Wednesday, April 10th, 2024

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers April 10

Peaks & Pints barkeeps Phaedra of Rohan and Bilbo Brandon call the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Day 4 action.

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers April 10

BILBO BRANDON: Amber brewing isn’t rocket science. Take some malt, add hot water, drain water, bring it to boil, add hops, cool it, add yeast, wait, serve, and enjoy. But hidden within those folds is a complexity that defines the short steps list. Brewing an amber is easy; making a great amber is another thing entirely. Opening a discussion on which Middle-Northwest breweries brew the best amber, as well as red ales, serves as our mission for the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers — that and trying to score free ambers from the competitors. Hello Hobbits! I’m Peaks & Pints barkeep Bilbo Brandon, and with me is fellow barkeep, Phaedra of Rohan.

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: What up, Bilbo? Below is a recap of yesterday’s action followed by eight new ambers and reds hitting the Middle-Northwest courts today.

Tuesday, April 9, First Round Northwest Ambers games results

Phaedra of Rohan and Bibo Brandon discuss the Narrows versus Triceratops game.GAME 1, SOUTHERN WASHINGTON REGION

7. Narrows Brewing Eldies Amber vs. 10. Triceratops Brewing Collin James Irish Red Ale

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Because Olympia, Washington, never sleeps, Triceratops Brewing’s Collin James Irish Red Ale jump to a big lead during the wee hours. Right around lunchtime, Narrows Brewing’s Eldies Amber woke up and went to work chipping away at Collin James’ lead. It’s didn’t work. Triceratops co-owner and head brewer Rob Horn replaced the old Fish Brewing — Now Ilk Beer — 5 p.m. whistle with a Horn horn summoning Thurston County to get out the votes. When the Peaks & Pints horn sounded at midnight, Collin James had 63 percent of the vote and a slot in the Second Round.


2. Silver City Ridgetop Red vs 15. 54-40 Brewing Red Zeppelin

BILBO BRANDON: Silver City Brewery’s Sales Dream Team set the cuckoo clock to 3 a.m. and went to work soliciting votes for their Ridgetop Red. It worked. They basically owned “74 percent” for the entire day sending the Red Zeppelin home. The Tournament of Beer Fellowship just dropped a pin on the Silver City Brewery. Ridgetop Red heads to the Second Round.


1. Full Sail Amber vs 16. Living Haus Kenny Hoppy Red Ale

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: In the Living Haus-hold, mornings begin early with espresso, avocado toast, laps around the brewery on fixie bikes, and then hit the grain bags while the marketing manager waters the 10,000 plants and hits the socials, which is why the Kenny Hoppy Red Ale had a big lead in the morning. Over in Hood River, Full Sail Brewing hikes the Hood River Mountain Loop before the sun rises, slams several River Daze Café breakfast sandwiches, logs several hours of windsurfing on the Columbia before hitting the tanks and socials, which is why Full Sail’s Amber Ale, the oldest amber ale in the Middle-Northwest, and certainly most of the country, didn’t start gaining on Kenny until after lunch. Full Sail Amber pulled within 25 percentage points but couldn’t get any closer. Hey, Kenny! You’re headed to the Second Round with 63 percent of the vote!


8. Zoiglhaus Brewing Ramona Red vs 9. Hopworks Brewing Galactic Imperial Red

BILBO BRANDON: You know what they say about Ramona — not the disaster on Real Housewives of New York, but rather the hoppy red ale brewed by Zoiglhaus. Ramona may not be able to distract the Eye of Sauron and give Frodo and Sam enough time to destroy the One Ring, but it can express its innermost self with Cascade and Columbus hops and that’s what matters. Ramona Red took a good look in the magic mirror, and then gathered all the votes. When all was said and drunk, Zoiglhau had a red ale in the Second Round with 64 percent of the vote.

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Let’s weed through the malts. The following are advancing to the Second Round:

Triceratops Brewing Collin James Irish Red Ale

Silver City Ridgetop Red

Living Haus Kenny Hoppy Red Ale

Zoiglhaus Brewing Ramona Red

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: OK, Let’s dive into today’s First Round action featuring four new amber and red ale battles. Please read all these words then go vote on Peaks’ Instagram Stories. Voting opens at 12:01 a.m. and ends at midnight. Bilbo Brandon and Peaks barkeep Mathrandir will announce the winners tomorrow morning around 10 a.m., even though the next four games will be underway.

Wednesday, April 10, First Round Northwest Ambers & Reds Games

Bainbridge Brewing barkeep Philip has an Arrow Point Amber pointed right at you.


