Washington’s Best Beers Taste Better on a Boat


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

It’s time for happy hour. A midweek interlude from everyday responsibilities. An evening to catch up with friends, sightsee with family, or relax with a partner. On this particular evening in late spring, happy hour involves a gangplank.

As the crowd walks single-file onto the Victoria Star 2, it sways, buoyed to the dock of Bellingham’s Alaska Ferry Terminal. Onboard, a few families settle at the tables and chairs that line the perimeter of the boat, while groups of friends and seasoned locals head straight to the main attraction: local craft brews.

With the San Juan Islands as a backdrop, couples hold hands on the boat’s outdoor decks and the vessel pulls away from the harbor. Inside, beers from Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham, Seattle’s Fremont Brewing, and Diamond Knot Brewery in Mukilteo fill the three tasting tables.

This social event is the second Bellingham Bay BREWers Cruise of 2016. Every Wednesday evening from late May through September, Washington breweries and beer enthusiasts come together for education and conversation. With three featured breweries each week pouring at least three beers apiece, brewers teach passengers about their craft: how they develop new beers, which strains of grain and yeast they use, and new collaboration projects they’re launching with other breweries.

[Read the full article at SeattleWeekly.com.]


Spiked Ice Cream Drinks Deliver a Chill Summer


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

The root beer float is a thing of summertime nostalgia, recalling joyful childhood afternoons, and maybe flashbacks to the lovable and carefree crew of Happy Days. It is also just the kind of fetishized indulgence ripe for a reboot in present-day Seattle, where we adults face social expectations to refine our palates, challenge our taste buds, and immerse ourselves in the world of more “sophisticated desserts.” So it’s no surprise that establishments around the city now offer adult ice cream dessert drinks like craft-beer floats and spirited shakes that showcase the nuances of unexpected flavor pairings—with deliciously whimsical results. […]

[Read the full article at SeattleWeekly.com.]

Meet the Seattle Baker Giving New Life to Brewery Leftovers


[This article was originally published in Seattle Weekly’s special 2016 brewery issue. Read the full article at SeattleWeekly.com.]

When Marley Rall first met her husband-to-be, a hobbyist home brewer, she knew almost nothing about beer. Four years, a wedding, and a career change later, Rall is carving out her own niche in the brewing industry.

It started when Rall noticed something about her husband’s home brewing process. She was shocked by the huge amount of by-product that went to waste after just a single batch of beer. A tenacious woman of many talents, Rall took a closer look and, after some detailed research into larger brewery operations, found much of the same. She also discovered that much of that waste, 85 percent on average, is spent grain that is discarded after its early role in the brewing life cycle.

Rall knew that that grain’s life was far from over. Building on her skills as an amateur home baker, she hatched an idea to bring the brewing process full circle. She met with local breweries to gauge interest and received an overwhelmingly positive response. 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 Seattle-area breweries. […]

[Read the full article at SeattleWeekly.com.]

Seattle’s Most Eclectic Brewery Events for Adventurous Drinkers


[This article was originally published in Seattle Weekly’s special 2016 brewery issue. Read the full article at SeattleWeekly.com.]

Many beer enthusiasts are satisfied to spend a low-key evening at their favorite brewery, anchored to the bar, bantering with the tender, tasting hoppy brews, and soaking up the ambiance. Seattle certainly has a prolific array of neighborhood taprooms suitable for first dates, networking sessions, and friendly meet ups. However, for those who crave more than pretzels with their beer, breweries around Seattle are teaming up with a diverse set of community groups and hobbyists to add activities that include fitness, arts and crafts, and continuing education to the mix. […]

[Read the full article at SeattleWeekly.com.]

How to Make Beer Taste Better

beer-mug-patentSome drink beer to socialize. To break the ice. To celebrate. Others drink beer to unwind at the end of a long day, as a treat. There are people who drink beer to get into their creative groove. Tackle art projects. Cook up extravagant feasts. For me? All of the above. Or most recently, in my new Seattle home, I drink beer while shimmying around to soul music as I unpack the last of my moving boxes and settle in. I find the ritual brings a lighthearted and fun vibe to what otherwise might be a daunting task.

