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Jul 30

Washington State Microbreweries: Seattle

After we left Prosser, we drove a couple of hours west to Seattle. On our first night in the city, we met up with some old friends from Cincinnati and headed over to Elysian Brewing Company in Capitol Hill. Elysian also has a brewpub down by the stadiums, fittingly called Elysian Fields.

Elysian Brewing Company – A short bus ride from our hotel up to Capitol Hill from our hotel was our first stop in Seattle. We had a great dinner with friends and were able to try through a brewmaster’s sampler. Michelle found the Dry Wit (a “guest beer” from Pike Brewing) a better fit for her tastes than the current offerings.

I was able to try:

  • Dragonstooth Stout
  • Men’s Room Original Red – This was probably my favorite of the bunch as I ordered another glass once the sampler was finished. The hops were present, but there was a spiciness that helped to alleviate the bitterness. Very well balanced
  • Dry-Hopped IPA – For the hop lovers out there. This has the bitterness up front, the tropical in the middle and a very long finish. Not much other depth, but the went for hops and that is exactly what was there.
  • Loser Pale Ale
  • Bifrost

My notes are definitely incomplete as it was more of a night out with friends, but my overall impression was that Elysian enjoys using hops in varied and creative ways. If hops are your thing, you will not be disappointed by their beers.

The Pike Brewing Company – We stopped for a small lunch here on our last day in Seattle. I had a nice little cheese plate and Michelle had a gigantic bowl of macaroni and cheese that used Washington cheeses.

  • Naughty Nellie (Golden Ale) – Strong wheat characteristics with a very nice hop presence.
  • Pale Ale – A basic entry and would be nice as an alternate to traditional macro-brewery offerings
  • IPA – A bright orange flavor leads into deceptively smooth hops. Multiple flavors add a few extra dimensions that I did not expect on an IPA. Michelle commented that she could drink a glass of this which is a very high complement.
  • Kilt Lifter (Scotch Ale) – Deep, rich flavors. A nice hint of smoke underneath the malt driven flavor. Michelle wanted food to go with this, but still enjoyed it.
  • Tandem (Double Ale) – Very sweet and sugary. Well balanced between the sweet of the candy sugar and the Belgian yeast used.
  • XXXXX (Extra Stout) – Our first split opinion of the tasting. I liked the strong malt flavor and the slight bitterness, Michelle not as much.
  • Monk’s Uncle (Abbey Style) – Light and crisp with honey flavors. Michelle was slightly confused by the combination of flavors.
  • Dry Wit (Summer Wheat Seasonal) – Floral up front with a nice grainy finish spells the perfect beer for Michelle. Hints of lavender, coriander and orange peel all of which were used in during the brewing process.

The six tastes (4-oz pours) rang up at a reasonable $9.00.

Pyramid Breweries – This was our last stop on the way out to the airport to catch a redeye home. One of the oddest experiences that I had on this trip occurred while we were working through a sampling at the bar. The gentleman who sat down next to me also had on an Irish Kevin’s shirt from Key West, FL – and we were both on the opposite end of the country from the original bar. It was weird, but I was able to continue tasting though Michelle’s laughter.

Here’s a quick run down on the beers I tried:

  • Imperial Hefeweisen – Nice creaminess with a slight bitterness on top of the expected banana and clove.
  • Drought Pale Ale – Nitrogen injected version of the pale ale. The bubbles seem a little more present in this version and there is a nice sweetness. One of the special brewery only releases.
  • Snow Cap – Winter Seasonal amber that was brewed with caramel and wintergreen. Very nice and surprising. I was glad they still had this on an unmarked tap as it was my favorite of the tasting.
  • Lipstinger – Farmhouse ale brewed with peppercorns. Banana and pepper flavors instead of clove. Michelle enjoyed this more than she expected as the peppercorn was very well integrated. We left with a pair of bottles.
  • Dark IPA – This tasted like a chocolate covered hop. Very strange and not exactly my type of beer. I would recommend it to any hop heads out there, but be ready for a beer that defies expectations.

The sampler was a deal at $5.00 for the 5 2-ox pours.

We ended up buying two bottles of the Lipstinger, as the saison style blended well with the pepper. A very distinctive beer that was a hit for both Michelle and myself.

