Sunday, April 28th, 2024

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers winner and recap

Triplehorn Brewing’s Amber Clowes raises her Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Champion, Folkvang Red.

Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers winner and recap

Amber ale in 2024 might seem a little passé in a world dominated by hazies, adjunct-laden stouts and barrel-aged beasts. But not that long ago, amber was the ale that practically built the craft beer house, as you have witness during the Peaks & Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers. Immensely sessionable and immediately recognizable, amber ales were easy to drink — making it an enticing prospect to macro drinkers looking for something different — while also being flavorful enough for seasoned drinkers in search of something lighter. Sure, many beers, from IPAs to extra special bitters to barleywines, have a decidedly amber hue to them, but amber they are not. What makes an amber an amber is the malt: soft and sweet with notes of caramel, raisin, maybe even biscuit. Add toasted barley, darker color, more bitterness and high alcohol and you have a red ale.

In February 2024, Peaks & Pints surveyed Middle-Northwest denizens to nominate their favorite ambers and reds brewed in Washington and Oregon. Then, April 5-27, Peaks & Pints bottle shop, taproom and restaurant in Tacoma’s Proctor District pitted the top 64 nominated amber and red ales against one another in the mother of all craft beer brackets. You saw the carnage: No. 1 seeds fell, powerhouses butted heads, and surprise ambers made a run at the prize. Below is a recap of the 2024 Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers.

The first two weeks saw the bracket shaking off the flagships and one-offs as early matches cut the field from 64 to the Saccharification 16. Three top seeds didn’t make the cut, including number one seed Mac & Jack’s African Amber, number one seed Full Sail Amber Ale, and E9 Brewing Rowdy & Dick Amber, leaving three-fourths of the bracket wide open.

Week three was when the serious work began, with only the best of the bracket trying to brew ambers and reds into the Final Four.

Peaks & Pints barkeep Mathrandir reveals that he’s actually Peaks bartender Matthew Usher. Mind blown!

Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Regional Winners

In the Northern Washington Region, 16th seeded Stemma Brewing First Amber made it to the Ethanol 8 only to be knocked out in the next round by 15th seeded Viking-themed Triplehorn Brewing Folkvang Red — the beer that ended Boundary Bay Brewing’s Railroad Ave. Amber run in the Saccharification 16.

In the Southern Washington Region, Cinderella (with three horns) story and 10th seed Triceratops Brewing Collin James Irish Red shocked the world by beating Silver City Ridgetop red in the Second Round and Wet Coast Hi Jack! Red in the Saccharification 16. As mentioned earlier, number one seed and two-time Tournament of Beer champion E9 Brewing saw its beloved Rowdy & Dick Amber fall to fellow South Sound brewery Top Rung Brewing and its Box Alarm Amber. Top Rung knocked 7 Seas Brewing‘s Cutts NW Amber out in the Saccharification 16 but fell to Triceratops in the Ethanol 8.

In Northern Oregon Region, fourth seed Pelican Brewing Sea’N Red and third seed Double Mountain India Red Ale won easy victories on the way to the region’s Ethanol 8, with amazing victories over tough opponents Living Haus Kenny Hoppy Red and Buoy Beer NW red, respectively. Pelican, with its multiple statewide brewpubs and warehouse full of brewery medals, sent I.R.A. back to Hood River as Sea’N red moved into the Final Four.

Deven won the Yeti Cooler at the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Championship Party.

In the Southern Oregon Region, Boneyard Beer gobbled up votes left and right with their number one seed Diablo Rojo — a red ale that took down Bend Brewing and Kobold Brewing while number two seed Block 15 Ridgeback Red knocked off Cascade Lakes, Crux, and Barley Brown’s to face Boneyard in the Ethanol 8. Diablo Rojo kept the lead all day even though Ridgeback Red had big vote surges. The surges, however, weren’t sustainable and Diablo Rojo let out a devilish laugh at the final buzzer.

Triplehorn Folkvang Red, Triceratops Collin James Irish Red, Pelican Sea’N Red, and Boneyard Diable Rojo — sorry ambers, reds ruled the Final Four.

Deep in our hearts we knew Triplehorn had the network, and frankly the red with peat notes to pull it off, but what a thrill ride for Triceratops’ Collin James. Triplehorn grabbed 62 percent of the vote and was the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Washington state champion.

