Beer Adventures: Slippery Pig Brewery in Poulsbo, Wa

Rhubarb IPA from Slippery Pig Brewery

Thank God, my days of drinking alone are about to be over.

So today, I turned in my last stories at work, submitted my last time card and left early. That’s right, I ain’t been here real long but it’s time to pack up and head back to sweet, sweet Missoula, Montana, where I have landed a job in my field. I am the luckiest person in the world.

Anyway, what to celebrate my freedom with but a beverage? I drove up to Poulsbo, Washington, which is a delightful little Nordic-themed town and this weekend happens to be Viking Fest. I walked around the food booths and the “authentic 900 a.d. village re-creation” which was full of authentic Chinese-made printed cotton scarves and knit hats, and went to the Hare and Hound to see if they had any Slippery Pig Brewery on tap.

I’ve heard tales of this exotic Slippery Pig Brewery and its unique beers like lemon verbena hefeweizen, which sounds more like a kind of spa massage. I had to have some. But I thought the taproom didn’t open until 2, so I had time to kill.

It turned out Hare and the Hound had Slippery Pig’s Rhubarb IPA on tap! The nice bartender poured me off a pint and I could see this was no ordinary beer. They serve from a cask, not a keg, so it was nearly room temperature, unfiltered and uncarbonated. I could see the bits of sediment suspended, unmoving, in the glass. The IPA was less hoppy than I expected and more thick, sweet and slightly bitter at the end. I couldn’t detect any rhubarb flavor, but it was delicious and super strong, which meant I had to steel my resolve and sip it over the course of an hour in order to keep my shit together.

After a nourishing scotch egg with some of the most fiery horseradish mustard I’ve ever tasted, I checked my watch (by which I mean my cell phone) and drove to the Slippery Pig tasting room. After cruising down a winding dirt road, assured by my GPA* I was going the right way, I thought I was lost but saw the Slippery Pig sign on a rusted-out horse trailer directing me the right way. In the midst of a small farm, I spotted chairs and an awning over an open-air bar that must be the taproom.

Not a soul was in sight. I shut off my car and listened to the breeze for a moment. It was only a couple minutes after 2:00, maybe the hours I’d remembered were more flexible. Well, I’d already tasted a really good beer of theirs, and I was not feeling brave enough to wander around a farm all by my lonesome demanding beer, so I left.

And now that I actually go back to the Yelp page, I see the Slippery Pig tasting hours for Fridays are from 4 to 8. Goddammit. Reading comprehension fail.

I can’t wait to go back home, where I know the brewery hours, I don’t have to drive anywhere and my friends can come with me.

*UPDATED TO ADD: I could fix that, but then you’d never get to share in the joy of the most hilarious typo ever.

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Kitsap County beer drinkers enjoy locals Silver City, Der Blokken, Sound

This is a short feature I wrote for the Bremerton Patriot. People keep assigning me to do beer stories wherever I go, I swear!

The bartender pours off two pints and sets them on the expansive bar at Silver City Brewery in Silverdale before Chuck Whitacre and Jim Snodgrass.

“Craft beers are like the new coffee, it’s everywhere in Washington,” Whitacre said.

The two, both Boat House Restaurant chefs with shaved heads, hunched over the bar. Whitacre wore an Alaskan Brewing logo sweatshirt and Snodgrass a Boat House hoodie.

Whitacre’s choice is the Ziggy Zoggy summer lager, a canary-yellow, crisp, slightly hoppy brew.

“Ziggy zoggy, ziggy zoggy, oi oi oi!” the two chant, and drink.

Snodgrass opts for the Whoopass India Pale Ale, an amber-colored ale with sharp, bitter hops and floral aroma. Snodgrass remembers Silver City being one of the first craft breweries he ever learned about in the late 1990s. Now he’s a hop-loving home brewer.

“Hey, I have those hops I need something to do with,” Snodgrass said.

“I have a smoker and those apple chips, let’s smoke them,” said Whitacre.

Inspired, they pay their check and leave, negotiating over who will bring the yeast and the malt.

The Pacific Northwest’s reputation for thriving craft breweries is only growing, and Kitsap County right along with it. It’s easy to belly up to a bar and meet beer aficionados and home brewers.

