‘Brewery-ing’ Pros in Quarantine

We all miss breweries. We all miss meeting up with friends over a freshly poured pint. We all miss those seven magic words:

“Would you like to start a tab?”

While I know it’s not remotely the most important thing going on in the world right now, I really miss going to breweries. If you read my “official” Spilt Pint bio, roughly 95% of it is about how much I enjoy pulling up to the bar top at a brewery.

The brewery experience is a little different now than it was a month ago. But there are a few pros that have come out of the recent craziness. So, in an effort to keep positive, here are five (and a half) benefits of brewery-ing under quarantine.


Efficient beer runs

If I’m heading out to Ballard or going up north to see family, I like to make it worth finding a parking spot and hop into a few breweries along the way. The problem is, I’d also have to sip a pint (or two) or flight (or two) at said breweries. Usually by the third one, it was either time to go home or we were an hour late to my mom’s house. Now, I can swing by five or six different spots and stock up in under an hour. My beer runs are much more efficient. They also fill the backseat of my car now, which has brought an unprecedented influx of beer into my apartment.

Feel good helping local small businesses out

Everyone’s seen the hashtags and posts on social media. In these crazy times a lot of businesses —including breweries — are, unfortunately, struggling. It feels good to use my hard-earned stimulus check to support these places of business that take such good care of us and do an amazing job of supporting their communities. It feels like it’s our turn to return the favor.

Breweries are innovating

Whether it’s an earlier-than-planned foray into canning or experimenting with crowlers and new beers to support local organizations, breweries are getting innovative in the time of coronavirus. Some are also releasing hard-to-find beers to-go (Hello Holy Mountain and Skookum!) that are normally only available in the taproom. To-go orders have morphed from 6-packs and growlers to online ordering and curbside pickup. It’s almost too convenient to load up.

Visiting breweries now feels like an event

When I do break the stay-at-home order — albeit, for what I would vehemently argue is “essential travel” — it’s exciting to pull up to a familiar location and see, well, people. While maintaining a 6-foot safety barrier, it’s fun to catch up with employees and see how they’re doing. Same with the people in line who are probably as excited as I am to be there. My apologies to a man stuck behind me in line at Reuben’s a few weeks ago who very patiently waited as I chatted an employee’s ear off. In my defense, he was the only human, besides my wife, that I was going to talk to in person that week.

Don’t have to worry about driving

It’s a pretty safe walk from my couch to the bedroom. I have no comment on if I’ve ever needed assistance getting from one to the other.

Saving money — maybe?

I’d like to say I’m saving money because when I’d go to breweries and have a couple beers I always buy to-go beer anyway. But the amount of to-go beer I’m buying now to get through quarantine has increased significantly and, honestly, this one might be a stretch. David

Wheezy’s Post-COVID Beer Bucket List

When all this craziness finally ends where is the first place you will go to meet friends, grab a beer and a bite?

What permanent remnants, of what’s now becoming normal, will remain after COVID leaves us? Will bartenders continue to wear gloves, and people to wear masks? Will social distancing still be a thing? In a time where “Virtual Happy Hours” have filled a desperate void of interaction with fellow humans, I know we are forever changed.

When I think about when this is all over my “I can’t wait till …” moments involve my friends, beer lines, trivia, live music, Seattle Beer Week (SBW) and bottle shares. In a time of circumstances pulling us apart, I wanted to find something that may eventually pull us back together, given a chance. And for my mental health, I need to believe we will want to gather in large places again, drink beer, eat food and kibitz with friends and strangers. Here are a few places that would be great choices once the COVID quarantine is a thing of the past.


Pine Box – Cap Hill

Going to a place that celebrates “Bruce Lee Day” has to be on any list of anything, doesn’t it? Considering the Pine Box was once a funeral parlor and the location of Bruce Lee’s actual funeral with Steve McQueen and Chuck Norris as a couple of the pall bearers, it does officially qualify as bad ass.

While they do have some great food choices, the real draw here are the 24+ taps, which bleed local beer as you sit at a bar, in an old funeral home. You can work on your own Black Belt of beer with taps from Holy Mountain, Cloudburst, Reubens, Stoup and Future Primitive all on tap. And with something running through their in house randall there is always something fun and unusual to pick from.

Brouwer’s Cafe – Fremont

Every time I enter Brouwer’s I feel like an underdressed extra in Vikings or The Witcher, stumbling in for a pint of grog. With the medieval vibe of stone and dark wood, it is easy to see why Barleywine just tastes better here. #truth

If you want to drink your way out of COVID, Brouwer’s is your place. I lost count of their taps at 50. Filled with local and other west coast favorites – but also some hard to find beers from Belgian and German. They have great bottles for in-house purchase and consumption. And we haven’t even started on the Whiskey. I’ll save that for when we start that whiskey blog!

Along with the beer, another must have is the Stoofvleez Frites. It is a Belgian beef and beer stew poured over delicious fried potatoes. Think Belgian poutine but way, way better!