The Tournament of Beer Fellowship called it the “game of the tournament,” which is hard to argue with since Pelican’s Sea’N Red and Boneyard’s Diablo Rojo have huge followings and handily beat their opponents. When the last red was poured, and a lead it gave up many times in the Final Four, Diablo Rojo grabbed 54 percent of the vote and won Oregon.

Triplehorn Brewing’s Amber Clowes and Boneyard Beer’s Ryan Bryne worked the room for votes.

Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Championship Game

John won the One Ring To Rule Them All.

Triplehorn Folkvang Red versus Boneyard Beer Diablo Rojo — Vikings versus the Devil — the Peaks and Pints Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Champion Game was set.

Two brothers and one vision propelled Nordic themed Triplehorn Brewing toward its summer of 2012 opening in Woodinville’s “Warehouse District”. Rich and Ray Nesheim donned Viking helmets and made a pack to produce small batch specialty beers in a lively environment. The quest continues. Their Folkvang Irish Red is brewed with rich dark malts and light United Kingdom hops, plus mild peat. It pours a cloudy copper red with all the malt aromas. Flavor is a dusty malt and light smoke, but smooths out nicely with a grainy, caramel finish.

In 2010, Boneyard Beer was remodeled an old auto shop tucked away in the backstreets of Bend, Oregon’s historical district. Without any outside investors or major bank loans, Boneyard’s inception was unconventional to say the least. After decades in the brewing industry, owner Tony Lawrence built up a “boneyard” of old equipment he collected from 13 different breweries around the country. Alongside co-founders, Clay and Melodee Storey, this second-hand brewing equipment was pieced together to brew the first batch of Boneyard Beer.  Their Diablo Rojo is not a malt bomb. First, the Cascade hops in this red ale are Oregon-grown on Crosby Hop Farm, and have a lighter, more delicate flavor than their acidic cousins from the high desert of Yakima. Second, this deep amber ale is extremely well balanced and very drinkable. Yes, the taste is caramel malts, subtle grassy hops, and piney resin — but, again, all well balanced and easy drinking. It appeals both to the hop lover and non-hop lover.

Saturday, April 27, 2024, the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Championship Game began with Boneyard’s Diablo Rojo gobbling up online votes for an early lead. In the late morning, the Viking awoke. And they were ready for battle. By 2 p.m., they had 62 percent of the vote. At 3 p.m., they slipped to 57 percent. At 4 p.m. they had 58 percent. After smashing opponents for three weeks, Boneyard either forgot about the Championship Game or was swamped with preparation for their 14th Anniversary Party May 4.

When the 5 o’clock bell chimed, and the online voting closed, Triplehorn Brewing Folkvang Red had a 108-vote lead.

Kim, Jen, and Seth rode out the Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers Championship start to finish. Cheers!

At 6 p.m., the Tournament of Beer moved into the live vote portion of the Championship Game, initiating a ballot vote and a bunch of craft beers on tap — including both competing red ales — at Peaks and Pints in Tacoma’s Proctor District. Amber Clowes From Triplehorn Brewing and Ryan Bryne from Boneyard Beer were in the house, as well as Robyn Austin from Pelican Brewing. We raffled off a couple Lord of the Ring props seen in our Tournament marketing including the One Ring To Rule Them All and Eomer’s Helmet, plus a Yeti Cooler plastered with brewery stickers.

As promised, Peaks and Pints tallied the on-location votes around 8 p.m. of the amber/red showdown, which Triplehorn won by one vote. After the raffle prizes were paraded through the house, and amber-driven 1980s soundtrack was switched off, and we stumbled through the explanation of past Tournament action, Triplehorn Brewing’s Folkvang Red was crowned the Tournament of Beers: Northwest Ambers champion by a 109-vote margin.

Triplehorn will receive the Tournament of Beer trophy after completion of the engraving and a permanent handle at Peaks & Pints through the summer.

So, it’s official: Folkvang Red is the winner of Peaks and Pints’ Tournament of Beer: Northwest Ambers. Drink it up, Middle-Northwest!

Thank you!

Peaks and Pints would like to thank its staff. All the Tournament explanations, the giant wall bracket, the endless handouts, and ballots — they held their composure and trademark smiles. But, most of all, thanks to all the awesome folks who voted. You rock!

See you next year!

Pelican Brewing’s Robyn Austin was in the house in support of her Final Four beer, Sea’N Red, as well as cheering on the Championship Game.