Sunday, September 10, 2017

What is special?

The good new is we can see the Sun again. Breathe the air, go outside, see blue sky (rare enough here). Had rain. (Never been so grateful.)

The bad news is now that the Sun is out, I can't see it. Not when I wake up anyway. This actually started August 31st: My alarm clock sounded before sunrise.

Worse: Just when it starts to go the other way - literally, the day it would be sunrise at or before 6:30 am again - Daylight Saving Time shifts the clock an hour and we start all over. Which means it's April 12th before I see the light of day again (in my waking moments). This, in addition to my current occupation, may contribute to my overall grumpiness in Spring. Be prepared. (Or send chocolate.)

Is this preemptive grumpiness? Yes. It is a warning.

Lest we leave it on a sour note, more good news: A blind long snapper finally got to enter a live game in the fourth quarter of USC’s win over Western Michigan. Jake Olson "nailed the snap while his teammates and the crowd went wild." (Pete Carroll cried.)

Special, indeed.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The hills are on fire.

Eagle Creek is 30 miles from where I live, although on the other side of the Columbia River.

This article from The Columbian includes a pretty amazing photo as well:
Officials extend air-pollution advisory
(Stevenson, by the way, is halfway between where I live and where my brother lived until very recently.)

Ash has been falling here since Monday. I didn't go outside at all on Tuesday and I haven't been outside at all today. No doubt, the ash is clogging our A/C filters. The ash in the air is think enough to block the sun's rays. Not completely, but it feels a little like the eclipse. The available light is eerie and temperatures are slightly lower because of the diffused light. The sun is glowing a deep orange rather than a bright yellow, looking more like Mars than the Sun.

I-84 and Highway 14 have been closed, school and outdoor events have been canceled, towns have been evacuated.

Wildfires aren't new. What is new is how close I am to them now. (Rather, how close they are to me.) I'm not native to the area but I've lived here most of my life now. As for ash, I moved here after the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. Then, the ash spewed was far worse as you can see here.

We are headed to Seattle this weekend, a little more than 150 miles north of here, where ash is falling from fires in Central Washington.

This map will show you how much these (and other) fires are affecting the country. Just showing the fires and smoke layers yielded this image:

This is truly spooky, a little bit scary, and a very sad for the people whose lives are forever altered by these fires. NOAA is reporting a Red Flag Warning for the area which means thunderstorms with abundant lightning is forecast, combined with critically dry fuels which may result in numerous fire starts. These conditions "can contribute to extreme fire behavior." West winds will continue through Thursday.

We could use the rain but lightning we can do without. Maybe a quick trip to Boston is in order. I hear there a lot of rain out there. (Flash floods? Egads! Is no one safe?)

Friday, September 1, 2017

A three-day brews cruise - just in time for Labor Day Weekend

Last weekend, we took a few days to visit breweries in the Puget Sound area and the Georgetown, SoDo, and Capital Hill neighborhoods of Seattle. But first, the commute. On the way we stopped at Dick's Brewing NW Sausage & Deli in Centralia where we had a French Dip sandwich and a Pale Ale. Dick's is located in what we call the "beer desert" - the 110 miles between Vancouver (WA) and Olympia, 60 miles south of Seattle, with only half a dozen breweries between the two. The good news is there are more coming: McMenamin's is building a new location in Kalama, Dick's will have a new location in downtown Central, both coming in 2018, and we just discovered Flood Valley Brewing is in Chehalis. Finally, an oasis!

While several breweries in the Puget Sound area are accessible by boat, we did this cruise by car. Our next stop was at Silver City Restaurant and Brewery in Silverdale where we paired their Clear Creek Pale Ale with their Crispy Cod Tacos for a satisfying snack. Next, was Downpour Brewing in Kingston where we shared a flight and tossed the bags on their back patio. Downpour is an easy, albeit uphill, walk a half mile from the Kingston Ferry Terminal (from Edmonds) and Port of Kingston which means it is absolutely accessible by boat. If you're in Kingston by boat, I recommend making the trek uphill.