Did I miss anything that I should have tried? There were a bunch of great looking breweries, but only so much time.

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Posted by Kevin at 8:17 am in Beer, Beer-Guy.net, Travel | Permalink | Comments ()
Jul 29

Washington State Microbreweries: Prosser, WA

After wrapping up the Wine Bloggers Conference, Michelle and I transitioned from wine to Washington’s other known commodity: beer. We had a quick stop in Prosser, then a few brewery visits in Seattle proper before we headed home. We also stopped an snapped a quick photo of some hops growing as we drove across the state. Washington accounts for 75% of the hops grown in the United States, which might account for the number of breweries that we found.

We started off our beer tasting in Prosser, WA, which was roughly halfway between Walla Walla and Seattle.

Horse Heaven Hills Brewery – As the official Kentucky visitors to the Brewery, this one made for a nice transition from wine to beer. This little brewery only sells by the growler and shares the parking lot with the Prosser AutoZone.

We walked on in and sat down at the bar where we tried the following:

  • Honey Girl – A nice light ale brewed with a honey. The honey provides a nice sweetness that works very nicely as my first transition away from wine. This may have been Michelle’s favorite along with the Hefeweizen and the Cherry Stout.
  • Heaven’s Hefeweizen – Very nicely balanced banana up front and clove flavors on the finish combine for a really nice hefe.
  • Mustang Red – Their most popular beer which is not pictured below. Very solid offering that was a very nice amber ale. Good malt characteristics and light and crisp hops.
  • Stallion Stout – Server on a nitrogen tap which is supposed to add creaminess and a richer flavor. Nice roasted coffee flavors but stays lighter and has a surprising crispness and spice on the finish.
  • Cherry Stout – Another beer brewed with a non-traditional additive, this time Washington cherries. The flavor lead with the nice acid and sweetness of the cherry which was followed by the chocolate. It was almost an inverted chocolate covered cherry. My favorite of the tasting due to the bitterness of the cherries and the semi sweetness of the stout.

We picked up an empty growler for ourselves as Michelle was taken by the image of the horse as well as the story of wild horses roaming the local hills. It was Michelle’s favorite brewery of the trip as she liked most of the beers we tried for different reasons. $5.00 for 4 samples.

Whitstran Brewing – This was our second stop in Prosser and luckily they served food. My burger was excellent and Michelle had no tr0uble finishing her sandwich as well.

Another nice selection of samples (9 for $9.50) was split between the two of us.

  • Horse Heaven Hefe (Bavarian-style hefeweizen) – Sweet with heavy banana flavors.
  • Highlander (Scottish-style ale) – Light with caramel that finishes with a toffee flavor. Kevin’s favorite of the list.
  • 11th Hour (Pale ale) – Creamy and light initially that ends with a bitterness. We described this as “Surprise! It’s hoppy.”
  • Over-the-edge (Dry-hopped pale ale) – More hops throughout the entire flavor. Not especially hoppy for a dry hopped ale.
  • Palouse (Porter) – Chocolate and roasted espresso beans. A very nice porter that Michelle did not try and I really enjoyed.
  • D2O Heavy Water (Stout) – Chocolate and malt. Two great tastes that are always nice in a stout.
  • Friar Lawrence (Belgium-style ale) – Sweeter than expected. A very interesting and distinctive beer that was weel worth trying.
  • Friar’s Blessing (Raspberry lambic) – Acid up front was not as integrated as I was hoping. Michelle mixed this with the Friar’s Decadence to create a version that allowed the chocolate to help balance.
  • Friar’s Decadence (Chocolate chocolate imperial stout) – Bitter chocolate with hop flavor hinting through. Nice on it’s own, but really helped to soften the lambic.

Lunch was a very nice at Whitstran and it was worth a stop in Prosser to start making the switch from wineries to breweries. We had a great afternoon and if we had been able to keep the beer refrigerated, I think we would have had a few full growlers as we continued into Seattle. For anyone on the wine trail, I strongly recommend stopping and trying something a little different. From Seattle, I think it would be well worth the  drive to the desert to see a little sun.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Kevin at 8:13 am in Beer, Beer-Guy.net, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1)
Jul 26

Mad Men Mondays: On the Rocks

Appointment television began again for me last night with the return of Mad Men, and of course, Mad Men Mondays! If you’re new to the blog, I try to fill you in a little bit on whatever our favorite ad men had to drink on the most recent episode. Sometimes they disappoint me, and I never catch a name or a label. Sometimes, it’s an amazing selection of potential bottles and cocktails.

