Does Knowing Too Much (About Beer) Ruin the Act of Drinking?

I’ll never condone being a dummy. Education keeps life interesting and I’m afflicted with a constantly curious mind. Working in the craft beer industry, however, I’m immersed in the nitty-gritty of 100s of different hop varietals, barrel-aging techniques, and specialty malts — at any given time. And sometimes I find myself thirsty for an uncomplicated pint. I wonder: can knowing too much ruin a simple pleasure like drinking beer?

If visiting a brewery taproom feels more like an episode of Jeopardy than a low-key adventure, signs point to yes. There’s certainly a time and a place for quizzing the beertender about a brewery’s history. And if you taste a rare brew you like, there’s nothing wrong with asking about the recipe or brewing process. Moderation is key, and here we’ll apply a philosophy that spans more than just beer drinking: don’t take yourself too seriously.

Craft beer is a fun, collaborative industry. One need only read a list of silly-named beers like New Kids on the Hops (Altamont), Ninja vs. Unicorn (Pipeworks), or Fist Bump (Cloudburst & Stoup) to realize that the eccentricity behind some of our favorite brews is often what catches our interest — bonus points when the flavors and overall sipping experience charms us as well.

What I mean to say is, beer invites more lightheartedness than medical science or accounting, for instance. The world will not stop turning if a brewer combines Mosaic Hops and coffee, and then ages it in red wine barrels…for no reason other than to test our palates. And sometimes a good ole’ crisp AF Pilsner doesn’t warrant further discussion beyond “this is the perfect BBQ beer.” Maybe, on occasion, drinking a beer and not talking about it is just the chill pill we need to fully appreciate it.


*For anyone who does want geek out and delve into the specifics of beer styles, brewing history, and flavor identification, I’m considering starting a Cicerone Certification study group meetup in Seattle. Let’s grab a beer, talk about our place in the larger brewing universe, and maybe even share some flashcards. (Don’t worry, we’ll always make time for a no-frills brewski or two.) Sound scintillating? Comment on this post or email me at — if I hear from enough of people, it’s on!


How To Talk About Beer (Like a Pro)

I’ve been busy. Like, really really busy. In the midst of tasting 20-40 new craft beers for work every week, I sip, I research, I reflect, I discuss, and I write. It’s fun and challenging, and best of all, I’m learning A TON about beer. This routine has also led me to ask: What brewery merits and specific beer highlights excite beer drinkers? What makes us pause for another sip of that hazy IPA, or read another sentence about an unconventional brewing process, or embark on an exploratory brewery venture?

With so many craft beer options, we can tailor our drinking experiences to suit our tastes, moods, location, and whomever we’re drinking with. And it’s helpful to know how to speak each person’s beer language. Those of us who imbibe regularly are likely to gravitate toward a certain style. Forced to order quickly, there’s one go-to style at the top of our list – and how you talk to a Sour Ale fan can be quite different from discussing IPAs with a hophead. So, let’s break it down. Here are my cut-and-dry observations about what excites beer drinkers, and how it varies across some of the main beer styles.

IPA – It’s all about hoppiness for IPA fans. Are the hops imparting citrus, tropical, or grassy notes? Is it fruitier or more dank? We pay attention to IBU (international bitterness units) and hop varietals. Is it a hazy IPA with Mosaic hops, a piney West Coast-style IPA, a bright session IPA, or an imperial IPA bitterbomb? We find it fascinating to talk about the difference between dry-hopping versus wet-hopping versus cryogenic-hopping (yup, Cryo Hops are a thing, look it up!). 

Sour Ale / Wild Ale – Sour and Wild Ale fans go crazy for pucker power. Talk to us about the kind of yeast in a beer – is it Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, or an in-house strain? How intense is the funk factor? The acidity? If it’s Wild, what region is the beer from and what’s specific about the terroir? Is the brewery known for their Sour beers or are they just starting out?

Dark Beer (Porter, Stout) – Malty malt, all day long. With specialty malts finally gaining popularity, Dark Beer fans want to talk about malt blends and where the grains were grown. Does that Winter Warmer use actual chocolate or chocolate malts? Is that rye spice we taste? Were the malts processed locally? And we cannot overlook the importance of mouthfeel for the Stout and Porter-inclined. Is it silky, thick, dry, warming? Is it like sipping a luxuriant tiramisu dessert or more like cozying up by a smoky campfire?

