Monday night I went to DC’s Brickskeller for a tasting of Pike Brewing beers presented by their head brewer Drew Cluley. This was night one of the five night Beer Gazetteer series sponsored by the Smithsonian and the Beer Institute.
The Pike brewery and pub is located in the bowels of Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. The last time I was there I was dodging tear gas and trying to avoid being arrested. It was during the “Battle of Seattle” where over 50,000 protesters from all over the world shut down the WTO and kick-started the decline of this anti-democratic global trade cabal.
(Left to right: Greg Kitsock, mystery man, Jim Dorsch, Drew Cluley. Greg and Jim edit and publish Mid-Altantic Brewing News and American Brewer and also organize the Beer Gazetteer events.)
In an onslaught reminiscent of the rubber bullets and pepper spray, Drew riddled us with eight rapid-fire beers in just two hours. He began with Naughty Nellie wheat beer, named after the madam who ran a building Pike occupied; the house Pale Ale and ESB; a terrifically aromatic and chewy Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale brewed with a handful of peat-smoked malts and aged with wood chips sterilized with Lagavulin single malt Scotch – my favorite beer of the night; and a classic West coast IPA.
Then, as if we weren’t already feeling the impact, Drew pummeled us with three strong ales in a row: Monks Uncle Tripel, which he described as projecting a distinct character of “brewers feet” due to the “wild” Belgian yeast strains used to ferment it; next was XXXXX Stout, pronounced “five ex Stout,” which he referred to as having an aroma of cigar; and finally the Old Bawdy Barley Wine, further riffing on Pike Place’s history of adult recreation.
A few bullets of wisdom I caught from Drew:
- Washington is the first (and I think only) state to establish a State Beer Commission, an agency with the mission of promoting Washington’s beers. Makes perfect sense considering that states have commissions for many of their other native products.
- The Naughty Nellie is brewed with organic malts because Pike owner Charles Finkel is keen to produce organic beers.
- In reference to how many small brewers share a spirit of cooperation, he commented, “We don’t ‘compete’ so much as we go to each other’s festivals hoping we’ll take home more medals.”
Night number two of the Beer Gazetteer series will be this coming Monday, featuring Tom Schlafly from the St. Louis Brewery.