Today begins the fifth annual Seattle Beer Week, a purposefully unruly, all-over-the-map, highly enjoyable celebration of beer. Of Washington beer, certainly, but also larger craft beer powerhouses like California’s Stone and Dogfishhead of Delaware. And, increasingly, the beer scene in Portland and pockets of southern Oregon.
Brewers aren’t an anal-retentive sort. Beer week here consists of a calendar masterminded by Pine Box owner Ian Roberts. If you’re planning an event, he’ll put it on there. Most are drop-in affairs (brewers nights, beer and cheese tastings, tap takeovers) that require no tickets. The ones that do sell out fast, but are usually a tremendous value. My first-ever beer week experience was a Chuckanut dinner at Delancey a few years back. You meet the brewer, get an in-depth story behind each of the beers, and consume them with a ton of good food.
But here’s the problem—there are so many great events this year that only mentioning a few is like recommending your favorite letters of the alphabet. So I urge you—go look at the Seattle Beer Week calendar. Or download the app. And once you’ve done that, here are a few happenings I’d like to add to my own agenda.
SBW 2013 Kickoff
Starts at the Sixgill, 4pm
Calling this a beer crawl doesn’t do justice to this night of hop-fueled debauchery. Beer week’s official kickoff begins at newcomer the Sixgill, then the tapping of the official Seattle Beer Week brew happens at Fremont Brewing. Then it’s off to Beverage Place Pub, then Naked City, then a closeout bash at the Pine Box. You can stop into each one individually. Here’s the schedule and specifics.
Happy Hour with No-Li Brewing
I won’t lie—I put this one on here just because Spokane’s No-Li is a well-regarded outfit I’d like to know more about. Brewmaster John Bryant will be at Quinn’s pouring Born and Raised IPA, Jet Star Imperial IPA, and Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout. Order a beer and get a NO-LI Pint Glass. This is a good time to mention one of my favorite parts of beer week: the hangover-inducing Beer ‘O Clock. From 3-5, the beer bar’s entire inventory—bottles, drafts, rarities, you name it—is half price. Every day throughout beer week.
Nanobreweries of Washington
Naked City, 6–9
Washington has seen a proliferation of teeny tiny brewing outfits. They’re well worth exploring individually, but it’s awfully convenient to have some of the best all in one place. In attendance: Peddler, Puyallup River, Duo, Foggy Noggin, Soos Creek, Strong Arm, Urban Family, Dirty Bucket, Wingman, Outlander, Justice, and Populuxe.
Score on Skip
American Brewing Company, 6–9
Every year brewer Skip Madsen puts on his goalie gear and lets random people take a shot at scoring on him. Okay, this part has nothing to do with beer. But it’s fun. What does pertain to beer: After dodging a bunch of flying pucks aimed near his body, Madsen will release his new pilsner.
Urban Family Public House, all day
Here’s a blasphemous statement from someone raised in the Northwest: I appreciate IPAs, but I don’t love them. So it’s nice to see more regional brewers embracing the saison, a farmhouse-style ale usually associated with Belgium. Urban Family, a great beer bar on Ballard Ave, usually pours lots of them, and today that includes some far-flung rarities: nøgne ø, Thiriez, De Ranke, Blaugies, Drie Fonteinen, Anchorage, De Proef, and Mikkeller.
Reuben’s Brews, 11–8
One of the best newbies in town built its reputation in part on its rye beer. Now Reuben’s is putting a bunch of other ryes on tap for a day. Tasting different iterations side by side seems like a good way to get better acquainted with this style.
Beer Can Derby
The Pine Box, 2–6pm
Cub Scouts race little cars they make out of wood. Grown-ass people race little cars they make out of beer cans. Build a car at home or make one at the Pine Box…it just has to pass inspection before competing.
Sip and Slurp
Wine World and Spirits, 2–5
Oysters? Love them. Beer? Ditto. Taylor Shellfish Farms will be on hand dispensing $1 shucks and a $10 entry ticket gets you 10 beer tastes (and one vote for a winner). Pair, sample, and discuss.
Can You Handle My Randall?
The Pine Box, 3–9
Okay, this event wins for the name alone. But seriously, go see what a Randall tap loaded up with hops or cilantro and lime or maple bacon and peanut butter chips can do to an already-enjoyable beer.
Women in Beer
Pike Brewing Company, 5–8pm
Hey, ladies, want to feel patronized and offended? Ask a basic question of the beer dude at most grocery stores. This is a lovely (and now annual) gathering of women who make, serve, and enjoy beer. The $35 ticket benefits Planned Parenthood and Pink Boots Society—and you, because purchasing one gets you 10 drink tickets.
Brave Horse Tavern, 5–9
I need to get down to Bend, Oregon, stat, to visit 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Boneyard Brewing, Good Life, and Cascade Lakes, and hit up classics like Deschutes. But until that happens, they’re all here pouring some beers not commonly available on our side of the state line.
Brouwer’s Café, all day
This is one of the grand traditions of beer week. Brewers, generally, geek out on sour beer. Drinkers, generally, are catching on. Brouwer’s mission: replace as many taps as possible with sours from around the world.
pFriem Family Brewers Night
Art of the Table, 6:30
Hood River’s pFriem brewery is new in town; brewer Josh Pfriem previously brewed at Bellingham favorite Chuckanut, and his creations are impressive. Chef Duston Ronspies is putting on a seven-course meal paired with the brewery’s creations. The $95 price tag ain’t cheap, but it sounds like a solid value.
Session Beer Session
Marginal Way Skatepark, 4–8
Sessionable beers generally have less than 4.5 or 5 percent alcohol by volume. And even in our land of mind-melting strong beers, plenty of people are making low-alcohol beers that pack a lot of flavor. Like Fremont, Veltins, and Ninkasi, for instance. And what better way to demonstrate your flavorful brews’ low alcohol content than by serving them to a bunch of people who are skateboarding? Do the kids even call it skateboarding? I don’t think I’m cool enough to use the term “shredding.”