Not only are we creatures of habit, we are creatures of ritual. Studies published in Psychological Science show that the rituals we perform before eating, or drinking in this case, actually make our food and beverages taste better. Repeated behaviors change our perception, and the “intrinsic interest” that rituals foster—the fact that rituals draw people into what they are doing—leads to positive affects on our eating and drinking experiences. In trying to better understand some common beer rituals, I asked the Beer Advocate community to chime in.

One user shared, “I enjoy drinking imperial stouts outside in cold weather; 25-35 degrees. It’s interesting because you can start with a bomber at cellar temp and taste how it changes as it cools down.” I love the experiential element of this ritual. No doubt one could achieve the same results by chilling beer to varying temps in the fridge, but there’s something about the unconventionality of this tradition that makes it more compelling.

Another Beer Advocate enthusiast claims to take a memory-based approach to his ritual. “Many steins and glasses in my cabinet are from various trips across the world, and often, when enjoying a particular beer that is suited for a specific glass, I thoroughly enjoy reaching for that glass and using the moment as an opportunity to remember some of the good times I had in the past… If you’ve actually visited this or that brewery in Europe, there’s an entirely different experience thereafter when drinking their beer, especially if it is from a glass you carefully brought home from overseas.”

For another beer lover, ritual helps create community. “When I’m drinking a new beer by myself, I like to send a snapchat of the pour to my other Beer Advocate friends. More often than not, I’ll receive one back of the like. It lets us cheers a beer even when those friends may be in other cities or states.” What an excellent example of social media at its best! Personally, I appreciate the ease of Untappd, an app that also allows you to “cheers” your friends, while offering a nifty way to keep track of the beers you’ve tried, and a rating feature that allows you to refer back to the brews you liked or disliked. (If you’re on Untappd too, let’s connect! Find me HERE.)

In all of these cases (and countless others) drinking a beer is so much more than just, well, drinking a beer. The benefits of the rituals exceed the intoxicating results and create memories, learning experiences, community, and ease. Repetition has never tasted so good.

What are your beer-drinking rituals?

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Association for Psychological Science – “To Savor the Flavor, Perform a Short Ritual First”

TIME – “Rituals Make Food (and Drinks) Taste Better”

3 Things I Learned from Following Around a Beer Photographer

Talia Shapiro Simply Beeresistible

Photo by Will Foster @wfstr

I jumped at the recent opportunity to tag along with seasoned Seattle-based food and beverage photographer Will Foster for an afternoon of brewery exploration. His goal: offer a compelling visual series on two unique, local breweries—Holy Mountain and Lucky Envelope—to run alongside a Beer Advocate spotlight article. My goal: fully realize my calling as a designated beer drinker! I was excited for a special behind-the-scenes perspective on brewery operations while positioning, holding, and sipping their tasty brews for the camera.

I learned many things from the experience—in particular, I made three key observations about the intersection of beer and photography:
1.) Appreciate simplicity
2.) Build alliances
3.) Variety is the spice of life

Let me explain…

Sometimes the simplest icon is the most memorable. Stamped on their tap handles, coasters, and bottled offerings, Holy Mountain’s logo is an imperfect triangle with a single dot inside—an image that is both recognizable and a bit intriguing. Where did they come up with the design? You might just have to visit the brewery to find out!

In photography, presenting a unique point of view (POV) is what separates a great image from boring one. The simple POV that Will Foster captured transports you right into the Holy Mountain taproom, onto a barstool next to mine, and it hints at the complexities of each brew. Rather than trying to capture every graphic element into the shot (beer list, fermenters, merchandise, line of taps, etc., etc., etc.) a clean and simple photo proves much more enticing.