Light Beer (Pilsner, Lager) – Give it to us crisp or not at all. An easy-drinking, refreshing body is essential for light beer lovers, but that doesn’t mean flavor falls by the wayside. Think biscuity, bready flavors, notes of lemon and honey. We want to talk about the brewery’s lagering process, how fresh the beer is, and whether the ABV is mellow enough to throw back a few pints while we mow the lawn or paddle down a river. Adventure beer junkies, I’m lookin’ at you.

Fruit Beer – Grapefruit, passionfruit, berries, plums – you name it, there’s probably a craft brewery adding it to their beer. I’m not talking about impaling an orange wedge on the side of a pint glass. Brewers add bushels of real fruit during fermentation to extract the maximum juicy flavors, infusing complimentary nuances without overpowering the beer’s beery-ness. As Fruit Beer aficionados, we want to talk about how much fruit was added to the boil and if the brewery uses the whole fruits or just the juice. Do they have a special partnership with a local farm? Do they zest the mandarins and pit the cherries in-house?

Macro Beer – I was ready to write something mean, some dis on Macro beer drinkers like, they only care about what’s cheapest at the 7-Eleven. But I don’t think that’s entirely true. So many craft breweries have been acquired by Big Beer conglomerates, some folks just want to keep drinking that Ballast Point Sculpin or Lagunitas IPA they love. For them, if the quality is good, it doesn’t really matter who brews the beer. If you know people who fall under this category, talk to them about their purchasing power. Supporting indie craft beer often means you’re supporting small businesses, creativity, and innovation. There’s also something so cool about visiting your neighborhood brewery and talking to the brewmaster about his/her passion for beer. Their enthusiasm is so contagious, sometimes they can even convert a Macro beer drinker into a craft beer geek.

This list is a work in progress, so please add your comments below!

My Insatiable Thirst for Travel and Beer

Quilmes beer Argentina

Enjoying Quilmes lager with friends in Buenos Aires (2006)

I am a travel junkie. I am also a craft beverage fanatic. My heart rate spikes when the airplane touches down in a new travel destination and I feel giddy anticipation upon ordering a newly tapped microbrew. As you might expect, these two loves pair well. Traveling, I gravitate to the most hidden, hole-in-the-wall bars and cafés, brimming with locals, where I’m the only tourist. I sip the day’s special or the tender’s pick and relish in the culture of the place.

There’s no lack of commentary about the benefits of travel and cultural immersion. Travel can boost creativity, shift perspective, and increase interconnectedness. For me, travel delineates distinct periods in my life. Recalling each trip, I remember how I felt, what I drank, and how the adventure shaped my life journey.

I define years past with remarks like “when I quit my job, put everything in storage, and went to Argentina for two months to eat steak, drink Malbec, and dance the tango.” Or, “that birthday I spent on the coral reef of St. John dodging spiky sea urchins and drinking dark rum cocktails.” When it comes to exploring the world and quenching my thirst, full immersion is key.

I got drunk for the first time in Germany when I was seventeen. I was on a school-organized, humanities-focused trip and, under a cloak of jet lag one evening, our small group headed to a massive beer hall. The waitress promptly delivered our larger-than-life steins of Hefeweizen, but dinner took FOR-EV-ER to arrive. As it turned out, the food was delicious, but it was less memorable than the foreign landscape and my belly full of beer.

In Buenos Aires, as a mid-twenty-something, my partner and I whiled away entire afternoons over big, cheap bottles of Quilmes lager. The neighborhood bartenders refilled our complimentary bowls of salty snacks, and they didn’t bring our check until we asked for it—a novel custom that felt much friendlier than the fast-paced rush of our California lives back home.

Each morning on Maui, in the midst of a midlife career crisis, I jammed the picnic cooler with as much Bikini Blonde as would fit. My travel companion and I would set out to find a temporary oasis on a white or red or black sand beach—armed with a boatload of sunscreen and escapist novels. We’d spend the day swimming, savoring fresh papaya and mango, journaling, and contemplating our life goals.