Last night fell somewhere in the middle. Everyone was drinking something on the rocks, but it was primarily Don. In the past, he’s definitely been a bourbon and whiskey guy. Last night, they very purposely let us see the bottle of Canadian Club. (Think, for a moment, how liquor brands must be lining up to get their label on this show …)

Don Draper and Canadian ClubWhen I think of Canadian Club, I think of my Grandma. She always had some sitting around (although she was more of a bourbon girl – I take after Grandma). But Canadian Club has been around forever. It was originally created in 1858 in Detroit by distiller Hiram Walker. But even in the 1850s, the winds of Prohibition were beginning to blow. Hiram moved his distillery across the border to Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Walker aged his whiskey in oak barrels for a minimum of five years, which was revolutionary at the time. By doing this, he was able to pitch his whiskey as a premium drink. It became quite the rage in Gentlemen’s Clubs across the US and Canada, thus becoming Club whiskey. American distillers insisted that the word “Canadian” be included on the label, in hopes to deter people (buy American!). It didn’t work out quite as planned, however, and Canadian Club became an exclusive and sought after beverage. During Prohibition, one of Walker’s biggest clients was Al Capone, who made a fortune smuggling Canadian Club into Chicago from Windsor.

I suppose it’s only appropriate that Don has a bottle of Canadian Club on his office bar.

Roger, on the other hand, is a vodka drinker. Last season he was pretty excited over a bottle of Stoli vodka, another bit of alcohol that’s been around a while. There is, of course, some Stoli on Don’s office bar, apparently just for Roger.

Stoli (or rather, Stolichnaya) was introduced to the world sometime in the mid-1940s, although the actual date is under debate. Produced in Russia, it is fermented with wheat and rye grains, as well as artesian water from the Kaliningrad area. Once fermentation is complete, the spirit is distilled four times before being diluted with more fancy water.

Stoli was pretty hard to get in the 1960s, so when Roger scored his bottle or so last season, it was quite a coup. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Pepsi struck a bargain with the Russian government to export Stoli to the west on a regular basis.

On a final note about the show, am I the only one really creeped out by little Sally?

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Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Cocktails, Entertainment, Mad Men Monday, Television | Permalink | Comments (5)
Jul 16

Wine Bloggers Conference in Photos

Kevin and I really enjoyed our time in Washington state at the end of June. I’m completely in love with the place, from the gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, and lush green-ness around Seattle to the desert, sun, and heat in the southeast corner where so many vineyards exist.

I took way too many photos, which is not unusual for me, and I have them in two separate slide shows. You can also view the photos individually on Flickr.

The first pack, which covers the conference itself, includes a lot of vineyards. We visited Reynvaan Family Vineyards, the Walla Walla Community College, and Spring Valley. The photos include Walla Walla itself, which is definitely one of the cutest towns in the US and the streets are lined with tasting rooms. Finally, we took an all-day excursion to the Red Mountain AVA, which turned out to be absolutely beautiful. The vineyards and the scenery were positively breathtaking.

The second pack starts out with a visit to my beloved Airfield Estates Winery in Prosser, Wa. If you’re in it for the wine, stop there. We very quickly make the switch over to beer, with visits to the remarkable Horse Heaven Hill Brewery and Witstran Brewery. We even stopped and took photos of hops growing along the highway.

The photo pack diverges into our vacation shots, which include shots of food and beer, shots of Seattle in general, waterfalls and mountains, the space needle, Pike Place Market, and even some road-side oddities.

Enjoy! We fell in love with Washington and I hope to go back soon, and wrap in a trip to Oregon as well.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:35 am in Tastings, Travel, Wine Events, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (4)
Jul 15

Wine Speed Tasting: Reds

Every year at the Wine Blogger’s Conference, we partake in Live Wine Blogging. Basically, winemakers move from table to table, telling us about their wine in 5 minutes or less. We get to make a snap judgement and blog about it. It’s sort of like speed dating for wine and it’s equally as exhausting.

