub that allows other aspiring breweries the opportunity to create their beers on their brewing system, cover their tap handle with a knitted sweater and sell them through the taproom. 53 Peaks Brewing Co. is one of Grandma's grandkids, and its Nut Brown with Traeger roasted cashews and pecans, has Grandma pinching their cheeks with joy.

9. "Suzie Snowflake." Sung by heartthrob George Clooney's grandma, Rosemary Clooney, this particular carol is a vivid example of the carpe diem tradition. "I haven't long to stay," says Suzie Snowflake, just before she lands on the back of a border collie out for a walk. Beer Pairing: Rogue Yellow Snow IPA. While IPA is not commonly a winter beer, the southern Oregon brewery's winter-seasonal IPA with its bracing clean hoppy bitterness up front fits the bill. Suzie snowflake's dog walk will, no doubt, end with her falling in yellow snow; might as well enjoy a juicy fruit beer with a long-stay bitterness. Available at Tacoma Boys

10. "Frosty the Snowman." The pairologists were moved to tears by the picture of poor Frosty running here and there all around the square, frantically trying to have some fun before he melted away. If you listen carefully to the song, you realize Frosty is not quite the jolly, happy soul he was made out to be, condemned as he is to melt away, the sun being hot that day. Some dissenters saw in Frosty's promise to come again some day as a reference to Christian resurrection. Beer Pairing: ScuttleButt Brewing Company's 10 Below Ale. While the name suggests this Imperial Dunkelweiss from the Everett, Washington, brewery could keep Frosty from melting, the 7.4 percent ABV strong chocolate flavors of 10 below Ale is exactly what one needs to keep warm. It's a malty beast with just enough hops to make it drinkable, and make Frosty's fate forgettable. Available at Gravity Beer Market and The Copper Door

December 17, 2014 at 10:31am

Beer Here: Lagunitas night, Pelican party, holiday sweaters, Troll Crank ride ...

Ho ho ho yo!

You're lagging in the Christmas spirit this year. Just like last year. And the year before. Scrooging has always been your go-to reaction to the yuletide, but as your grow older, fatter and more sentimental, it's increasingly unacceptable to be crotchety and contrarian. It's unsavory. So, you decide to be proactive. You set aside this coming week to gorge yourself on Christmas cheer. By which I mean beer. ...

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 17

Engine House No. 9's 25 Days of Christmas beer-a-day countdown is going strong. Stop by 611 N. Pine St. and discover today's present.

Harmon Tap Room is hosting the 12 Beers of Christmas, tapping a different small batch holiday brew, every day, for 12 days in a row. By the way, the Tap Room just added 10 new taps.

Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California, releases anticipated seasonals every year with high levels of alcohol and names as charismatic and irreverent as any beer might hope for - Lagunitas' own Imperial IPA, brewed since 1996, is called Maximus. Brown Shugga, a seasonal brew from Lagunitas, was created in 1997 as the result of an attempt to rescue a failed batch of Olde GnarlyWine Ale by adding "boatloads of brown sugar" - or so the story goes, anyway. Fingers crossed, The Swiss will be pouring it at its Lagunitas Brewer's Night from 6-9 p.m. Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo!

As I have written ad nauseam, a steady stream of big, goonish stouts are filling shelves and taps. Some of these seasonals are worth the fuss and price (Deschutes' The Abyss, for example - head to The Red Hot Sunday) while many others are lopsided thanks to hyper-inflated alcohol content and overblown flavor infusions. Pelican Pub & Brewery's Tsunami Stout rises to the top. With a color only a few minutes from midnight and a thick but clean pour, it has a satisfying, but not overpowering (7 percent), heariness. Big, roasty cocoa flavors dominate, but hopheads will find that Magnum and Willamette hops impart a slice of crisp citrus and a cherry topper. Drink it and eight other Pelican brews at 99 Bottles, beginning at 5 p.m. The first 48 people to check in at the Federal Way beer store will score a free Pelican glass.

The 2nd Annual Cheers to Winter Beers event takes place at 6 p.m. in the Puyallup River Alehouse. Here's the deliciousness owner Eric Akeson has planned for patrons: 10 Barrel Pray For Snow, Alaskan Winter, Elysian Bifrost, Widmer Brrr, Redhook Winterhook, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, Naked City Potlatch Smoked Maple Brown Ale, The Lost Abbey Merry Taj Christmas IPA, Puyallup River Old Pioneer Winter Ale and others. "Our 2014 Old Pioneer Winter Ale is a new recipe for this year," says Akeson. "Last year, we brewed a malt-forward Amber Ale with vanilla beans and lavender. This year, we're brewing an Imperial Red IPA-style beer, with a big, dry hop that all the hop heads are going to love." Santa will arrive at 7 p.m.

