We just got back from a little trip to Walla Walla. The first question I got when I told people we were going was, "Why?" Well, after coming back, I can tell you why. About 140 Wineries, 3 Breweries, and one Cidery. There are two breweries in Walla Walla, and a third one really close. The first one I want to talk about is Mill Creek Brewing. Located right in downtown Walla Walla, this one definitely wins for convenience. We went there twice, as it is also one of the few places open relatively late. They only had three of their four beers available, so we will have to grab the other during a later visit. We tried their Walla Walla Wheat, IPA, and a beer named Brew 22. The wheat is served with a lemon, but isn't' quite as light as most Hefs. It was an ok beer, good for a hot day, drinkable, but wasn't my favourite. Their IPA had a real nice, dense, amber color. It had a strong hop flavour, that disappeared quickly, and had the requisite floral notes. The menu says this is for the advanced beer drinker, but I am pretty sure a novice could handle it ok. The Brew 22 was actually pretty good. We had heard that is wasn't, and that a previous recipe was far superior. Maybe so, but I really liked this beer. The menu says this has just a hint of attitude, which sounds more like a tag-line for a Scion than a beer. It had a dark amber color, a distant spiciness, and, again, was nice for a summer night. Not real heavy, but the most interesting of the beer we had there. So, food wise, free peanuts that you can throw on the floor was an instant hit with me. The fish and chips, sadly, were not. But hey, I was dumb enough to order fish and chips in Walla Walla, so I got what I deserved. The decor is sports bar , meets nick knack grandmother, meets beer advertising freebies gone wild. But, I kinda liked the place. I am a simple man, easily won over by free peanuts.
The last stop on our holiday last month was a visit to Pike Place Market. Erin had never been before, and it is always a thrill for me to play tour guide. One thing I had never done before was to check out Pike Brewing, located right in the market. Pike brew is relatively easy to find here in town, but a trip here is a must. The space they have is huge, and includes a beer museum. We had a pizza, which was very good, as was all of the beer we tried. The one that stood out, and that Belmont Station has now in a 22oz, is the Monk's Uncle. At 9% ABV, this is a beer that will slap you upside the head with goodness. It is an Abbey Style beer, brewed with Belgian Yeast and candy sugar. The website says it is avaliable only in the spring, so I would run and grab some before it is gone. For any fan of Belgian beer, this is a great, local, must try. Really I have nothing bad to say about the place. You have to go into it with some knowledge though. It is downtown Seattle, so you will, unless your more patient than me, need to pay for garage parking. If you pick the wrong day, or the wrong time, driving around Pike Place Market area can make you wish you had stayed home, shoving pieces of broken glass up your nose, listening to the Jonas Brothers, and drinking Budweiser. Ok, I may have gone too far, forget the Budweiser. But, if you can handle the traffic, and the comotion of a Seattle icon, check it out, the beer and food is top notch, as is the staff.
When we found LaConner Brewing, we weren't even looking for it. We were simply exploring the cutesy, yet gastronomically gifted little tourist town of LaConner, WA. Then, like a lightning bolt from heaven, I saw the word brewery out of the corner of my eye, and the rest of that night is hazy history. Well, almost. Not to spoil the end, but this experience was one of the best I have ever had at a brewery. The staff was attentive, knowledgeable, friendly, and even, after spying my camera on the table, offered to take a picture of us together. I have my favourite places, Ft. George, Double Mountain, and Belmont Station. They are my favourites because I leave with a smile, and eagerly anticipate my next visit. I spend hours at my shitty job, thinking about past times, and can not wait to return. LaConner is now in that league. The beer, and food, was awesome. Between us both, we tried the Vienna Style Lager, the ESB, and the Brown. I shall work backwards. I don't like Browns, or should I say, I don't usually like Browns. The Brown here is listed as a "English-style Nut Brown ale." A overly simplistic description for quite a complex beer. It was light brown in color, had a very nice, heavy body, a very pleasant aftertaste, and had a subtle chocolate mouth feel. My only regret about this beer was that I didn't have my trusty travel growler ready to take some home. The Lager and the ESB were both excellent. Each, showing far more interest than I am used to in each of their styles. You think lager, and if your like me, you think boring. A few stand out of course, Heater Allen comes to mind, and now, so does LaConner. Erin enjoyed her ESB, and noted hints of orange, and was nicely balanced with 6% ABV. As with other offerings, it uses imported hops and malts. The food was great, we shared the Wood Fired Chipotle Cream Clams. The dominate kitchen focal point is a beautiful, wood fired brick oven. You can taste it in the clams, between the spice and heat of the chipotle sauce. That, combined with the beer, make it quite an experience. It is a bit off the beaten path, which is usually where you discover hidden gems anyway. It isn't easy to find info about, and it has no dart board. But, it is absolutely worth a trip, and, yes, I would call it a destination brewery. The rest of the town is interesting, and has other good places to eat, but anyone even in the remote area of LaConner, and doesn't stop here, is paying themselves a huge disservice.
Just got back form the first night of the Puckerfest at Belmont Station. Wow, I have personally never been there when the line, literally, went out the door, and around the side of the building. The occasion was a release of two Double Mountain sours, which I didn't get to try, because it wasn't relased until 6pm. But, if you can make it, there is a great slection of other Belgian styles, and sours. The one that made me the happiest was the BJs Enfant Terrible, which has been cellared since BJs stopped brewing in Portland. The ABV is listed as unknown, but, I would guess it to be around 6.5-8. Go and check it out, grab a glass, stand in line, and enjoy this celebration of beer that isn't IPA. It's ok, the mighty Oregon gods will forgive you.
I just wanted to make a quick note about a beer I found up there, that I really enjoyed having at my campground. Initially, of course, the name and label intrigued me, but after tasting it, I absolutely loved this beer. It is impossible to find in Oregon, due to some wonky distribution laws, but a quick trip to By the Bottle in Vancouver, WA will reap rewards for you and your beer loving friends. Scuttlebutt is some great beer, and a good excuse to check out the tiny By the Bottle, a cool place in it's own right.
Skagit Brewing in Mt. Vernon is located right n the "downtown" area, close to the train station, and spitting distance from I-5. Skagit makes the eye catching labeled Sculler's IPA , which most here have no doubt seen, decorated with a pirate logo, which the whole tavern seems to latch onto. I liked the Sculler's, and the Dutch Girl Lager I tried. Neither were anything groundbreaking, but they were both well made, nicely balanced beers, ranking better than some, and worse than others I have had in there respective categories. The real reason I went here, was to try some local cider from Red Barn Cider on tap. That was a nice treat, and really is a well made cider. Clear, pleasant aroma, not too sweet, not too dry, and actually uses real cider apples for some welcomed tannins, missing from so many cheap, macro cideries. So, the food was good, edible, non diarrhea causing. But, really there to make sure your 5th Sculler's doesn't leave you passed out on the train tracks. I thought it was a bit pricey, but, I am also a big cheap ass. A destination brewery it is not, but if your in the area, Skagit is definitely worth a visit.