For many home brewers, Bill Sproules, owner of Olympic Brewing Supply in Bremerton, is one of Bremerton’s preeminent beer connoisseurs.

Sproules, a compact man with white hair, broken veins in his cheeks and blue eyes, decided to make the brew supply store his full-time job in 1994.

“Silver City’s Fat Scotch ale — if there’s a signature Kitsap County Beer, that would be it,” Sproules said.

The new kid on the beer block is Der Blokken Brewery, which opened a taproom and restaurant two years ago in the Manette neighborhood in Bremerton. Sproules likes their Black, a dark, rich porter/stout that’s somewhat unusual in a beer scene where hoppy IPAs are all the rage.

In North Kitsap County, Sproules noted that Poulsbo’s Sound Brewing and Slippery Pig Brewery are making innovative brews.

Slippery Pig, a small, family-run tasting room with limited hours, has “gone out to the edge of beer,” Sproules said, using ingredients like dandelions and rhubarb.

Sproules appreciates a good beer bar, too, as a way for enthusiasts to try new breweries.

More than a dozen local brews are on tap at the Toro Lounge, a tapas restaurant that opened less than two years ago on Pacific Avenue.

On a quiet afternoon, Puget Sound Shipyard worker Josh Rose was alone at the bar, sipping a “Red Death” after work: half Silver City’s Ridgetop Red ale, half Irish Death dark ale from Ellensburg’s Iron Horse Brewing.

“It’s good, because the Irish Death is dark and it balances out the Red,” Rose said.

Rose’s wife, Kjendal, was serving behind the bar. She said Sound Brewing’s Monks Indiscretion, a citrusy Belgian-style packing a 9 percent alcohol-by-volume content, is by far the most popular brew at Toro right now.

“We’ve got it on tap and a back-up keg always in stock,” she said.

Several Kitsap County breweries are packing up and heading to San Diego, Calif. this week for the results of the World Beer Cup.

“Our brewmaster, Don Spencer, is one of the most decorated brewers in Washington in the past 10 years,” said Scott Houmes, co-owner of Silver City. The Ridgetop Red won Best Irish Red in America at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.

Bremerton’s newest, Der Blokken, isn’t yet aspiring to becoming a regional powerhouse.

“We don’t get too weird,” said co-owner Andy Husted. Right now, they’re focusing on supplying the restaurants and the Bremerton businesses carrying Der Blokken on tap. “I’d say the toughest thing is making money.”

Bicycling, beer in Seattle

Elysian's Peste, a 7.5 percent chocolate chili ale, their fourth in the Beers of the Apocalypse series.

Going into REI can be dangerous for me. Something about all the outdoorsy gear and the cheerful, fit people gives me the dangerous fantasy I could ever be even remotely athletic. Why, with the right pair of shoes I might even spend my weekends outdoor-recreating instead of drinking and knitting!

But last week I succumbed, and bought a pair of cycling leggings. The goofy Lycra leggings with padding in the “chamois,” fancy bike-speak for “crotch.”

Combined with beaten-up Converse, a pink skirt and a black KBGA v-neck, I probably look pretty silly, but I do not care, because I am too busy suffering.

See, my new mission, which nicely coincides with spring, is to become a proper bicycle commuter.  It’s an uphill battle. Literally.

Much like when I collected a few of my mom’s records and the casual notion to get a turntable became an expensive 9-month pursuit full of angst and derisive music store clerks, trying to get equipped and in better shape is a pain in various muscle groups.

“Bicycling to work was so fun in Los Angeles! I saved so much money!” I think to myself.

Ha. The hills of Kitsap County and Seattle make even the mile to the grocery store an epic travail, a goddamn scene of mountain trekking in Lord of the Rings.

It seems like there’s two kinds of bicyclists: the casual people tooling around their neighborhood or park, and Uber Cyclists, with their $2,000 touring bikes, spandex outfits and panniers. These people always whiz past me as I slowly creak up a hill on my pink Schwinn cruiser (with the white wicker basket my dad put on it, for extra humiliation), giving me only a few seconds glimpse of their rock-hard thighs and tiny asses before they disappear from view.

What bicycling needs is an Intermediate level, dammit. Did the Uber Cyclists come out of the womb in yellow jerseys and bike shorts?

