Monday, April 8th, 2024

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers April 8

Peaks & Pints barkeeps Monicadriel and Bilbo Brandon call today’s Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers action.

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers April 8

BILBO BRANDON: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, Wizards, Elves, and Dwarves, to the 2024 Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers from the historic Proctor District in beautiful Tacoma, Washington. I’m Peaks & Pints barkeep Bilbo Brandon and seven years ago we challenged the public to vote for their favorite Washington brewed IPAs. We tallied the nominations and seeded 64 top vote getters in a tournament-style beer combat, IBUs versus IBUs — because IBUs were still a thing — with Rainy Daze Goat Boater IPA paddling away with the trophy. The next year, 2018, Middle-Northwest brewed porters took center stage in our quest for malty mightiness, with Wingman Brewer’s P-51 Porter reigning supreme. In 2019, the year our Pappi Swarner and the Peaks & Pints Weather Guy called the games, Kulshan Pilsner made Bellingham proud in our pilsner tournament.

MONICADRIEL: The following year, 2020 is when us Peaks barkeeps called the games without a barstool in sight inside Peaks & Pints.

BILBO BRANDON: Indeed, Monicadriel. It was the Tournament of Flagships and had to talk loud through our masks. We opened it up to California that year to bring in Sierra Nevada, Stone, Lagunitas and ilk. Pelican Brewing’s Kiwanda Cream Ale beat Deschutes Black Butte Porter in the Championship game.

MONICADRIEL: Right! Also, weird that Deschutes and many other high-volume production breweries don’t have ambers and reds in this year’s Tournament of Ambers. Many of those breweries, such as pFriem, Fort George, Georgetown, Chuckanut, and Everybody’s Brewing, either never brewed an amber or red ale or have discontinued them due to lack of sales. Also, shocking that number one seeded Mac & Jack’s African Amber, the one of the oldest ambers in the nation, was beat by 16th seed Stemma First Amber.

BILBO BRANDON: Yup, many a bracket has been already broken. Anyway, in 2021, the masked public voted Block 15 Brewing’s Sticky Hands the champion of the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Double IPAs.

MONICADRIEL: That was the year Pappi Swarner paired the double IPAs with hiking trails because many of the brewery taprooms were still closed. It was also the year Portland ruffians broke into Swarner’s Jeep while he was on the Tournament’s promotional tour stealing all the double IPAs, so the hiking trail and beer pairing was short lived. Also, since this year’s Tournament is set in Middle-Northwest, I believe we’re calling Pappi Swarner — Pappi The Grey.

BILBO BRANDON: I think his legs thanked the ruffians. In 2022, we hosted the Tournament of Northwest Lagers with Tacoma’s own E9 Brewing winning with their Detour Ahead hoppy lager.

MONICADRIEL: Last year, the Tournament of Beer was back in full force with 64 Middle-Northwest brewed pale ales battling and E9 Brewing gabbing the trophy for a second year in a row for their Don of Time Pale Ale.

BILBO BRANDON: Which brings us to this year, the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers, featuring 64 Middle-Northwest brewed amber and red ales, all seeded by public vote, and separated into four regions: Northern Washington, Southern Washington, Northern Oregon, and Southern Oregon. The top 64 vote getters — the cream of the malts — are competing Monday through Friday with the hype on our website, but the actual voting happened on Peaks’ Instagram Stories, until the best Middle-Northwest amber of red ale is crowned on April 27.

MONICADRIEL: It’s just like March Madness, only with way more Munich malts. The Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers grand champion will be announced at the Tournament of Beer Championship Party April 27, at our craft beer and cider bar, bottle shop, and restaurant. We’ll tap the final two amber and red ales that morning and cut off the online voting at 5 p.m. then host in-person ballot voting at our Championship party until 8 p.m. We hope the two breweries will be in the house to join in on the fun. Like every year, the champion brewery will receive a permanent handle at Peaks through the spring and summer 2024. The ballots will double as raffle tickets for a Yeti Cooler plastered with stickers from the Tournament’s participating breweries, although I tell you right now Pappi The Grey forgot to collect many of them when he was on the Tournament Tour last month.

BILBO BRANDON: That’s why he’s Pappi The Grey. 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 & Pints’ Instagram Stories. Voting opens at 12:01 a.m. and ends at 11:45 p.m. Barkeeps Amber and Trish will announce the winners tomorrow morning around 10 a.m., even though the next four games will be underway.

MONICADRIEL: Let’s get to voting!

