It’s officially summer … not that you can tell! Okay, despite the rain this weekend, the sun is promising to shine in western Washington again soon and breweries are currently releasing summer seasonals, so it’s close enough! Times are still weird but local breweries are still doing their thing, providing us with delicious, crushable beers for those sunny days ahead.
We at The Spilt Pint decided to take a break from the barrel-aged darkness of our beer cellars and brainstorm 10 of our favorite beers to sip on while enjoying some sun and fighting off the pollen. Some are seasonals, some are flagship beers, some are more limited releases, all are delicious.
The Sun Glimmer, while a year-round offering, is built for those warm days of summer. It’s tasty and refreshing with a nice peach accent. It comes in at 6.5% but you’d never know sipping on this delicious hazy beer that glimmers like ocean waves at sunset. – David
After visiting Seattle from Ottawa last year and brewery hopping, both of my sisters now want me to send this beer back to them by the case. This obsessive behavior also extends to a friend in San Francisco who honed his palate on NW IPA’s. I am now required to send out regular shipments of Summer IPA. – Brian
Brewed for the Sounders’ ECS supporters, this is the perfect beer to sip on while watching the Sounders annihilate the Portland Timbers. Or while scrolling through the Sounders Twitter account desperate to find any possible soccer content you can right now. – David
A festival and tap room staple, Coconut Blonde put Scrappy Punk on the map and help propel them to that *most beer fest tokens* level. A lighter grain bill with the nose and taste of pure coconut is sure to delight in the summer sun. – Brian
Fremont tends to nail everything and the Cucumber Gose is the star of the summer show. It is the quintessential summer beer, using seasonal ingredients to make a light, refreshing and amazing beer. If the temperature cracks 70, I’m cracking one of these. – Brian
Take a trip to the Old Country with this beautifully crisp pilsner. Double dry-hopped with Hallertau Mittlelfruh and Saphir hops, this Italian pilsner is unfiltered and full of summery flavors, including earth, flowers and freshly mowed grass. – Aaron
This is no time for Corona! Put down the watered-down, flavorless cerveza and pick up this beauty from Bellingham. Known for their German-style lagers and ales, Chuckanut brewed this with Skagit Valley Malting malted wheat, giving it a firm-yet-light body and refreshing finish. And sure, toss in a lime if you want. – Aaron
And Rodney Hines has found his calling. Or rather, he’s found about 10 of them.
The co-founder of Métier Brewing in Woodinville, Hines has had to navigate a worldwide pandemic, plan ahead for his brewery’s reopening, find time to protest for civil liberties and, as his company’s mission statement says, “brew damn good” beer.
Hines, who is black, is the CEO of the first and — exhaustive research believes — only African-American owned brewery in Washington state. Long before protestors were marching in the streets, Hines was doing all he could to promote community and diversity for his company. From hiring black artists for labels, to understanding where his ingredients came from, inclusivity was paramount for Hines.
That feeling has only heightened in recent weeks.
“These days, I feel like I’m on the verge of crying every time I think about life,” Hines said. “It’s hard. I will say that I’m torn, in that I appreciate all the young voices who are out marching right now, and I feel like I am not fully doing my part if I’m not marching too. So I’ve actually gone out and participated in some of the demonstrations. And this sadness part is just feeling and seeing some of the same shit that’s been going on for our lives and our history. And I’m hoping that this current activism and the voices that are so diverse and yelling so loudly right now will help bring about the change that’s necessary.”
Hines chooses each word very carefully, just like the beers he puts on tap. Métier has seen an influx of new patrons and Hines is not blind to the fact that Métier’s standing as the only black-owned brewery in Washington may contribute to that. One of the company’s employees recently started a Kickstarter campaign to help the brewery recoup some expenses lost because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
With over a week to go in the campaign, it has already surpassed its $20,000 goal, with several unique experiences and swag items still available.
“A lot of new people are finding us and have been encouraged by social media and other places to come check us out,” Hines said. “It’s the majority of our customers. In some ways, that’s normal for us. We haven’t been open (a really long time). We’re about to celebrate two years. So it’s a lot of new people still finding us. A lot heard about us from somewhere. If they’re people of color, they’ve said, ‘We want to show some love for this business.’ I think that’s something that’s continued with these folks now who are finding us today. Now that they’ve found us, I hope they like the beer and come back.”