This year the Live Blogging sessions were split into two: Whites & Rosés on Friday and Reds on Saturday.  Because we had so little time to learn, ask questions, and type, the notes aren’t the best. They should, however, give you a general idea of how we felt about the wine. The reds, in general, were consistently more impressive than the whites.


Wine #1: Desert Wind Ruah, Merlot blend: 46% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc
Soft and silky with structure throughout. At $20 would go great with Steak or heavier food.Little bit of tartness on the middle.Lighter tannins and acid makes this a drink sooner rather than later. A little too green for Michelle.

Kevin: Michelle:

Wine #2: Duck Pond Red Blend: 52% Merlot, 29% Syrah, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon
Wahluke Slope, Washington (Columbia Valley)
Slightly tannic, ready to drink now and rather fruit forward.  ~$15

Our rating:

Wine #3: Mollydooker Velvet Glove, 100% Shiraz single vineyard
Nice and well rounded. Surprisingly, much lower in alcohol than other Mollydooker wines.  2010 Velvet Glove will join the rest of the Mollydooker line with a screwcap.  Wine is thick and coats the glass, but the fruit is not as up front as a more traditional californian shiraz. Drinking this ruins your glass for anything else, it’s so thick. It’s also not an easy wine to get through – better off sipped over a period of time. Coffee and chocolate flavors. $185/bottle

Our rating:

Wine #4: Trio Vintners 2007 Riot Red Table Wine: 52% Sangiovese, 36% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre
Columbia Valley, WA
Light, easy-drinking, pleasant berries. Strong acid and nice overall flavor. Mouvedre smooths out the Sangiovese. Well done Italian blend. Different from others, yet tasty..

Our rating:

Wine #5: Ponzi 2008 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Almost a little effervescence and bubbles on initial taste. 11 Mo in French oak. $35 a bottle.Kind of a basic level Pinot. Newly bottled  and not the best.  Everyone agreed later that there was something wrong with this wine. It shouldn’t have been bubbly. From Michelle’s perspective, it was definitely too bright and fruity for an Oregon Pinot Noir, lacking earth.

Our review: Review withheld due to the fact we believe it was a bad bottle.

Wine #6: Stoller JV Pinot Noir 2007
Dundee Hills, Oregon
Heavy terroir and earthiness on the nose. Sustainable winery that is an old turkey farm that was transitioned to winery. Burgundy was referenced as a similar area. 10 mo in oak, mostly neutral. This is a great example of what new world grown pinot noir can taste like. Turned earth and subtle cherries all over the palate. $25

Our rating:

Wine #7: Cornerstone Stepping Stone 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc

Tons of tannins and acidity. Acid is flavor, tannins are a feeling. According to Craig, “Acidity is what makes a wine live.” This would age well (might even benefit). Very balanced with lots of tannins and acid, but happily lacking in vegetal flavors. $30 bottle. 600 cases.

Our rating:

Wine #8: Sequel by Longshadows 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah (98%syrah with 2% cabernet)
Washington state
We have very few notes on this one – just a rating. It’s worth mentioning that we did pick this up at a charity auction (and paid a pretty penny) because the Sequel line has such a great reputation.

Our rating:

Wine #9: Solena Estates 2008 Pinot Noir
Hyland Vineyard, McMinnville, Oregon
Solena Estates was Michelle’s big find at the Conference. She fell in love with the consistently earthy pinot noirs they produce. 2008 is set to be best  vintage ever from Oregon. Earthy with an acidic finish, but still plenty of fruit up front. Single vineyard designates is primary focus. Volcanic soil. $50

Our rating:

Wine #10: Concannon 2007 Petit Syrah
Livermore Valley, CA
Nice bing cherry and acid on the finish. Big wine – called the “little monster.” 12 mo american oak. plus 6 months in large 58 year old large barrels. 4 months since bottled, but still ready to drink. Bottle itself seems to weigh a ton. Vineyard is in a conservancy land trust near the San Francisco Bay. Made us crave steak. $15/bottle

Our rating:

Wine #12: Jordan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot., 5% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec
Napa Valley, CA
Decanted. Balanced and not as fruit forward as we first expected. Earthiness is in the mid palate with fruit up front and tart fruit on the finish.  $52

Our rating:

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Posted by Kevin at 8:00 am in Tastings, Wine Notes | Permalink | Comments ()

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