For the Love of Froth

Stocking Seattle’s best beer bar is no easy task.

By Ashley Gartland March 18, 2009 Published in the April 2009 issue of Seattle Met

Roddy Lindquist had always been a wine guy. But when Scott Staples offered him the general manager gig at Quinn’s Pub, he had to become a beer guy. Fast. So he started drinking. “I’d see 30 beers, says Lindquist. “It was a very difficult process, dealing with four or five different reps who wanted me to taste their entire catalog.” Poor Roddy, right? But there is a downside to tasting tons of beer for a living: “After a while,” he says, “your palate kind of dies.”

And the brew buyer at a gastropub cannot have a dead palate. Basically publike restaurants with gourmet grub and a deep devotion to the world’s finest beers, gastropubs emerged in 1990s London. The most famous American example, the Spotted Pig, debuted in 2004 in the West Village. NYC foodies flocked for a few years, then flew on. Ever reluctant to hop on a trend too fast, Seattle arrived a bit late to the gastro table: Quinn’s opened in 2007, and two more, Smith on 15th Avenue East and Belltown’s Spur, soon followed suit. All serve up the unconventional animal bits that have come to characterize gastropubs (bone marrow, beef tongue, pork belly), but Quinn’s is by far the most serious about its beer.

“People in the Northwest love their IPAs,” says Lindquist, “but I’ve found they aren’t the best accompaniments for the food we do.” He centered the pub’s program instead around six Trappist ales—bottle-conditioned beers from Belgium and the Netherlands to which yeast and sugar are added before sealing, so that the brew undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Because they are made by monks with little motivation to export their products, Trappist ales are notoriously hard to stock. “A lot of this comes down to begging,” says Lindquist, who groveled at the feet of well-connected local distributors for over a year before obtaining five of the six Trappists. Then, a few months ago, he finally procured the sixth and rarest: the creamy, complex Achel Extra.

He rounded out the program with domestic and European beers—Quinn’s offers 60 aged brews in total. Because refrigeration halts the fermenting process, all of the bottles are stored in the restaurant’s cellar, and servers have to hoof it downstairs each time a customer orders one—no easy task on an at-capacity Friday night. They also attend mandatory staff tastings where they sharpen their palates with samples of the rare and obscure suds Lindquist is forever adding to the list. “Sometimes the beer isn’t available in large quantities,” says Lindquist. “It’s not something I can just hand out like a Budweiser—which isn’t on our menu, by the way.”

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