Further away, is Hood Canal Brewery which is another four miles away. It's a small brewery worth your time, but you will need a car. The buses don't go that far and Uber and taxi service are non-existent. If you're a WABL member and filling out your passport, note that nearby CB's Nuts is a WABL sponsor. Stop in, check them out, and get a stamp. I didn't figure this out until after we had left Kingston so I'm not sure what the connection between organic roasted nuts and craft beer is (do they also roast malts?). The only way to find out is vast them and ask so be sure you do and let them know you appreciate their WABL sponsorship.

Our last stop for this Thursday was Rainy Daze Brewing in Poulsbo. We shared a flight there where the Rainy Daze Rye IPA stood out for me. Rainy Daze where "it's not the size of your system—it's how you use it" is a larger facility, with a cool vibe and where their nearly 20 wood tap handles are crafted by local artists. Award winning beers, with front row seating to the brewing facilities, and a beautiful bar make for a good experience.

Friday's expedition started with a flight at Slippery Pig in Poulsbo. Of the three we tried, the Boldur's Blonde stood out for us. We also stopped at Valhöll Brewing Company, also in Poulsbo, where the bartender/owner was very gracious. We enjoyed a pint of the Dry Hop Warrior Golden Ale. Both these breweries are accessible by foot if you are staying at the Port of Poulsbo Marina. Slippery Pig is a few short steps from the marina while Valhöll is a quarter mile away.

Before leaving Poulsbo, we made a quick stop at Sound Brewery. This is only 1.5 miles away from the Port. The roads were busy in some places but it is possible to navigate by bike or bus, if you happen to be in in Poulsbo by way of boat. There, we had a very smooth Munich Dunkel which was quite satisfying. They also have food, if you're hungry.

Our last stop for the day was Bainbridge Island Brewing where we sampled a flight of northwest IPAs. Our favorite was the Windfall Grapefruit IPA. Despite their logo, which looks like a ferry boat, Bainbridge Island Brewing does not supply beers to the Washington State ferry system. Although there are several local craft breweries that do, Bainbridge Island Brewing isn't one of them. (The breweries that have that honor are listed here.) This brewery is located in an industrial complex that also features a winery, a distillery, and a coffee roaster. There is also a gym located there that we studiously avoided.

Saturday was a busy day of focused brewery touring. After taking the ferry from Eagle Harbor to Seattle, we headed to Counterbalance Brewing. This small, out of the way spot in the Georgetown neighborhood south of Seattle seemed to be favored by locals and other beer industry types. We tried the Passion Fruit Hibiscus Farmhouse Ale and the Bohemian Pilsner, both delicious in their respective lanes.

From there we ventured to Lowercase Brewing where the bartenders are friendly, the menu is informative (thank you), and the beer is delicious. A former auto shop, their remodeled interior used  reclaimed wood from nearby Boeing for their wood paneled walls. We had the Double Black IPA, a collaboration with Flying Lion, which was outstanding. From there, it was only a quarter mile to Machine House Brewery where we had the Matrimonial Pale Ale which, brewed specifically for the brewer's wedding. Cheers!

A mere 52 feet away, we stopped by another WABL sponsor, Full Throttle Bottles, who was closed for remodeling after a recent ownership change. Nothing to do but venture forth so we headed to Two Beers Brewing Company who was celebrating with Seattle Cider the latter's fourth anniversary. We were still outside while this video was being taken (posted on Facebook). Once we gained entrance, however, we savored a pint of Return of the Tonic. "Looks weird but tastes good," was the advice and it was correct on both counts. This cider was made with ginger, carrot, turmeric and who knows what else? Highly unusual and extraordinarily delicious.

Next was Schooner Exact Brewing which was also crowded as we happened by while they were participating in a block party with their nine winery neighbors. Unable to find parking, we purchased a bomber to go and moved on to Seapine Brewing which was closed for a private event. This place looked interesting so we will definitely want to come back. Luckily, Ghostfish Brewing was right around the corner. And, we were able to find on-street parking.

