I awoke with a spiffy hangover on a beautiful Saturday morning. It was a little bit later than I had originally wanted to wake up, but thatís what weekends are for. Punctuality is not mandatory.
I soon was on my way south, along the familiar path called the I-5. The first exit I hit was at Mukilteo, home of Diamond Knot. The occasion was the opening of their new production brewery. Itís pretty damn big, especially relative to the little brewpub system theyíve got right now. I grabbed a brat and some IPA and got the scoop. The first thing youíll want to know about is bottles. Not for another year or so, Iím told. Personally, I think theyíd do really well with bottles. Every beer lover in Seattle knows them, but doesnít always feel like making the journey. I know how it is. I go there more often than I go to some of my local brewpubs, just because. A local brewpub thatís just that little bit too far for a casual trip but not far enough for a serious, planned trip is the least-visited brewpub of all. I am certain theyíd do well in the Everett area, where everyone knows their beer. But alas, no bottles for a year. But way more draft distribution.
The other thing this new brewery means for Diamond Knot is that the old brewpub system will now be put to good use with a far wider range of seasonals and specialty beers. Hopefully this works the same way that it does for Elysian.
My next stop was Seattle. The focal point at this point in the afternoon was the Seattle Cheese Festival, held at Pike Place Market. It was a gorgeous, hot afternoon and the place was mobbed. Admission was free so you got a pretty wide mix of people. There were the cheese snobs lamenting how none of the other people (my scungy-looking self no doubt included) would eat a decent cheese the rest of their life but were taking up space today at the festival. There were the people who, regardless of future cheese purchases, were camped out in front of cheeses chatting with their friends. I have long arms and just reach around them. Iím a prick like that, but hey, donít stand in front of a stilton when there are hundreds of cheesehounds all around you! One guy had clearly had enough and tried to crash through the line. ďI just need one piece, out of the way!Ē I lowered my shoulder and stopped him in his tracks, probably not very comfortably. ďYouíre not the only one, mate.Ē I informed him. He did not take all that kindly to this but had the good sense to shut the hell up and take his place in line. Anyway, itís a funny kind of crowd when anyone can just show and all the samples are free.
The cheese itself was killer. There was a mix of imports and locals, the former being probably a bit better on the whole. There was a table of French, a corner of Spanish, some Italians and some Nealís Yard as well. A lot of the domestic was aged cheddar of varying quality (from blah to pretty damn good) and a whole whack of gimmicky flavoured cheese Ė the raspberry wheat of the cheese world. Sorry, but I roll my eyes at rosemary gouda and chipotle cheddar.
The first cheese to really pin my ears back was Point Reyes Blue. We donít get American cheeses in Canada Ė none of them. Iím sure our government has something to do with this. So all these famous American cheeses have to be found when I go down there. This one will have to go on the shopping list. Blues must be the imperial stouts of the cheese world. Itís hard to screw up and they seem to dominate the ratings at any tasting. I indulged in stilton and cabrales, as well as a few other lesser-known blues.
Some of the creamy chevres were awesome, including a herb-coated one, but these are pretty good no matter where theyíre from (to me, anyway).
Another standout cheese for me was ros, from Spain. I have pretty much bugger all for information about it, except for <a hrefhttp://foodgeeks.com/encyclopedia/351/ros/>this tiny blurb. It decimated manchego in a side-by-side, and I like manchego.
After I was cheesed out I headed out for a lot of beer, starting at the Pike Brewery, where I got a crack at the Oatmeal Stout I just missed last year. From there, I ventured to Beveridge Place Pub, one of the finer watering holes in town. They still had some stragglers from their recent barley wine and IPA events.
BPP is a big open space, very living-roomish, even by Seattle standards. Thatís one thing I love a lot about drinking down there. Itís not just the beer, itís the atmosphere. They have a license that allows for only beer and wine, but no liquor. This keeps all the good places free from the types of people who would drink caesars, martinis and other sorry excuses for beverages. Letís face it Ė discerning people donít drink that crap. They might drink a scotch, Iíll grant you, but they donít drink flavoured mixed stuff unless theyíre slumming it.
Plus, the beer and wine crowd is more civilized. Nobody gets too drunk too fast. Nobody pukes after hitting the shooters. Plus, these places donít seem to have to sell food so you donít get hassled by waitstaff shoving menus in your faces every ten minutes and asking if youíre having a good time. Itís just really laid back and conversation-oriented at the typical Seattle alehouse or even most any Washington State brewpub. And anti-corporate, too. Aside from PBR, there is no quarter given to macrobrewers down there. No excuse making about having to make a living or giving people what they want. Publicans actually have the opportunity to exert their personality over the establishment, which doesnít happen in places where bars are bending over to the large drink corporations.
These places are all over the city and the state. I bounced from one to another and another and finally ended up in bed, belly full of good beer.
The next morning was as beautiful as the last and I canít say I felt any better. I had an overcooked waffle to start me off before heading to the cheese festival for another round of fromagey goodness. The fest hadnít started yet. So like any good tourist I grabbed a coffee at the First Starbucks Ever (ooo....ahhhÖ) and watched the people mill around. I hadnít really spent any time at the market since I was a kid, because itís more the sort of thing the rubes do, but it was pretty cool. Naturally the fish-throwers had a good crowd around them. I wanted something a little more portable on a hot spring day than fish, though. I found the Latin grocer and that hit the spot. Vancouver sucks for Latin grocers. I got spoiled on a few really excellent ones in Toronto and it just ainít the same up here. So I stockpiled a few things. They had African food, too, and I could not pass up the smoked shrimp. I havenít figured out what to do with them yet, but I might just keep the bag in the cupboard for the next year so I can sniff it ten times a day like I do now.
Then the cheese fest kicked off and I bounced around trying all the good stuff again plus the few I hadnít got to on Saturday. Still a little wobbly, I made my way up to Big Time to settle myself down. Then to Bottleworks for someÖuhhhÖ.would you believeÖstuff?
Yeah, I took a scenic detour along the coast on the way home and got screwed over by customs at the border. I guess I was due, but itís still no fun. Pissant little glorified tax collectors. I canít wait Ďtil theyíre all fired and replaced with soldiers.