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April 20, 2015 at 2:51pm

Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. expands production, hires Andy Kenser

Steve Navarro brewing at Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. in downtown Tacoma. Courtesy photo

Some historians estimate that man has been brewing beer for more than 8,000 years. Anthropologists have even speculated that bearded Neolithic man made the transition from a nomadic to sedentary existence in order to cultivate grain for brewing beer. The beer served as an important nutritional supplement to an otherwise limited plant-heavy diet.

In 1840, archeologists digging up ancient Sumeria (present-day Iran) found clay tablets dating back 5,000 years that are inscribed with representations of brewing activity. From the tablets, we learned that these ancient cultures used beer as a dietary staple before bread was discovered. Their beer consisted of water, barley and flavorings.

Not as ancient, but certainly well bearded, man has been brewing beer in Tacoma since the late 1800s. In 1897, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. was established in downtown Tacoma and grew to become the second largest brewery in Washington state, until shut down by Prohibition in 1916.

Last September, head brewer Steve Navarro and financial businessman Brent Hall reopened Pacific Brewing and Malting Co., not in Tacoma's old brewery district near 25th and Jefferson, but rather down the street in the lower level of the historic Old City Hall Annex Building on Pacific Avenue, near the corner of South Seventh Street.

Even before trying a single beer, one can't help but be drawn to the photographic evidence of Pacific Brewing's history adorning the taproom walls of the new brewery. During a recent visit, I wasn't the only one taking photos of the photos.

But what are not as evident are the changes Pacific Brewing has undergone in recent weeks. Navarro and company have increased production capacity and hired veteran beverage sales rep Andy Kenser to distribute product to restaurants and bars - freeing up Navarro's time to concentrate on brewing beer, which is vital with the recent departure of assistant brewer Bethany Carlsen to the head brewer job at Gig Harbor Brewing Company.

"We doubled our capacity," Navarro told me as we strolled the halls of the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland during last week's Craft Brewers Conference. "We opened the brewery with four 7-barrel fermenter tanks and we just bought two 15-barrel fermenters, so we went from producing twenty-eight barrels to fifty-eight barrels. With Andy coming on, we'll be brewing more beer."

Kenser comes to Pacific Brewing & Malting from Click Wholesale Distributing where he represented hundreds of brands, including Dogfish Head and Bear Republic. Kenser started his career at Pike Brewing Company, moved to Harmon Brewing Company where he was assistant brewer, and eventually became a head brewer for RAM Restaurant and Brewery.

"Andy is my neighbor in the North Slope of Tacoma. He'd come into Pacific Brewing from time to time and really enjoyed the beer," Navarro said. "I knew we were increasing production and I simply couldn't do it all anymore - brewing, selling, delivering. I needed someone to rep our beer so I could focus on brewing. So I gave Andy a call. He's the perfect fit. Andy is well known and liked in the industry. And he's a brewer. He is going to help take us to the next level."

While Kenser will travel Washington state spreading the Pacific Brewing brand, the next level is actually firmly planted in Tacoma. Navarro and Kenser will focus heavily on saturating Tacoma with their 1897 Pale Lager, Dirty Skoog IPA, Citra Pale Ale and Grit City Porter, as well as their seasonals and specialty brews. They want to be Tacoma's beer. They want the Pacific handle to be in all four corners of the city.

As 12,000 brewers from around the world squeezed by us, Navarro and I discussed the brewery's history and success on Facebook. His historical posts drew thousands to his page well before he opened his big doors to Pacific Avenue.

"Our one-hundred-year-old history sparked more interest than we could ever imagine," Navarro explained. "Thankfully, we have been able to back it up with beers that people enjoy."

There are more beers on the way, too.

"We're coming out with a red amber called Red Front," he said. "Back in the day, Pacific Brewing had ownership interests in dozens and dozens of bars in Tacoma. They all sold Pacific beer. During Prohibition, they had to divest all their interests. One of those bars was called Red Front."

He's also brewing another IPA as part of his seven IPA series. This one will be low bitter and all-aroma, made with Amarillo and Simcoe hops. A hoppy Pilsner will follow the IPA release.

Pacific Brewing will begin bottling in May.