Everything on the Ghostfish menu is gluten free - the beer as well as the food. They use traditional brewing methods with non traditional ingredients to produce some really great beers. Their taproom is big and open with indoor and outdoor seating with friendly and knowledgeable servers. The samples we tasted were varied and creative. We settled on the Vanishing Point Pale and Grapefruit IPA and liked them both.

Although we would have liked to have sampled some of Ghostfish's food items, we settled on the Ultimate Beer Burger - because bacon jam - at Pyramid Brewing Company at their Seattle Alehouse. Located across the street from Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, this place can be busy on game days. It was not, the day we visited, so we had ample parking and quick, friendly service. There, we shared a Outburst Citrus IPA (7% ABV) which was just perfect on the outside patio.

Before wrapping up our day's tour, we stopped by a WABL sponsor, The Pine Box, where they have 32 beers and ciders on tap from a wide range of breweries and cideries. Located on the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle, this place was just starting to get busy on a Saturday evening when we arrived.

Just as the sun was starting to set, we had our last beer of the day at Redhook's new Brewlab which opened August 14th. Located in the old Pike Motorworks Building, we had no trouble finding the place since we used to have our cars serviced there some years ago. This is one of the largest spaces we've visited. Plenty of room which included two patios and two fire pits for cooler Seattle evenings. Redhook has a long history in Seattle as its first microbrewery. While their main operations are consolidated in Portland, the Seattle Brewlab is a place where they will create the next generation of Redhook brews.

Sunday was draft day for our NFL fantasy team so we didn't make any brewery visits which isn't to say we didn't enjoy any beer. We cracked open a Gin Botanical that we purchased earlier from Seattle Cider and the Hopvine IPA we purchased at Schooner Exact. No doubt they aided in our draft picks for the season.

What ever you end up doing this Labor Day weekend, be sure to stop in and visit your favorite craft brewery for refreshment. We will be home, painting the house. But, it won't be long before we're on the road again, looking for new craft breweries to try.

To our friends who will be in Poulsbo this weekend, sorry we could be there with you. Cheers!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Brews Cruise

In an ongoing effort to visit more craft breweries in the state of Washington than anyone else (watch out, Bob - you know who you are), we set out to visit the breweries of the Fremont and Ballard neighborhoods of Seattle. We managed to visit twelve in a single day and we did it by boat. (Actually, mostly on foot.)

Near Urban Family Brewing Co.
We cruised on a 2002 Formula 37PC from Lake Washington to Fishermen's Terminal, got a slip for the night, then set off on foot to Urban Family Brewing Company which specializes in the eclectic. Although they have a couple of IPAs, their focus is on experimental beers (mostly sours) using a variety of fruits. While sipping a flight of sours, we downloaded the app for an urban bike sharing program called Lime Bike. We found and rented a couple of bikes which allowed us to get to Hale's Ales, about 2.5 miles away.

There were certainly better routes to choose (via the South Ship Canal Trail or over the Ballard/Hiram M. Chittendon Locks) but we crossed the Lake Washington Ship Canal via the Ballard Bridge. The narrow sidewalks and opposing bike and pedestrian traffic made for a harrowing experience but the ride was free*.

Our route, first half:

See promo codes below for your free ride.
We were certainly ready for refreshment by the time we got to Hale's Ales. We cooled off with a pale ale and a sausage and spinach popover. Bad Jimmy's Brewing was less than 500 feet away so we locked the bikes and left them at Hale's Ales. Bad Jimmy's is a small brewery housed in what feels like a large garage (or small warehouse) with a roll up door, small but comfortable patio, and lofted space with more than a half dozen pinball machines. We had the Cucumber Lime Blonde and broke out the quarters.

