Thursday, April 11th, 2024

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers April 11

Peaks & Pints barkeeps Bilbo Brandon, left, and Mathrandir break down today’s Tournament of Amber games.

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers April 11

MATHRANDIR: Over a three-week period, Peaks & Pints pits 64 of Middle-Northwest’s best in a malt-to-malt battle of amber and red ales. This is a tournament, folks, not a playoff. Each match is do or die — one misstep and they’re out of the dance. Not willing to put in the time, effort, and money to pull a water report and consult the available resources on brewing water chemistry, and you can pack your brewers paddle and go back to the Shire. Sure, there are plenty of brewers wearing “Lord of the Beer” T-shirts who can brew a mighty fine batch of pilsner. The Middle-Northwest’s finest ambers and reds purveyors brew it perfect every time. Greetings everyone. I’m Peaks & Pints barkeep Mathrandir and with me is Mr. Tournament of Ambers, Bilbo Brandon.

BILBO BRANDON: Thanks for the honor, Mathrandir! The Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers hosts competitions Monday through Friday up to the championship game Saturday, April 27 live at Peaks and Pints bottle shop, taproom, and restaurant in Tacoma’s Proctor District. Without further ado, let’s take a gander at yesterday’s results, followed by eight new ambers and reds hitting the Middle-Northwest courts today.

Wednesday, April 10, First Round Northwest Ambers games results

Bilbo Brandon and Mathrandir discuss Kulshan Brewing’s sucsess in past Tournament of Beer contests.


5. Bainbridge Brewing Arrow Point Amber vs. 12. Diamond Knot Brewing Slane’s Irish Red

MATHRANDIR: Bainbridge Brewing‘s Arrow Point Amber has its fair share of Washington Beer award medals for its strong malt-forward amber. Its bitter caramel and sweet biscuit character accented with noble hop flavor and aroma is a winning combination, at least according to the vote totals in the Tournament of Beer. Bainbridge slowly unraveled Diamond Knot all day ending with 67 percent of the vote for a spot in the Second Round.


4. No-Li Brewhouse Porch Glow Amber vs 13. Kulshan Brewing Local Amber

BILBO BRANDON: Kulshan Brewing is a winner. They win medals. They win hearts. They win Tournament of Beer: Northwest Pilsners. They know how to rally votes. They know how to rally around the family with a pocket full of shells. Sea shells, of course, because they’re the sweetest folks. Alright, alright, it’s like they once brewed our house beer Tree-dimensional IPA, or something. OK, Local Amber held a 60-something percent lead all day over No-Li Brewhouse’s popular Porch Glow amber, ending up with 64 percent of the votes and a date with the Second Round.

The Peaks barkeeps can’t believe what happened during the Ninkasi and Falling Sky game.


6. Barley Brown’s Point Blank Red vs 11. Oblivion Road Ryder Red

MATHRANDIR: Barley Brown’s Beer had point blank focus over Oblivion Brewing‘s Road Ryder Red all day grabbing the lead and never looked back, nabbing 64 percent of the votes when all was said and done. The Baker City brewery has bolstered its reputation as the little brewery that can. Over the years, Barley Brown’s has gained a national reputation for bringing home more gold and silver medals than any other brew pub in its class at the Great American Beer Festival. Obviously, Barley Brown’s is looking to add more hardware to their trophy case.


3. Ninkasi Brewing Dawn of the Red vs 14. Falling Sky Brewing Stormwalker Red

BILBO BRANDON: Ninkasi Brewing and fellow Eugene brewery, Falling Sky, were forced to close their food-forward operations due to the pandemic — Ninkasi Better Living Room and Falling Sky Pour House & Delicatessen. We can’t confirm this yet, but rumor is the two breweries met yesterday for a group hug in celebration of both breweries being nominated for the Tournament of Beer and to share notes about their satellite operations. Rain and umbrella themed Falling Sky forgot Ninkasi’s Dawn of the Red was built upon a zombie and red blood motif. In a surprise move, Dawn of the Red ate a good portion of Falling Sky’s votes, then staggered away with 57 percent of the vote win. Maybe Barley Brown’s Beer should rethink their strategy when they meet Dawn of the Red in the Second Round April 18.

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

5. Bainbridge Brewing Arrow Point Amber

13. Kulshan Brewing Local Amber

6. Barley Brown’s Point Blank Red

3. Ninkasi Brewing Dawn of the Red

BILBO BRANDON: 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. I’m back early tomorrow morning with Phaedra of Rohan to announce tomorrow’s winners.