PACIFIC BREWING & MALTING CO., taproom open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.BEER

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

April 13, 2015 at 3:16pm

Wingman Brewers celebrates four years in Tacoma

Wingman Brewers head brewer Ken Thoburn will be behind the bar during the Tacoma brewery's fourth anniversary celebration. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Technically, Wingman Brewers produced its first batch of beer in 2007. "The first batch of beer I ever made was a five gallon batch of beer with my fellow Wingman Derrick Moyer.  We got the itch for brewing then and opened our business with a one barrel of 31-gallon batch of beer in April of 2011 with a party at The Red Hot," remembers Wingman head brewer and co-founder Ken Thoburn.  Friends and Tacoma natives Thoburn, Moyer, Daniel Heath and Jason Sabol launched the then Tacoma small-batch brewery. The brewery's name and image is homage to Thoburn's grandfather, an artist who served in World War II in the Pacific, and painted the sides of fighter planes when he could. Today, Thoburn, Moyer and Heath pilot the business.

Now four years after their takeoff, Thoburn still walks into his brewery with a smile. "My life has changed dramatically. I love my job for the first time in my life and that goes a long way," say Thoburn. "Even on the worst of days I still count myself lucky that I get to do what I love."

Wingman Brewers has produced iconic beers with aviation names such as ACE IPA, Stratofortress Belgian Strong Ale and P-51 Porter.

"We make a whole lot of Ace IPA and P-51 Porter," says Thoburn. "The Porter takes up the most production because aside from making the normal P-51 Porter we also do a large amount of Coconut P-51 and added Peanut Butter Cup P-51 this year.  It feels like I'm making P-51 nearly every week." 

But over the past four years, Thoburn has developed a startling number of different beers. By his count, he's designed more than 90 different brews or variations.

What has been the biggest challenge since opening? 

"Day-to-day business operations are challenging," says Thoburn. "Neither my business partner, Daniel, nor I had a huge amount of business ownership experience previous to opening Wingman Brewers so it's been and continues to be a heck of a learning process."

Currently, Wingman can't keep up with the demand for their beers. They could be selling many more beers, according to Thoburn.

"Our main issues have stemmed from production and distribution," he explains. "We continue to expand our business as quickly and safely as we can, though, so hopefully we will be able to get our beer to more people soon."

Wingman's strategic agility plans calls for an expansion of their beer production, distribution and retail space.

"In what order and how quickly depends on a number of variables," adds Thoburn. "We're just trying to stay flexible and enjoy the process as much as possible. We're very grateful for all the support from local businesses that we've had and we feel very lucky to have such great beer drinkers out there enjoying our product."

And, there's plenty to enjoy Saturday when Wingman Brewers opens the hangar doors for their "Here's To 4 in 253" four-year anniversary party. Lizzie Lou's Comfort Foodtruck, special glassware and plenty of beer are on the docket.

The taplist will be as follows:

  • Ace IPA;
  • P-51 Porter;
  • Peanut Butter Cup Porter;
  • Coconut P-51 Porter;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Old Plank Pils;
  • 2014 Bourbon Barrel Aged Stratofortress;
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Baby Flat Top;
  • 2014 Vintage Sour Brett Berliner Weisse; 
  • Madagascar Vanilla Bean & Raisin BBFT;
  • Red Hot Chili Pepper Ace IPA;
  • and more.

Wingman will also have bottles of: 

  • Bourbon Barrel Big Baby Flat Top;
  • Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Peanut Butter Cup P-51 Porter;
  • Chocolate Fortress; 
  • and more.

WINGMAN BREWERS "HERE'S TO 4 IN THE 253" FOURTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, noon to close, Saturday, April 18, Wingman Brewers, 509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.256.5240

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

April 10, 2015 at 4:18pm

Redhook Brewery introduces retro-style ESB design and new 16-ounce can

Redhook is like a hip uncle you enjoy hanging out with. Courtesy photo

Last Friday, Redhook Brewery tour guide and comedian Ben led me through Redhook's Woodinville plant and many beers. We chatted about my first Ballard Bitter in 1984, Redhook's innovative brewer Nick Crandall's pilot brew program, the brewery's history and one too many pirate jokes. If you've never toured the brewery, I highly recommend it.

Afterward, over a giant plate of nachos in their adjacent Forecasters Pub, Redhook retail supervisor, quality control taster and all-around cool person Valerie Hackett gave updates on Redhook's National Climate Declaration to reduce emissions, their partnership with Carl's Jr. to produced the Redhook Beer Battered Cod Fish Sandwich, the brewery's recent hiring of ad agency Duncan Channon and Redhook's desire to get back to their roots, with retro bottle and can releases and beer release parties.

Redhook took another step toward their goal with this news today. ...

Redhook Brewery, a Seattle staple since 1981, is unveiling a retro-style ESB design (Extra Special Bitter) today to pay homage to their brewing history in the Seattle. The throwback design will be featured on both bottle packaging as well as on a new 16 oz. can also introduced today. Both packages are available only in the Northwest.

