It’s a rough gig having to write about beer. All the taste testing gives me the opportunity to try many, many beers, some that most people will never taste.
The craft beer industry is at a point where most breweries are stretching their flavor profiles and making good, solid beers. I don’t taste that many beers that make me second-guess why I’m writing about craft beer. Here in Snohomish County, most of it is not only high-quality but interesting and created with a compelling backstory, in collaboration with friends or for a great cause.
This past year was the year of the hazy IPA. Whether one calls them New England IPAs, Vermont IPAs or East Coast IPAs, the haze craze definitely took over the country as the “it” beer of the moment. Thanks to a friend, I had the opportunity to try a number of hazy IPAs straight from the source, sampling cans of beer from east coast breweries like Tree House Brewing, Trillium and The Veil Brewing.
Back here in Snohomish County, I tried a number of beers that were complex, interesting and downright tasty. Here’s a look at my favorite local beers from 2017:
1. Bourbon Barrel-aged Breakfast Stout, Skookum Brewery: Aged in bourbon barrels and finished on cold-pressed coffee, this smooth and creamy breakfast stout has notes of oak, bourbon, vanilla and coffee. Available on tap and in 12-ounce bottles at the brewery.
2. Brett’er Than Gold, Crucible Brewing: This was the most interesting beer I tried this year. A pumpkin beer made without spices but rather a healthy amount of Brettanomyces and aged in Woodinville Whiskey bourbon barrels. It’s funky, sweet and bitter. Not currently available.
3. Celebration Saison, 5 Rights Brewing: Using a unique blueberry/pomegranate candi sugar from Cascade Beer Candi, 5 Rights’ R.J. Whitlow created a saison that’s light, crisp and fruity for the brewery’s second anniversary. I can’t wait to see what he conjures for the upcoming brewery grand opening in 2018. Not currently available.
4. Cervoise d’Emily, Spada Farmhouse Brewery: The first sour beer in his Family Oak series, this beer is made with sweet cherries and aged in red wine barrels from Delille Winery. The cherries add sweetness and tartness to John Spada’s base sour yeast blend, and it’s a shining example of the young farmhouse brewer’s ability. Available on tap at the brewery.
5. Image of Objects, Skookum Brewery: My favorite hazy IPA Skookum head brewer Hollis Wood created this year. A SMASH (single malt/single hop) beer made with Mosaic (Image) hops and Talisman (Objects) malt from Skagit Valley Malting, it’s fruity and hoppy, while also being dry enough to keep you wanting more. Available on tap at the brewery.
6. Hickory Shampoo, At Large Brewing: Blasts of fruit hit the nose and then the palate in this New England-style IPA from one of the area’s best IPA purveyors. Brewed with two of the classic hazy IPA hops, Citra and Mosaic, this hazy IPA has notes of tangerine, guava and pineapple. Another of At Large’s hazy IPAs, The Chicago Typewriter, is a close second. Available on tap at the brewery.
7. Best Friends IPA, Scrappy Punk Brewing: The perfect name for a beer from brewer Greg Krsak, who makes you feel like a best friend the minute you walk in his brewery. Made with Mount Hood hops, the beer is moderately hoppy but has plenty of flavor. Such a good beer, Krsak served it as his wedding. Available on tap at the brewery.
8. Blackfish Stout, Scuttlebutt Brewing: Brewed to be poured at the commissioning ceremony of the USS Washington, a Virginia-class fast attack submarine, this stout is dark and roasty with a slightly sweet finish. As simple as it is complex, this was the best straight-up stout I had all year. Available in 22-ounce bottles at select locations.
9. Outlook Hazy, Justice Brewing: Brewed with Amarillo hops, this hazy New England-style IPA is juicy and slightly bitter in just the right combination. Not currently available.
10. Blood of My Enemies, Aesir Meadery/Whiskey Ridge Brewing: I’d never tried a braggot before (half beer, half mead), so this was definitely a new experience. This braggot was a mix of fireweed honey mead and Whiskey Ridge’s base amber ale, giving the beer a warm, sweet quality that marries well with the malty backbone. Available in 22-ounce bottles at Sno-Isle Coop.
In addition, here are five non-local beers I loved in 2017:
Cerveza Chukis, Mollusk Brewing: Refreshing and tasty dry-hopped Mexican lager is like what would happen if Pacifico was brewed in Seattle.
Double Dry Hopped Scaled, Trillium Brewing: Big notes of citrus and pineapple hit your palate up front while a refreshing bitterness balances everything on the back end.
Chestnut Brown, Wander Brewing: I’m usually swung by beers on nitro, so I was suckered into this one. Finished on roasted chestnuts, this brown ale is smooth, slightly hoppy and totally nutty.
3-Way IPA, Fort George Brewing: Gather three of the best IPA brewers in the Northwest together and have them craft one of the hottest styles of beer, a hazy IPA. What do you get? A juicy, fruit-forward IPA that is hard to put down.
Export Foreign Stout, Chuckanut Brewing: I spent a number of summer days at Chuckanut’s South Nut location in Burlington downing giant steins of this roasty, malty stout. Big malt finish meets drinkability.
Beers going on tap
Feliz Navidad Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout, Lost Canoe Brewing: A robust 10 percent chocolate stout with a warm spicy finish of ancho chile. Available on tap at the brewery.