Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fiddler’s Inn

Fiddler’s Inn, Wedgwood – Seattle, WA   

Stars: 4 
Date visited: Feb 16, 2014
Address: 9219 35th Avenue Northeast, Seattle, WA 98115

The Fiddler’s is one of the best pubs in Seattle! It is a tiny little place with a big personality.  Great location, an interesting selection of rotating taps, and excellent food!! After doing a little research I was surprised to find the Fiddlers was built in 1933, and was actually one of the first bars in Seattle to get a liquor license after Prohibition ended! How cool is that?

The bar itself feels like you are walking into someone’s house. After arriving you will quickly notice everyone seems to know one another. You might feel a little left out at first, but it’s so cozy you’ll quickly feel right at home. The Fiddler’s staff is pleasant, extremely knowledgeable, and there to get you what you want (sometimes with a smile). If you are looking for a cheery bartender to put on a show for you, you are in the wrong bar.

On busy nights (and during any Mariners, Seahawks, or Sounders game) the pub can get a little rowdy and extremely loud. I would suggest grabbing an early beer on a Sunday evening if you are looking for a fun date night! Also, I should note, during the summer you can sit outside under a canopy of hop vines. But be prepared to get there early or wait your turn… if memory serves, there are only 4 or 5 tables located on the patio!

The owners of this pub also run the Hopvine Pub (Capitol Hill) and the Latona Pub (Green Lake)… both establishments are equally funky and fun.

Flyers Humbles Blonde Ale

Flyers Brewery, Oak Harbor, WA – Humbles Blonde Ale  

Stars: 3.5 
Date sampled: Feb 16, 2014
Format: Pint on tap
Where I found it: Fiddler’s Inn, Wedgwood, Seattle

The Humbles Blonde Ale was a crystal-clear honey-hued brew with sweet and crisp aromas of the honey persuasion. This beer was stunning in contrast to Sam’s milky reddish brown disaster of a beer ordered the same evening at the Fiddler’s Inn.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this brew was more flavorful than one would expect for the style. The brew starts with a very crisp and smooth mouthfeel and evolves into an interesting creamy vegetable sweetness. (Sam was pretty adamant the veggie essence was reminiscent of creamed corn… after a healthy debate we settled on “vegetable sweetness”) Anyhow, the most exciting aspect of the beer was the unexpectedly bitter linger. The linger was a welcome surprise, as neither Sam, nor I, found any hops to be present up front! 

Blonde Ales are typically not my thing, but this one has me newly interested in the style. I should also note that this beer tastes like a much bigger one than it is…upon arriving home, we looked up the beer and realized it comes in at only 3.5 percent! What a great session ale!

- Megan

Stats: 3.5%

Anacortes Noel Winter Ale

Anacortes Brewery, Anacortes, Washington – Noel Winter Ale

Stars: 2.5
Date sampled: Feb 16, 2014
Format: Pint on tap
Where I found it: Fiddler’s Inn, Wedgwood, Seattle

As soon as the server at Fiddler’s set this one down on the table, both Megan and I were struck by this beer – it is really ugly. Sort of a milky reddish brown, I can’t say as this beer is exactly visually tantalizing.

I did get a bit more curious after taking in the nose of this beer, however. Strongly sweet aromas of coffee and toffee dominate – in fact, I found the aromas to be reminiscent of Hostess mini crumb doughnuts (which, I actually found to be a promising thing…but I’ve got a soft spot for those things).

But the taste and mouthfeel left much to be desired. For a winter ale, Noel is disappointingly light-bodied. It feels as if it didn’t want to fully commit to being a winter ale. It comes off as watered down and unsure of itself. There is a pleasant sweetness at the front of this ale, but it quickly fades and it is overpowered by a strong bitter linger that seems inappropriate in context.

I don’t usually say this kind of thing since I am a huge fan of all things bitter, but I think this beer would benefit from a significant dialing back of the IBUs (which actually aren’t all that high to begin with). The most pleasant thing about this beer is its subtly sweet and nutty flavor – unfortunately the subtlety isn’t allowed to shine.

There’s nothing offensive or challenging about this beer, but not much of note either. Go ahead and pass this one by.


Stats: 7.0% ABV / OG: 1.075 / IBU: 45

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fort George Vortex IPA

Fort George Brewery, Astoria, Oregon – Vortex IPA

Stars: 4
Date sampled: Feb 11, 2014
Format: 16 oz. can
Where I found it: Metropolitan Market, Sand Point Location, Seattle

Ahh, now that’s better. Our last beer review was of Fort George’s rather disappointing OPA (Oatmeal Pale Ale). But the folks at Fort George have totally redeemed themselves with today’s brew – the Vortex IPA.