As one of Redhook's original beers, ESB helped establish the craft brew landscape in Seattle in 1984, and remains one of the most-recognized in the brewery's portfolio. Brewed in the style of a traditional British Extra Special Bitter, Redhook ESB is distinguished by its balance of caramel malt sweetness and spicy, citrusy hops, making it a favorite among beer lovers for more than three decades.

A lot has changed in Seattle over that time, but ESB has continued to stay true. Said Redhook Brand Manager Karmen Olson, "Redhook has grown beyond what Paul Shipman, Gordon Bowker and those of us who grew up in Washington in the 80s and 90s could ever have imagined, and we wanted to reflect on the past and recognize the important role it played in Seattle's history. As the ‘Granddaddy of Craft,' ESB is a huge part of Redhook's Northwest heritage, and giving it a throwback design is one way to pay tribute to those roots."

12-oz bottles and 16-oz cans will each be available at on- and off-premise accounts in the Northwest. ABV 5.8%; IBUs 28

The Redhook ESB Retro campaign will include regional #TBT scavenger hunts, pop-up retro fitted vending machine (near the original brewery), presence at local sporting events, Washington State ferries and more.

Yes please!

Filed under: New Beer Column,

April 7, 2015 at 10:37am

Top Rung Brewing Company celebrates their first anniversary, releases new beers

Top Run Brewing celebrates their first anniversary April 10-12, 2014. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Lacey, Washington is still hugging it out with Top Rung Brewing Co. A year ago, Thurston County firefighters Casey Sobol and Jason Stoltz opened their brewery in Lacey's Hawks Prairie neighborhood.

Over the course of the year, the brewery released 11 beers from their initial three - Hosechaser, Irons IPA and Scout Stout - launched Thirsty Thursday Randall nights (my favorite is their My Dog Scout Stout run through coffee beans and chocolate nibs), hired sales representative "Brew Dad" Mike Besser that resulted in wider distribution, began bottling their beers, increased their taproom hours and launched a discount program for their "family" of service members - fellow firefighters, police officers and the military. The career firefighters - 21 years for Sobol and eight for Stoltz - celebrate their first year in business beginning Friday, although they began scheming in 2011. It became real when the duo's Hosechaser Blonde grabbed the Dick's Brewing "Beer for a Cure" homebrewing contest top prize in 2012 - and they began to shadow Dick's brewer Parker Penley.

Today, Top Rung is a 10-barrel production brewery with a large, firefighting-theme, family-friendly tasting room at the brewery.

Top Rung has titled their one-year anniversary celebration "Beerbalation," running April 10-12.

Friday, April 10, Stoltz will release his first bourbon barrel-aged beer - Bourbon Barrel Aged Pyrolysis Imperial Stout. Expect dark and malty flavors with notes of coffee and chocolate boosted with a smooth bourbon finish.

Saturday, Stoltz releases two more Top Rung beers. Part of their pilot batch series - a tasting room only program - the Flashover Red is a derivative of their 360 Red Ale, but with the kick of serrano, anaheim, jalapeno and habanero peppers balanced with vanilla bean and oak chips. "This beer was designed to provide a beer with a good pepper aroma upfront with some subtle heat in the back," according to Sobol. Stoltz will also release their seasonal Good Jake Cascadian Dark Ale with a big dark, malty and hoppy aroma and hints of coffee and chocolate notes throughout.

Top Rung Brewing's Beerbalation will run 2-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.They'll have a special commemorative glasses available for $7.50 each, while supplies last.

TOP RUNG BREWING COMPANY, 8343 Hogum Bay Lane NE, Suite B, Lacey, 360.239.3043

Filed under: New Beer Column, Lacey,

March 31, 2015 at 12:18pm

Beer Guy Garage Sale to benefit Citizens for a Healthy Bay

Will 7 Seas Brewing swag created by Kotis Design be available for purchase at The Swiss April 4? Drop by between noon and 5 p.m. and find out. Photo courtesy of kotisdesign.com

In 1976, most of America may have been focused on the bicentennial, but for me, I sunk into my lime green beanbag and watched Star Trek. I would yell at the red-shirted extras to stay alive aboard the USS Enterprise. During the AMC Pacer commercials, I'd study my Star Fleet Technical Manual.

In 2015, most of America may be focused on the minimum wage issue, but for me, I sink into my International Caravan Bali 42-inch Rattan Papasan Chair with Cushion and read beer release stat sheets. I yell at Russian River Brewing to send Pliny the Younger to my planet. DuringMcConaughey's Lincoln Motor Company commercials, I'd study my Cicerone Certification Program study guide.