THURSDAY, DEC. 18

Top Rung Brewing runs its My Dog Stout through a Randall loaded with candy canes beginning at 4 p.m.

How much wood can the Woodchuck Hard Cider chuck if the Woodchuck Hard Cider could chuck wood? I have no idea, but Topside Bar & Grill is allowing the Vermont cidery to take over four of its handles, beginning at 6 p.m.

FRIDAY, DEC. 19

Want to drink a Cozy Sweater while wearing an ugly holiday sweater? Twisted Kilt Irish Pub hosts an ugly sweater party with an emphasis on Iron Horse Brewery beers, including Irish Death, Mocha Dream and said sweater. Expect a DJ spinning and giveaways, beginning at 9 p.m.

SATURDAY, DEC. 20

Top Rung Brewing hosts an ugly holiday sweater festival from 2-9 p.m., with a contest going down at 7 p.m. Santa will drop off a food truck. The Outlanders will play bluegrass beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Randall will be working overtime.

Also hosting an ugly holiday sweater party is Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. Those who don holiday cheer will receive a dollar off every pint, from 6-9 p.m., and entered into a contest to win a PB&M gift basket.

Itchin' for an excuse to pull that bicycle out of storage and get some extra wear out of your Santa hat? Saddle up and get ready to ride through the streets of Tacoma drunkon candy canes and the drinks they garnished. The Tacoma Mob Rider invites revelers to jump on their pedal-driven sleighs and eat and drink their way through Tacoma, Saturday. The Troll Crank zaniness begins at 7 p.m. inside the canned beer and bicycle shop Broken Spoke. From there, the pack moves on to other fine establishments, which will be revealed over cans of beer at the Spoke. It's free to participate, but you'll be shelling out cash for anything you eat or drinkalong the way. Tacoma Mob Rules asks you to dress festive, with a nod toward Crosby sweaters.

Tacoma Stars have dubbed Saturday, Dec. 20, "Wingman Brewers Night" for their soccer match against the Arlington Aviators. Wingman beer is now pouring at every match in the Far Post Bar at the Tacoma Soccer Center (2610 East Bay St., Tacoma). Saturday, beginning at 7:30 p.m., added giveaways and handshakes from the Wingman crew are an added bonus.

SUNDAY, DEC. 21

The Red Hot hosts its 3rd annual Darkest Day festival, while across the street Engine House No. 9 unleashes its 2014 Snow Cru, plus a multitude of other E9 big beers. Details on these Tacoma joints' celebrations of the longest night of the year can be found here.

MONDAY, DEC. 22

Fish Tale Brew Pub hosts the 15th Annual Holiday Brass Bash at 7:30 p.m. Trumpeter Andy Omdahl will lead a brass-tastic band, rattle beer pints and the donation boxes for Thurston County Food Bank.

December 16, 2014 at 10:26am

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

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

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma, Holidays,

December 12, 2014 at 8:57am

Words & Photos: Winter Beer-nanza at Pint Defiance

Pint Defiance Assistant Manager R.J. Adler and co-owner Barry Watson go street during the Winter Beer-nanza Dec. 11. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

In the olden days (a.k.a. my childhood), ugly holiday sweaters were something worn once to placate the family, then hung in the back of a closet or tossed. Fortunately, irony is not a wasteful phenomenon, and allows us to laugh at the hideous things we would have otherwise forgotten or thrown away. Last night, Pint Defiance Specialty Beers & Taproom celebrated the ugly sweater with beer and well, more beer, at its annual Winter Beer-nanza. Many raided the closets of '80s survivors; one gentleman stole decorations from his wife's front door holiday display and pinned them on a red sweater.

The staff, all dressed in holiday ugliness, poured the specialty beers on tap for the night: the coveted Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (2014), plus Black Raven Festivus Holiday Ale, Lost Abbey Merry Taj IPA, Bale Breaker High Camp Winter Warmer, pFriem Belgian Christmas Ale, Heathen Reindeer Tears Barrel-Aged Barleywine and Atlas Spiced Pear Cider. Even though Pint Defiance owners Barry and Renee Watson waited well into the party to tap the expensive Goose Island keg, it was the first to blow. Its demise drew loud cheers from the packed-in crowd.

