A host of local brewers bring their creations to Curtis Wharf to help herald the beginning of fall.
There are a couple things that I look forward to in early fall. The bright color of maple and huckleberry leaves, salmon returning to spawn, cool, dry days, and beer festivals all appear as we transition from summer. Bier on the Pier is right here in the town I live which is logistically nice, but the location also makes it special. Drafty and permeated by the aroma of sea water, the historic Port of Anacortes Transit Shed is a one of a kind place to gather. The most challenging aspect of the festival is selecting which offerings to try using the six tickets provided with admission. This year there were over 75 fermented beverages of various tastes, colors, and compositions. Ciders are not really my thing, so that eliminates a certain number. My usual approach is to start out with the lighter brews like IPA’s and gradually move toward the darker and more malty varieties. Two years ago, I was introduced to the joy of fresh hopped ales. This variety has become one of my favorites, and the traditional starting launch to my Bier at the Pier sampling.
As a proud locavore, I decided to give Anacortes Brewery Fresh Hop Ale a try. It had a lovely straw color, and was exceedingly smooth. With the nice fresh, aromatic finish, it literally begged to be consumed. Alright, this was my first sampling of the night, so maybe I was just thirsty. I asked the brewer, Shannon Vincent about what the special considerations of making a fresh hop vs dried hop ale are.
The hops have to be used within 24 hours of picking. For this particular batch, the brewery owner drove over to Yakima, picked up the load, drove back to Anacortes, and the hops were mixed in that day.
Regarding the wonderful smooth finish.
That is one of the benefits of fresh hops. When hops are dried and pelletized, it can enhance the bitterness.
There have been a number of news articles lately about the increasing number of women entering the brewing industry. According to Shannon, there are two other women in Skagit County involved in the beer business, one at North Sound Brewing Company and another at Birdsview Brewing Company.
IPA’s (India Pale Ale) are usually second on my list, so I consulted the guide for something that stood out from the formidable list. The Hellbent Brewing Company offering of Dang! Citra IPA looked interesting. Hellbent is located in Lake City and has been in operation for 3 years. Their IPA was quite delightful, bright yellow with a nice foamy head. The Citra hops gave it a really smooth, but spicy finish. I asked their rep for her feelings regarding the ever growing number of craft brewers in the Seattle area.
I feel like we are part of a community. We like beer, so when a new place opens up, our attitude is, cool, let’s go see what they’re like. The more the merrier!
Since the German tradition of Oktoberfest seems to have spawned the creation of fall beer fests, I decided to try an Oktoberfest style next. The cleverly named Proptoberfest from Flyers Brewery in Oak Harbor got the nod. It had a nice lager lightness with the addition of malt giving it just a hint of sweetness and rich amber color. Flyers and Skagit Valley College Cardinal Craft Brewing were set up together, and as it turns out, the brewer from Flyers is one of the instructors at the college. The rep also mentioned that in addition to their main location in Oak Harbor, Flyers has a restaurant at Bayview Skagit Airport right across the road from the Cardinal Craft Brewing facility.
Sampling number three for me is usually a brown ale. Whitewall Brewing Company Dirt Track Brown Ale seemed like a good choice. They have a taproom located in Marysville which offers 13 to 15 of their own products plus several guest beers. Their brown ale came out with a thick, creamy white head suspended over serious dark chocolate colored liquid. The large presence of malt gave it a big satisfying flavor. The rep said it was their best seller which was no surprise to me. I asked him where the Dirt Track name came from.
One of the owners used to be a mechanic. Many of our beers have an automotive name. The IPA’s are all named after lines from Will Farrell movies. By the way, the name of the brewery is a combination of the owners’ last names, Sean Wallner and Aaron Wight
After grabbing a quick plate of chili covered fries, I continued into the realm of really dark, malty brews. My curiosity about how brews get named had now been piqued, so when I saw 7 Seas Brewing Company offering of Booby Traps Cascadian Dark Ale, I had to give it a try. Coming in somewhere between regular ale and a porter, Booby Traps was deep, dark and rich, but not too sweet. The nice foamy head gave it a very pleasing presentation. 7 Seas originated in Gig Harbor, but quickly outgrew their space. Two years ago, they moved to the Old Heidelberg Brewery building in downtown Tacoma. Regarding the name of their ale, the rep told me it’s a reference to the Speilberg movie, Goonies which they often use when naming things.
It was now 8 o’clock, the warehouse was packed and rocking with the music of Chris Eger Band. This local favorite plays a great mix of originals and covers. The addition of a horn section really filled out the guitar based music well.
For my last sampling, I went straight to darkest of brews, the stouts. La Conner Brewery was pouring Nitro Maestro. The description in the guide mentioned “vanilla bean infused Oatmeal Stout on nitorl,” Come on, how could I refuse that. It was a great finishing touch, true vanilla flavors and just a hint of sweetness.
I asked the rep if the vanilla contributed to the sweetness and he said the oatmeal was most likely the source. The brewery has been in existence since 1995, making it one of the oldest in the county.
Many thanks to all the volunteers, organizers, and hard working brewers that create this wonderful spectrum of beverages.
Entertainment Writer Mark Perschbacher…A man who will cross great barriers to find exceptional music, art, food, and beer. Mark is a long time Skagit County resident, contributor to, and supporter of local arts.