Star Trek geeks and beer geeks share similar traits, and not just the prevalence of T-shirt wearing guys with beards, albeit the latter don free beer fest volunteer T-shirts. Both sets of geeks spot a warren of minutia and terminology that can make even a Romulan Ale brewer's head spin. Both possess an enormous collection of related schwag. And, there's a lot of yelling when someone drops a Tribble/beer.

The kings of the beer geeks, in my book, are the brewery sales representatives, or beer reps. It's their job to know beer inside and out. They need the knowledge to have intelligent conversations with their boss, the brewery owner, the brewery's brewmaster, as well as the distributor who, er, distributes their beer, the establishments that sell their beer and the consumers who attended their brewery promotions - the people who matter the most.

It's a complicated system, thanks to the U.S. government. You see, the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition in the U.S., gave the states the authority to regulate alcohol within their borders. Almost every state, including Washington state, adopted the "three tier system" as the legal structure in which alcohol sales must occur within the state. In a nutshell, this means that a brewer/importer can only sell to a wholesaler, who can only sell to a retailer, who can only sell to consumers. It also requires legal separation between each of these tiers. In other words, a company can't brew beer and own a bar (unless there's an exception such as for brewpubs). Many wholesalers are large companies that own refrigerated warehouses and a fleet of refrigerated trucks. Their focus is on selling and delivering the beer brands they represent to retailers. The beer rep is responsible for the promotion and sales of a beer in a territory, working hand-in-hand with all parties previously mentioned.

How geeky are beer reps? When he's not out repping San Francisco brewery 21st Amendment to Washington state establishments Colin Harvin cellars beer and trades beer with other fellow beer geeks, that is when he's not searching for rarities on his phone. Eugene's Hop Valley Brewing rep Rob Brunsman sleeps in his Hop Valley vest and will chat with every single person, even if there are hundreds, during his promotions. Although he can't grow a beard, and always smells like beer (according to Brunsman), Kevin Lind, rep at 7 Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor, knows the total breakdown from hops to malt to styles, and loves explaining the process.

Similar to Trekkies, beer reps also possess scads of schwag - meaning beer-related stuff, not "low-grade pot" as defined by the Urban Dictionary. The growing craft beer industry has lead to the growth of all kinds of periphery businesses, and a beer rep carts tons of his or her brewery's T-shirts, glassware, tins, inflatables, beer soap, coasters, craft beer earrings or "beerings," stickers and such around a specified territory, marketing the brewery and giving the schwag away. The paraphernalia piles up, due to overproduction, discontinued beers or brew that never made it to final production such as Puyallup Public Swimming Pool Porter, Buckley Bimbo Barleywine, Fuzzy Mouthfeel Peach Lambic or maybe even Eatonville Enigma Brown Something-or-other. Open up a beer reps' garage and you'll see an amassment of beer posters, buttons, bottle openers, life-size cardboard replications of brewers, drum kits made out of wooden barrels, beer can bracelets, iPhone covers that resemble frothy beer mugs and, in front of the pile, stands an angry spouse.

Marine View Beverage distributors came up with an idea to rid the reps of all their brewery's booty, and simultaneously support the effort to clean up, restore and protect Commencement Bay, its surrounding waters and natural habitat. The afternoon of Saturday, April 4, The Swiss Restaurant and Pub will host the Beer Guy Garage Sale, the opportunity to furnish home bars and man cave's with the leftover beer schwag from beer reps.

"We're combining two of Tacomans' favorite things - beer and the Bay," says Ian VanDooren, manager at The Swiss. "The folks from Citizens for a Healthy Bay will be on hand to collect money at the sales tables, auction off whatever really cool stuff we get - basketball hoops, hockey goals, coolers, neon signs and such - and also inform folks on their mission."

"It's pretty brilliant," says Karen Gogins, Partnerships and Communication manager with Citizens for a Healthy Bay. "This garage sale will be selling all of that leftover merchandise to raise funds for our clean water programs."

Drop by The Swiss Saturday afternoon and shop the schwag tables. Maybe you'll find that perfect beer lamp to go with your lime green beanbag or a lime green Rattan Papasan Chair.