Now, in my current home city of Seattle, I’ve come to adore my neighborhood craft breweries. Outfitted in a cozy flannel, beanie, and scarf, I find that the local beer community offers a warm respite from the plunging wintertime temperatures. I know which taproom serves the best rye IPA, Belgian-style Witbier, and smoked porter, and I can tell you where to go for live music, trivia, and free popcorn. My travel adventures are far from over, but I’m currently happy to savor Seattle’s quirks, sub-cultures, and hideaways as I continue my beer education and get to know my local beer makers.

Any suggestions for my next field trip?

Marley Rall: The Brewer’s Baker


[This article was originally published in Beer Advocate Magazine. Read the full article at]

Marley Rall was saved by beer. When she first met her husband-to-be, a hobbyist homebrewer, she was stuck, overworked, and plagued by inauthentic professional relationships in the nonprofit fundraising world. Rall knew her future happiness hinged on being her own boss and making a difference. And as it turned out, beer rescued Rall—in an unexpected way.

While observing her husband’s homebrewing process, Rall noticed that each batch of beer generated a huge amount of waste product. She took a closer look, and after some detailed research into large-scale brewery operations, found much of the same at the other end of the spectrum. Rall also discovered that up to 85 percent of this waste is spent grain that is discarded after its early role in wort production in the beer-making cycle.

Rall knew the life of these kernels of rye, wheat, millet, and barley was far from over. Tapping into her skills as an amateur home baker, she concocted an idea to recapture these brewery leftovers and bring the brewing process full circle. Now Rall is the face of The Brewmaster’s Bakery, an innovative purveyor of sweet and savory snacks, granola, baked goods, and dog treats made with the spent grain from six Seattle-area breweries and counting. This summer, less than two years after launching her home-based business, Rall opened The Brewmaster’s Taproom—a welcoming brick-and-mortar beer bar that showcases the craft breweries that supported Rall from the beginning.

[Read the full article at]

Beer Lover’s Gift Guide


[This article was originally published in Seattle Weekly. Read the article at]

My Beer Year by Lucy Burningham
Driven by curiosity and thirst, longtime journalist Lucy Burningham set out to chronicle her escapades to becoming the ultimate beer expert—a Certified Cicerone. The result is an engaging and witty memoir entitled My Beer Year: Adventures with Hop Farmers, Craft Brewers, Chefs, Beer Sommeliers, and Fanatical Drinkers as a Beer Master in Training. Lucy introduces the reader to a colorful cast of beer-loving characters and sheds light on the charmingly quirky world of beer culture. Paperback; $16.95.

Homebrew Starter Kit
The perfect gift for any beer lover who claims “I can brew better than that,” Sound Homebrew Supply’s small-batch homebrew kits offer step-by-step instructions, equipment, and ingredients to brew beer at home. With several package options, from the basic One-Gallon Beer Starter Kit to the Total Package Starter Kit, each is tailored to fit a range of brewing interests (and beer styles), space constrictions, and previous brewing knowledge. Prices vary. Sound Homebrew Supply, 6505 Fifth Pl. S., 743-8074,

Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery Membership
As Washington’s first community-owned brewery, Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery offers locals a way to gain behind-the-scenes access to commercial craft brewing. Flying Bike’s unique setup gives member/owners equal voting power to elect the Board of Directors and set long-term goals and policies. Members are also invited to exclusive events like homebrew competitions—to help select new beers for production at the brewery—and Brewer’s Table discussions with Flying Bike’s head brewer, Kevin Forhan. $200 includes membership, pint glass, T-shirt. Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery, 8570 Greenwood Ave. N., 428-7709,

Pike Brewing Stout Beer Soap
It’s a little-known fact that hops contain skin-smoothing amino acids—a quality that makes beer an unexpected but practical ingredient for soap. The folks at Pike Brewing realized this and created the Pike XXXXX Extra Stout soap, blending the brewery’s popular stout beer—with aromatic hints of chocolate and espresso—with palm oil, coconut oil, and olive oil to create a nourishing soap that still provides all the cleansing qualities of ordinary bar soap. $5.95. Pike Brewing Company, 1415 First Ave., 622-6044,

Tavour Beer Concierge Gift Certificate
Based in Seattle’s SoDo district, beer concierge startup Tavour has devised a convenient way to introduce beer lovers to new and different brews. Tavour’s team dispatches daily, curated beer offerings via e-mail—a mix of tasty local secrets and hard-to-find beers from around the world—and members simply reply back to order specific brews. In essence, members hand-select their own “variety packs” of fresh, unique beers, which are delivered to their door every few weeks. Prices vary.

