After a morning of getting up early and traveling to Seattle - and subsequently waiting at the airport for about four hours for the rest of my colleagues to get in to Seattle - a cold beer was definitely on my schedule after we got checked into our hotel in Poulsbo, WA.
There was a "Liquor and Wine Store" just across the street from the Holiday Inn Express in Poulsbo. I went over there to see what they had for regional beers. Well, the sign on the store said, "Liquor and Wine Store" and that's just exactly what it was. They sold no beer in the place. Oh, they had a broken six-pack of Guinness bottles in a cooler, but that was it.
And their prices of wine were pretty good, too. A bottle of the Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington state that I find around here for $12 to $13 a bottle was $6.99 in the wine store. But since I wasn't looking for wine, I didn't get any. Still, it was one helluva price.
I went back over to the hotel and coerced a couple of my colleagues to go with me down the street to an Albertson's grocery store to get some beer. Albertson's did, indeed, have beer for sale, but the selection wasn't too large.
One thing that I was amazed they had - as I was amazed by the number of signs I saw for the product at various bars and restaurants throughout the Seattle area - was a load of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. P.B.R. is evidentially big in Seattle. My buddy, Randy Brekke - who drinks nothing BUT P.B.R. - would have been in heaven.
I found three six packs of beer to take back to the room. One was a pale ale from the Full Sail Brewing Company in Oregon; another was a sixer of the pale ale from the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau, AK; and the other was an R.J. King Wingwalker Amber Ale. I wasn't familiar with any of those breweries, so I thought I'd give them a try.
It turns out the Wingwalker Amber Ale is brewed by City Brewery in LaCrosse, WI - the old G. Heileman brewery, the former brewers of Old Style and Special Export. It turns out that City Brewery contracts with a number of small breweries out west, including the brewery that makes R.J. King - Melanie Brewery Co. - to make a number of craft beers. A quick search on the Internet shows that the Melanie Brewery is located in LaCrosse.
Hmm! You learn something new each day.
Actually, the Wingwalker Amber Ale wasn't all that great. Drinkable, but I let my colleagues finish off that six-pack.
However, the Full Sail pale ale was very good. Fail Sail is a small, but growing brewery located in Hood River, OR. Around since the mid-80's, Full Sail's beers are brewed in what was an old cannery along the Columbia River that had been abandoned in the early 70's.
Brewmaster Jamie Emmerson's hand-crafted brews have won numerous awards including gold medals for their Amber, Wassail Winter Ale and IPA beers at the Beverage Tasting Institute's 2006 World Beer Championships. The Full Sail pale ale received a silver medal at the championships, as well.
The Full Sail pale was hoppy, yet smooth. It was a wonderful beer. I wish I would have gotten some to take home. Maybe I can get the guys at Shunyata to send me some back to Iowa.
The other beer I bought was the Alaskan Brewing Company pale ale. Founded in the mid-80's by Geoff and Marcy Larson, Alaskan Brewing Company continues the fine brewing tradition that made the Juneau/Douglas area famous for their beers around the turn of the 20th century. Alaskan Brewing Company has also won a number of awards over the past 20 years for their brews.
The Alaskan pale was also very smooth and flavorful. I probably liked the Full Sail pale a little better - it had a little more of a forward flavor that I like in a good pale ale.
But while waiting for my plane at the Seattle/Tacoma airport, I decided to do a little "terminal bar hopping". I came out early to see if I could get on an earlier flight, but all United flights were full to Denver and Chicago for the day. So I got on the tram and visited three different bars in the terminal.
I was able to try the Alaskan Amber, which is Alaskan Brewing Co's flagship beer. It was one of the more flavorful amber ales I've had. It had a nice malt taste to it, with enough hops to allow the taste to linger. The color was a nice rich reddish-brown and had a nice aroma. It was a good beer.
All in all, as it was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest, I did like some of the craft beers they had to offer. I found the Full Sail and Alaskan beers robust, full of flavor and each had a smooth finish. The Wingwalker, well, it's a good beer. But not as good as the others. I'll definitely try and find more of the Full Sail and the Alaskan when I go on beer hunts in the future.