BEER GUY GARAGE SALE, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 4, The Swiss Restaurant and Pub, 1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.572.2821

March 25, 2015 at 3:16pm

Parkway Tavern reveals Barley Wine Fest beers, renames the event

It's all about barleywine at the Parkway Tavern March 28. Photo courtesy of Facebook

The headline may have left you wondering: barleywine? This stuff isn't actually wine, though it is comparable in both complexity and alcohol strength - hence the name. Sometimes people call them Old Ales. Sometimes people call them burleywines, but those people are drunk on barleywine. From their darker, malty, and fruity English origins around the turn of the 20th century to the hoppy American versions of today, the ancient style of beer range from 8 percent to upward of 20 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

Some barleywines, like Crazy Mountain Brewing's 10 percent ABV Lawyers, Guns & Money, drink not unlike double IPAs when fresh, though the aforementioned sugar and alcohol content often make them good to drink several years after they've been bottled or kegged.

There are hundreds of barleywines, probably thousands, in the world, but it seems like many are extremely limited and hard to find on a regular, year-round basis. That's one of the reason's why you can barely find an inch of space at the ParkWay Tavern's annual Barley Wine Fest, which will hit the Tacoma tavern Saturday, March 28.

Barleywines are no joke. They command your palate and demand your respect. So if you're new to these brews, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Ask for the smaller pours. You'll be able to taste more and pace yourself; these ABVs range from 10.5 to 14 percent.
  • Start with the older expressions; they tend to kick first.
  • Hydrate. Drink water between beers. This will also help cleanse your palate.
  • Eat. Keep your stamina up.

At the ParkWay's annual Barley Wine fest, 6-ounce pours are available, and despite the refreshing nature of IPAs as opposed to the gut-punch sugar-crash feeling that comes with drinking barleywine, 6 ounces can be enough of most of these.

This year's John O'Gara Barley Wine Fest tap list features 32 different barleywines - a handful have been stocked for years. YEARS I tell you! The annual event has been renamed to pay homage to former ParkWay Tavern manager John O'Gara who passed last March. O'Gara founded the event. Here is the Barley wine fest taplist:

  • 21st Amendment Lower De Boom '12, San Francisco, California, 11.5%
  • Avery Hog Heaven '12, Boulder, Colorado, 9.2%
  • Bainbridge Old Toe Jam '12, Bainbridge Island, Washington, 9.9%
  • Beer Valley Highway To Ale '13, Ontario, Oregon, 10.5%
  • Deschutes Mirror Mirror '14, Bend, Oregon, 11%
  • Dick's '12, Centralia, Washington, 10%
  • E-9 Barrel Aged Thunder Buddies, '13, Tacoma, Washington, 9.9%
  • Epic '13, Salt Lake City, Utah, 10.1%
  • Fishtale Whiskey 102, '13, Olympia, Washington, 10%
  • Full Sail Old Boardhead '08, Hood River, Oregon, 9%
  • Great Divide Old Ruffian, '10, Denver, Colorado, 10.3%
  • Hale's Rudyard's Rare, '12, Seattle, Washington, 9.2%
  • Hopworks Noggin' Floggin', '10, Portland, Oregon, 11%
  • Iron Fist Raisin' A Fist, '14, Vista, California, 11.3%
  • Lagunitas Gnarleywine, '10, Petaluma, California, 10.3%
  • Lost Coast Fogcutter, '11, Eureka, California, 9.5%
  • Mad River John Barleycorn, '13, Blue Lake, California, 9.5%
  • Ninkasi Wheat Wine, '12, Eugene, Oregon, 9%
  • No-Li Big Bang, '14, Spokane, Washington, 10.5%
  • North Coast Class Of '88, '13, Fort Bragg, California, 10%
  • Perennial Artisan Ales Vermilion, '14, St. Louis, Missouri, 10.5%
  • Redhook Treblehook, '10, Woodinville, Washington, 10.1%
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, '11, Chico, California, 9.6%
  • Silver City Old Scrooge, '14, Silverdale, Washington, 9%
  • Snipes Mountain Rosa, '13, Sunnyside, Washington, 9.2%
  • Sound Old Scoundrel, '14, Poulsbo, Washington, 10.4%
  • Stone Old Guardian, '09, Escondido, California, 11.3%
  • Terminal Gravity, '08, Enterprise, Oregon, 13.1%
  • Uinta Anniversary, '14, Salt Lake City, Utah, 10.4%
  • Walking Man Old Stumblefoot, '12, Stevenson, Washington, 12.3%
  • Widmer Old Embalmer, '12, Portland, Oregon, 9.5%

Pours come in 6, 10 and 16 ounces, and, like I said, you probably don't need more than 6 ounces of anything if you're planning on drinking more than two or three normal beers' worth. If there's something you're dead set on trying, come early on Saturday, since when a beer gets popular with the crowd, it blows fast. Get ready, and be careful out there; this is heavy stuff.

