Year in Review

2011: The Year in Drinking

By Allecia Vermillion December 30, 2011

Canon: Kind of a big deal.

Oh 2011. Drinking-wise you were a year of highs and lows, and I’m not just talking about general intoxication and subsequent hangovers. Here are five of the year’s major moments in the realm of beer, wine, and spirits. Some are seminal events in our drinking lives, others merely a sea change that will alter the way we imbibe in 2012 and beyond.

1. Initiative 1183 Passes
It’s still not entirely clear exactly how privatizing liquor will affect our state’s distillers, brewers, bar owners, distributors, and, of course, drinkers. The Liquor Control Board’s wind-down has already caused some hardships for bartenders; cutting off special liquor orders is but one example of how the legislative process will impact your drinking in 2012. However with the June 1 deadline looming (and March 1, when distillers and distributors can start selling directly to restaurants), we’re likely to see some concrete answers in the coming months.

2. Washington Wine Drama
Remember the blogger drama that ensued when a rep from the Washington Wine Commission called out Matt Dillon for not serving regional wines at his otherwise locally oriented restaurants? Truthfully, though, it’s been a solid year for Washington’s wine. The State Department is pouring Yakima’s Treveri Cellars sparklers at its holiday events, local somm Shayn Bjornholm is now heading up the education program for the Court of Master Sommeliers, and just a few weeks ago, Yakima Valley’s Naches Heights was designated as the state’s 12th and newest American Viticultural Area.

3. Murray-Gate
First Seattle’s most storied barman was at Zig Zag Cafe. For a long time. THEN… he was going to RN74! But wait. Maybe he wasn’t. Then, he definitely wasn’t. After popping up briefly at the Pan Pacific Hotel, Murray Stenson seems to have settled in over at Jamie Boudreau’s Canon. And as for the frenzy surrounding his whereabouts? Consider it either proof that we take our drinks, and their makers, seriously…or proof that Jess Voelker and I lack for outside-of-work hobbies.

4. Seattle Embraces Beer in a Can
Washington Beer Blog’s Kendall Jones has a nice post recapping the brew-based highlights of 2011. And while events and growler car carriers are indeed awesome, our craft breweries’ embracing of cans will probably do more to change the way the average beer drinker kicks back after a long day. Seven Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor lays claim to being the first Washington brewery to can, back in 2010. Two Beers went the can route this summer, and newcomer brewery Hilliard’s only offers its beer in cans and kegs. Opened-this-very-minute beer bar the Publican has jettisoned its bottle list entirely in favor of cans.

5. Canon Opens
Local barman Jamie Boudreau had long planned to open his own place, and when Canon arrived, the reality somehow exceeded the ridiculously high expectations. Seattle has a score of cool cocktail bars; why is this one such a damn big deal? Maybe because it encapsulates everything that’s good about our local drink scene (a crazy array of spirits, bartender-patron drink collaborations, Murray Stenson) and very little of the bad (OK, it can be damn hard to get a seat sometimes).

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