Suds of Summer

By Jessica Voelker December 28, 2008 Published in the June 2008 issue of Seattle Met

IN 1994, DICK CANTWELL, head brewer at Elysian Brewing, was judging suds at the Great American Beer Festival when a fellow panelist became besotted with one entry, a beer whose flavors reminded him of jasmine tea. The ale did not win the award, but the one it inspired Cantwell to create, Elysian’s Avatar Jasmine IPA, has since received two: a bronze from Great American and, more recently, a gold medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup.

Avatar is the only beer in the world known to feature jasmine, and for beer-loving Seattle-ites its flowery flavor is synonymous with summer. (The beer comes out each spring and stays on tap through August or September; Cantwell says he aims to make it available year round). It’s hoppy—but less so than most IPAs—allowing the jasmine full play.

Cantwell drinks his Avatar with fragrant Indian food—a fitting choice for a beer whose name means “an incarnation of a Hindu god.” Curious to find other foods that pair well with the botanical brew, we asked the chefs at Elysian’s three Seattle eateries for their suggestions.

Tasting Notes

Spicy Chicken

Jonathan Knowles, chef at the Pioneer Square pub, drinks Avatar with larb gai, a spicy chicken salad found on Thai menus around town. Elysian Fields, 542 First Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-382-4498;

Vegan Avocado Curry and Jasmine Rice

“The floral notes of the rice and beer and the dry IPA style play against the richness of curry sauce,” says Eric Greenwalt of Elysian’s Cap Hill café. Elysian Brewing Company, 1221 E Pike St, Capitol Hill, 206-860-1920;

Pork Barbecue Sandwich

Dee Dennis, of the Wallingford brewery, picks a pork loin sandwich with apricot-ginger jam—a tangy-sweet dish to bring out the beer’s subtler flavors. Elysian Tangletown, 2106 N 55th St, Wallingford, 

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