The barleywine will continue to pour the following morning during the ParkWay's annual Barley Wine Brunch. Pair your favorite barleywine with a beer-friendly menu for $60. The event sells out every year, so. ... Appropriately more ways than one, Tacoma bluegrass stalwarts Barleywine Revue will return to the Fest for a fifth time, performing inside during Sunday's brunch.

Donations will be accepted for the Maeve O'Gara Educational Fund, John O'Gara's young daughter.

JOHN O'GARA BARLEY WINE FEST, 10 a.m. to close, Saturday, March 28, 313 N. I St., Tacoma, no cover, pours $3-$10, 253.383.8748

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

March 24, 2015 at 10:10am

Why Adam? Why Odd Otter beer? Here's why: rally behind Team Knowing Stuff

Drink Odd Otter beer so Adam C. Boyd can ask why. Photo courtesy of Facebook

The Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor in New Jersey once reached a temperature of 920 million degrees Fahrenheit. Hawaii gets four inches closer to Japan every year. Ants never sleep, and a decapitated cockroach can live for weeks. The cracks in breaking glass spread at up to 3,000 miles an hour. A shrimp's head contains its heart. At freeway speeds, a drive to the sun would take about 175 years. It would also end badly for the car. How do we know these things? Science. So why didn't you know these things? You attended an American public school.

We live in a time of widespread scientific illiteracy, even as our pockets, homes and automobiles are crammed with technology that'd make Isaac Newton's cranium explode with delight. Studies have shown that almost half of all Americans have no idea how long it takes the earth to go around the sun, nor do over two out of five know humans and dinosaurs were never alive at the same time. In 1987, a documentarian found that many Harvard professors had no idea why seasons occur. It's difficult to have a rational conversation about DNA evidence, evolution, global warming or vaccines with people who know nothing about them. Lamar Smith, currently the chairman of the Congressional Science Committee, is a Christian Scientist, meaning he believes physical illness is a state of mind. Take that, germ theory of disease!

What can be done to stem this depressing and dangerous tide of irrationality? If only there were someone in this area willing, nay, demanding to stand in its way and shout proudly, "NO MORE!" But wait! What's this? From out of the west he comes: Washingtonian filmmaker Adam C. Boyd is working on a TV show to pursue that very goal. The Why Adam? Show aims to address the science behind everyday life. Why does food go bad? How does power reach your house from Alder Dam? What makes beer so delicious? Where do babies come from? Why does asparagus - well, maybe not all of those. The point is Adam Boyd needs your help. You, too, can be part of Team Knowing Stuff. Starting Saturday, April 4 and extending for a week, the so-called Why Adam? Show Science Summit will gather funds for and increase knowledge of the upcoming show. Odd Otter Brewing Company, for example, created a new batch called Why Adam? Belgian Dark. By simply buying and enjoying a bottle at Tacoma hangouts such as Meconi's Pub & Eatery, The Mix, The Office Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue or Stonegate Pizza, you strike a powerful blow for non-stupidity. And how often can one say that about drinking a beer?

If you'd like to learn more or make a donation, visit WhyAdamShow.com. And if you'd like to use the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor as a Jacuzzi or drive to the sun, don't. Holy cats, man, you need Adam Boyd's show more than any of us.

March 17, 2015 at 1:42pm

Wingman Brewers and The Rusty Cleavers collaborate on Old Plank Pils, release it Friday

The Rusty Cleavers with Wingman Brewers' founders Ken Thoburn (center) and Daniel Heath plan the Old Plank Pils party. Photo courtesy of Kyle Peirson/Facebook

Friday night I'm headed to the happiest place on Earth - and no, I don't mean Disneyland, which calls itself "The Happiest Place on Earth" because it has bathrooms cleaner than yours will ever be and employees who are happier than you'll ever be ... unless you contract the measles.

No, to reach the happiest place on Earth I won't even have to leave Tacoma, because Wingman Brewers is a hop, skip and stumble away from the Tacoma Dome. The Tacoma brewery will introduce the Old Plank Pils to the world, a beer head brewer Ken Thoburn and crew brewed especially for Tacoma punkgrass band The Rusty Cleavers.

Several reasons factored in Thoburn's decision to make The Rusty Cleavers his muse. First, bluegrass screams beer. You see, back in the day in the deep South the bluegrass musicians played in church halls and school auditoriums, but that changed as the musicians eventually made their way up North and pushed opened the bar doors. Instead of just playing those nostalgic songs about the cabin on the hill and mother's grave, they started adapting drinking and cheating songs from mainstream country and arranging them for bluegrass. How could they not? The urban bars in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago were tough places full of tough people. When you walked in the door, you walked onto a floor of sticky beer and into a cloud of cigarette smoke. Bluegrass wasn't meant to be sterile and healthy. It was meant for working class and beer joints.