In addition to the big beers, Pint Defiance hosted a Christmas cookie potluck and a giant raffle of beer schwag collected over the course of the year.

It was a fun night of knocking down delicious beers, munching on cookies and laughing all the way.

SEE ALSO

The story behind Pint Defiance

December 4, 2014 at 2:25pm

Words & Photos: Annual 7 Seas Beer Dinner at Brix 25

For the fourth year in a row, Brix 25 restaurant hosted 7 Seas Brewing for a beer dinner to battle Black Friday nerves. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

First, let's dispel the likely initial reaction upon hearing "beer dinner." No, this is not some bacchanalian kegger where the winner is he who drinks the most. Instead, each course includes 10-ounce pours of beer, which is supposed to be sipped and savored, not chugged. Though, full-disclosure, Brix 25's annual 7 Seas Beer Dinner pre-dinner reception offered a chance to sip cocktails, which many participants did, and the dessert course arrived with two beers riding shotgun. So, that's all good news.

For the last four years, the Gig Harbor fine-dining restaurant has offered a fabulous way to wind down after Thanksgiving and celebrate small business, sailing through Black Friday with a beer pairing dinner with neighbors 7 Seas Brewing. Chef/owner Thad Lyman welcome the crowd of 7 Seas beer dinner regulars and new faces, announcing new flavors will be enjoyed, concentrating on "Southern Low County" flavors, Southern culture on the skids with Northwest twists.

>>> Brix 25 Chef/owner Thad Lyman

"Keg Commander" Colin Harvin, who concentrates on sales and marketing for 7 Seas, represented the brewery, substituting for co-owner Mike Runion who had his hands full with a newborn girl. Commander Harvin ran through the history of the night's first beer, the 253 Pilsner, how it was the brainchild of Runion and 253 Heart Foundation owner/Shake Shake Shake co-owner Steve Naccarato, the fact that proceeds benefit local charities and how the Northwest pilsner is crisp and clean. He explained co-owner and head brewer Travis Guterson incorporated Sterling and Cascade hops from the Yakima Valley, barley from Washington state and the golden cans are produced in Olympia. For more background on the creation of the beer and its charities, click here.

The 253 Pilsner was paired with breakfast, bacon and eggs on flat bread.

"Beer isn't just for breakfast; breakfast can be for dinner just as well," said Lyman.

Lyman used malts from the beer to create the béchamel, bacon lardons underneath the sunny side egg with a little Blanc Rose. Lyman suggested picking up the rich starter like a taco and let it drip away, which most did. The bacon and egg looked to dominate, but the refreshing, crisp pilsner found a perfect balance. Off to a good start!

The second course: fried oysters and grits turned out to be incredibly delicious, especially when paired with 7 Seas' Reign Man ESB - the toasty malt character with a slight caramel sweetness brought out the rich, creamy polenta. The Reign Man ESB rarely makes an appearance outside of the 7 Seas' taproom. The Northwest-style Extra Special Bitter features citrusy Yakima Valley Centennial hops and malt heavy, and was brewed in honor of the Seattle Space Needle's 50th anniversary. The Fat Bastard oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms, which were in the water the previous morning, were prepared with a little okra, fried quick with cornmeal and placed on creamy polenta with a little bit of clams.

Up next, the main course - I think the best part of the night - was a short stack of Johnny Cakes with pulled pork paired with the Chili Pepper Imperial Stout. The beer basically made its South Sound premier at the dinner. Harvin introduced the nine percent stout treated with three different kinds of chili peppers - including ghost peppers - which were added during the second fermentation, letting the oils seep out. The beer starts off with a nice, silky chocolate, espresso roast flavor with the peppers hitting the back of the throat, cutting through the bitterness at the end, bringing back the chocolate notes. I could be my favorite 7 Seas beer.

Lyman slow-roasted the pork for hours, then removed the meat from the smoker and braised it with the Chili Pepper Imperial Stout, picking up the chilies and malted barleys. The pork was placed on high cornmeal cakes, with green Tabasco sauce, goat cheese drizzle and Jack Daniels maple syrup.

The crowd erupted in chatter after Lyman described the dish. "I mention Jack Daniels and the crowd stops listening," Lyman said with a laugh.

Runion made an appearance during the main course, to thank everyone and show baby pictures.

