So I know it’s been a while since our first blog, but it turns out David and I have kept our days super-packed full of fun times
We’re currently travelling around the fine state of California, but we need to go back and talk about our final days in Vancouver and our amazing time in Washington State.
Our final evening in Vancouver was the best yet. After my complaints about people not being very polite nor friendly, we were proved wrong when we headed along to Craft Beer Market to enjoy our last night in the city. With 100+ beers on tap we were a little skeptical about how much they actually cared about the beer, but it turns out they do – a lot.
We were lucky enough to get seated at the bar where a chap named Alex served us for the night. He was the first beer geek we had encountered during the trip so far and it was incredibly refreshing to chat to someone who loved beer as much as we do. We got to try a heap of different beers, Alex gave us tasters before we committed to a full glass, and suggested we share a plate of Poutine – which was more than enough for the both of us and was also AMAZING. We also got to watch a US Open tennis quarter-final while everyone else in the bar was watching the first NFL game of the season. There were many confused sports fans in that room that night thanks to the boyf and I cheering on Roger Federer.
Alex gave us some tips about where to go for off-license sales and showed us his bottle of Phillips Brewing Co anniversary ale – 13 Knots in a Hangman’s Noose – it came with a wee bottle of hop liquor which takes the beer up to 13%. The boyf and I bought a bottle shortly after leaving Craft and drank it when we got home. It was super sweaty and earthy with big sweet citrus notes – and was just as good without the hop liquor as with it, which just gave it a sweeter, fruitier punch.
The next day we travelled across the border to the US – by bus. It was far less stressful and time-consuming than we were lead to believe – our entire bus was through customs within about 20-30 minutes. The boyf and I were accused of being alcoholics by the border control officer (“I’m sorry, but if you’re coming all the way from New Zealand to drink beer, you’re alcoholics”), and we also had to endure proper bio-security checks (in Canada it was nothing more than handing someone our slip of paper without them even glancing at it).
The whole trip only took about 4 hours, and we arrived in a very hot and sunny Seattle late afternoon. We easily made our way to my cousin’s house, where we stayed for the Seattle leg of the trip. My cousin, Ellen, and her husband, Matt, live in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, which is not only the city’s gay district, but also the centre of all the best cafes, restaurants and bars.
We began our Seattle experience with a couple of beers at The Pine Box, which used to be a funeral home. While David and I have been trying to drink local in each state we visit, the 30 degree temperature had me screaming for a easy-drinking IPA, and The Pine Box didn’t have any Washington IPAs on tap. So I tried a 6.5% IPA from Oregon’s Hop Valley called Proxima and it hit the mark with its sweaty hop aroma, sweet orange flavour and earthy bitterness.
After a couple of beers we all headed to Ellen and Matt’s favourite Mexican restaurant, Poquitos. It had a couple of good beers on tap – Elysian’s Immortal IPA and Manny’s brewed by Georgetown – and the food was amazing. Matt, the boyf and I even shared a wee bowl of grasshoppers which actually tasted really good – all spicy and crunchy – and I’d happily eat them again. They’d make a really good bar snack!
The next day was our first full day in Seattle. We started with brunch at Serious Biscuits for our very first biscuits and gravy experience. While our dishes were delicious (particularly my cheese and ham and biscuits dish, which didn’t have “gravy”), we decided these scone-like biscuits would taste better with NZ’s version of gravy, rather than the bland white sauce that Americans put on them.
But despite that the tasty food was a great base for a day of cider drinking – which we then went and did. Ellen, Matt, David and I all headed along to the fifth annual Cider Summit. I’ll admit I’m not a big cider drinker nor fan, but I had a great day hanging in the sun (well, shade actually because it was so freakin’ hot at 30+ degrees), drinking dry-hopped and dry ciders. even if they all did begin tasting a bit same-y by the end.
We even got to do a wee cider and cheese matching thanks to my cousin buying the tickets from Whole Foods rather than the festival itself, during which we experienced a fabulous washed rind cheese exclusive to Whole Foods. After the festival we promptly walked down the road to the store, apparently known as Whole Paycheck by the locals, and purchased a round of the said cheese – as well as some Chimay cheese and a “tall-boy” (aka BIG can) of PBR. Did I mention the 30+ degree heat??
Later that evening, the boyf and I headed up two hills to Chuck’s Hop Shop, where our friend, and former Hashigo Zake staff member, Josh, was hanging out. It was a fab night of great beers and great stories and getting home far too late. Of particular note was the Two Beers Fresh Hop IPA which was piney and lemony with a sweet, tropical fruit finish and utter deliciousness in the heat. In this part of the world, the day is generally at its hottest between 4pm-6pm, so a day in the sun at the cider festival was nothing compared with the heat walking up those hills to meet Josh!
The next day, we were lucky enough to be chauffeured around the city by Ellen and Matt, so we could try and reach some of the bars and breweries we might otherwise miss. It was Sunday though, which annoyingly in Seattle, at least, means half of the places are closed (they seriously need to take a leaf out of Hashigo’s book). We did make it to Schooner Exact Brewery, and then to several places in Freemont – Reuben’s Brews, Maritime and Stoup – and while the beers were of a great standard, by the end we were soooooo over IPAs and Pale Ales, which were the only styles anyone seemed to have available!
That night we went to dinner at the Elysian Brewery in Capitol Hill, again meeting up with Josh, and we were so relieved to find things other than IPAs and Pale Ales on tap. The Huckleberry Berlinner Weisse weighing in at 2.8% was pink and tasted tart and floral with a touch of wheat, but was deliciously sour and is still one of my stand out beers of the trip. I could drink a lot of this beer. All the time.