[Read the article at]

Flying Bike Brings a Community Together to Make Better Beer


[This article was originally published in Seattle Weekly. Read the full article at]

The process behind this year’s Fresh Hop Harvest Ale from Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery was a little more complex than that of most brews. And a little more fun. Home-brewers and backyard gardeners from throughout the city had only 24 hours to harvest their homegrown hop plants, deliver them to Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery, pluck the hop flowers from the vines and throw them into the brewmaster’s boil. In the end, the brewery collected nearly 100 pounds of fresh hops for its hyper-local harvest ale, a testament to the appeal of its core mission: to create “member-driven beer.”

Just over a year old, Flying Bike is the first 100 percent cooperatively owned and operated brewery in Washington. With its popular homebrew competitions, brewer’s roundtable gatherings, and community giving program, the Greenwood-based collective offers a structured space for people who want to get involved in the local beer scene. The brewery’s thriving taproom adds to its reputation as an exceptional neighborhood establishment—a place to enjoy unique craft beers, learn about the brewing process, and build community.

[Read the full article at]

Pique the Palate: Raising a Toast to the New CIDER Act

An outlier of the elite wine industry and a black sheep of the craft beer scene, artisanal hard cider may finally be granted the long-overdue recognition it deserves, thanks to the new CIDER Act.

[This article was originally published in Edible Seattle. Read the full article at]

Washington is the largest producer of apples in the nation, so it’s no wonder that the Evergreen State is a bustling hub for hard cider. The beverage is produced in more than 50 Washington cideries, and the market shows no signs of slowing.

The thriving foodie scene in Seattle offers a platform to further expose residents and travelers to the nuances of craft cider, with offerings alongside local microbrews and small-batch wines. Despite cider’s popularity, producers have faced various obstacles through the years — high taxes, low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) limits, and carbonation regulations, to name a few — and these parameters have shaped the American cider-drinking culture.

Until now. With the recent passage of the CIDER Act, cider makers are allowed more creative freedom to produce cider that satisfies consumer expectations, without all the prohibitive tax rates.

From the beginning, federal authorities didn’t quite know how to categorize hard cider. The light, refreshing, effervescent drink was initially treated as a sub-category of the wine industry, complete with a set of conservative regulations. And while craft breweries and craft wineries have their own distinguishing standards, craft cideries have entirely unique criteria, based predominantly on ingredients. Often described as “small producers” or “artisan producers,” craft cideries use 100% fresh-pressed juice, rather than concentrate. This creates a fresher product and marks a dedication to carefully sourced ingredients. Additionally, craft cideries don’t add sugar, artificial flavors, or colors.

The CIDER Act, which goes into effect at the beginning of 2017, makes progress toward regulating cider according to the beverage’s own distinct specifications. This means several important changes in how cider can be produced, and, for consumers, it also means more variety. The new ABV limit will allow cideries to produce ciders with up to 8.5 percent ABV, an increase from the previous ceiling of 7 percent. This is most notable because, during fermentation, many varieties of apples naturally produce over 7 percent ABV, and cider makers have been forced to limit the types of apples they can use to comply with the strict tax requirements.

The second CIDER Act adjustment removes the “bubble tax” on cider. Currently, restrictions on cider’s carbonation levels mean that cideries face a very high tax on ciders with more carbonation because these beverages are taxed as if they were champagne or sparkling wine. Without adequate carbonation, a cider’s aromas are not properly conveyed, which affects the overall flavor. Finally, the CIDER Act allows cideries to add pear ciders to their collection of classic and infused beverages, without an increase in taxes.

The CIDER Act provides incentives for small producers to make more creative ciders, experiment with new flavor profiles, and generally expand the craft. To learn more about how local, artisanal cideries are responding to the upcoming changes, I spoke with representatives from three Seattle-based cideries: Seattle Cider Company, Schilling Cider, and Number 6 Cider. Each reported that they are pleased that hard cider is finally being recognized as a uniquely produced — and therefore uniquely categorized — beverage.