Monday, April 8, First Round Northwest Ambers & Reds Games


Character: Arson (#6 seed)

House: Heathen Brewing, Vancouver

Stats: 6.4%, 15 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: In 2012, Sunny Parsons founded Heathen Brewing in a converted barn near his home in outer Vancouver. With “Progressive Ales for the Promiscuous Palate” as the mission statement, Parsons and co-owner and head brewer Rodney Stryker made small batches with local ingredients basically in the backwoods before opening their Feral Public House, a 2,000-square-foot restaurant and taproom in downtown Vancouver in 2015. Then, in October 2016, Heathen acquired a 20-acre vineyard in Brush Prairie. It opened the following April. The brewery has been voted in our Tournament of Beer almost every year.

MONICADRIEL: And every year, almost, Pappi The Grey pulls up to the downtown Vancouver Heathen taproom and it’s closed. Seriously. It’s either a Monday or they don’t have the beer on tap or something weird happens and they’re closed. It happened again this year. He hit Vancouver on a Monday, and then on his way back up from Bend, it was a Monday. So, he didn’t drink the mild, yet complex Heathen Arson Red Ale, or take a photo. The public did nominate it as a number six seed, which says it all.

Barrel Mountain Pizza & Pints barkeep Corbin sounds the Ash Cloud horn!

Character: Ash Cloud Amber (#11 seed)

House: Barrel Mountain Brewing, Battle Ground & Vancouver

Stats: 5.25%, 25 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: When you think of mountain cabins, many things come to mind: wood, saws, wood, ski hardware, wood, canoe oars and wood. In Battle Ground, Washington, there’s a mountain cabin motif brewery with all that goodness, plus a chair made of ropes, metal siding and a bit of Kentucky shabby chic. Not only did Barrel Mountain owner Troy Steigman bring the outdoors indoors to a former laundromat, but he also added a scratch kitchen, well-equipped brewery, and hired brewer Ryan Pearson, formerly of Green Flash and La Quinta in Southern California. The beers reflect the expertise Pearson brings to the table, with a variety of well-made styles, including Ash Cloud Amber.

MONICADRIEL: Earlier this year, Barrel Mountain opened a taproom and pizza joint in downtown Vancouver, and they’re killing it. The full pizza menu offers cornmeal crust, classics, and specialty pies, plus a full menu of favorites from their Battle Ground pub. Named after the cloud of ash that formed after Mt. St Helens erupted in 1980, their Ash Cloud Amber is brewed with seven different malts to create a well-balanced smooth profile with just enough sweetness and a touch of chocolate.


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Wet Coast Brewing bartender Kenzie packs their Gig Harbor taproom every time she’s on shift.


Character: Hi Jack! Red Ale (#3 seed)

House: Wet Coast Brewing, Gig Harbor

Stats: 5.5%, 33 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: West Pierce Fire and Rescue firefighters Bryan Copeland and Aaron Johnson are the brewers and co-owners behind the business, along with their wives Molly Copeland and April Johnson. They started planning their brewery for years but didn’t get serious until 2012. They opened in Gig Harbor on a 3.5-barrel brewing system, with three 7-barrel bright tanks and four 7-barrel fermenters, which has since been replaced by a much larger system. The love affair with the Prohibition era is particularly evident at Wet Coast Brewing — for instance “Hi Jack!” was used in speakeasies as a code word for law enforcement.

MONICADRIEL: Hi Jack!, the red ale, is brewed with Crystal and Black malts for a deep red hue and smooth body. Centennial hops provide floral and citrus notes with a small amount of bitterness to balance the beer.

Sig Brewing Amber Rambler

Character: Amber Rambler (#14 seed)

House: SiG Brewing, Tacoma

Stats: 5.4%, 25 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Duncan Susag, brother Alex Susag and cousin John Samuelson opened 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. Head brewer Jeff Stokes was cranking out delicious craft beers before they officially opened. Last fall, Stokes brewed Amber Rambler red ale.

MONICADRIEL: Apparently, the popular Amber Ramble recently blew its last keg. Enough folks enjoyed it to nominate the balanced malty sweetness and hop bitterness amber into the Tournament but did enough taste it to battle fellow Pierce County brewery Wet Coast longtime red ale, Hi Jack!? The votes will tell.


Migration barmaid Devon is ready to take on Ancestry Brewing in First Round Action.


