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.”