A winter weekend in Seattle. It’s cloudless, warm. People rove the city in shorts and skirts, and it’s only early March. On that little bend in Olive Way where the street finally sheds downtown and coils into Capitol Hill, the bar is half full. The bartender looks like truckers look in movies, shoulder-length mullet under a flat-brimmed baseball hat. No one can believe the sunshine pouring in. It’s the day after daylight saving, and there’s some complaining about having lost an hour. A woman with high bangs and dramatic eyebrows reminds everyone that it partly dates back to farming and farmers’ hours. Everyone agrees that, yes, that’s just crazy, we should dispense with losing 60 minutes every spring. She says the state legislature is debating that very idea right now, you can look it up.
The color of the beer in everyone’s glass, though, that’s the great change in the seasonal tide—a bigger deal than the missing clouds, right up there with the shorts. The dark porters and stouts people at the bar typically huddle around this time of year, beers that look like coffee, beers hearty as stew, have disappeared, as if they vanished with that lost hour. In their place, customers order lager. Olympia mostly, some Old Seattle Lager, gold tinted and nearly translucent.
People say lager is about to have its craft beer moment. Allecia Vermillion says it in this issue. Long the land of the all-holy India pale ale, a style of beer that takes full advantage of the state’s rich hops harvest and supports those who maintain it (farmers’ hours!), Washington is seeing a rise in lager production.
Used to be that if you ordered a lager it marked you, telegraphed that your tastes and opinions in matters of beer (and probably many other things) were not to be taken seriously—like you were too timid to bear the hoppy smack of an ale on the palate, let alone the pucker punch delivered by a double IPA. But lager’s stigma, burnished thanks to its association with mass-distributed beers like Coors and Budweiser, is slipping away. After all lager, as Vermillion notes, is a “tricky beer to make—its finicky yeast requires colder temperatures and the ferment is slower.” It was only a matter of time before that trickiness appealed to those enamored with craftsmanship.
Back at the bar on Olive Way talk of time drifts into other topics. High Bangs is hosting a baby shower. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever have a kid herself. The bartender shuts the door on the cooling breeze and refills the glasses, again and again, with the clearest beer he has on tap.