Finally, a delicious, rich dessert was brought out to finish the evening. Mississippi Mud Pie with caramel pecans, paired with 7 Seas' Port Royal Stout AND a return appearance by the 253 Pilsner for a "deconstructed" black and tan, as Harvin put it. The traditional English-style stout offered more flavors of dark chocolate, espresso and malt sweetness. Nugget and Mt. Hood hops gave it a nice, clean finish.

"As a little boy, I made mud pies, but as most of the men in this room would agree, it tasted like crap," said Lyman. "This mud pie has a dark chocolate ganache bottom with chocolate pudding on top and a malted meringue on the finish, toasted it off, decorated with rolled oats that went into the stout, toasted pecans and a caramel made with really heavy black sea salt to give it a little pop."

>>> Colin Harvin, left, and Mike Runion from 7 Seas Brewing

>>> The talent in Brix 25's kitchen

>>> I wish I could remember what Chef Lyman was discussing at this moment.

The dinner proved to be an enjoyable way to sip two 7 Seas Beers I haven't tried, and gain an appreciation for the ways in which various flavors combine and work together in nontraditional Southern dishes. Bravo!

BRIX 25, 4:30-9:30 p.m. daily, 7707 Pioneer Way, Gig Harbor, 253.858.6626

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

December 3, 2014 at 10:55am

Harmon Brewing crafts new Pt. Defiance IPA, announces Twelve Beers of Christmas

Harmon Brewing Co. added Citra hops to its Pt. Defiance IPA.

The warm and fuzzy feeling you get when in good company, complimented by a delicious and unique local beer, is what makes the Harmon Brewing Co.'s Twelve Beers of Christmas a worthy holiday merriment. The Tacoma brewing company will, once again, pour a beer a day at its Harmon Tap Room, beginning Dec. 13. Below is a Harmon news release naming the 12 beers, as well as an announcement that they have updated their Pt. Defiance IPA recipe. ...

TACOMA - Harmon Brewing Company announced today that their Pt. Defiance IPA recipe has undergone an exciting change. The new Point Defiance IPA is an updated version of their iconic classic, without straying from the roots.

"Bright, clean, crisp and hoppy, the iconic PT. Defiance IPA is re-born," said Head Brewer Jeff Carlson.

Originally brewed in 1997 to commemorate the opening of the Harmon Brewery, the Point Defiance IPA was crafted to encompass what Tacoma stood for, a no fuss, palate quenching brew.

The improved version uses five different malted barleys to accommodate the boat load of Pacific Northwest hops.

"The combination creates the classic West Coast hop aroma and flavor that we all crave, while maintaining drinkability," added Carlson. "In keeping with tradition we left the hoppy backbone unchanged, but added some Citra to give it that edge.  Hop in your Kayak, pour yourself a glass and enjoy."

For the first beer of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Yes, it's time again for Harmon's annual Twelve Beers of Christmas. The daily festivities, held at the Tap Room, begin on December 13th and end on Christmas Eve. To get people in the spirit of the holidays, the first beer, a delectable Candy Cane Porter, will be served Firkin style, just as beer was quaffed back in the mid-15th century.

The Twelve Beers of Christmas lineup, including everything from barrel aged imperial stouts to blondes and sours, is subject to change. Here is the lineup in no particular order:

  • Ivan Russian Imperial Stout - 2013
  • Apricot Tart - 2012
  • Casper's Revenge Ghost Pepper Peach - 2012
  • 11th ST. +1 IPA
  • 5-Mile Drive IPA
  • Old John Barrel Blend
  • One Hop Wonder
  • Columbus Candy Cane Porter Firkin
  • Honey Blonde
  • Dry Fly Barrel Aged New West CDA
  • Farmhouse Blonde
  • Whiskey Soaked Oak Aged Steep & Deep
Filed under: New Beer Column, Holidays, Tacoma,

December 1, 2014 at 2:38pm

Christmas Eve dining options in Tacoma

Pacific Grill in downtown Tacoma will serve dinner early Christmas Eve. Courtesy photo

What is about Christmas Eve that conjures up the image of the second ghost who visits Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol?

The Ghost of Christmas Present tends to be depicted as a Father Christmas-type character: enormous in size and spirit with constant raucous laughter and a booming voice. He is typically dressed in long, flowing robes and other finery and is surrounded by a gluttonous feast of holiday foods while he hoists an impressively large goblet of wine.

Perhaps this is why on the eve before the big day, so many of us want to eat, drink and be merry with wild abandon.