>>> The Rusty Cleavers, from left, Forest Beutel, Zach Bernard, Luke Sumerfield and Kevin Shintaku, will perform at Wingman brewers Friday, March 20. Photo courtesy of Kyle Peirson/Facebook

The Rusty Cleavers is a working class kind of band, combining the world bluegrass, punk and beer magnificently - with all manner of mandolin, banjo and backyard clatter coming together in a cacophony of spirited group-singing and hoops and hollers. The band writes rowdy songs. They take their musical influences - folk, country and bluegrass - and punk them up. They add growls, and serve them with a cold Wingman beer.

The second reason why Thoburn and The Rusty Cleavers collaborated has more merit than the music genre. The Wingman head brewer and the punkgrass band share roots in the Tacoma neighborhood of Parkland. Thoburn is a Pacific Lutheran University alum, the university where The Rusty Cleavers were Big Bluegrass on Campus. Cleavers' bassist Zach Bernard and washboard/percussionist Luke Sumerfield shared classrooms with Thoburn. A mini college reunion was held when Thoburn attended The Rusty Cleavers' recent "Cave Sessions" recording, a live, in-studio performance produced by MountainHouse Recordings in Tacoma.

"During a Cave Sessions break, Ken asked us if we would be interested in working on a beer collaboration," says Forest Beutel, banjoist with The Rusty Cleavers. "We were like, ‘Uhhh ... YES!'"

"The Rusty Cleavers guys came up with the pilsner idea and the name Old Plank Pils after their song 'Old Plank Road'," says Thoburn. "They're big pilsner fans so we made it happen."

"Old Plank Road" is a drinking anthem.

"It seemed appropriate to name a beer after one of our drinking songs," adds Beutel. 

Indeed it does.

The Old Plank Pils, or OPP as Thoburn called it, is a straight up no frills kind of pilsner. The malt bill is almost entirely pils malt, which has a continental European color and quality to it despite being grown locally. 

"We use US Saaz hops, which are a variety originally from the Czech Republic," explains Thoburn. "The ABV is 4.8 percent and the IBU is slightly under 30, which puts it right in the middle of the stylistic guidelines. For those who do enjoy craft beer the OPP is a super refreshing pils that is awesome for those days when your palette is worn out from imperial stouts, IPSs or sours. We feel like the beer is something people who don't normally drink craft beer can get behind for the sake of supporting the YWCA and drinking local. It's the perfect backyard barbecue or bluegrass kitchen party kind of beer."

YWCA?

The Old Plank Pils will be released Friday at Wingman Brewers. The Rusty Cleavers will sing drinking songs, with 25 percent of the proceeds benefitting the YWCA Pierce County.

"We see the YWCA doing a lot great things in our community and the guys from The Rusty Cleavers identified them as the group they wanted to benefit from the beer collaboration," says Thoburn. 

The Old Plank Pils pegs Wingman's second band-beer-benefit collaboration. Last year, Wingman teamed up with local reggae band Mighty High to produce the Mighty HighPA. The musicians picked Elements of Education as the benefitting organization. This year, The Rusty Cleavers chose the YWCA. And, just like last year, 10 percent of all sales of the beer will benefit the nonprofit organization.

"So drink up!" stresses Beutel.

The Old Plank Pils release party will begin at 8 p.m., with the band hitting the planks at 8:30 p.m. for a two-hour performance. I can guarantee you Wingman Brewers will be the happiest place on Earth that night ... and the bathroom is cleaner than yours.

OLD PLANK PILS RELEASE PARTY, w/The Rusty Cleavers, 8 p.m., Friday, March 20, Wingman Brewers, 509 1/2 Puyallup Ave, Tacoma, no cover, 253.256.5240

March 13, 2015 at 10:56am

Words & Photos: Deschutes Brewery Beer & Food Pairing Dinner at The Swiss

The March 11 Deschutes Brewery beer-pairing dinner was a lively, delicious night to remember. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Beer may not match wine when it comes to finding a place at the dinner table, but in the South Sound it's encouraging to see so many restaurants with great beer selections - including The Swiss Restaurant and Pub in downtown Tacoma. With its range of malty sweetness, hoppy bitterness, spiciness and yeasty-earthiness, beer offers endless pairing opportunities for meals. That range was front and center Wednesday night at the Deschutes Brewery Beer & Food Pairing Dinner at The Swiss.