[Read the full article at]

Seattle Growler Fills

Flying Bike Brewery Growlers

Photo by Will Foster @wfstr

Draft beer almost always tastes better than bottled or canned beer.* It’s fresher and hasn’t been exposed to heat, light, or oxygen—elements that can have a major negative impact on the beer’s taste and aroma. Despite the superiority of draft, we don’t always feel like going out for a pint. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I’m a prime example of a beer enthusiast who sometimes just wants to chill at home and watch a movie. Or read. Or drink a few beers while I cook dinner. This is when growlers come in handy. Typically 64 fluid ounces (the equivalent to 4 pints) or 32 fluid ounces (2 pints) breweries and taprooms will happily fill growler jugs with fresh, tasty, draft beer and allow patrons to grab quality beer to go.

*Although draft is almost always best, there are a couple of cases when bottles or cans are better. Some high alcohol beers are better after aging in bottles. And if tap lines are dirty, the same brew will likely taste better from a bottle or can.

In Seattle, getting your growler filled is easy if you know where to look. Here are six excellent beer choices from local craft breweries.

The White Lodge Belgian Style White Ale | Holy Mountain Brewing Co.

ABV: 4.8%
Holy Mountain has quickly made a name for itself in the Seattle brewery scene for its top-notch saisons, sours, and barrel-aged beers, and for its departure from the region’s IPA-dominated tap lists. The White Lodge is a refreshing Belgium-style witbier brewed with coriander and orange peel, resulting in a light and flavorful beer with bold aromatics. This beer is easily drinkable, slightly tart, with a hint of spice, making it a uniquely delicious growler choice. Growler fills available at Holy Mountain Brewing Company, 1421 Elliott Ave. W, Seattle.

Gateway Dry Hopped Pale | Rooftop Brewing Co.

ABV: 5.2% | IBU: 20
The brewers at Rooftop created the Gateway Pale as an introductory (or “gateway”) beer for people who don’t like hoppy beers. The pale ale ignites the senses with an upfront burst of delicate, floral, hop aroma, leading to a light hoppy flavor—and it ranks low on the bitterness scale. Notes of citrus and tropical fruit flavor lend a juiciness to this sessionable beer. Newbies will be surprised by how gentle and inviting hops can be. Growler fills available at Rooftop Brewing Company, 1220 W Nickerson St., Seattle.

Cocoa Vanilla Porter | Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Co.

ABV: 6.5% | IBU: 17
With an eclectic tap list that often includes beers like Blood Orange Honey Wheat, Raspberry Blonde, and Habanero Amber, Bad Jimmy’s consistently embraces the unexpected. The Cocoa Vanilla Porter, on its own, warrants a trip to this Ballard brewery. The smooth sipper delivers aromas and flavors of soft roasted malt, warm vanilla and plenty of chocolaty decadence. A growler of this brew on a crisp Seattle night will warm you to the core. Growler fills available at Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Company, 4358 B Leary Way NW, Seattle.

Bike Rye’d Saison | Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

ABV: 6.3% | IBU: 25
Originally brewed by one of Flying Bike’s member-owners, the Bike Rye’d Saison is among the brewery’s most popular beers. This traditional French-style, farmhouse ale is bright and refreshing. The brewers use plenty of rye to infuse the medium-bodied beer with a slightly peppery aroma, rounded out with flavors of lemon and rye-ginger spice to finish. Pair the saison with a few savory picnic snacks and enjoy it outdoors in your favorite neighborhood green space. Growler fills available at Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery, 8570 Greenwood Ave. N, Seattle.

Citra IPA | Stoup Brewing

ABV: 5.9% | IBU: 50
This complex IPA showcases the citrus power of Citra hops, and is, hands down, one of my personal favorites. This beer has a tangy sweetness, gentle undercurrents of toasted caramel and musky tropical fruits, and a full hop kick. Stoup’s Citra IPA is light and bright in both color and body and strikes a great balance of earthy hops and luscious grapefruit. Grab a growler of this brew for love at first sip. Growler fills available at Stoup Brewing, 1108 NW 52nd St., Seattle.