Our next stop was about a half mile away, Populuxe Brewing. They had a large selection of IPAs on tap. This is a good place to have a flight to compare the profiles of various hops. They also had a large, family friendly, outdoor space complete with two corn hole sets and an adjacent food truck. This was where we encountered our first Cycle Saloon which was a great endorsement for Pupuluxe. We were just glad we had ordered before they got there!

Next was Lucky Envelope Brewing which was just a couple blocks away and where we encountered our second Cycle Saloon. We were on a popular pilgrimage! This time, we weren't as lucky with the beer line. We shared a Blood Orange Session IPA while watching a couple of corn hole games in progress on their smallish outdoor patio.

From there, we made our way to Stoup Brewing. Stoup had a young vibe, crowded on this now early Saturday evening. This was clearly a popular spot. There, we shared a pint of their Mosaic Pale Ale - a good one. (Stoup Brewing was also the 100th unique Washington craft brewery visit since I started keeping track with the WABL passport. Cheers!)

Tap list at Reuben's Brews
A few blocks later, we were at Reuben's Brews. This place was really hopping! There, we shared an r&R Pilsner - a collaboration beer with Rainier Beer. This combination elicited an "ew" when I first heard about it. Nothing against Rainier Beer - iconic in these part of the woods. However, the thought of Rainier Beer reminds me of the cheap swill I drank many years ago. What I can tell you now, however, is that I highly recommend the r&R Pilsner. It's definitely worthy of your time. Speaking of time, it's time for me to reconsider Rainier Beer!

About a third of a mile away was Maritime Pacific Brewing Company which had large indoor and outdoor spaces and food. From there, we walked the half mile to  NW Peaks Brewery at the old Spinnaker Bay Brewing location. There, I would recommend the Eldorado Pale Ale. A short block away was Peddler Brewing which is not exclusive to cyclists. Rather, this place was busy with people using all modes of transportation. It featured a large outdoor space with corn hole and a food truck out back.

Crossing the Ballard Bridge again (this time on foot), we aimed for Rooftop Brew Co where they just celebrated their fourth anniversary. This is a small, family-friendly place that is, quite literally, located on a rooftop.

Our route, second half:

Even though we had snacked our way through the afternoon at several locations, we took a dinner break, feasting on a whole crab at Chinook's at Salmon Bay. Sated, we visited our last brewery for the day, Figurehead Brewing Company, only steps away. We sampled the Bigger Than Brown in this friendly and intimate spot and enjoyed the company of like-minded patrons.

The best way to visit a brewery is to sit at the bar and order a flight or a pint. Whoever is behind the bar, if not the owner, is likely to be very informative about their beers. You're also likely to chat with other patrons who are invariably friendly. But, if your goal is to visit as many breweries as possible, you have to pace yourself. Give yourself plenty of time, don't drive, and don't order full pints unless you're sharing it with someone. 10oz, 8oz, 4oz, or even 2oz options are often available. Remember to eat and drink plenty of water. If you're not feeling fine the next morning, you did it wrong. Or, spread out your visits. This tour would be easy enough if you spent a weekend taking the time to enjoy each brewery in turn.

Washington craft breweries are becoming more and more ubiquitous. I finished writing this post at the Vancouver Library where, behind me, sits a man with a shirt from Bushnell Craft Brewing Company which is located in Redmond, WA.  We visited that brewery the day before this Brews Cruise but that's a different story.

*Use one of these promo codes for Lime Bike and your first three rides are free.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hubby to Father who is planning to visit: Don't come here. It's hot and smoky.

Father: Sorry, son. I thought you were saved.
Barista: Can I get a drink started for you?

Me: No, thanks. Just a pound of coffee beans today.

Barista: Need them ground?

Me: No, thanks.

Barista: Old school, huh? Tell me: how do you do it? Do you just dump the beans in and push a button to make coffee, or what?

Me: No, I have separate machines: coffee grinder and espresso maker. I can only make coffee one cup at a time.

Barista: That really is old school.

Me: The machine is made by Saeco but I bought it 15-20 years ago when it was sold under your label.

Barista: I should get a machine like that.

Me: I have a spare. . . .