Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Pike Pub & Brewery (Seattle, WA)


Very first stop on my first trip to Seattle, so headed downtown touristy right off the bat. I'm a vegetarian, so only watch the fish toss w/o a purchase upstairs. Around the corner and down is The Pike Pub & Brewery. Walking in it is clean and well lit, but painted black in an industrial chic look. Random decor, including poker playing dogs on one wall. Big tourist shop in the front with T-shirts. Ok atmosphere with a few TVs around for sports.

Pete of Fish Philosophy fame

Three levels going up and the center piece is the brew tank on the second, smack dab in the center of the action with a brewer working behind the gated off area. Looked like the grain mill was upstairs or outside with a chute dumping directly in through the shops on the next level up. Pretty cool lookingand shiny. Great smell of a batch at full boil walking in the door, so that was nice.

Good news, all the beers were pretty good; the Weiss being by far the weakest. After a full sampler, I had drafts of the Scotch, XXX Stout, and Tandem Doubleall worth the effort, my favorites in reverse order listed. Went for the artisanal cheese plate of all local cheeses and honey. Good, but not enough bread and a bit expensive; however, that's par for all high end cheese plates. Ordered some of the steak fries as well since we'd just come from the plane, which were fine but nothing mind blowing. Good prices for the most part, especially for being in Pike Place. Parking across the street was expensive and small, located in the bowels under the street. Fun visit overall though.

Elysian Brewing Co-Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA)


Cool beer decor walking in the door--gives the impression that they really focus on the beer at Elysian Brewing, which the sampler and a couple of pints proved. Banners naming Elysian large brewpub of the year at GABF in '93, 03, and 04 hang above the glass where you could see the brewhouse and a brewer hard at work in the early evening.  We hit Elysian based on some pretty good samples at GABF two years ago, and I wasn't disappointed.

High ratings across the board, every beer being to style and fun to drink. Perseus Porter on nitro was the clear winner tonight, deserving a much higher rating than the bottle we had later. The Nightowl Pumpkin Ale is easily the best pumpkin ale I've had to dateexcellent beer that happens to have pumpkin in the center that amplifies the beer. Very fun and interesting to drink rather than having a pumpkin pie liquefied in a glass. Bete Blanche was great too, liked drinking it, but the only beer that didn't seem to fit the style as a Belgium tripelseemed to have some hefeweizen qualities. Odd, but very good. More time in the bar and I'd order it before their flagships The Wise ESB and The Immortal IPA, which were both good as well.

I liked the Greek mythology theme running through the beers, coasters, etc. Elysian Fields, besides being one of the extended pubs to the original Capitol Hill, is the "abode of the blessed after death." Which makes Elysian heaven or paradise in Greek mythology and all the regular beers reflect the theme. As an English teacher and sometimes poet, I appreciate it. Not the defining characteristic of a pub, but one I really enjoy. Added to this was a very light, fun atmosphere, clean and rustic with beat up wooden floors and high wooden ceiling, and a woman laughing with friends that gave my own thunderous laugh a run for its money. Really sounded like the locals were having fun.

Here's the reason for the high food ratingI actually had to choose between several very excellent vegetarian options, including a veggie pulled BBQ sandwich (never seen that before except in full veggie/vegan joints). We painstakingly decided on the Eggplant Parmesan sandwich with multicolored tortilla chips with hot and tasty chili arbol sauce. Easily a place I'd go just for food w/o beer as a consideration (which never happens for me but it could, I suppose). We were only in Seattle for two of seven days in the NW, but really wanted to come back but didn't make it because of logistics. Absolute top of the list to hit this and the other Elysian pubs on the next trip.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Angry Minnow Brewpub (Hayward, WI)

The Angry Minnow was a quick stop on our bus tour of Wisconsin, so no time to eat. But the Minnow is in a beautiful old brick building that was just screaming to be converted into a brewpub. Dark wood inside and a old comfortable feeling to the place. We sat on an outside patio surrounded by brick arches. Extremely pleasant on a fall evening. I've tasted their beers at various festivals and the draft versions didn't change my mind much--all good but not great beers. My favorite has consistently been the River Pig Pale Ale, which is quite enjoyable to drink. It was quiet with all locals when we stopped.