We get by with a little help from our friends, and brewing alliances are no different. When Lucky Envelope co-founders Barry Chan and Raymond Kwan began jumping through hoops to open their brewery, they tackled at least one hurtle with some unexpected guidance from the folks at Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery. Apparently, it’s best to “season” new brewery equipment before producing a stellar end product. Brewers can use less-than-top-quality ingredients (a.k.a. cheaper raw ingredients) for the first “throw-away” batches of beer without depleting their funds. Fast forward to present day. Lucky Envelope and Flying Bike both offer a collaborative brew on their tap lists called Flying Envelope Washington Lager… the product of an excellent new brewmance. 

There are a lot of generic beer photos out there. There are also many mediocre brews that make it into our pint glasses. On the other side of the spectrum, there are some truly innovative photographers—like Mr. Foster—who recognize the need for unconventionally framed shots, pictures that convey vitality and movement, photos that tell the story of the people behind the product. Craft breweries—like Holy Mountain and Lucky Envelope—know it’s essential to offer a variety of beer styles that cater to beer nerds’ tastes, food pairings, and even the weather. Breweries frequently brew small batches and offer rotating taps or guest brews to keep things interesting and keep patrons coming back for the next limited release.

There are more than one million home brewers in the U.S. And photographers? Pretty much everyone with a smartphone identifies as an amateur photographer. No matter, I learned a ton this time around by tagging along with the professionals, and I hope to be a designated drinker again soon!

What’s something you’ve learned while visiting a local brewery?

I Give You Your Coffee If You Leave Me My Beer

Image source: crated.com

Image source: crated.com

Plenty of folks drink coffee all day long. And while it’s generally frowned upon to start the day with a tall pint of craft beer, there are many other parallels between the two artisanal beverages. Both can be scrutinized for unique flavor profiles, traced back to carefully sourced raw ingredients, and enjoyed over good conversation in a relaxed atmosphere. And now, both can be savored at Starbucks.

The concept of serving beer and coffee under the same roof is nothing new. Cafes throughout the world have offered diverse selections of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages for ages. But for Starbucks, a company that gained its notoriety as a corporate coffee purveyor, selling craft beer is a fairly new venture. Since August, the coffee chain has added beer and wine to the menus of over 70 locations (after piloting the program in cities like [*shocker alert*] Seattle).

The addition of “Starbucks Evenings” targets patrons who seek “a safer and more inviting option to meet friends during evening hours than a bar.” Starbucks noted that groups like book clubs and bible studies have even embraced the integration of adult beverages. Apparently, the expanded menu has also attracted many couples who are meeting for the first time after connecting online. Starbucks certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for a Tinder date night… but to each his own!

The menu for Starbucks Evenings includes calorie counts, to keep aligned with the chain’s overall healthful transparency. As a beer nerd, I find the idea of considering health info in my beer selection process particularly odd. Of course, I realize I could sip a glass of sparking water for just a few of the calories of an IPA, but I don’t want to, damn it! I prefer to focus my beer drinking decisions on qualities like aroma, palate, and hoppiness.

Do you think Starbucks should just focus on what they’ve historically been good at—coffee—and leave beer enthusiasts to their own devices?

Personally, if I’m ever in a bind where Starbucks is the only place around for miles and I’m fully parched, I commit to guzzling a grande iced coffee. Chances are, I’ll survive just fine.

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USA Today  “‘Evenings’ at Starbucks”

Starbucks — Starbucks Evenings [+menu]

Girls’ Pint Out: When a Lady Loves a Lager

[This article originally appeared in Stackedd Magazine.]Seattle Girls Pint Out

If the idea of a cocktail bar jam-packed with buttoned-up ladies gossiping over fruity cosmopolitans doesn’t exactly conjure excitement, read on. How about a group of trailblazing women networking over hoppy craft beers? Sound better? A far cry from the male dominated industry it once was, more and more women are getting involved with craft beer—as beer enthusiasts, brewers, beertenders, and through the varied behind-the-scenes roles that contribute to producing tasty brews. Through educational classes, social events, and festivals, organizations like Girls’ Pint Out are introducing more women to craft beer, and in turn, changing the way brewery culture is perceived and breaking down gender barriers.