All I want is to be fit enough to comfortably get around Bremerton and Seattle’s finest watering holes, and practice makes perfect, so yesterday I took my bike on the ferry to Seattle and followed bike routes up to Fremont, through downtown and up to Capitol Hill (and goddamn does it ever put the ‘hill’ in Capitol Hill.)

Anyway, you probably came here to read about beer.

I wasn’t even trying to find Elysian Brewing on Pike Street, but I can’t resist a brewpub if I’m walking by. I first tried their Raconteur, a dark lager that is fabulous. I love dark lagers, like Bayern’s Doppelbock, because they’re smooth and malty, without being overly hoppy or heavy like dark ales. The Raconteur was a good choice. Next, I got a pint of the just-released Peste, a chocolate chili ale that’s the fourth in their Mayan-inspired Beers of the Apocalypse series. I can’t resist a beer gimmick, though I really should, because it was spicy and rich and delicious, but way too heavy for a hot day of exercise. I drank it all, though, because Kate Whittle is not a quitter.

After refreshing glasses of water and a couple stops at record stores, I wandered into a bar on Olive Way solely because I’d seen a poster with the Montana state outline on it and their address. It turns out the bar is called Montana, and it’s operated by gals from there and they serve Black Star and Big Sky’s Trout Slayer. The license plates, fishing tackle and presumably stolen Glacier Bank sign decorating the walls got me a little teary-eyed. And yet, a bar in Capitol Hill serving $5 pints to hipsters who find it ironically kitschy is absolutely nothing like home, so I got even a little more weepy.

So my goal for the next weekend is to quit blowing money in pricey Seattle joints and stay in with my cat and my record player and a pack of Shift, the new pale lager from New Belgium. The company is marketing it like crazy, and I hope it does well. It’s like PBR, if PBR was good. I reckon I’ll go bicycle a few miserable miles and treat myself to a Shift.

Beer Adventures, and Sayonara to Portlandia

I’m closing out my fourth and last week of Portland unemployment tonight by seeing Lucero at the Wonder Ballroom. I’ll be sad to leave Portland, but also I really need something to do all day besides hang out at coffeeshops and breweries, blowing my tax refunds. Aside from a few memorable evenings drinking whiskey with another journalism school friend in town, I mostly spent this time bicycling around and drinking fancy beer by myself. Pro tip: I found I couldn’t handle hoppy or dark beers when I was getting a lot of exercise at the same time. I drank a big, soporific IPA at Lompoc and getting the 60 blocks back up to my apartment was miserable. It might also be that spring is approaching, but pales and pilsners are the only things I’m interested in.

Some stand-out beer experiences from the last few weeks:

Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA: A friend and I stopped in Deschutes on St. Paddy’s Day after drinking whiskey, so I would probably have enjoyed just about anything at that point, but I remember particularly liking the fresh, citrusy, not-overly-hoppy Chainbreaker. I should try it again.

Bayern Killarney Irish Red at Hawthorne Hophouse: I wandered in on a Sunday, and they say something about Sundays makes a body feel alone. Nothing tasted better than a pint of smooth, sweet hometown beer, and the only Bayern brew I’ve never had before. Also, paid $4.75 for a pint of something that’s a $6 growler fill at Bayern. Sigh.

Session-style 3 percent Little Dog ale at Hair of the Dog Brewery: Drinking alone has taught me to appreciate session ales, because if I learned anything in college, it’s to instinctively order the most alcohol percentage for the least amount of money. But it turns out slamming back 9 or 10 percent stouts is generally a bad idea when you’re trying to linger over a pint and read the latest issue of the Mercury.

Bike Route Rye at Lucky Labrador: I ordered an imperial pint, and asked the bartender, who had long hair and wore a black leather vest, if I could have a cookie, and he said, “Sure. My till’s broken right now, so don’t worry about it.” Astonished at my good fortune, I enjoyed both the enormous peanut-butter cookie and the refreshing rye for free! I went back up to the bar afterwards when I saw their till was working, and the bartender waved me off, saying it was fine. I left him a nice tip.

Fat Scotch Ale at Silver City Brewery in Silverdale, Washington: I come from the land of Kettlehouse Coldsmoke and Big Sky Heavy Horse, so I’m fairly finicky about scotch ales. I can’t say Silver City’s was quite as thick and rich as Coldsmoke, but it was tasty, dark and finished crisp. You might ask why I found myself at a small brewery three hours north of Portland and an hour west of Seattle, and that’s because I’ll shortly be working there for the Central Kitsap reporter. I’m stoked.