Cream Ale | Reuben’s Brews

ABV: 5.0% | IBU: 17
Reuben’s taproom offers an impressive selection of over 20 beers on draft, including a bunch of rotating brews and several mainstay award-winners. On frequent repeat is the Cream Ale—a pale, light-bodied beer with hints of creamy vanilla, smooth malt, and a sweet, clean finish. More unique than a classic lager, this cream ale is so smooth and easy to drink that you may need an extra growler fill by the end of the evening. Growler fills available at Reuben’s Brews, 5010 14th Ave. NW, Seattle.

[This article also appeared on]

How to Pick the Best Beer Festival (and Make the Most of It)

Talia Shapiro WA Beer Collaboration Festival

Photo by Will Foster @wfstr

It’s summertime. Festival season. Time to break out the tie-dyed tank tops and daisy-brimmed flower crowns. Or maybe that’s taking it a little too far. In all seriousness though, there are zillions of summer festivals each year that focus on music, food, film, sports, and, my personal favorite: beer. Living in Seattle, it’s nearly impossible to attend every beer festival, and I’m on a never-ending quest (through trial and error) to learn exactly which events I enjoy the most, and why. To keep from feeling overwhelmed by the steady lineup of beery happenings in the coming weeks, I’ve put together a list of key factors to consider when determining which festivals to attend.

Location and venue

Will we sip beers while lounging on an open, grassy lawn under the Space Needle, or spend the day in a cavernous, indoor convention center? Do I have to traverse bridges or hop a ferry to get there? Is the festival out of town, somewhere I may want to stay for a few days? These are all helpful questions to ask before event day. Planning ahead makes it easier to reserve lodging, find a designated driver, study the bus routes, and dress accordingly. If it’s an outdoor festival, in Seattle especially, an extra layer of clothing usually comes in handy.

All-inclusive vs. pay-as-you-go

Does admission include a certain number of drink tickets? What about food? Do only VIP tickets promise all the goodies? I hate when I encounter surprise fees for extra festival features, so I always make sure to read the fine print before I purchase my tickets. It’s too easy to get caught up in the festivities and spend more money than intended. However, I’ve found it’s a good idea to bring a little extra cash to tip the tenders (it’s just good manners).

Entertainment (besides drinking beer)

Beer and music, to me, make the perfect festival. In fact, I love craft beer and indie music so much that it almost doesn’t matter what I’m listening to, or sipping (I said, almost). For some people, food and beer make the magic combo. Or festivals that feature classes and presentations by master brewers. It’s helpful to know, in advance, what’s on the roster, so I can grab business cards, a pen and notebook, or earplugs.

In the past year, I’ve discovered a few Seattle beer festivals that became instant favorites—and my list is always evolving. The Washington Beer Collaboration Festival took place under a huge tent on the South Lake Union Discovery Center lawn and showcased a camaraderie between breweries that was truly inspiring. The festival featured 25 unique collaboration beers from 50 different Washington breweries, and offered a platform for brewers to team up and deliver unexpected flavor profiles and unique styles. I was particularly impressed by a White IPA from Whitewall Brewing and Skookum Brewery. Brewed with Galaxy, Citra, and Mosaic hops, the beer was conditioned on whole Mango and pink peppercorn. Very unconventional, and very… complex.

Elysian’s 20th Anniversary Party at Seattle Center satisfied my love of music and beer with a full day of tasting both flagship and limited release brews, while rocking out to an eclectic lineup of live music by Chaotic Noise Marching Corp, Ming City Rockers, Black Lips, The Raveonettes, and The Gits. (Check out my KEXP blog festival review HERE.)

The Bellingham Bay BREWers Cruise was a mini beer festival on the water—it offered a low-key space to chat with local breweries while enjoying views of the beautiful Puget Sound, plus, it gave me an excuse to visit my family en route. (Check out my Seattle Weekly write-up HERE.) All of these festivals had their own unique characteristics, and they all drew diverse crowds. They also offered perfect opportunities to connect with the beer community. Always a pleasure!

No matter where your beer festival adventures take you, my fellow beer enthusiasts, enjoy! I’ll wrap things up now with some poignant, highly entertaining festival advice from the newest book on my shelf: Patrick Dawson’s The Beer Geek Handbook. Cheers!