More than ever, locals are flocking to grab their favorite eats on Christmas Eve and revel in the deliciousness of the holiday spirit.

Following are a few Tacoma establishments getting ready to welcome patrons to relax and enjoy fine holiday dining the day before the big day. Let the feast and festivities begin!

Important note and BIG TIME WARNING: We can't reiterate enough how popular this dining day is. Things at your favorite restaurant may be different that day as well - like reduced hours. To avoid disappointment, pre-plan. Make a reservation well in advance and check websites to get the scoop.

And hey, don't get all bah humbug on us and say we didn't warn you.

Pacific Grill (downtown Tacoma) and Smoke + Cedar(at the Allenmore Golf Course in Central Tacoma)

The beautiful and iconic Pacific Grill and its sister restaurant, the eclectic and exciting Smoke + Cedar, will both be open from 3 to 8 p.m. for a special Christmas Eve dinner. The award-winning Pacific Grill features a menu of fun and high-energy fine dining, and Smoke + Cedar has put a creative spin on American food and craft cocktails. Guests will find a menu with many of the delicious regular items from both establishments, plus some special dishes for the holidays. 

CI Shenanigans (Ruston Way, Tacoma waterfront)

This elegant waterfront restaurant has sweeping views of the sound along with a terrific selection of savory seafood and steaks and so much more. Lunch and dinner dining will be available on Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It is also playing host to a special Christmas Day buffet at the restaurant, by reservation only, from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Adults are $31.99; seniors are $28.99, kids ages 6 to 10 are $13.99; and kids 5 and under are $6.99.

BITE (Hotel Murano, downtown Tacoma)

This lovely restaurant, located in the gorgeous Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma, is known for its nibbles, cocktails, small plates and unique dinners that use the freshest local ingredients. It will be open regular hours for dinner on Christmas Eve and will have special holiday features to celebrate.

Stanley and Seafort's (downtown Tacoma)

This iconic Tacoma landmark restaurant has stunning city views and classic American fare featuring steaks, chops and seafood. The restaurant will be open on Christmas Eve from noon to 9 p.m. and on Christmas Day from noon to 8 p.m. Diners can expect the traditional menu flavored with special holiday-themed desserts to mark the occasion. 

The Cliff House (Northeast Tacoma, Brown's Point)

The historic and eclectic Cliff House restaurant, nestled atop a bluff in Northeast Tacoma, offers spectacular and panoramic views of the Tacoma cityscape, Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier. Specialty steaks and seafood are its hallmarks. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 24. As of press time, staff is putting together a limited holiday menu for diners to enjoy. 

The Lobster Shop (Ruston Way, Tacoma waterfront)

Combine stunning views of the bay along with a bevy of classic and eclectic seafood selections, and you have the iconic Lobster Shop. It will be open Dec. 24 with a special all-day holiday dinner menu featuring the restaurant's most popular dishes. Hours are from noon until 8 p.m. 

The Melting Pot (downtown Tacoma)

Dip your way to holiday fondue fun at The Melting Pot on Pacific Avenue. Break out your fondue forks to enjoy the current menu fare on Christmas Eve. It will be open standard hours for dinner, 5 to 10 p.m.

El Gaucho (downtown Tacoma)

El Gaucho offers elegant fine dining, literally at its best through both food and service, and is ready to wine and dine patrons with its current dinner menu on Christmas Eve during standard hours; dinner will be served from 4 to 10 p.m. 

Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge (Triangle District, downtown Tacoma)

This dining establishment is located in the historic and glorious Walker Building and serves up a diverse menu of seasonal fare using the freshest local ingredients. On Christmas Eve, the restaurant will open at 4 p.m. and close early at 8 p.m. There will be a special menu featuring one or two holiday-inspired choices.

Marrow (6th Avenue District, Tacoma)

Satisfy the carnivores and the vegans/vegetarians in your holiday group at terrific Marrow, which specializes in seasonal Northwest food and drink. Marrow will be open its standard hours from 4 p.m. to midnight. As of press time, the menu is still being planned, but will surely offer some great choices. As a reminder, patrons need to be 21 and older to enter this establishment.  

Over the Moon Café (Opera Alley, Tacoma)

This café, located in quaint and charming Opera Alley in downtown Tacoma, serves up Northwest and European cuisine and fine wines with a lovely ambiance. It will offer the current menu Christmas Eve from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

What other Tacoma, of for that matter, South Sound restaurants are open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

About this blog

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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