Hibiscous Hefeweizen at Fish Brewing in Olympia, Washington: While driving south on I-5 back to Portland, I stopped in downtown Olympia to check it out and get dinner and a beer. I was impressed with the sweet, fruity hef and the massive portion of shepherd’s pie fresh from the oven. Also, between Olympia and Portland and preparing to spend a lot of time in Seattle, my head is hurting from all the hipsteryness and I can’t believe I’m getting used to paying $2 for a cup of drip coffee and $5 for a pint of beer and having to separate out recyclables. I called my dad just to hear somebody say “ain’t” and “I reckon.”

PBR tallboys at the Know and Dante’s: Sometimes, a lady just wants a PBR while she watches some punk bands. I saw Fucking Dyke Bitches, Agatha, Dogjaw and Forsorcerers at the Know–that place is so cheap and awesome, I want it to be my home– and Hunx and his Punx a few days later. It was a great week in gay rock music (literally) and sweet relief to find music venues will still serve PBR for $2.50 or less. Also, the bartender at Dante’s recognized my Total Fest shirt and turned out to be a former Missoulian, so he gave me a PBR on the house. Aw.

So, I better get back to packing up my car. I’m sipping a New Belgium Dig Pale Ale whilst I work. Simple, affordable, tasty. Here’s to more beer adventures!

Food adventures in Portlandia

So last Saturday I kissed my sweet home of Missoula goodbye and traveled over mountains, plains and every goddamn kind of weather with a crabby cat to arrive in Portland. God help me, I’ve moved here without a job or much of a plan other than to find adventure and beer.

I’m not cooking much right now–my living situation is one of those things that will be a great story someday, I’ll explain more some other time–but since I’m unemployed, when I’m not searching for jobs I’m exploring the city with what’s remaining of my tax refunds. Thank you, American Government, for this bounteous goof-off time. (But fuck you very much to the Oregon unemployment office. Christ, what a convoluted and unhelpful system. They sent me THREE repeated letters to tell me I had to wait a week to start getting payments.)

Anyway, I’m writing this while I drink a Simpler Times lager, unofficial beer of the unemployed, and wait for a dear friend to arrive in town so we can go out and get dinner. Thank God the Willamette Week just printed their 2012 guide to cheap eats.

Tasty Things I Had This Week in Portland:

Seven-Grain Survival Stout and Pint o’ Pretzels at Hopworks Urban Brewery: Ate this before going out to see bands, which was a mistake, because I wanted nothing more than to go to bed promptly afterwards. Hopworks serves their pretzels with a sauce just like my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese sauce.

Biscuits and gravy with shiitake mushrooms at Pine State Biscuits: such marvelous, greasy richness and fluffy biscuits.

Foot-long $3 banh mi sandwich at Best Baguette on SE Powell, with taro boba tea: Truly, a wonderful, spicy, meaty, carbohydratey fuel for long days of job searching.

Banana Cream Cake: For free at the sample counter at New Seasons. Love that grocery store so much.

Brazilian jalapeno soup at Detour Cafe on SE Division: A rich tomato soup with peppers, served with a warm baguette and butter. So perfect.

Dhal curry: A spicy red lentil dish, eaten at an Indian restaurant on Hawthorne. I couldn’t understand the servers’ Indian accents very well, so I’m not sure what else I ate, but it was all really tasty. Also, servers treat you kind of funny when you’re a woman eating dinner by herself. Also I’d maybe had four beers before walking in, so that could explain it.

So…here’s to more adventures!

Eastern Oregon Brew News: Prodigal Son, Dragon’s Gate

First, to tackle something I meant to write about back in December when I actually published the article: a new brewery will be setting up shop in eastern Oregon soon! Excitement! Adam and Jennifer Gregory are a Milton-Freewater couple who remodeled a shed into a mini-brewery and plan to start selling on a very small-time basis once they have all their permits done in spring.

Dragon’s Gate brewery will be medieval-themed, as you might suspect after visiting with Adam, who rocks a utili-kilt, and see the suit of armor and Toscano-type furniture decorating their property. Neat-o.