Hines does not shy away from the political activism and protests currently going on across the country. Along with joining rallies in the streets, he believes businesses have a responsibility to their communities. This is why he has hired black artists to design his labels, including one for Métier’s Trail Blazer Pale Ale, which features a drawing of Major Taylor, the first African-American World Champion cyclist.
“I think the businesses should think about, ‘What are each of us doing that can help bring about the change that’s needed?’” Hines said. “… The organizations that we support, we’re really mindful and intentional about that. I’m hoping that there’s an integrity that is thread through everything that we do as a business.”
Like businesses, Hines believes individuals have a social responsibility right now. Hines looks at his phone and jokes that he’s scared to look at his credit card right now because he’s been out at local Woodinville-area restaurants and businesses at an exceptionally high rate. He believes that, “in so many honest, real ways the mom and pop shops, the restaurants, the tailor, everyone that’s in communities, there’s a beauty in the fabric of the community that’s developed because of small businesses. And I fear how the community changes when that changes.”
Hines isn’t sure how the next few months are going to go, both for his country and his brewery. But he sounds optimistic. He sounds hopeful. Hines goes out of his way, on several occasions, to thank those who are supporting him, and encourage everyone to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
“When I think about how can you help, I think broadly,” Hines says before trailing off. “I think what I ask of everyone right now is what I ask of myself, and that is if you look at what we’re facing in America right now, and I do the same, we each pause, we take a toll of what we see and we consider what we’re doing and are we complicit in what we see? And if we think we are, or not, we also ask the question, ‘What’s my privilege?’ Because we all have various levels of privilege, and it’s about how we’re using our privilege and agency to affect change. I ask that of individuals and businesses and organizations.”
Hines’ business is equality for all and “damn good beer.”
Several local counties were given the OK to move to Phase II as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic (in King County’s case, Phase 1.5). This means a lot of regulations and rules, but also means you now have the option to have a beer on site at your favorite local brewery.
The reopening comes not a moment too soon for local breweries, who admit the past two months have been a struggle.
“It’s been tough,” said Jen Boyd, who owns Cairn Brewing in Kenmore with her husband Bill. “We’re a neighborhood brewery who focuses on the taproom experience; we really don’t distribute. … Not having that for almost three months hurts. We’ve had some long days but our team has been terrific, really embracing the switch to canning to make sure our customers have the opportunity to enjoy our beer.”
“I am tired,” added Andy Gundel, the owner of Urban Family Brewing in Seattle. “The staff is tired. Overall, we kept all of our jobs, and we figured out ways to make jobs where there were none anymore. Lots of people stepping up to help cross-departmentally. I think the shake-up of the industry will be felt for years to come, but I am humbled by the support of the customers and the beer community. Lots of people looking out for each other. Lots of tips. Lots of well-wishes. It’s not the worst place to be, that’s for sure.”
Local breweries faced several challenges after the government’s stay-at-home order effectively closed their taprooms. However, the beer industry quickly showed its resolve and resourcefulness by pivoting to online ordering and curbside pick-up.
Most breweries expect to-go orders to remain a major part of their businesses. They believe the convenience and infrastructure now set up may encourage more customers to go that route. Owners also understand that some people may not quite be comfortable heading back out into the world to enjoy a pint.
“Some people may not be ready for a pint in a taproom,” Boyd said, “so we’ll continue to offer a broad selection of our 15-plus-beer taplist in 16-ounce cans to go and have dedicated parking spaces for curbside pickup even once we reopen. We call it the #takehometaproom.”
In addition, owners anticipate a strong emphasis on cleaning.
“We talked about letting people inside but the whole thing sounds… complicated. We want the safest environment possible for everyone.”
Andy Gundel, owner of Urban Family Brewing on the brewery only allowing customers outside for now.
“I think everyone can agree that cleaning will be kicked up a notch,” Gundel said.
