Dinner With the Widmer Brewers

It’s great to have a beer blog and an excuse to drink beer, but I guess we should actually add some content more than once a month.

A couple of weeks ago, the fine folks at Widmer invited us over for dinner to celebrate the release of W’10 Pitch Black IPA. Due to the enormous success of Brrr, W’10 was already in stores, but that didn’t deter our enthusiasm for this Cascadian Dark Ale.

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I’ll leave a more detailed review of the beer to Dave at 999 Beers but I really like W’10, easily my favorite in the series, challenged only by W’07 that eventually became Drifter.  I think it’s a safe bet we’re going to see a lot more Cascadian Dark Ales this year and that style will be the choice of backyard BBQs and camping this summer. It’s a great blend of roasted malt flavor and hops without being too heavy.

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I was joined for dinner by brewer John Eaton who generally works the overnight shift at Widmer. I was a great opportunity to discuss the entire W series at Widmer, the collaborative creative process and the success of 07 and 06 turning into Drifter and Brrr in the company’s line. In general, the brewers get together and discuss a few different styles and then they work together to hash it out and determine what that year’s W beer will be. It’s a great opportunity for the brewers to flex their creativity outside of the company’s standard brews.

It also seemed some at Widmer were a little miffed/disappointed at the lack of success of W’09, the Belgian Golden Ale and to a lesser extent 08’s Crimson Wheat. In thinking about the Belgian Golden, it reminded me of Bridgeport’s Supris and a similar tepid response.

It makes me think that major production brewers such as Bridgeport and Widmer become well known for certain styles and the consumer just doesn’t think of them as an outlet for something so different. I’m certain that in addition to letting brewers create new styles, the W series also helps Widmer stretch the consumer’s mind and while a certain year may not sell as expected, it can help open the door for future, more commercially successful new styles.

You can learn more about W’10 and the W series by going here and can find Widmer Brothers on Twitter and Facebook.

Hooking Up With Redhook Tripel

I got a nice little present the other day from the good people at Redhook when I received a box containing the company’s latest limited edition offering, Redhook Tripel.  We don’t really “do” the beer review thing, there’s plenty of other sites that are great for that, but we did want to share some thoughts on this beer.

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Being a generous person, I brought it to a weekend gathering and shared it with Dave and Thom, we didn’t exactly have the ideal glassware, or glass at all really.

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There is so much to like about this beer, visually the packaging is great and the color and the head on the beer are enticing. Taste-wise, I would say the beer is very well-made, true to the style, has nice banana and clove flavors woven in and it really hides that 10.2% ABV, not overly alcoholic for such a big beer at all. However, when it comes to tasting, we noticed one small thing, it’s kinda boring, there’s nothing that really makes you say “Wow, I got to try some more of that!”  It’s somewhat like the Toyota Camry of beer. Well-made, precise, reliable and a bit of a snooze. I just wish there was a little something in there that made me want to come back for more.

Speaking of Redhook, not sure how much is left and if it’s at all Trader Joe’s, but the other day i found 22 oz. bombers of Double Black Stout for $1.99 a bottle. I left one on the shelf at the 39th and Holgate store because I didn’t want to be the jerk that cleaned it out. At that price, if you like stouts, it’s worth seeking out at other TJ’s.

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Working at the Workers Bar in Astoria

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The evening was closer to “It’s time to go” than “we just got here” when Eryn leaned into to me and said “I figured it out…. The goal of this place is to keep you from leaving.” Granted, that’s probably true for any bar that wants to turn a profit, but what sets Mary Todd’s Workers Bar & Grill in Astoria apart is, they do a damn good job of doing it.

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Situated under the bridge on Marine Drive, the decor is classic dive bar, pictures of various vintages celebrating the hard work and people that made Astoria, as well as plenty of photos of the regulars having a great time.

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So what exactly lured us here? You didn’t have to talk to too many people in town to find out about the giant serving of prime rib available for a very reasonable price (I think it was $15). Dave ordered an equally large chicken fried steak that checked in around $10 (cardiologist not included).

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Since this is a beer-related blog, I suppose I should mention the beer selection… (moving on)

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Back in the day when I frequented the 35’er in Old Town Pasadena, I would occasionally enjoy a girly, summer drink, a raspberry lemonade consisting of Stoli Raspberry, a splash of sweet and sour and 7-up. At Mary Todd’s I think I discovered my girly summer drink’s older sister who joined a biker gang and rode up and down the west coast for 20 years before settling in Astoria, and her name is the Yucca. The Yucca is fresh squeezed lemon, some simple syrup and vodka, lots of vodka, served in a canning jar filled with ice, sealed with a lid and then shaken profusely inside a towel for maximum frozen drink effect. It’s delicious and refreshing and a monster the next morning.

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So, what really sets the Workers Bar apart from so many other dive bars?  The people, starting with Mary Todd herself who came by our table, introduced herself and shared a couple minutes with us talking about her life and her bar.  It’s a great story and she’s a great host.  Also, she’s been known to dance on top of the tables from time to time. I think everyone gets swept up into the cordiality of the place, by the end of the night, we’ve abandoned our table, we’re meeting other people, people are buying rounds and shots for us, dancing, etc.

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Dave nicely summed up the bar “good people, hard lives, hearty meals, drink accordingly.

A quick shout out to the Cannery Pier Hotel as well.  In addition to the incredible accommodations, the hotel wants you to be safe when enjoying Astoria’s libations.  They have a vintage Buick that will take you anywhere in town and, even better, will come pick you up when you’re done.  In fact, if you get a ride from a DD like we did, they ask that you call the hotel because the driver won’t go home until all the people he’s taken out somewhere are returned to the hotel.  Bravo CPH!

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Double Mountain ‘Vaporizes’ East Burn

Looks like the guys at Double Mountain are releasing a new beer, Vaporizer, a “golden IPA” at East Burn on Wednesday, June 3 starting at 5 p.m. Double Mountain co-owner Charlie Devereux will be on-hand to explain exactly what makes this IPA golden.

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Just to show how little I know about what’s going on at East Burn, they also have their version of a Brewer’s Dinner called Beer Belly Dinner.  This month features Jamie Floyd from Ninkasi and something grilled.

And if you’ve never been to East Burn, I highly recommend heading down to the basement and checking out the skee-ball game and all the other great games, it’s like the rec room I never had growing up….or now for that matter.