So the Gregorys were kind enough to send me home with some samples of their products (which I drank after writing the article, so as not to be biased. Professionalism!) and a couple of their recipes need tweaking. I tried their porter, Belgian tripel, and Belgian IPA…and the porter was wonderful, coffee-rich and dry, and disappeared between my two friends very quickly.

The Belgians need work, though, or filtering of some kind. I opened both and took a swig to find a strong anise/soapy flavor. After pouring into a pint, the flavors melded and settled and I could taste a hint of what these beers could be: unique, for sure, but sweet and brightly floral.

I eagerly await trying out Dragon’s Gate again when they’re properly open, anyhoo. These folks have branding and marketing down, so I think some more solid brews are all they need to tie it together.

Here’s the Dragon’s Gate site and Facebook.

And in Pendleton brew news, Prodigal Son has three flagships back on the menu after scrambling when brewmaster and co-founder Brian Harder split early in December. Co-owner Tim Guenther tells me a part-time brewer is commuting every few days from western Oregon to tide them over while they figure out their next move. It’s nice to see Beer Named Sue, Wheatstock Hefeweizen and Bruce/Lee Porter back on tap, anyhoo.

Tonight’s Drinkin: Sour Ales

My love for unusual styles of beers will be the death of my checkbook.

So ever since I tasted my first sour ale at the Rhino, I’ve been hunting for more. I love tangy, sour, acidic, mouth-puckering flavors, especially as a contrast to eating something rich and earthy like braised golden beets. (Which, you might guess, I made the other day. They rocked, of course.)

It turns out this obscure beer style derives from Flanders, where brewers started making beer with lactic-acid producing Lactobaccillus, in addition to typical yeasts, and aging it in oak barrels to give it depth of flavor.

While traipsing around Oregon’s finest drinking establishments, I’ve had the privilege of getting my grubby mitts on some sour ales lately. I should note that New Belgium makes delicious, moderately priced sour beers, but I’ve had trouble finding the brand in this state. My Montana buddies will have better luck with that.

For west coasters, if you see the following in your favorite bottleshop or beer bar, check ’em out:

Cascade Brewing Sour Wit Belgian: On my latest trip to Portland (a delightful adventure filled with Voodoo donuts, threats of being tear-gassed at the Occupy Portland protests, heart-on-your-sleeve folk singers in a bar basement, roadside pho slurped at an outdoor table in the rain, third-wave ska CD mixes and many excellent microbrews) my very last stop before getting back on I-84 back to Pendleton was at Cascade, which specializes in sour ales. This sour wit is their only sour available in a growler, so it was my only option, but I can’t complain. It’s like if Lemonheads and beer made a baby. A sharp, citrusy glass of summer baby.

I stepped in Cascade on a dreary, drizzly Portland day, and would have liked nothing more than to while away an afternoon tasting everything. I’ll be back. (She said, in a Terminator voice. Call me the Beer Terminator.)

Rodenbach Flemish Red Brown Ale: I took this home from a recent visit to 16 Tons in Eugene, a bottleshop and taproom that looks a lot like what I imagine heaven to be. Their selection was exhaustive, their bartender attractive and helpful. This is another place I’d happily blow paychecks in, so maybe it’s all right that I live a 5-hour drive away. If I start grad school at UO and become a duck, you can blame 16 Tons.

Anyway, this imported Belgian beer was the most straightforward sour ale I’ve had, not overly puckering, but pleasantly rich, sweet and sharp. A friend of mine commented that it tasted nearly like wine, and I realized that’s why I love sour ales: all the carbohydratey, malty goodness of beer with the acidity and subtle notes characteristic of wine.

And Tastiest of Them All:

The Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela Sour Pumpkin Ale: Now, perhaps this seemed more delicious by virtue of being $6 per 12 oz. glass (making for an absurdly expensive growler fill) so I couldn’t have more of it…but goddamn if this wasn’t the best beer I’ve ever tasted. This is the first pumpkin beer from Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin brewery, and tasted like a glass of sweet, perfectly tangy pumpkin pie.

Eugene’s 16 Tons carried this when I stopped in around Oct. 22, and I couldn’t tell you where find it. So, if you don’t live near an obsessively exhaustive bottleshop or in Michigan, well, nah-nah. I win.

Previously: Tonight’s Drinking: New Belgium Le Terroir Sour Ale