The reopening of Fremont’s Urban Beer Garden this past weekend saw lines around the block to get in and over two-hour waits. The brewery is operating at a diminished capacity and has switched to hosted seating for the brewery, which has also spread out tables to a minimum of six-feet of space.
According to Zan McColloch-Lussier, Fremont’s Community Engagement Manager, the brewery will keep their online ordering site up and continue delivery of specialty beers through their third-party carrier.
“Voluntarily closing the Urban Beer Garden even before the Governor’s mandatory shut-down was hard for many reasons,” McColloch-Lussier said, “but we realized it was the responsible thing to do for the safety of our staff and customers and we very quickly – like within hours – adapted to curb-side pick-up which has been a lifeline. We haven’t had to lay anyone off and we’ve redeployed team members to keep our facilities sanitary.”
5 Rights Brewing in Marysville weathered the COVID-19 storm, and is now working on welcoming customers back, while also planning an anniversary celebration.
“Like most small businesses it has been very difficult to try and survive, much less thrive when the biggest part of our business (the taproom) has been shut down to help ensure the greater good for public safety,” said R.J. Whitlow, the owner of 5 Rights Brewing. “Thankfully, we were blown away by how our 5 Rights Family and community rallied by supporting our to-go sales far more than we ever anticipated, and kept us from losing what we’ve worked so hard to build. It was music to our hearts to hear laughter in our taproom again as it was built for community and living life together, not just a place to find exceptional beer.”
Several breweries plan to expand serving operations into their larger parking lots. Urban Family will be outdoor seating only for a while.
“We talked about letting people inside but the whole thing sounds… complicated,” Gundel said. “We want the safest environment possible for everyone.”
The extended distance, while necessary during these crazy times, bums out at least one owner.
“It’s gonna be (different),” said Randy Embernate, the owner of Seattle’s Hellbent Brewing Company. “A vast majority of our regulars hang at the bar. Lots of camaraderie between the regulars and our bartenders. That is the biggest change. We will see how that plays out. That’s my favorite part about any bar, is the rubbing of elbows with fellow patrons as well as the back and forth with the bartenders.”
Fortunately for Embernate, bumping elbows is still the preferred greeting by government officials.
All of the owners reiterated how tough the past two months have been financially, mentally and logistically. However, every representative reached expressed optimism for the local craft beer industry.
“We are holding up fine,” Embernate said. “Not great, always can be better, but surviving, for now. At first I didn’t think we had a shot, but we made some adjustments, (online ordering being a huge part of that) and with a huge support from our neighborhood and loyal patrons, we have been doing pretty decently out of the taproom with (to-go ordering).”
“Of course, revenue is way down due primarily to the disappearance of on-premise sales but we’re extremely fortunate that off-premise sales are still strong,” McColloch-Lussier said. “Industry-wise, the future of the vast majority of craft breweries that don’t package is most concerning but the local craft beer scene has been extremely resilient and creative and we’re all trying to help each other out to get to the other side of this crisis.”
Gallaghers’ Where-U-Brew, the popular do-it-yourself brewery and taproom in Edmonds, announced Friday morning that it will be closing its doors. In an email to subscribers, owners Tom and Marcie Kretzler acknowledged that the current COVID-19 pandemic played a role in the brewery’s closure.
“It is with great sadness that Gallaghers’ Where-U-Brew is having to permanently close it’s doors,” the Kretzlers said in the email. “The past few years have been a struggle, and the recent pandemic has made it impossible for us to continue. We have agonized over this decision and we are forced to accept this as reality.”
Gallaghers, located near the Edmonds waterfront, boasted all the equipment and ingredients necessary to brew a batch of your own beer. Customers could choose a recipe, make the beer and then come back in a couple weeks to bottle the beer and take it home. There were also options to brew cider, root beer or wine, as well as a taproom for customers to come try a variety of homemade beers on tap.
In the email, Tom and Marcie Kretzler thanked their customers and told anyone interested in buying a brewery to give them a call.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we thank each of you for your support these past years and wish you all health and happiness,” the Kretzlers wrote. “You have touched our lives and we will miss you dearly.”