Character: Arrow Point Amber (#5 seed)

House: Bainbridge Brewing, Bainbridge Island

Stats: 5.4%, 35 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Bainbridge Brewing was founded by law school graduate Russell Everett and his father, Chuck, in the Coppertop Sportsman Business Park on Sportsman Club Road. Head Brewer Russell was an award-winning homebrewer, former professional brewer and recovering lawyer intent on turning the microbrewery of his dreams into a hoppy reality. A graduate of Bainbridge High School, he returned to create something special for the Island and the West Sound community. Since opening, the brewery has developed a well-earned reputation for the quality of its beers, reflected in a string of Washington Beer Awards.

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Technically a German-style amber altbier that had a ridiculous number of nominations to seed it fifth in the Northern Washington Region, Arrow Point Amber has a strong malt-forward character accented with Noble hop flavor and aroma. With notes of bitter caramel and sweet biscuit, this beer fits well in this tournament.

Diamond Knot barkeep Emily invites you to Mukilteo for an Irish red ale.

Character: Slane’s Irish-Style Red Ale (#12 seed)

House: Diamond Knot Brewing, Mukilteo

Stats: 5.6%, 35 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Bob Maphet and Brian Sollenberger, two Boeing employees, founded Diamond Knot Craft Brewing thirty years ago. The story behind the Diamond Knot brand name harkens back to the 1947 shipwreck of the Diamond Knot cargo ship. Bob and Brian named the brewery Diamond Knot to honor the hard-working and innovative operations crew of the salvage, and as a reminder of what is possible when you have dreams and ambition. The two handled all production and distribution in the evenings over the first four years out of subleased space in an alehouse, then opened the Brewery & Alehouse on the Mukilteo waterfront. Diamond Knot is the first microbrewery in Mukilteo and the oldest in Snohomish County. Sadly, Brian died in an apparent accident at his home then Bob, who retired, passed away following surgery. Co-owner Andy Eason, longtime VP of Retail Operations, stepped in as President & CEO. Co-owner Pat Ringe continues as VP of Brewing Operations, and recently took on the title of Director of Sales.

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Sad, indeed. Their Slane’s Irish-Style Red Ale hits the nose with caramel giving way to a bold, distinct malty flavor with a delicate hop bite and smooth finish.


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No-Li Brewhouse barkeeps Victoria and Zach are all a glow over their Porch Glow nomination into the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers.


Character: Porch Glow Amber Ale (#4 seed)

House: No-Li Brewhouse, Spokane

Stats: 5%, 10 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: What began as Northern Lights Brewing became the multiple award-winning No-Li Brewhouse on the banks of the Spokane River in downtown Spokane. The brewery that created “Spokane Style” beers has a mantle full of craft beer awards such as Great American Beer Festival, Japan International Beer Competition, Brussels International Beer Competition, European Beer Star Competition, National Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association and five medals at the Washington Beer Awards including Large Brewery of the Year. Owners John and Cindy Bryant put Spokane on the map as a craft beer destination while giving back to the community.

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Their Porch Glow has an added a touch of Chocolate malt to this lager-like amber with just enough hops to keep it balanced. It’s slightly fruity with a hint of roasted malt that finishes crisp and refreshing.

Kulshan barkeep Luke calls the locals for Local Amber.

Character: Local Amber (#13 seed)

House: Kulshan Brewing, Bellingham

Stats: 5.5%, 31 IBU

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Founded by Bellingham native David Vitt, Kulshan Brewing doubled the size of their brewhouse to 15 barrels in one year. Three years later, Kulshan opened a second brewery, affectionately named “K2”, across town with a 30-barrel brewhouse. Seven years after opening, Kulshan won the Peaks & Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Pilsners with their German-Style Pilsner. During COVID, Kulshan opened Trackside Brewery and Beer Garden, a pilot brewery and seasonal, pop-up beer garden located on the former Georgia Pacific paper mill site in downtown Bellingham’s redeveloping waterfront district. Director of Brewing Operations Wes Finger is another reason to vote for Kulshan. Besides brewing delicious, award-winning beers, he’s a helluva nice guy.

BILBO BRANDON: Word. Their Local Amber received enough votes to be a 13th seed in the North Washington region. It’s odd that a Whatcom County release-only amber received more votes that the more widely distributed Red Cap Red. Maybe folks meant Red Cap went they wrote “Amber” on their nomination ballots. Or maybe not. The smooth and malty Local Amber did receive a bronze medal at the 2023 Washington Beer Awards.


Barley Brown’s barkeep April keeps the Point Blank Red pints coming and taproom laughing.


