For the past few months I’ve been living in a beer desert. Having given up the suds for Lent, I was left to drink coffee, tea and nonalcoholic beer. It was a good exercise — I try to give up beer to keep my regular imbibing in perspective — but it wasn’t an easy time to go dry.
Giving up beer was on top of a year I rarely had opportunity to darken the door of my favorite local breweries and visit with some of my favorite people. I love brewers, brewery owners and beer drinkers. There’s just something about sitting down, catching up, comparing tasting notes and more over a pint.
But beer seems to be back. Not only am I regularly writing about beer again, but doors are open, patios are full and the beer is flowing. In the past few weeks, I’ve cracked open Skookum’s newest barleywine, Heavier is the Head, enjoyed one of my favorite beers, 5 Rights’ We Be Kings and was pleasantly surprised by Reuben’s Brews Puffs of (Classified), which features a hop that is too new to even be numbered. If you haven’t had the beer and enjoy intense tropical IPAs, I highly recommend it.
Last week, I celebrated a friend’s birthday with a beer crawl from Everett’s At Large Brewing to 5 Rights in Marysville and then on to The Republic bottleshop in Marysville. It was a glorious time and the first time in a long time I’d visited multiple beer spots in the same night. It was crowded everywhere we went, and social distancing and masks were the norm.
5 Rights owner and head brewer R.J. Whitlow sidled up to our table and chatted about his new expanded space, which was perfect since the tables had to be a safe distance from each other. Whitlow is back to his regular schedule of brewing and is having trouble keeping up.
“It’s so encouraging to see people starting to live their lives again, meeting family and friends and building community together,” Whitlow said. “It was a crazy year, but you can see how people are ready to move forward — although a little bit more carefully than before.”
Breweries have reinvented themselves during the pandemic, and now it’s our opportunity to see it all with fresh eyes. SnoTown Brewing in Snohomish revamped its outdoor seating, creating a music stage and plenty of places to sit and drink. The brewery also started canning and installed a roll-up window so patrons so you can hear live music from inside the bar.
For me, I can’t wait to visit John Spada and his new space in downtown Snohomish. The pictures of Spada Farmhouse Brewery’s new space look as beautiful as the sour and farmhouse beers that pour out of its taps. I’m also excited to get back to Audacity in Snohomish and check in with Adam Frantz at Sound to Summit in Everett. In Bothell, Foggy Noggin is still only open for beer-to-go, but I’ll be swinging back in as soon as owner Jim Jamison decides to open the doors again.
“My phone is ringing off the hook asking if and when we’ll be reopening,” said Jamison, who added that they’re hoping to reopen to on-site drinking later this spring.
It’s been a tough year for local brewers. Most survived — some just barely. I can’t stress this enough: Get out. Buy a pint. Get something to go. Say hello and bump an elbow. Your local brewers have missed you.
Bothell’s Wildwood Spirits offers nonalcoholic gin: As I stated earlier in the column, I took a break from alcohol for 40 days. Thankfully nonalcoholic options have increased over the past couple of years.
Add Bothell’s Wildwood Spirits to the list. Wildwood, which makes award-winning gin, vodka and bourbon whiskey, announced that it has released Ginnocence, a nonalcoholic distilled gin with zero carbs and zero sugars. According to the distillery, Ginnocence shares the same profile and botanical structure as Wildwood’s Kur gin.
I wrote about nonalcoholic brews when I gave up beer in 2020 for Dry January. The best of the bunch I tasted then, Athletic Brewing, is still the best on the shelf now. In fact, Athletic has expanded its offerings and even has a pilot series that club members can sign up for.