Look, I really wanted to give the virtual Seattle Beer Fest — brought to me by Rock Star Beer Festivals — the benefit of the doubt. When I emailed the one contact I could find on the beer festival’s website to do a preview story and heard nothing, I thought: “That makes sense. We’re a small, new blog. I get it.”
Then the box of beer came.
The Seattle Beer Fest box included one actual “Washington” beer: an Elysian Split Shot espresso stout. It also included a seltzer and cider. I thought, “It’s fine. They had to modify things at the last minute. It was probably tough to get cans. Whatever.”
Then the big day came. I had been waiting months for this. A few friends bought beer packs too. The clock finally struck 7 p.m., I fired up the YouTube video and … there was Mark McGrath.
McGrath popped on the screen and held out an empty hand to allegedly cheers the start of the night. McGrath, the lead singer for a rock band from the 90s, proved to be an apt metaphor for the ensuing beer festival: something I used to enjoy, but that was more applicable back in the day before a worldwide pandemic.
Coronavirus obviously necessitated a few audibles for Rock Star Beer Festivals and the Seattle Beer Fest, which shifted from under the Space Needle to a virtual edition.
I loved the idea. I thought this would be an awesome way to bring a beer fest to people who are stuck in quarantine. It was going to be a blast to drink beer and talk shop with fellow beer fans while hearing about the intricacies of breweries’ beers and businesses.
“Honestly the night wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without my buddy Keith and his friends, who gave up on the beer fest before McGrath had finished welcoming us. But this is what a beer fest is. The camaraderie.”
Instead, what we got was an ode to “Tiger King” with not one, but three clips from people involved heavily in the show, including Doc Antle, the Lowes and the guy who has apparently not gotten off his jet ski since the show ended. In addition, the Ninkasi representative quickly became labeled “Ninkasi Carole Baskin” in the comments. There were cameos from Jon Lovitz, Gilbert Gottfried and Dave Koechner — who may have been participating in the beer fest himself based on his giggles.
There was a beer chugging highlight reel complemented by a #BeerFails lowlight video. The “music” was by a gentleman who did rock covers of “The Real Slim Shady” and Lil Jon’s classic “Get Low” — which took me half the song to figure out what I was listening to. There were two other bands that performed with neither lead singer wearing a shirt. The whole time I just kept wondering, why doesn’t McGrath just sing “When It’s Over?” — something I think everyone was probably wondering about this beer fest.
The same “brewery representative” discussed the seltzer company, and then switched shirts to talk about the cidery. I have no issue with a beer fest having a cider or seltzer area for people who are drug along and don’t like beer. But if you’re paying $50 for a virtual beer fest, you’re probably a fan of beer and probably don’t need cider/seltzer fillers in your box.
Incidentally, the cider/seltzer guy nailed how I felt about the beers in my box — which included a Deschutes low-cal pale ale, Elysian’s Split Shot, a Ninkasi Prismatic IPA (which I love) and a Rogue Ales Batsquatch (which I already had three of in my refrigerator because it’s one of my favorite beers) — quite succinctly while trying to hock his seltzer:
“You can find us at Safeway, Albertsons, Krogers, Fred Meyers, PCC, Whole Foods.” Indeed almost every beer in the box I could have gone down the road to (insert your closest grocery store here) and picked up. This was probably the most disheartening thing for me about the beer fest.
But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was being too harsh. So I reached out to a few friends/friends of friends who were also participating in the beer fest.
My focus group included: Kaelee, my sister-in-law who can drink five barleywines and not feel a thing; my wife’s superstar fitness instructor Jess; Jess’ boyfriend, who, after our brief conversation, I feel like we could be best friends; and my friend Keith and his band of beer drinking buddies who were nice enough to let me crash their Zoom call.
Honestly the night wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without my buddy Keith and his friends, who gave up on the beer fest before McGrath had finished welcoming us. But this is what a beer fest is. The camaraderie.
Michael, one of Keith’s friends, had bought two boxes. He was downright distraught trying to figure out what to do with his TWO seltzers. In a real-world beer fest, you could leave McGrath’s booth and go try something else. Here, the options were more limited. The group was less than impressed, but decided in future to throw their own virtual Seattle beer festival where everyone grabs beers that are actually from the greater Seattle area. I hope to crash that Zoom call as well.