The next day we eased up on the beer somewhat and did some touristy things. On the way downtown we stopped off at a wee coffee cart where the barista actually knew what a flat white was! I was uber excited and the coffee was one of the best I’ve had in the States. We then headed to Pike Place Market where we had delicious German-style sausages, the world’s best clam chowder (according to the annual chowder awards or something), and, of course, checked out the brewery. The whole market was ridiculously busy for a Monday, we felt. We also did the underground tour of Seattle, where you actually get to walk the streets of the original city – underground of course. That was great fun.
But my favourite part of the day was the baseball! We headed along to Safeco field to watch the Seattle Mariners take on the Houston Astros (who, I’m told, no one is a fan of). There was a whole host of us, which was great, – Americans like Josh and his sister and her boyfriend who could teach us the rules, and also Ellen and Matt, who we could turn to to make jokes with about certain aspects of the game, or point out how ridiculous the snack food guys were. They also had an amazing range of beer on tap at the stadium, even if the food was a little (maybe a lot?) lacking. We had great seats, and always, I got into the game, very vocally. It was a great win for the Mariners and I’m now pleased to say I’m a Mariners fan, and even a fan of baseball! I had a blast.
The next day we travelled to the home of American hops – the Yakima Valley. And because I’ve talked for far too long, I’m going to let the boyf take over here and tell y’all about that part of our trip.
Bye for now!
THE BOYF’S BLOG
We picked up our rental car bright and early and set off for Yakima. Not only was this my first time driving through massive, spaghetti junction, ten lane highways but also my first time driving on the right (wrong) hand side of the road.
The GPS attempted to guide us to the i-5 highway, we made it with minimal yelling while I kept trying to indicate lane changes with the windscreen wipers. Everything is backwards in US cars.
Driving was very easy once we were on the right highway, and I figured out that the left lane is the fast lane in the states, not the slow lane (after many angry honks). I set the cruise control to 70mph and before I knew it we were in Yakima.
Yakima had an odd ‘wild west’ town vibe to it. While walking in the 30 degree heat to our first stop (The Beer Shoppe), we felt very out of place. You could almost feel the locals wondering what brought us there. Probably because we stuck out like sore thumbs, but it was a jarring difference in vibe coming from Seattle.
We arrived at the Beer Shoppe hot and thirsty, worked our way past the amazing array of off license shelves to the bar and ordered something refreshing.
The lineup was impressive, I settled on an amazing apricot sour from 10 Barrel while Denise had a Mosaic single hop IPA from Ninkasi. They were both excellent beers, but didn’t last long. So we had another each before heading down the road to Yakima Brewing’s new taproom.
The decor was sparse, mainly because they’d been open for three weeks and anyway, we were there to try their beers.
We took a seat at the bar next to some locals and ordered the tasting flight.
Their homebrew-esq branding promised little, but we were pleasantly surprised with one of the most well balanced and excellently brewed lineups of the trip so far.
Their pale ales were well balanced and clean, and unlike most West Coast breweries they actually had beers other than pale ales! The heather was interesting, the 1982 a solid amber and the good monk a bang on Belgian strong golden.
We got chatting to the others at the bar, one owned an apple orchard while the other was in town for an emergency services vehicle mechanics convention.
The orchard owner left, but came back moments later offering us a massive apple each from his own orchard as a welcome gift to Yakima. We also got on well with Caleb the mechanic, who was just discovering Yakima’s great beer scene after coming to decades of conferences there.
After solving the problems of NZ’s and USA’s beer industries we decided to share a cab with Caleb out to Bale Breaker brewing, a brewery right in the middle of a hop farm!
Being hop harvest season Bale Breaker was particularly idyllic as we arrived in the setting sun. The large, modern brewery was surrounded by rows and rows of hop vines thriving with hops ready for harvest. We frolicked in the hops while the light lasted then sampled the end product inside.
Bale Breaker’s beers were excellently made, but the lineup suffered from West Coast-itis. We could choose from four different pale ales, of varying strengths and hoppiness. They were great, but my palate was bored.
We got a taxi back to town, and Caleb invited us to the after party of the mechanics conference. We were told there was going to be free beer from a brewery he had a small investment in, so why not?
It was a surreal experience, hanging out in a room full of friendly mustachioed mechanics, drinking a great pale ale (can’t remember what it was) and talking about who knows what. I even drew upon my bar experience to help with a keg coupler issue.
We realised it was getting late, we had to drive the next day so should probably have some dinner. We headed back to the hotel (via Dairy Queen – gross) and wondered how the hell we ended up at a mechanics conference after party.
Slightly south of Yakima is the town of Toppenish, home to the American Hop museum. So the next day we hopped down to this tiny town, with our fingers crossed that the museum still existed.
We arrived to a lit up ‘open’ sign, so headed in. The jovial woman in charge welcomed us, we paid the $3 fee and were treated to a short but interesting video on hop cultivation, shot in the early 90’s.
After the video we were unleashed on the exhibits, where we saw some of the more ancient equipment. It was mostly focussed on the development of the US hop industry, and was fascinating to see how things were done back in the 1800’s. Most of the tools have been mechanised since, but it was cool to see some of the more simple equipment is still in use today.
We excited through the gift shop. I wanted ALL THE HOP THINGS but most of them were too heavy or delicate to bring back to NZ, so we settled on a prism with hops encased inside. The big wooden hop carvings will have to wait for next time.
We took the scenic route back to Seattle past Mt Rainer, which reminded me a lot of NZ roads. We had to navigate the spaghetti of Seattle’s highways to get back to the CBD, but luckily our GPS had a wonderful lane guide and we only got stuck in gridlock once.
We returned the car (without a scratch on it), hung out with Denise’s cousins for one last night then we were off to Portland!