Thursday, April 11, First Round Northwest Ambers & Reds Games

E9 Brewing Head Bartender Sean Jackson is ready for The Battle For Fawcett Avenue.


Character: Rowdy & Dick Amber (#1 seed)

House: E9 Brewing, Tacoma

Stats: 6.2%

MATHRANDIR: In the early ’90s, Dusty Trail converted the historic Engine House No. 9 bar into a brewpub at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Pine Street, officially becoming the first microbrewery in Tacoma. Dick Dickens grabbed the Engine House reins in 2002, bringing in head brewer Doug Tiede. Heads turned and medals were hung. In 2011, the X Group added the Engine House to their local restaurant empire, with Shane Johns and Donovan Stewart running the kettles and hanging even more medals, mostly for their sours and saisons. Two years ago, they separated the brewery from the restaurant and opened E9 Brewing in Tacoma’s Historic Brewery District. This past year, they have cranked out an endless supply of new, delicious beers, and added former Parkway Tavern manager Sean Jackson as lead bartender.

BILBO BRANDON: E9 named their flagship amber ale “Rowdy & Dick” in memory of the last two fire horses in pump-truck service at Engine House No. 9. It’s a Northwest-style amber brewed with British malts and Northwest hops for a sweet caramel and malty aroma, followed by more sweet malty notes, plus toffee with a drying finish.

Black Fleet Brewing founder Kyle Maxwell will aim his Fire Ship at E9 Brewing today.

Character: Fire Ship Smoked Red (#16 seed)

House: Black Fleet Brewing, Tacoma

Stats: 6.2%, 25 IBU

MATHRANDIR: Six years ago, Kyle Maxwell and Caitlyn Byce opened Black Fleet Brewing, a 10,000-square-foot, two-story brewery equipped with a 10-barrel system in Tacoma’s Historic Brewery District. They named it Black Fleet after Jeanne de Clisson, the Lioness of Brittany, who turned pirate after her husband was accused of treason and beheaded by the French. In turn, she sold her remaining belongings, bought a trio of ships, painted the hulls black, and dyed the sails crimson, creating the Black Fleet. Tacoma had a similar tough woman back in the day — Thea Foss. She started with a single rowboat, which she painted green and yellow. In 1904, her company had fleets of up to 200 ships, a shipyard, 10 boat launches and more.

BILBO BRANDON: A unique twist on a classic red ale, Fire Ship has flavors of dark caramel and toffee, balanced with smoked malt.


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Top Rung Brewing Taproom manager Lucas has triggered the Box Alarm.

Character: Box Alarm Amber (#8 seed)

House: Top Rung Brewing, Lacey

Stats: 5%, 30 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Top Rung Brewing opened 10 years ago with awarding-winning homebrew recipes and firefighting skills. Thurston County firefighters Casey Sobol and Jason Stoltz put Lacey on the craft beer map with solid craft beers back with solid business sense. Top Rung has moved higher and higher up the ladder: Its beers can now be found on draft and in bottles throughout Western Washington. Stoltz left Top Rung during the pandemic and his assistant brewer Tyler Mathias grabbed the brewhouse. Besides having a great sense of humor, he’s added new brewing techniques, tweaked the IPAs with hop oils, and brought his military days structure to the brewery, yet in a totally chill way. Mathias left two years ago making room for South Puget Sound Community College brewing school grad Gavin Rainwater to lead the brewery, post COVID.

MATHRANDIR: Their flagship Box Alarm Amber offers notes of toasted bread, caramel, and malty chocolate with a light hop bite finish.

Gig Harbor Brewing barkeep Natalia is ready to let the Rooster loose!

Character: Racing Rooster Red (#9 seed)

House: Gig Harbor Brewing, Gig Harbor & Tacoma

Stats: 6.1%, 30 IBU

MATHRANDIR: John Fosberg opened Gig Harbor Brewing more than eight years ago at 31st and South Tacoma Way on the edge of Tacoma’s Nalley Valley, after a year and a half of searching for a spot to open a brewery in Gig Harbor. Two years later, Fosberg opened a new Gig Harbor Brewing taproom in its namesake city. Located on Harborview Drive next to Skansie Brothers Park as a part of the Gig Harbor Marina and Boatyard building, Gig Harbor Brewing’s second taproom is right in the middle of the downtown hubbub.

BILBO BRANDON: Their Racing Rooster Red pays tribute to the live rooster races that Gig Harbor entrepreneur Clarence E. Shaw held on a miniature 80-foot oval racetrack in 1935, which made the national news. The Rooster Races continued to be a Gig Harbor tradition until the novelty finally wore off in 1948. Gig Harbor sells a ton of this red ale not only because of the history and the recent race resurrection on rooster bouncy balls, but also, it’s damn tasty with eight malts contributing notes of fig, molasses, dark chocolate, and earthy tones on the finish.