  1. When considering attending a festival, Beer Geeks begin by researching the festival’s list of participating breweries (serious festivals also include a list of beers to be poured). They will then assemble a list of beers of interest and make a quick mental calculation to determine the value of each beer (based on what it would cost to purchase or trade for them). If the value of the beer exceeds that of the ticket price, a Beer Geek will attend. If there are out-of-distribution DONGs [a.k.a. draft only, no growlers] on the list, festival attendance is a no-brainer.
  1. Once it’s been decided that the festival is worth attending, a Beer Geek will assemble a group of fellow Beer Geeks, numbering no greater than eight, to go together. Any larger and the group is too cumbersome to accommodate serious tasting.
  1. For large festivals, a strategizing session is held among the fellowship of Beer Geeks to create a prioritized list of breweries to hit once inside. Popular breweries will be hit hard at the onset, since it is not unusual for rare selections to run out in even the first hour. Breweries such as these make up the priority list.
  1. Beer Geeks always arrive at the festival with a full stomach, preferably of cheese or other fatty foods, slowing alcohol absorption to maximize allowable intake.
  1. Once inside, the priority list is executed. The tasting format is often limited to 1- or 2-oz. samples. When sampling breweries have a line, a Beer Geek never camps out at the front in an attempt to sample multiple beers. This is a classic noob move and goes against all Beer Geek etiquette. Once you get your sample, head immediately to the end of the line to get another sample. Time is of the essence.
  1. Fraternizing can fully commence once the priority list has been addressed. At this point, the tasting should move to “free-form format” based upon suggestions from fellow Beer Geeks. It is now okay to talk with brewers and brewery reps, since by this point all festival attendees have had ample opportunity to sample their top beers.
  1. As the festival winds down, the Beer Geeks quickly become distinguishable from the posers. While Beer Geeks might certainly get drunk at a festival (there can be a lot of beers to sample, after all), they don’t go there with the primary intention of getting drunk. At this stage, non–Beer Geeks begin flinging coasters, knocking their buddy’s glass out of his hand, and stealing every bit of brewery schwag not nailed down. Beer Geeks, having properly trained for the event, maintain (some) composure.
  1. Once last call goes out, a Beer Geek, knowing full well that the remaining samples being poured aren’t any Gold Medal winners, heads out to grab a cab or a bite, leaving the frat pack to do shots of every beer left standing.

Excerpted from The Beer Geek Handbook (c) Patrick Dawson. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

Outlander Brewery | Holy Basil Pale Ale

Hole Basil Pale Ale Outlander BreweryI love a little quirkiness with my beer, because with so many craft breweries in Seattle, a unique character is really what sets each establishment, and brew, apart. The Holy Basil Pale Ale by Outlander Brewery fits this measure well—it strikes just the right balance of eccentric and uniquely delicious.

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Outlander Brewery operates out of a 100+ year-old converted house, with a brewing system in the basement, shelves of ceramic beer mugs for the regulars, funky furniture and a stack of random board games for everyone to enjoy. Outlander’s low-key atmosphere lends itself to an unpretentious, non-fussy vibe, and the friendly tenders are always poised and ready to recommend the best new beer on tap.

Operating on a very small, 3.5 barrel system, Outlander is known for its specialty ales and experimental brews—and for using wacky ingredients like lavender, ginseng, dragon fruit, peanut butter and chili peppers. Because Outlander’s brewing operation is so small, the microbrewery has a quickly rotating tap list—a beer could be available one week and replaced the next. Lucky for us, the Holy Basil Pale is on frequent repeat, and for good reason.

The Holy Basil Pale is an easy-drinking beer, with an inviting golden-amber color and an earthy, herbal aroma. Upon first sip, the basil flavor is more subtle than expected—its delicate sweetness and twinge of spice enhances the ale rather than dominating it. With a medium-body, the Holy Basil Pale coaxes the palate with a balance of soft wheat, honey and light malt. Sure, it’s unconventional, but it’s also delicious.

For a quirky brew with a flavor character all its own, try the Holy Basil Pale. You’ll have to stop by the brewery though—this, along with most Outlander beer, is a taproom-only release. Challenge your Seattle neighbor to a game of dominoes (on a set that’s missing just a few essential tiles) while you sip this refreshing beer in Outlander Brewery’s new beer garden. See you this summer!

[This article also appeared on]