Since its inception in 2010, the non-profit organization Girls’ Pint Out has built a supportive community of women who love craft beer and who make up an active, contributing part of the greater craft beer community. Girls’ Pint Out currently has over 70 chapters in over 35 states, including a bustling Seattle group that began just last year. Lindsey Scully, Chapter President and Events Coordinator of Seattle Girls’ Pint Out, is a mover and shaker who has been immersed in the craft beer scene for many years—she is a Certified Beer Server, a beertender at Stoup Brewing, and the Washington Editor of The New School. As women’s roles in the beer industry continue to evolve, Lindsey is excited to introduce Girls’ Pint Out to Seattle beer nerds and curious novices alike. I recently caught up with Lindsey to get the inside scoop on women and beer.

Photo (c) Danielle Zahaba

Photo (c) Danielle Zahaba

First of all, why beer?

I believe beer knows no gender. Women can like a resinous, hop-forward IPA just as much as a guy can like a sweet, raspberry-laden, wheat beer. However, since beer and brewing has been viewed as a male beverage and hobby for such a long time, Girls’ Pint Out started as a way to get more ladies into craft beer. By offering classes like Introduction to Homebrewing or Whiskey and Beer Pairing, we offer an intimate setting to help demystify beer, beer styles, and the brewing process for women. We make each event as inviting as possible so ladies feel comfortable asking questions and getting involved.

How and why did you get involved with Girls’ Pint Out? What do you find rewarding about it?

Honestly, I was looking for a way to meet more ladies who liked beer. Seattle has a fantastic craft beer scene, including numerous beer festivals (almost once a month), breweries (about 80 in Seattle), and beer bars, and I was always attending these events with my boyfriend or guy friends. When I randomly heard about the Inland NW Girls’ Pint Out chapter, I contacted them, and they told me there wasn’t a Seattle chapter. I loved the idea and wanted to start a chapter on this side of the state—thus, in August 2014, Seattle Girls’ Pint Out was born.

I find it extremely rewarding to meet new ladies who heard of Seattle Girls’ Pint Out and thought it would be a fun way to get into beer. I love having someone who claims they hate hoppy, bitter beers try my triple IPA and say they like it. I think there’s a beer out there for everyone, so it’s just a process of trying a lot of different styles to find out what you personally like. I’ve also really enjoyed making so many new friends through Seattle Girls’ Pint Out—there are a lot of awesome women in the greater Seattle area!

How big is the Seattle chapter of Girls’ Pint Out? What in particular about the events keep women coming back?

I think the fact that we try to create unique quarterly events is what makes new ladies come and hang out. We’ve done a Whiskey and Beer Pairing that was very popular and […] we are planning a December bottle share and beer-themed gift exchange. We hold a monthly Ladies Pint Night where women are welcome to come join us for a pint and conversation, and it’s a great way to crush the dreaded “Seattle Freeze.” We also host a monthly co-ed book club called Pints & Pages every first Monday of the month at Ballard Beer Company (open to everyone 21+). We started it since Seattle is such a great literary city that also produces fantastic beer.

Every event, whether it’s our monthly Pint Night or a special event, varies in attendance. I’ve had some events with only 2 people and some events with over 20. Since Girls’ Pint Out does not require a membership or dues, we have a constant flow of new people who come to events to see what we’re about, and a good majority of them come back—which speaks volumes about our group. We post all of our events on our Facebook page so people can see what is coming up, or they can subscribe to our monthly newsletter by sending an email to Seattle@GirlspintOut.org and asking to be added.

What are your three favorite beers right now? Do you have a favorite Seattle brewery? With so many great local breweries, how do you choose where to meet for Girls’ Pint Out events?

I absolutely love the Overhang Imperial Porter by Two Beers Brewing—the blend of roasted coffee and chocolate notes is incredible. They should package the aroma and sell it as perfume or candles. Holy Mountain’s Clarette raspberry sour is phenomenal—it’s tart, puckery quality is so quaffable. Stoup Brewing’s Citra IPA is my go-to beer. I’m biased since I do work there, but the citrus aroma is incredible and it is often the beer I recommend if people ask for something refreshing.

