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Oakes Weekly - February 17, 2005

Hops & Props
Oakes Weekly February 17, 2005      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

As beer festival venues go, the Museum of Flight in Tukwila, WA (just across the border from Seattle) has got to be one of the coolest. After the mandatory stops at Seattle destinations like Big Time Brewery and Bottleworks, plus a visit to Elysian’s Tangletown public house, I arrived at the Museum for a little advanced scouting.

Set beside Boeing, the museum started when the first commercial airliner was recovered in Alaska and restored by Boeing workers on their off-time. The plane is a boxy trimotor biplane with a cozy-looking interior. It flew in the late ‘20s and doubled as a mail carrier. Consequently, it took 48 hours to make its run from San Francisco to Chicago. The museum also houses numerous military aircraft. A Concorde sits across the street for touring.

There are wings dedicated to the First and Second World Wars. These Personal Courage Wings not only display planes from those respective eras (some of the WWI planes don’t really look like they would have ever been able to fly!) but also provide profiles of some of the famous pilots that flew them, which is a very cool thing to do in an area where most people don’t know a WWII vet, and there might not be a single WWI vet left alive.

Fans of aviation, military history and engineering would definitely appreciate the Museum of Flight.

One thing I love about Washington is that you’re never far from a brewery. From the Museum of Flight, it’s about five minutes to Pacific Crest Brewing. This place has something of a divey-type feel. The beers aren’t standouts, but none were bad either. But the thing I really liked was the local character. The brewpub fits with the neighbourhood – a little rough around the edges, working-class, and friendly. I cannot stress how nice it is to visit places like this, and Big Time, that just hum along doing their own thing, a counter to a world of spit-polished, corporate brewpubs.

Back to the museum’s WWI section for the VIP tasting. A series of speakers came to talk about beer, and provide some interesting samples. It was a chance to catch up with quality beverages like Cuvée Rene and Deus, in addition to other Sam Smith’s, Lindeman’s and Bosteels products. In the interests of sobriety, I passed on the Unibroue – I drink enough Trois Pistoles as it is. Food was provided in the form of some cheese, crackers and the like, including a dill-rolled chevre and a light blue. VIP guests were able to keep the glassware at the end of the show – Tripel Karmeliet, Lindeman’s, Sam Smith’s.

Downstairs the festival kicked off. A mix of local brewers and importers lined up. For a state that has a reputation for hopheadedness, Washington continues to deliver to my glass a steady stream of beers from all across the brewing spectrum. Baron Brewing is a tiny micro located not far from the Museum of Flight that specializes in German styles. Not just the standards either, as evidenced by their rich Uber-Weisse, a weizendoppelbock. By special request of mattbob (thank you), they also had a bottle of their new Berliner Weisse for me. It’s legit, a good first effort, and I really look forward to seeing this beer win great success because I love the style. They also have a rauchbock and a roggenbier upcoming, proving that German beer isn’t all pilsner and hefeweizen. Speaking of German beer, I also liked the Doppelbock that Alpine Brewing from Oroville brought to the fest. I’ll be up in their neck of the woods in April and my interest is piqued.

I stopped by Diamond Knot to congratulate them on a top 50 beer. They have other fantastic products as well, and I love that they are keeping it real by staying small. Good news, though, in that there is a little bit of expansion on the way. Small is good, but I also like to see great brewers make a living from being the best.

<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/HopProp4.jpg>
Diamond Knot brewmaster Pat Ringe pours an Industrial Ho-Ho

I had a chance to talk to Oskar Blues, the Colorado brewery that has made a name by both producing the top-rated Scottish Ale on Ratebeer and putting it in cans. Some folks get snobbish about canned beer (like kegs aren’t just big cans) but I don’t feel that way. I take my pilsners like Urquell and Bitburger by the can because cans don’t get skunked. And while cans are not very pleasing aesthetically, I drink out of a glass anyway. Aside from the look, cans have gained a negative connotation specifically because the brewers who use them the most are brewers of piss-poor beer. I’m not sure when this became rocket science, but if the brewer isn’t making piss-poor beer, then that whole “cans suck” thing ought to get thrown out the window. Nuts to beer snobbery.

<IMG border=0 SRC=/images/features/HopProp3.jpg>
Overview of the festival’s lower floor

Overall, the festival was a top-flight production. Deschutes was pouring from underneath of a Blackbird, the food was stacked to the ceiling (I gorged on the fried sausage and onions), and everything was professional from top to bottom. A midsummer fratfest this was not. I had the chance to talk to many brewers, and enjoy some fine beers. I could have done with a few more of each, but that’s about the only complaint I could possibly have. A very good small festival, and I look forward to going back next year.



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start quote Deschutes was pouring from underneath of a Blackbird, the food was stacked to the ceiling (I gorged on the fried sausage and onions)...a midsummer fratfest this was not end quote