Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Tacoma On The Fly
Throughout the change and growth, the ups and downs, a common thread has stayed true for Tacoma’s history — how T-town relates to its beer. As far back as when Job Carr stirred wort alongside the banks of Commencement Bay in 1865 to the earliest laborers frequenting after-work saloons in the 1890s to the artisan breweries popping up today, our city has had a love affair with beer. It is only natural that with a mix of working class Scandinavians, Austria/Hungarians and Germans that someone (if not everyone) would be mixing their own homebrew. In pre-prohibition Tacoma, the brewery district housed Heidelberg, Milwaukee and Pacific Brewing and Malting companies. Today, we have new local favorites creating flavorful brews and bringing beer pride to the City of Destiny. Tacoma and beer: they go together, especially on today’s Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Tacoma On the Fly, a to-go flight of Tacoma brewed beer in bottles, cans, and growlers. (Apologies to Tacoma Brewing, Black Fleet, Dunagan and the other Tacoma breweries that we currently don’t have in stock.)
6.7% ABV, 10 IBU, growler
Once life returns back to normal, Duncan Susag, brother Alex Susag and cousin John Samuelson will open Sig Brewing on the edge of Tacoma’s Historic Brewery District, along Tacoma Avenue South in the building formerly occupied by Duncan’s concrete design firm, Studio Make. During construction of the beautiful concrete bar and other taproom artistry, head brewer Jeff Stokes, former head brewer at Three Magnets Brewing in Olympia, has been teasing the South Sound will his talent. Stokes’ Communication Is Key Lime drinks like a light bodied fruit beer, but reminds of key lime pie. Sabro hops coax out flavors of lime and coconut, but Stokes stoked the flavor more with a massive amount of key lime juice built upon Nabisco graham crackers and toasted coconut.
6.9% ABV, bottle
Officially, founders Mike Runion and head brewer Travis Guterson opened 7 Seas Brewing in 2009 in Gig Harbor, then opened and opened again as they moved into massive production plants in downtown Gig Harbor and another in Tacoma’s Historic Brewery District. Their 2019 Barrel Aged Saison rests upon Pilsner, wheat and rye malts, as well as used authentic Belgian Saison yeast. Guterson aged the saison for 14 months in French oak Bordeaux barrels on a blend of Brettanomyces, which consumes almost any type of sugar, including the cellobiose that is created during the toasting of the oak. It has a lovely aroma of spicy saison yeast, vinous and oaky notes. The flavor is rich and includes notes of yeast esters, oak tannins, slight spice and red wine. Some sweetness from the residual wine sugars present but fades into a smooth, dry finish.
6% ABV, 25 IBU, growler
Five owners — three with ties to the military, two accomplished homebrewers — opened Odd Otter Brewing Co. in downtown Tacoma during the summer of 2014 in a downtown Tacoma building built in the late 1880s, and later became the home of a Sailors and Soldiers Club during World War I and a USO Center in World War II. There have been a few changes over the years, including Greer Hubbard grabbing the helm in the brewhouse. His amber Altitudes is actually a classic altbier, a historic German beer that bridges the chasm between ales and lagers in a manner that flatters both. The crisp, clean Amber Altitudes has notes of toasted bread and slight caramel with subdued Hallertau hops.
8 ABV, 31 IBU, bottle
Anxious to start a business venture in the growing craft beer industry, homebrewer Ken Thoburn didn’t have to look far for inspiration for his brand, Wingman Brewers. With a grandfather who painted various nose art designs on a variety of World War II airplanes, Thoburn fell in love with the 1930-40s-era vintage military theme. Combine that with an area that has a large saturation of active-duty and retired Air Force and military members and Tacoma’s Wingman Brewers was born. Head Brewer Thoburn, including Derrick Moyer and Daniel Heath, started Wingman Brewers in April 2011, brewing beer to sell to local bars, restaurants and grocery stores out of a small storefront in Tacoma. Wingman Brewers took off in a big way, with a constant eye on their vintage military theme. The P-51 Porter was Wingman’s first real beer recipe. “It goes back to 2008 when Derrick (Moyer) and I were home brewing,” explains Thoburn. “At the time, Lazy Boy Porter from Everett was my favorite beer around, so we tried to emulate that. The beer was initially made for a friend’s birthday and called Nalty’s Tall Order Porter since he’s a tall dude and asked us to make a Porter for his birthday party. The beer went over so well with our friends that it remains the only recipe we’ve never changed since Wingman started … with Washington-grown barley and Moxie valley hops.” Wingman Brewers introduced a peanut butter and coconut porter to the Port Townsend Strange Brewfest several years ago. It was a huge hit. Wingman went on to separate the two flavors and release both as seasonals. The Peanut Butter Cup version hits the nose with sweetness, like a cola, plus remnants of some peanut butter. Taste is also sweet, with creamy elements of chocolate and peanut butter.
7.3% ABV, can
In the early ’90s, Dusty Trail converted the historic Engine House No. 9 bar into a brewpub, and brought back the Tacoma Brew, the famous Tacoma lager of 1888. Dick Dickens grabbed the reins in 2002, bringing in head brewer Doug Tiede. Heads turned and medals were hung. In 2011, X group purchased E-9, with Shane Johns running the kettles. Saisons and sours and gold medals followed. Today, the brewery, E9 Brewing, has moved out of the Engine House and into a much larger production facility and taproom in Tacoma’s Historic Brewing District. E9’s Swords And Sorcery showcases New Zealand grown hops, combining three of the best — Waimea, Motueka, and Rakau hops. Motueka is commonly referred to as the “Mojito” hop for its lime aromatics, while Rakau can tend to be all over the “orchard” in characteristics. Rakau exhibits apricot, to pear, to mango and plum aromatics, from these late edition hops.
7.2% ABV, 72 IBU, can
Narrows Brewing opens its doors in the summer of 2013, perched on pilings above Narrows waterway. Joe Walts, a quality control manager at Ale Asylum Brewing in Madison, Wisconsin, landed the head brewer job. One of the first beers he brewed as the Giant Pacific Octopus IPA, a potpourri of sweet, yeasty, floral, citrus, pine and malt on the nose and tongue. Walts is back at Ale Asylum, but there isn’t a better head brewer to continue wrangling the Giant Octopus than Matt Rhodes, who grew up and lived in the LA area. He renamed it OCTO IPA and changed the recipe to a malt bill of all 2-row grain, a foundation of Centennial, Chinook, and Columbus hops, and an ever-rotating modern dry-hopping for a soft, gently bitter and fruit-forward IPA.