Immediately upon cracking the can on this one, you’ll notice an incredibly pleasant and impressively intense hop aroma with strong notes of melon present.

One of the most interesting things about this brew is the way in which it evolves over time. The mouthfeel has a medium consistency, and the beginning of the finish is pretty crisp and clean. But soon after the initial finish, a bitterness creeps in and continues to grow in a surprising way. Those who are a fan of the bitter will want to seek out this one if not just for its impressive linger.

An all-around solid IPA (and one that doesn’t taste quite as big as its 7.7% ABV)…and the nice golden amber color certainly doesn’t hurt the experience either.

Nicely done, George.


Stats: 7.7% ABV / 97 IBU

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pike Brewing Company

Pike Brewing Company, Seattle, Washington

Stars: 3
Date visited: Feb 09, 2014
Address: 415 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

I have a love-hate relationship with this brewery… The Pike Pub can be a bit overwhelming. At first glance this pub looks like a total tourist trap and is a little reminiscent of a busy Red Robin. With that said, it is a pretty cool place especially if you go at the right time, with the right people, and manage to finagle a good spot.

The brewery and pub spans 5 levels. I recommend grabbing a booth in the Museum Room. Although it may seem to be one of the most cluttered rooms, the beer memorabilia within covers over 9,000 years of beer history. Pretty interesting.

As far as the beer is concerned, most of their beers are not remarkable. Not bad… just not great. There are, however, two exceptions: the Space Needle Golden Anniversary IPA and Monk's Uncle Tripel. Both of these are must-try beers.

Concerning the food, over the years we have had a few appetizer plates here and there – everything seems to be good… again, not great.

For anyone visiting Seattle this brewery is a must see. There are currently over 60 brewers in the greater Seattle area yet this is the only brewery downtown (Gordon-Biersch and Rock Bottom do not count)! Reasonable prices, pretty good brew, and decent food -  if you are downtown with some friends and have an hour or two to kill, Pike is a great place to drop in.

Elysian Superfuzz Clone Recipe

Last year, we found ourselves a bit obsessed with Elysian Brewing’s Superfuzz Pale Ale. A tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Superfuzz is a crisp pale ale infused with blood orange rind and puree. This is one darn tasty brew that seems to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Only problem is, it’s only released as a summer seasonal. So, hoping to provide ourselves with a Superfuzz fix year round, we devised a homebrew recipe that we think clones Superfuzz pretty convincingly. In case anyone wants to give our version (which we call First Blood Pale Ale) a shot, here’s the recipe for a 5 gallon batch:

First Blood Pale Ale 

9 lbs American 2-Row
1 lbs 4 oz Munich Light
8.0 oz Cara-Pils

1 oz Northern Brewer – 60 min
0.5 oz Cascade – 30 min
0.5 oz Citra – 10 min
0.5 oz Amarillo Gold – 0 min

Zest from two blood oranges (navel oranges if blood oranges are not available) added to boil at flameout

1 pkg Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Mash for 60 min @ 150 F

Ferment in primary for two weeks, transfer to secondary for one additional week. Upon transferring to the secondary, add 3oz blood orange puree (frozen blood orange puree can be purchased at DeLaurenti in Seattle’s Pike Place Market).

- Sam

Fort George Sunrise OPA

Fort George Brewery, Astoria, Oregon – Sunrise OPA  

Stars: 1.5  
Date sampled: Feb 10, 2014
Format: 16 oz. can
Where we found it: Metropolitan Market, Sand Point Location, Seattle

Having tried Fort George’s Vortex IPA several months ago and having loved it (we’ll be reviewing a can of Vortex in the near future), we had high hopes for this one. I had never seen or tried an OPA (Oatmeal Pale Ale) before, so I was intrigued from the start - I was expecting to experience a nice standard pale ale with some unique and uncharacteristic smoothness from the use of oatmeal in the mash. I was further intrigued after taking a whiff of the strongly hoppy and spicy nose before my first sip.

And then…I was sorely disappointed. As far at the oatmeal part of this beer is concerned, I found it hard to detect its presence at all - the mouthfeel of this pale ale is pretty standard for the style. And the flavor leaves much to be desired. The spiciness from the hops (mainly Amarillo) is interesting but it completely overpowers the beer. Combine this with an impressively long-lasting metallic linger and you’ve got one beer I think most people would do well to steer clear of. The only reason I felt compelled to give this beer a touch more than one star is that there is a distinct earthy spiciness (perhaps, in part, a result of the elusive oatmeal?) that comes through for just a moment, right before the metallic linger, that is really pleasing. It’s just too bad that flavor is so fleeting.

Megan, my father, and I all sampled this beer at the same time and the reactions were pretty unanimous. Three thumbs down.