Character: Point Blank Red (#6 seed)

House: Barley Brown’s Beer, Baker City

Stats: 5.4%

BILBO BRANDON: Barley Brown’s founder Tyler Brown, then 7, and his family loaded up their Volkswagen van and left Connecticut for Seattle. It broke down in Baker City. They stayed and opened a bakery. Then, 24 years later, Tyler opened the brewery. Step inside the Western-ish motif taproom and gaze at their wall of medals. They’re a medal-winning machine, including five medals and small brewery of the year at the Great American Beer Festival.

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Their Point Blank Red is brewed with Carmel and Chocolate malts, and lightly hopped with Oregon-grown Crystal hops. It’s a delicious red ale that hits the right blend of caramel and roasted malt flavors and hopped at the right level.

Character: Road Ryder Red (#11 seed)

House: Oblivion Brewing, Bend

Stats: 5.9%, 38 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: In Walnut Creek, California, Darin Butschy started homebrewing in high school and washing kegs at Devil Mountain Brewing where he apprenticed under Brewmaster Jim DeBoer (now at Samuel Adams), learning the craft of production brewing. At age 19, Butschy became the head brewer at SLO Brew in San Louis Obispo while studying chemistry at California Polytechnic State University. Eventually, SLO Brew evolved into Firestone Walker, and Darin worked at Firestone for another year and half. He traveled to Oregon for a snowboarding trip, and fell in love with Mt. Bachelor and Bend. He completed his degree in chemistry in 1994, packed his bags, and moved to Bend. He homebrewed, worked several jobs, and started a family. Nineteen years later, he opened Oblivion Brewing Company on a half-barrel system brewing five to six times a week until he pieced together a 10-barrel system a year later. His low-key brewery and tasting room located on Plateau Drive in northeast Bend offers a lineup of core beers and several seasonals. He delivers beers around Central Oregon too.

PHEADRA OR ROHAN: His smooth Road Ryder Red is heavily dry hopped with fruit character and a little bitter on the end.



Character: Dawn of the Red (#3 seed)

House: Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene

Stats: 7%, 66 IBU

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Eighteen years ago, Ninkasi Brewing set out with a single mission: Perpetuate Better Living. Operating under this core purpose, the brewery has grown from a two-man team — Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge — to become the 35th largest craft brewery in the United States, operating entirely from its facilities in Eugene, Oregon and employing more than 100 employees. Producing award-winning craft beers, giving back to each community that serves its beers, and garnering national recognition as a top employer are just a few milestones the brewery has achieved since it opened with Total Domination IPA. The chronicle of Ninkasi Brewing’s ownership changes looks like this. Five years ago, Ninkasi’s owners sold a majority stake in the company to Legacy Brewers. A year later, Ninkasi’s founders bought the company back. Last year, Ninkasi merged Wings & Arrow, and the founding of Great Frontier Holdings. Ninkasi’s taproom in Eugene is set to reopen in May.

BILBO BRANDON: Ninkasi’s Dawn of the Red is an easy-drinking, malt-driven beer, with a very clean, crisp grain character and a hint of crystal sweetness, backed up by lightly fruity hops.

Falling Sky barkeep Action Jackson!

Character: Stormwalker Irish Red (#14 seed)

House: Falling Sky Brewing, Eugene

Stats: 5%, 15 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: After brewing for nearly nine years in an alley in Eugene, Oregon, and on the heels of his business partner Jason Carriere leaving, owner Rob Cohen sold Falling Sky Brewing to a beer enthusiast and Falling Sky regular, Stephen Such. Such brought his 20 years in the financial services industry to his passion in brewing. Falling Sky has created hundreds of beer recipes with head brewer Scott Sieber, who remained the head brewer after the sale. Falling Sky Brewing’s namesake comes from Fallen Sky Juniper Rye, the favorite home-brew of the original brewers working under former owner Cohen.

PHAEDRA OF ROHAN: Their Stormwalker Irish Red features the only barley grown and malted in Ireland, which is cool. It hits the nose with malt and toffee, followed by caramel sweetness, roast, and earthy hops.


Thursday, April 11 Tournament of Northwest Ambers First Round action …

Game 1: E9 Brewing Rowdy & Dick Amber (#1 seed) vs Black Fleet Fire Ship Smoked Red (#16 seed)

Game 2: Top Rung Box Alarm Amber (#8 seed) vs Gig Harbor Racing Rooster Red (#9 seed)

Game 3: Laurelwood Free Range Red (#6 seed) vs Gigantic Mecha Red (#11 seed)

Game 4: Double Mountain IRA (#3 seed) vs Old Town Paulie’s Not Irish Red (#14 seed)

LINK: Tournament of Beers: Northwest Ambers explained

LINK: Tournament of Beer Headquarters

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