Choosing a favorite brewery is really hard since there are still so many I haven’t been able to visit. I will tell you what breweries I recommend people check out: Holy Mountain for their sours and saisons; Yakima’s Bale Breaker for their hop-forward beers like Bottomcutter DIPA; and Fremont Brewing for their Session IPA and their Barrel-Aged Dark Star (a necessity). The nice thing about Washington breweries is that there are so many options. If you don’t like hoppy beers, go visit Machine House in Georgetown for some cask ales or Engine House No. 9 for their sours.

Sometimes I ask for women’s input on Facebook about what neighborhood we should check out for the monthly Ladies Pint Night. I try to make sure we don’t repeat the same neighborhood as the previous month. With so many brewery and beer bar options, I like to spread the love and get people to try out a new venue or neighborhood. I look for a place that can accommodate between 5-20 people and I usually ask for a pint discount if possible—I find that attendees are more likely to try new beers if there’s a discount involved.

What advice can you give women who are interested in learning more about beer or getting involved in the industry?

I invite everyone to come to our events to learn more about craft beer and the beer industry! Our monthly Pint Nights are ladies only, but we occasionally have co-ed events too. There are also beer-focused websites to keep up-to-date on local beer industry news and events, such The New School, Washington Beer Blog, Craft Beer Monger, and Seattle Beer News to name a few. If you are a woman who is already in the craft beer industry, make sure you become a member of Pink Boots Society—it is a great organization for women in brewing.

For those looking to get into the local craft beer industry, I recommend getting to know the people who hold the specific roles you are looking to get into. For example, if you want to get into brewing, go introduce yourself to local brewers and chat with them, or inquire about positions at a homebrew shop. If you are looking to become a beertender, visit local breweries and bring in a resume. Networking is huge when it comes to breaking into any industry, but it’s especially valuable in this industry with the rise of craft breweries.

Knowledge is priceless! There are various ways to educate yourself about beer, and I recommend the Cicerone program or BJCP [Beer Judge Certification Program]. You can download the BJCP Style Guidelines to your smartphone, which makes it easily accessible. Every time you try a new beer style, use the app to look at the beer style guideline and learn what to expect from a Munich Helles or a Robust Porter, or learn the history of some styles. […] There are local BJCP Prep courses to learn about specific beer styles and how to judge a beer by analyzing its aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, and overall impression. The Cicerone program has different levels—the first is Certified Beer Server and is the only online certificate level. I recommend reading up on Certified Beer Server and its syllabus, as there’s a lot of good information out there and it is great for both resume-building and personal enrichment.

I am currently studying for the Advanced Cicerone program and I find that hosting small blind beer tastings of a particular style (e.g. American Amber) is very beneficial. You get to taste a bunch of versions of a specific style and see how each brewery creates a unique product by using a slightly different malt or hop bill, and possibly a different yeast strain. You can also do this with similar styles such as Hefeweizens, American Wheat Ales, and Witbiers, and try to determine which beer is which style. It’s a fun experience with friends.

Is there anything new on the horizon as Seattle Girls’ Pint Out continues to grow?

We are always thinking of new ideas and events for the future. Currently, we are planning a December bottle share and beer-themed gift exchange, a Whiskey and Beer Pairing in early 2016, a Craft with a Craft series (think arts and crafts at a brewery), industry panels, beer education classes, and more. We’re constantly growing, just like the Washington beer scene, and always looking for new partnerships and organizations to team up with.

While Seattle Girls’ Pint Out is primarily focused on the Greater Seattle area, we have had a handful of events on the Eastside, in the Woodinville area. We have had a few requests to start up Bellingham and Kitsap chapters and we are looking for ladies who are interested in taking the initiative to start these chapters (or chapters in other Washington areas). If anyone is interested, please contact me at Seattle@GirlsPintOut.org.