Character: Free Range Red (#6 seed)

House: Laurelwood Brewing, Portland

Stats: 5.9%, 50 IBU

MATHRANDIR: Mike De Kalb and Cathy Woo-De Kalb opened Laurelwood Brewing 23 years ago in the Hollywood District (later home to Columbia River Brewing and Pono Brewing). Over the next 10 years, they expanded, with locations in Sellwood, Northwest, and Portland International Airport. The Sandy pub was the sole remaining outpost after rising rents and market saturation took a toll. Last summer, Laurelwood Brewing, one of Portland’s oldest beer producers, closed that last pub. Laurelwood is still brewing beer for bars, restaurants, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

BILBO BRANDON: One of Laurelwood’s longest year-round brews, Free Range Red is a classic recipe with slightly more bitterness and hop aroma to balance out the strong malt backbone.

Character: Mecha Red (#11 seed)

House: Gigantic Brewing, Portland

Stats: 5.5%, 40 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Van Havig, former brewmaster at Rock Bottom Brewery in Portland, and Ben Love, previously a brewer at Pelican Brewing and head brewer at Hopworks Urban Brewery, added to Portland’s Beervana opening Gigantic Brewing 12 years ago. The two brewers figured out how to have two head brewers then proceeded to make delicious beer. Their taproom had a college clubhouse vibe. They brewed amazing one-offs. Their label art, signed by the artists, could hang in museums. And they would brew with the coolest rock stars.

MATHRANDIR: I remember when I was wee one wanting to own a giant. Mecha Red is like that — it’s like going back to a simpler time when caramel malt and some citrusy hops seemed like the most amazing thing.


Double Mountain Brewery Sales Executive Coco hoists an IRA during the brewery’s 17th Anniversary Party at their Hood River brewery last month.


Character: India Red Ale (#3 seed)

House: Double Mountain Brewery, Hood River

Stats: 6.5%, 65 IBU

MATHRANDIR: Matt Swihart co-founded Double Mountain Brewery 17 years ago in Hood River with business partner and fellow Full Sail Brewing employee Charlie Devereaux, who left six years later to eventually launch Wayfinder Beer and then Via Beer. Double Mountain Brewery & Cidery of Hood River has opened its second Portland location, a pub in the Overlook neighborhood of North Portland with a similar design as the brewery’s other Portland location in Woodstock — a neighborhood draw focused on locals.

BILBO BRANDON: Their India Red Ale, or IRA, has the hoppiness of a Middle-Northwest IPA and the earthy maltiness of a red ale. Dip the nose in for initial sweet, bready malt followed by light citrus and piney hops. On the tongue, expect orange and grapefruit hops balanced by earthy malt, honey, and light herbal spiciness.

Old Town Brewing barkeep Anne juggles pouring Paulie’s Not Irish Red with taking reservations for the Portland Ghost Tours.

Character: Paulie’s Not Irish Red (#14 seed)

House: Old Town Brewing, Portland

Stats: 5.6%, 30 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: As a child Adam Milne loved Old Town Pizza in Portland. He loved the garlicky, pizzeria-style pies. He adored the ghosts that haunted it. Twenty-one years ago, he purchased the downtown pizzeria from the Accuardi family. Five years later, Milne built a second location in the Northeast district of Portland, in his own King neighborhood, which would soon become a massive Valhalla-esque brewpub, Old Town Brewing. Since then, Milne has slowly but steadily started churning out award-winning beers under the guidance of head brewer Todd Britt.

MATHRANDIR: Their Paulie’s Not Irish Red is a refreshing session amber, possessing a soft balanced malt character. A touch of roast in the finish that plays well with the subtle hop character.


Friday April 12 Tournament of Northwest Ambers First Round action …

Game 1: Lazy Boy Brewing Amber Ale (#7 seed) vs Rainy Daze Brewing Test Drive Amber (#10 seed)

Game 2: Skookum Brewery Up River Amber (#2 seed) vs Triplehorn Brewing Folkvang Red (#15 seed)

Game 3: Oakshire Brewing Amber Ale (#5 seed) vs Three Creeks Firestorm Red (#12 seed)

Game 4: Rogue Ales Amber Ale (#4 seed) vs Kobold Brimestone Red (#13 seed)

LINK: Tournament of Beers: Northwest Ambers explained

LINK: Tournament of Beer Headquarters

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