Egged on by Erik Dahlin of Marine View Beverage, Washington state market manager for Deschutes Brewery Norm Cartwright put on a show. I speak not of the giant vertical banners, wall banners, ceiling spotlight, swag bags and pint glasses filled with goodies. Rather, Cartwright knows beer inside and out - from the hop fields to the correct glassware - and certainly knows his beloved Deschutes Brewery. He delivered a plethora of information in boisterous soliloquies. He worked the room, and his audience of 45 beer drinkers halted their reality food show and metal band discussions to zero in on Cartwright as if he controlled the beer, which, of course, he did. Cartwright chose the beer - from his brewery's popular Black Butte Potter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Deschutes' current number one selling beer, Fresh Squeezed AIP - two special treats, such as Red Chair North West Pale Ale on Nitro, Not the Stoic Belgian Quad and The Abyss Stout, which Swiss owner Jack McQuade bought in November specifically for Wednesday night's beer-pairing dinner. In fact, McQuade bought the first ever keg of The Abyss before it reached legendary status, therefore McQuade is on the A List. Jacob Thacker controlled the kitchen. And with help from Joe Straight, the two kept smiles on their audience of 45 ... while 30 elementary school kids danced and laughed past the kitchen during a fundraiser.

As diners rolled into The Swiss, they were handed a Weizen glass full of Black Butte Porter, Deschutes' second ever beer brewed (Jubelale was the first) and flagship product out of the Bend, Oregon, brewery. Made with Pale, Carapils, Chocolate, Crystal and wheat malts, along with Cascade, Bravo and Tettnang hops, Black Butte Porter is the number one porter in the U.S. by volume.

Situated between the table of Cartwright, Dahlin and their better halves and the cool kids table of Robbie Peterson (Eleven Eleven, The Valley, The Galley at 7 Seas Brewing), Carolyn Warner, Jason Kennedy (Severus, South 11th bands) and his wife, Julie Goodale Kennedy, I concentrated on the task, giving occasional nods and smiles to conceal my nerdiness.

Up next was a roasted cauliflower salad, with chickpeas, carrots and sunflower seeds in a tangy citrus dressing to carry us through from the Black Butte Porter. The ample, savory chickpeas were cooked perfectly. Mirror Pond Pale Ale's floral scents and underlying citrus profile synchronized very well with the citrus dressing that packed a little heat, thanks to Oregon-grown Cascade hops.

A cheese and chareuterie plate followed the garden course. A wonderful port cheese was the highlight, dominating over the havarti and cheddar. Shaved salami accompanied the cheeses, as did delicious housemade beer bread baked with the course's beer - the Red Chair North West Pale Ale Nitro, a fine beer for cutting lightly through flavors without intrusion. Cartwright explained the Red Chair, named after the oldest chair at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, launches Deschutes' seasonals for the year, making room for the summer seasonal ales at the end of May. Like its namesake ski lift, it's an insider's ride to fresh thrills - several select European and domestic malts, which take a surprisingly plush, satin run on the way to a citrusy, refreshing hop kick. The beer takes an even larger malt stand and creamier, big head due to the higher-pressure nitro push.

"Drop your nose into the glass and take a sniff - three short sniffs and one long one - to really draw out that wonder aroma before taking a sip," Cartwright suggested.  The whole room drops their heads toward the heads. "We use only two hops in this beer. First, Cascade - Deschutes is the number one user of Cascade hops, and Centennial."

For our main course, we met up with a mouthwateringly delicious Fresh Squeezed IPA with a heavy helping of Citra and Mosaic hops, paired with poached sole roulade over a lemon chive risotto, and finished with a velute. As a stage for Fresh Squeezed to do its thing, the main course did just fine. There was enough bitterness to cleanse the grilled tones of the sole, and the fragrant, fresh-tasting risotto was tops.

Dessert could have stopped at The Abyss Stout. The 2014 vintage of this annually anticipated obsidian number is smooth as silk, with lovely notes of cocoa and a nose that's akin to the first inhale of a tobacco shop. Appropriately, we were served chocolate stout mousse layered with double chocolate fudge brownie crumble topped with a berry Melba sauce. A number of my fellow diners noted that they liked this course the most, and I can't say I disagree.

As the group broke into group hugs, Deschutes' Not the Stoic Belgian Quad signaled it was time to turn to the stage for jazz saxophonist Kareem Kandi's band. This beer is as good as it is rare. It's aged 11 months in premium oak casks that are 15 percent Pinot Noir and 15 percent rye whiskey. Licorice, blackstrap molasses, vanilla bean and cherry paired well with the music.

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

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.

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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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