- Sam

Stats: 5.2% ABV / 49 IBU

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Brasserie d’Achouffe La Chouffe

Brasserie d’Achouffe, Achouffe, Belgium – La Chouffe  

Stars: 3.5  
Date sampled: Jan 12, 2014
Format: 11.2 oz. bottle
Where we found it: BevMo, Northgate, Seattle

One of the must-try Belgian brews – if not just because of its notoriety among those interested in Belgian beer.

La Chouffe, which means “the gnome” in French, is a relatively young Belgian brew, first brewed in 1982 by two brothers-in-law in Belgium. They started their operation as hobbyists but, within a few years, things grew quickly and the brothers-in-law went professional. Then, in 2006 they sold to the well-known Duvel Moortgat Brewery, brewers of Duvel golden ale. (By the way, Duvel Triple Hop 2014 is coming this March. We’ll be trying it as soon as we can get our hands on it).

Brewed with coriander, this Belgian golden has a yeasty, slightly spicy, and heavily banana nose. The medium-full mouthfeel (a little fuller than most Belgian goldens) is complemented by a slight tartness. The finish of this solid brew is spicy with a hay-like flavor, and is surprisingly dry considering the fuller mouthfeel (Megan was not a big fan of the finish).

Overall, a great stand-by golden ale. Not sure I’d seek this one out again but I’m certainly glad to have tried it.

- Sam

Stats: 8.0% ABV / OG: 1.065

Anchor Zymaster Vol. 5

Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, CA – Zymaster Vol. 5 Harvest One American Pale Ale  

Stars: 3.5  
Date sampled: Jan 2, 2014
Format: 22oz bottle
Where we found it: Whole Foods, Roosevelt Way, Seattle

After sampling over a dozen experimental hop varieties, the folks at Anchor Brewing Company were so struck by one variety in particular that they immediately knew they had found the inspiration for the fifth installment in their experimental and innovative line of brews known as the “Zymaster series.” In October 2013, Anchor released Zymaster Vol. 5.

The first thing you’ll notice about this beer is how the smells and flavors imparted by this new mystery hop create an unmistakable flavor profile of melon and peaches.

The sweet notes of peaches and melon seem to continue to float over a pleasantly bitter linger (the later likely being produced by the more familiar Nugget hops added early in the boil.) The medium-full body of this not-so-pale pale ale provides a wonderful stage for this “bitter-sweet” interaction to play out. I probably would have called this one an IPA rather than just a pale ale.

But it is not just the experimental hops that make this brew intriguing. More commonly used in the production of lagers, Anchor uses a method of carbonation called “bunging” in order to produce their ales. And this method, which involves closing the vent on the fermentation tank when fermentation is nearly complete, results in more “champagne-like bubbles” than do more common methods of carbonation. In Zymaster No. 5, this produces a wonderful crispness that really brings out the hoppy aromas.

Very solid and a nice opportunity to try some brand-new ingredients.

- Sam 

7.2% ABV

Base Camp Ripstop Rye Pils

Base Camp Brewing Co., Portland, OR – Ripstop Rye Pils

Stars: 4
Date sampled: Jan 12, 2014
Format: 22oz aluminum bottle
Where we found it: Industry-provided sample

Base Camp Brewing Co. out of Portland, OR markets themselves as specializing in brews made for the outdoors. To date, four of their offerings are packaged in really snazzy looking and awesome feeling all-aluminum bottles. The bottles are lightweight and shatterproof, so they are great to throw in a backpack…great if you’re into the whole drinking-in-the-wilderness thing. These bottles also supposedly chill beer more quickly than glass if you stick them in a river (although, as Megan points out, that means that the beer will also warm more quickly than glass-bottled beer if left out).

Function aside though, apparently the net environmental impact of packaging in aluminum is less than that of glass. So the bottles look good, feel good, and they are better for the environment – nicely done.

But what about the beer? Regardless of the merits of the packaging, this beer has sparked renewed interest in the pilsner style for me.

Like most pilsners, this is an incredibly refreshing, easy-drinking brew with a user-friendly ABV. And pouring crystal-clear with a snow-white head, this beer is just as pretty as the packaging. But, unlike any pilsner I’ve tasted to date, this pils has an unprecedented rye spiciness. A bit maltier than your average pils too, so the mouthfeel is a bit thicker than average for the style. But the rye spicyness cuts this and gives the impression of a drier beer. There is a slightly spicy and citrusy hop presence both in the nose and the linger, but it’s the rye that really steals the show here.

This is a fantastic brew and I’d recommend it even to those who don’t normally gravitate to the style (especially if you’re a fan of tasty-rye-goodness like I am).


Stats: 5.7% ABV / OG: 1.055 / FG: 1.012 / IBU: 52 / SRM: 3.7