Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pacific Northwest Road Trip

Last week I took a flight from Socal up to Norcal for a road trip starting in Chico to Puget Sound area in order to help my Mom move.  Just our luck, it was in the middle of the worst storm to hit the west coast so far this year.  But despite the bad weather, I was determined to get some visits  to some breweries along the way.

So of course being in Chico I had to start at Sierra Nevada.  My friend Steve and I sat at the bar, and ordered lunch.  In case I haven't mentioned it before, they really have done a great job with the restaurant and taproom, and the food is as awesome as the beer.  Unfortunately, they were out of their Baltic Porter, which I think is about the best Baltic Porter I've ever had.  So instead I started with their new Glissade bock.  This is a real refreshing beer, with alot of subtleties in hop aroma and smooth malt flavor.  They are going to be bottling this beer soon, so look out for it. As we were enjoying our beers and sandwiches Ken Grossman walked by.  Pretty cool, but I didn't want be like a groupie so I didn't ask for an autograph. Next I tried the Juniper Black Ale.  Though overall a good beer, I can't see myself drinking this too often.  I can't remember what the ABV was, but it was maybe around 10%? I might be wrong on that.  Anyway, the juniper was a bit too much for my taste.  Think if you like that particular flavor, you'd like the beer.  Since I had a moving truck to pick up, I kept myself to those two half-pints of beer.  But I did pick up a couple Sierra Nevada tap handles for my new kegerator faucets I just installed.  I'll post more about that later.  Sadly this might be the last time in a long time that I'll get to visit the brewery, since I don't see any other reason I'll ever be in Chico again.

After a day of packing up the moving truck with my Mom's house and alot of old memories, we headed up 5 in the rain and snow for Washington.  The snow and rain takes a toll on you after so many hours, so we stopped in Salem Oregon for the night.  About 12 years back, I had been in Troutdale at McMenamins' Edgefield Hotel/Brewery/Winery.  My sister had her wedding there, and we all had a great time and I remembered what good beer it was.  Now they have expanded quite a bit and have a bunch of brewpubs and hotels, including a brewpub in Salem called Boon's Treasury.  I was excited to get to have their beer again. While waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for dinner I had the Hammerhead ale, which I guess is one of their standards.  It was a nice coppery colored malty ale with cascade hops, and was probably fairly good beer if it wasn't for the dishwatery smell and taste from the glass.  With dinner I had their IPA which unfortunately was very thin and watery, and I could barely even notice the hops.  Overall, I hate to say it was a huge disappointment.

We finally made it up to Washington, unloaded, and moved my Mom into her new place.  We finished quickly enough to leave a day open for hanging around downtown Seattle. I had heard the Elysian Brewery had some good beers, so I dragged my family over to the Elysian Fields brewpub over on 1st Street by the stadium.  We were about the only ones in the place, being that it was early Saturday and there were no games going on, but I'll bet this place really packs 'em in during Seahawks games.

Elysian Fields Brewpub

I've got to say, we had some great beers here.  I started with a Yerba Mate Tripel.  I had never had a beer brewed with tea before so wasn't sure what to expect, but it was awesome.  The tea really complemented the light hop tones very well.  I had a sip of the Saison my sister was drinking - you could really smell the spice on this one. 
Me, Sis, and brother-in-law

My mom ordered the Avatar Jasmine IPA, which while was a pretty good IPA by itself, I'm not sure the jasmine really did much for the beer - I would have preferred it just as a straight IPA.  My last beer was a cask conditioned Immortal IPA. I forget sometimes how great cask beers can be since I don't get them too often.  Without all the heavy carbonation, you really get to experience all the flavors and aromas that sometimes get lost in the fizziness of forced carbonation.
My Mom and I enjoying some IPA and Tripel.
After some awesome beers and appetizers at Elysian, we needed a walk, so we hiked up to Pike Place Market to walk around.  As it was just about lunch time, my sister suggested a Russian bakery called Piroshky Piroshky.  The word Piroshky comes from the word pir which means feast, and these delicacies are truly feasts that you eat with your hands.  If you've never had a piroshky, it is a warm bread filled and topped with sweet, savory, vegetable, or meat fillings.  It was the perfect meal to have in between brewpubs.  I had one with garlic, onion, and cheddar cheese.  It was one of the best things I have eaten in a long, long time.

 The Pike Brewery

Next on the list was The Pike Brewery right in the middle of Pike Marketplace.  I was hesitant at first to go here due to many reviews online that say it's too touristy.  Well, being that I am a tourist I figured why not?  Plus I really wanted to see their three-story brewing setup.

My sampler at Pike Brewery

For tasting I got a sampler of six of their beers:  Pale, Kilt Lifter, Naughty Nellie, Tandem, IPA, XXXX Stout.  These were all real solid traditional beers.  I couldn't really find fault with a single one.  Surprisingly I really liked the smokiness of the Kilt Lifter scotch ale, and I'm usually not a big scotch ale fan.  Also very good was the Stout.  I would definitely recommend stopping here to anyone visiting the marketplace.  Yes, it is touristy, but that's why you're there right?  There was plenty of room to sit and relax and enjoy some really good beer.  I'll go back next time I'm in Seattle for sure.

So that pretty much ended the day and the trip.  All that was left was a ferry ride back to Bainbridge Island.  The cool thing about the ferry is you can get beer on tap.  I relaxed and enjoyed a Red Hook ESB while admiring the Seattle skyline at night.  Cheers!
View of Seattle from Bainbridge Ferry

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