El Mariachi's Mexican Restaurant and Muskie Captital Cantina (Hayward, WI)

Old Hayward was the dinner stop on our bus tour, and driving up to the pub you see the giant muskie of the fishing museum. Might have to come back for that some day; the outdoorsman quality is apparent walking into the restaurant with animals large and small adorning the walls. Clean, well lit place decorated in a Timber Lodge theme. Since we were in a large group, the locals seemed pretty interested in us. Nice family dinner sort of place. Lots of steaks and fish. I ate some appetizers, deep fried and good, from the plate of a friend. Being a vegetarian, not a lot to eat here. My fault for being a veggie in the muskie capital.

Beer was all good, but nothing mindblowing. Good, solid, center of the road beer that's easy to drink a lot of, which we did. The American Pale Ale and Muskie Cream Ale were my favorites. While not a fan of cream ale, this one was a bit more assertive than itshould be for style and made it fun to drink.

Hereford & Hops Restaurant & Brewpub (Wausau, WI)

Hereford & Hops Wausau is sadly closed according to its BeerAdvocate listing.  

This was a very pleasant surprise on our bus tour. I had stopped at another H&H a couple of years ago, and didn't have a negative image of the brewpub but not overly impressed either. The H&H in Wausau changed that for me. 

Very clean, upscale appearing place when you walk in the door. The seemed a bit unprepared for our large group (30+) in spite of expecting us, but quickly recovered to be fine hosts as the beer flowed and we participated in a very informative brewery tour. Didn't look at the menu much, but shared a awesome blossom with someone else. Very good, as good as Outback who is famous for it. 

Great selection of beers from a fizzy Razberi to a deep black Schwarzbier. The Schwarzbier and ESB were especially strong beers. If I lived in Wausau, I'd be happy drinking either for life. Excellent job. Plus they keep a few beers in rotation, and the brewer had a adventuresome spirit so only more good things are to come. Besides Fitger's, this was the only place of 11 brew pubs that I took another growler home. 

Funny name, good beer. Check it out. (October 2006) 

On my second visit (June 2007), I found nothing that change my rating of this place. Good service, but I was the only one at the bar, so that helps. And, every beer was good and I filled my growler with Schwarzbier again. Cool pub in central Wisconsin that is worth the effort.

Blue Heron BrewPub (Marshfield, WI)

Before stopping at the Blue Heron BrewPub, I hadn't heard much about it. Overall, a very cool place in the Parkin Place. Beautiful renovated building you can read all about on their website. Lot of time and work invested to make this place look nice. Sit at the bar and drink staring at the brewery. Slightly upscale feel, and a menu with a wider selection for vegetarians. I had the Grilled Vegetable Pita, which was quite good. Think I'd go for a pizza next time, but not disappointed at all.

According to a friend along who frequents this place a few times a year, the Mudpuppy Porter is their bread and butter, and it's easy to taste why. All of the beers were good, but the Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout stole the show. Sip and enjoy a very woody, chocolate and cherry stout with almost oily winelike smoothness. Excellent and approaching OMG on this one. Take a friend--hits like a hammer. Enjoy.

South Shore Brewery (Ashland, WI)

We showed up here late after a long day, and then felt old. I think we were in time for the local youngsters starting the meat market. Still a nice place, but I would probably enjoy it more in the afternoon sipping on a pint. I didn't order any food, but some friends ordered pizza and seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. Free popcorn was fresh, buttered, and hot. Big place in a historic building and lost of nooks and crannies to sit and hang out.

Overall the beer is good to middlin'. Had a pint of the Rhoads Scholar Stout, which was a perfectly fine brew, but not what I hoped for by buying the expensive $5 pint rather than one of the others. All the farther I got.  We stayed overnight in Ashland, which is really cool in the morning light during a dawn walk. Historic downtown and nature is a good draw, one I hope to avail myself of again someday and give South Shore another shot.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Thirsty Pagan Brewing (Superior, WI)

We stopped for a tour of Thirsty Pagan with a group of homebrewers, drank samples and drafts, and were on the road again. Very interesting place. Lots of cool brewerania on the walls from a local collectorHamm's beer, Northern Brewing signs, neon, etc.

Situated in an industrial part of town, it's not a place to impress yuppie friends. The brewery is behind a break wall and smaller than some of the more serious homebrewer set ups I've seen. In fact, it feels like a buddy who just went nuts decorating his basement and it turned into a brewery. Looks fun and I intend to return some night to see what it's like with the locals. Their food specialty seems to be a Chicago-ish styled pizza that the local homebrewers were eating with clear enjoyment. If you're look for good beer in a "blue collar know your name joint," Thirsty Pagan is a great place for an unpretentious pint.