Similarly, Jess and her boyfriend wanted to throw their own beer festival. They didn’t watch many of the videos and were a hard “No” on participating in another Rock Star Beer festival, but both were open to doing something similar again. Seattle won their vote, with the Elysian Split Shot their favorite.
Kaelee, her friend Jordan and Jordan’s mom — who was easily the MVP of the focus group — tried all 10 beers/ciders/seltzers and were also left unimpressed. Kaelee had my favorite line of the night: “It was weak, I would say. It was something to look forward to. Was that better than the actual beer? Yes.”
Other top comments included: “I think beer fest would have been appropriate. I don’t think Seattle Beer Fest was appropriate.” And, “We were not given $40 worth of beer.”
Still, all three people from Team Kaelee agreed they would do it again and it was worth the cost to participate in the event together. I’m not sure I feel the same way. I don’t really like coffee so the Split Shot, which Team Kaelee also praised, didn’t even get opened. Neither did my wild card beer, a mocha stout from Abnormal Brewing in San Diego.
The experience was interesting, chaotic, weird and saved by the people I got to talk to and share it with — so, I guess, basically it was a beer festival! Still, I wish I would have taken the $50 and gone to Diamond Knot, Salish Sea, Hemlock State or another nearby brewery and actually had some Seattle-area beer. I also wish I would have given up earlier on the live stream which ended at 9:42 p.m. instead of the advertised 10 p.m. — although no one was complaining — and fully committed to laughing at the YouTube comments on Zoom.
There were a lot of things I wanted this beer fest to be. Instead, I watched a dated video/advertisement of people cheers-ing and drinking together on a beach in southern California. All I could think was, “No! Stay six feet away!”
If only I had stayed away from the Seattle Beer Festival.
One of the perks of my day job, before viruses and stay-at-home orders, was getting to wander around the great state of Washington for work. While out and about, I’ve been known to stop by a few breweries in my travels for a flight or two and some cans for when I get back home.
Obviously, the world is a little different now. But I finally got to go to work again this week and was sent to Yakima, where a number of breweries were offering beer to go. While there were no flights this time around, there were plenty of cans for back home. And even a new tin sign. I brought a cooler bag not intending to fill it up, but what can you do?
When you drive all the way out to Yakima, you may as well head another 40 minutes to Sunnyside to check out Varietal Beer Company. It’s a few miles further down the road but is 100% worth the trip. I started my beer quest with four-packs of the Mighty Juice hazy IPA, Keep on the Sunnyside Pale Ale and a crowler of Peach Yo’ Self milkshake IPA.
All were amazing. The Mighty Juice is super drinkable, the Keep on the Sunnyside is a collaboration with the Pink Boots Society and has one of the coolest can designs I’ve seen and the Peach Yo’ Self is like dessert in a can. If you like beer and peaches, I can confidently say this will be a winner for you. The cherry on top of the Peach Yo’ Self was adding another sign to the Tin Man’s collection.
After heading to Varietal, I got back to Yakima and had to put my dress shoes on and work for a few minutes. Fortunately, my work travels took me to within a few blocks of Hop Capital Brewing (formerly Yakima Craft Brewing Company). It looks like they recently revamped the brand but the beer is as tasty as ever. I went with a four-pack of the All Together NEIPA, a hazy IPA brewed in collaboration with Other Half Brewing from New York City to support hospitality workers. I’m a sucker for drinking for a good cause. And a good hazy IPA. This beer checked off both boxes.
At this point the cooler bag was pretty full and it was about time to head back to the west side of the state. I had hoped to visit other beer spots, like Bale Breaker and Single Hill Brewing, but they hadn’t opened yet for the day (or, unfortunately, weren’t going to be open that day) and my road trip buddy/wife was ready to get back home. Fortunately, the beer gods smiled upon us one more time. As we were leaving Hop Capital we noticed a sign for another brewery: Valley Brewing Company. I pulled in, promising I’d only be a minute, unsure of what I’d find. The employee there was super nice, walked me through all of their amazing-sounding beers, and then, it happened.