Connect with Seattle Girls’ Pint Out online:

Washington Grown Beer

Washington Hops SimplyBeeresistibleI grew up in Washington state, way out in the country. As a kid, I would often climb our backyard fence to grab a few fresh ears of corn for dinner from our neighbor’s farm. My mom recalls a one-year-old me in her baby carrier, devouring fresh-picked strawberries almost as quickly as she could gather them. Fields of grazing black and white dairy cows were as common a sight as the surrounding mountains. No one will contest that agriculture is a huge industry in Washington, but it still came as a surprise when I learned that 75 percent of the total United States hop acreage is in my home state! With access not only to locally-grown hops, but also unique new strains of barley and wheat, it’s no wonder so many microbreweries are proud to call the Pacific Northwest home.

Fremont Brewing is just one example of a native Washington brewery with a stake in local hops production. They’ve set up a partnership with a forward-thinking, fifth-generation hop-growing family in eastern Washington (the Carpenters) to provide support “for testing new varieties and methodologies of growing and harvesting organic hops in Washington.” Each September, Fremont Brewing releases an exclusive, small-batch, Cowiche Canyon Organic Fresh Hop Ale, made with hops that were developed and grown as part of this farmer-brewer partnership.

Washington hops aren’t the only local staple for breweries in the area. How cool is this?!?! In the little ole Skagit Valley, where I grew up, there is an establishment called The Bread Lab (part of the WSU-Mount Vernon Plant Breeding Program) which studies “the diversity of locally grown grains to determine those that perform well for farmers, and that are most suitable for craft baking, malting, brewing, distilling, and other culinary creations.” Started in 2013, The Bread Lab is currently expanding to include a dedicated brewing and distilling micro-lab—overseen by Emerson Lamb, founder, and Matt Hofmann, master distiller, of Westland Distillery, and Will Kemper, co-owner of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen.

A brand-new, aptly named brewery, Farmstrong Brewing Company, is scheduled to open this month in Mount Vernon, WA, with a beer selection brewed from Skagit Valley wheat and barley. One of their first beers, Here we Goze, will feature 100 percent Skagit Valley malt, developed by another innovative local operation: Skagit Valley Malting.

Let those Wisconsinites brag about their cheese, New Mexicans of their green chilies, and Vermonters their maple syrup. I’ll be sipping locally-produced brews and helping to spread the word to support Washington agriculture. Join me!

Do You Know What’s In Your Beer?

Image source: homebrewmanual.com

Image source: homebrewmanual.com

I love fresh fruits and veggies from the farmers’ market in the peak of their season. I do yoga… sometimes. I hike. I’ve even started wearing aluminum-free deodorant. Whenever possible, I avoid highly processed foods and artificial additives. What am I getting at? Healthy habits. Suffice to say that I felt duped when I returned home from the fancy grocery store (a.k.a. beer store) and realized I had unknowingly purchased ale with “natural flavor added.” As someone who tries to steer clear of consumables with a laundry list of ingredients, I was dismayed by the ambiguity of this particular six-pack. I won’t name names, because there are plenty of reputable breweries that use this vague terminology on their labels. What exactly are these “natural flavors?” Why aren’t they being more transparent?

I’m willing to give the breweries the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they’re just trying to protect their unique blend of secret ingredients. But in my research, I found that the distinction between natural flavors and artificial flavors is also pretty vague.

David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, explains, “The largest difference is that natural flavors are coming from natural sources. The original ingredient is found in nature and then purified and extracted and added back into the food.” Both artificial and natural flavors are processed in a lab, but one is “synthetically processed” while the other is “purified in a lab but from a natural source.” Flavorings can contain anywhere from 50 to 100 ingredients, including solvent and preservatives. And here’s the most dubious part: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a master list of about 700 food additives that are “generally recognized as safe.” Many components of natural (and artificial) flavors have not even been tested, but most scientists consider them to be safe.

For now, I’ll stick to my healthy (beer) habits. I’ll continue to cultivate a clear conscience while I sip brews like Elysian’s Avatar Jasmine IPA, because I know the jasmine essence comes from adding real, dried jasmine flowers to the boil and hopback. Straightforward ingredients, plus, it’s super tasty.

Question for readers: Is there a particular brewery you love that uses only pure, natural ingredients to add flavor?

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CNN – “What Are Natural Flavors, Really?”

U.S. National Library of Medicine – “Food Additives”