Character: Cannon Ball NW Red (#5 seed)

House: Migration Brewing, Portland

Stats: 7.1%, 55 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Since opening in Northeast Portland, Migration Brewing has added a production facility and brewpub in Gresham filling the 20,000 square-foot building with 17,000 housing a new 20-barrel brewhouse and the rest a brewpub. Next, they opened Migration on Williams in North Portland’s bustling Williams neighborhood with one of the best beer patios in town and an elevated food program.

MONICADRIEL: Brewed with Crystal, Centennial, Amarillo, and Simcoe hops, Dwarves will dig Migration’s Cannon Ball NW Red’s lingering dry resinous hoppy bitterness. I’m sure the Hobbits will appreciate the caramel malts, toffee notes and citrus and tropical nose.

Ancestry owner Jerry Turner and his family are ready to take on Migration’s Cannon Balls.

Character: Irish Red (#12 seed)

House: Ancestry Brewing, Tualatin

Stats: 5.4%, 21 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Ancestry Brewing was founded in Tualatin, Oregon by US Navy Jerry Turner and his family, including General Manager Jeremy Turner who has been in the beer business for nearly 25 years. Jerry wanted the brewery to be a family business — thus the brewery’s name. The company quickly gained popularity and expanded north to the Portland area the following year. Since then, Ancestry has won several awards for its Irish Red Ale, Belgian Dark Strong Ale, and Kolsch. Ancestry’s brewing operation is headed up by Sam Scoggin who replace Trevor Lauman, a graduate of the fermentation science program at Oregon State University, who went on to open Oak Union Brewing in Portland.

MONICADRIEL: Their award-winning Irish Red is brewed with Red X, Dark 2-row and Castle specialty malts, plus roasted barley, for hints of caramel and toast in this red hued Irish beer. Irish Ale yeast and EKG hops add a drinkable flavor to this Tournament nominated red ale.


The 8 a.m. thunder and lighting storm didn’t stop Pelican Brewing Cannon Beach bartender Kaile from pouring pints of Sea’n Red.


Character: Sea’N Red (#4 seed)

House: Pelican Brewing, several locations along the Oregon Coast

Stats: 5.4%, 25 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Jeff Schons and Mary Jones founded English-focused Pelican Brewing Company in Pacific City — Oregon’s only oceanfront brewpub. Celebrating its 26th year, founding brewmaster Darron Welch and Pelican have won more than 300 awards including the 2014 World Beer Cup Champion Small Brewing Company and Brewmaster of the Year, and last week Welch was inducted into the Oregon Beer Awards Hall of Fame.

MONICADRIEL: Their smooth, richly flavored Sea’N Red Irish Red Ale hits the nose with toffee, caramel, and cocoa with a subtle floral bouquet. The lush aroma gives way to a full, rounded malty flavor with toasty biscuit-like character and notes of caramel. Sip and sea for yourself — Sea’N Red is a round malty brew whimsically served up in a bold, colorful name.

Character: Red Rhino (#13 seed)

House: McMenamins, Oregon and Washington

Stats: 6%, 82 IBU

BILBO BRANDON: Forty-one years ago in Portland, unemployed Mike McMenamin bought the former Fat Little Rooster tavern and renamed it the Barley Mill. His brother, Brian, soon joined in and today they own a McMenamin of 60 pubs, taverns, clubs, hotels, dance halls and a village called Edgefield. The McMenamins have the golden touch — to convert desuetude into quirky, funky, artful joints to gather and drink where there’s never a white wall, and even the exposed pipework is decorated with tiny goblin faces.

MONICADRIEL: Their Red Rhino is a red ale rich in color and flavor. It has just the right combination of Crystal malt to give this ale its signature deep red hue and is hopped with pungent Centennials and Cascade hops before receiving a dry hop of more Centennial. It’s one of the hoppiest reds in the tournament.


Tuesday, April 9 Tournament of Northwest Ambers action

Game 1: Narrows Brewing Eldies Amber (#7 seed) vs. Triceratops Brewing Collin James Irish Red (#10 seed)

Game 2: Silver City Brewery Ridgetop Red (#2 seed) vs. 54-40 Brewing Zeppelin Amber (#15 seed)

Game 3: Full Sail Amber (#1 seed) vs. Living Haus Kenny Hoppy Red (#16 seed)

Game 4: Zoilghaus Ramona Red (#8 seed) vs. Hopworks Urban Brewery Galactic Imperial Red (#9 seed)

LINK: Tournament of Beers: Northwest Ambers explained

LINK: Tournament of Beer Headquarters

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