Just released that day was Fruituristic: Strawberry Banana, a milkshake IPA that he couldn’t stop talking about. That is apparently contagious, because I tried one when I got home and have not stopped talking about it since either. It tastes like a smoothie, so I feel like it’s definitely a healthy beer choice! It is incredible. One of my all-time favorite beers. The only bad part about it is I only bought a four-pack, which is now running dangerously low. I may never forgive myself for this mistake.
Peach Yo Self
Milkshake IPA that drinks like dessert in a can!
All Together IPA
A hazy IPA brewed in collaboration with Other Half Brewing from New York City to support hospitality workers
The Seattle Beer Festival was supposed to take place under the Space Needle next week. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced event organizers to alter the plan and get a little creative.
Rock Star Beer, which runs beer festivals along the west coast, decided to bring the festival experience to your couch with this year’s “Virtual Edition” beer festival. A ticket will get you a package of 10 full beers along with some swag items delivered to your front door. A list of participating breweries was not available, but the event says, “the case features beers from 10 different regional breweries.” According to the event page, the package is made for “1 person if you are a huge beer drinker. 2 people, if you are a moderate beer drinker.”
The beer will be delivered to your home, as long as you live within a 100-mile radius of Seattle, on Thursday (so make room in your refrigerator) and at 8 p.m. Friday May 15 the beer fest goes live with a link that is emailed to all guests. The video will include guided tastings of each beer from the brew master or brewery ambassador. There will also be live musical performances and interactive games. The video is shown live, so attendees must be available from 8 to 10 p.m. After that, the video will be gone.
Tickets for the event cost $45 and there is an additional $10 delivery fee. Tickets are available until Sunday, May 10. You must be 21+ to sign for and receive your festival kit. Rockstar Beer is putting on similar events in several other cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento and Phoenix.
When a statewide stay at home order came down in March, breweries all over the state raced to find crowler machines, CO2 and cans in an effort to stay open and transform into breweries to go.
After internal — and external — deliberating, Nine Yards Brewing in Kenmore went a different route.
Knowing the large, open space he had could make it difficult to prevent the virus from spreading and over concern for his employees’ safety, owner Ethan Savaglio made the tough decision to temporarily close his brewery while he, and the rest of the region, wait out COVID-19.
“Our staff is very loyal, very dedicated, very capable,” Savaglio said. “We want to take care of our staff. We can only control so many factors. One of the factors that we could control was where they went to work. It was more important to us to have them stay home and have them remain healthy so when we reopen we have the staff we need. Also, ethically, having people stay healthy, that was more important to us.”
Savaglio loves the community feel Nine Yards Brewing’s staff and customers have been able to cultivate since it opened in 2015. The brewery hosts game nights, movie and sports screenings and does a comedy show one Friday a month.
“More than anything it’s just getting people out there, building a community,” Savaglio said. “We’re built around building a community and events. And no one wants to be in the position of having their event be the catalyst of having people getting sick.”
Until it can reopen, a GoFundMe has been set up to help to help Nine Yards with some expenses and provide some monetary relief to the brewery’s employees. Savaglio said he has enjoyed being able to use the funds to write checks for his employees once again.
The COVID-19 virus will likely cause some changes to Nine Yards Brewing when it does reopen, according to Savaglio. He is reassessing all aspects of the brewery from the shared cart of silverware and condiments down to the community water jug to figure out the best ways to keep people healthy both in the immediate, and long, term.
Along with his staff, Savalio is eagerly looking forward to being able to hang out again soon over a Homewrecker Red or a Sunset Cerveza or a Wee Heavy Scotch Ale.
Or a “specialty beer” that is currently in the works.
“We do have something pretty cool that is going to go up on the menu when we get back,” Savaglio said. “The biggest thing to do is, when we do open back up in whatever capacity we open up at first because we don’t know what the restrictions are, just come patronize the place. Let us know that you’re back! If you’re just comfortable grabbing growlers, we can make that happen. Just getting us back to where we can take care of our folks, that would mean the world to us. It would mean the world to have the community back and not have that place be dark.
“Come on back, watch a movie or sports on the big screen. Or replays of sports.”