Loretta’s Northwestern – South Park (pictured above)

Out front hangs the classic “Loretta’s Northwesterner” neon sign, cool enough to be retro but old enough to feel authentic and original. Inside, the dim lighting and low wooded ceilings make you feel like you are below deck on an old sailboat. Housing an old Airstream trailer parked in the partially covered outdoor area and a fire pit, Loretta’s is unpretentious and funky
in that typical South Seattle, Georgetown way.

They support their own with beers from the area including multiple Georgetown beers on tap, Counterbalance, San Juan Seltzer and Rainier tall boys. Besides the uber local, you can also find a Skookum IPA or taps from Wander, Boundary Bay and Holy Mountain. Seriously, this place has your beer needs covered.

One thing to eat is the Tavern Burger, sometimes called the Northwesterner. Known to turn hardcore vegetarians into meat eaters — fine print: not substantiated and probably not true — but it’s that damn good. A toasted bun and a no frills cheeseburger, beautiful in its simplicity. And oh go ahead, get the double.

With the curve flattening, and the governors of Washington, Oregon and California at least starting the conversation about opening up for business again, I can almost taste the draft beer on my lips, as I start making my breaking the ‘tine plans. Because I need to see people enjoying themselves over beers and talking about anything besides COVID. I hope to see you out at one of these places or just around somewhere in the Post COVID world. And if you have a great neighborhood bar in your area I didn’t get to please let me know. There are way too many to name in one post!

Peace. Love. Beers. Brian

DRINK THIS | From gin to hand sanitizer

Originally posted in Everett Herald HOPS AND SIPS | March 31, 2020

The past two weeks have thrown all of our lives into chaos. Most of us are staying home all day and all night, working from our dining room tables and teaching our children in our living rooms.

Brewers and distillers are no different. March has brought with it a number of surprises, with most beertenders now serving customers curbside instead of barside.

For some, the changes have been dramatic. 


From gin to hand sanitizer

Slowly business began to shut down for Lynnwood’s Temple Distilling as the quarantine ramped up. Then AJ Temple, owner and distiller for Temple Distilling, began seeing other distillers changing operations to make hand sanitizers. Finally, phone calls began asking if Temple was making the alcohol-based cleaner.

Lynnwood’s Temple Distilling is now making the alcohol-based cleaner — but you can still order spirits.

“Our energy level is through the roof fright now,” Temple said. “The community response from customers and organizations have been great. We’re excited to be doing this.”

“We’re also looking forward to getting back to normal.”

Temple is following the World Health Organization and Federal Drug Administration standards in producing the hand sanitizer. After denaturing the alcohol with isopropyl alcohol, Temple adds hydrogen peroxide and glycerin. 

“I talked to a woman who worked in the ER who was splashing Everclear on her hands,” said Temple. “Whatever they need, they’re using it.”

Temple is still selling its gins, including its new Constant Reader gin and Co-Authored Vol. 2 gin, in its online store at chapteronegin.com and offering free delivery within 30 miles of the distillery. 

From brewer to delivery man

Dick Mergens is used to spending his days in the brewhouse wrestling with a recipe and mixing and matching hops, malt and yeast. He’s not used to being a door-to-door delivery guy.

Since the Governor’s stay-at-home edict, Mergens, owner and head brewer of Crucible Brewing, has been delivering his beers as part of Crucible’s curbside and delivery program.

“People has been really generous,” Mergens said. “They’re excited to see the owner delivering beer, but honestly I think they’d rather see someone else — another employee — doing it.”

Laying off most of his staff has been the hardest part for Mergens, who said he’s been mostly completing cleaning projects during the quarantine. The brewery has cut hours down to five per day for the entire staff. Meanwhile, delivery, curbside pickup and to-go options have all been extended.

“We’re doing OK,” said Mergens, who equated the current situation to a slow January week. “My main goal is that on the other side of this all of our people will have their jobs back.”

Crucible has set up an online store and is offering delivery, curbside and pickup to-go options via text message. Check out cruciblebrewing.com for more information. 

From kegs to cans

When the quarantine began, SnoTown Brewing’s Frank Sandoval could only fill growlers to go. A phone call from a friend changed everything.

Scuttlebutt head brewer Eric Nord rang Sandoval and offered up the brewery’s unused crowler. It was a friendly gesture that Sandoval saw as a lifeline for his business.

Sandoval ran over to Scuttlebutt’s brewery on March 20 and got a crash course on filling and seaming the cans. He then brought the crowler to SnoTown and started an assembly line of filling cans. He created 24 four packs of 16-ounce cans and started selling them last weekend. SnoTown sold out quickly and had repeated success this past weekend.

Next weekend — SnoTown is only open Fridays through Sundays currently — Sandoval plans to have a dark beer and IPA four-pack.

Notes

For 5 Rights, the imperial IPA that was originally slated to be the brewery’s anniversary beer, is now Essential Business IPA. 5 Rights owner R.J. Whitlow said that the anniversary party has been put off indefinitely, but the brewery remains open for to-go orders Tuesday through Saturday.

Arlington’s Bad Dog Distillery recently released its BD Quad whiskey. Made from equal parts rye, corn, wheat and barley, the unique whiskey is available at the distillery, which is open for to-go sales Friday and Saturday. Like Temple, Bad Dog Distilling is also making hand sanitizer.