Tournament of Beer: West Coast Flagships First Round April 14
Lo and behold, today marks the closing of the Tournament of Beer: West Coast Flagships First Round. After today’s battles the bracket will officially be down to 32 beers that put West Coast breweries on the map, and breweries start hiring appropriately social-distanced cheerleaders. Honestly, it if gets more exciting we’ll start to understand why Dick Vitale is always yelling through his facemask: “This awesome, baby, with a capital ‘A’!
Without wasting anyone’s time with flagship related basketball innuendo or sappy stories, on to a recap of yesterday’s action followed by eight new flagship beers hitting the courts today.
Game 1, 1990s: 5. Pelican Kiwanda Cream vs. 12. Elysian The Immortal IPA
Elysian’s The Immortal isn’t immortal, at least in the Tournament of Beer: West Coast Flagships. Pelican Brewing’s multiple award-winning Kiwanda Cream flew the Seattle IPA over the Pacific Ocean and dropped it. Kiwanda Cream grabbed 74 percent of the vote and moves into the Second Round.
Game 2, 1990s: 4. Lagunitas IPA vs. 13. Cascade Lakes Blonde Bombshell
Despite an early lead from Lagunitas IPA, Cascade Lakes Blonde Bombshell and its large, devoted fans proved too powerful in yesterday’s action, catapulting into the Second Round with 58 percent of the vote. Blondes might have more fun, but they also can generate votes.
Game 3, 2000s: 7. Iron Horse Irish Death vs. 10. Skookum Jackass IPA
These two Washington state flagship beers entered the tournament with names primed for puns. Then, COVID-19 hit. “Death” and “Jackass” just didn’t seem apropos. It’s a shame as not only would that have been good fun, but this game was so close that tauntings could have made a difference. No “Death” threats were made, but there is a smiling Jackass this morning. Skookum Jackass IPA grabbed 51.26 percent of the vote and enters the Second Round.
Game 4, 2000s: 2. 7 Seas Rude Parrot vs. 15. Double Mountain Hop Lava IPA
This game was a bit of a surprise. Yes, Double Mountain Hop Lava IPA was seeded well below and their assertive floral, citrusy and resinous IPA is exceptional, but to beat second seed and local 7 Seas Brewing and their well-balance, pine and citrus IPA with 62 percent of the vote was a shocker. The other flagships in the 2000s Region need to sharpen their hops because Hop Lava is the real deal.
Let’s weed through the Chinook hops. The following are advancing to the Second Round:
Pelican Kiwanda Cream
Cascade Lakes Blonde Bombshell
Skookum Jackass IPA
Double Mountain Hop Lava IPA
OK, let’s apply hand sanitizer, and dive into today’s First Round West Coast Flagship battles. Vote for one flagship beer per game. Voting for today’s flagship battles ends at 11:45 p.m.
Tuesday, April 14, First Round West Coast Flagship Games
GAME 1, 1980s
Player: Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, sixth seed
Team: Rogue Ales
Location: 2320 SE Marine Science Dr., Newport, Oregon
Wonders Years: 1988, we watch George HW Bush beats out Michael Dukakis, and the election of Sonny Bono as the new mayor of Palm Springs. To escape the politics plus the natural and manmade disasters, we flocked to Rainman, Coming to America, Die Hard, Beetlejuice, and A Fish Called Wanda with Rick Astley claiming he’s “Never Gonna Give Up” over and over on the radio. Down in Ashland, Oregon, Jack Joyce brewed Rogue Ales in a basement. A year later, he opened a second location in Newport, where John Maier created Rogue Ales brew #1 (he retired last summer). One of the pioneers in the craft-brewing world, Rogue consistently puts out award-winning beers year after year, winning gold in national and international competitions. One of the founding principals of Rogue is to remain a one-off, small in size but large-in-reputation unique source of creatively inspired beers, and to be local and international, all at the same time.
Player Stats: As we said, Rogue Ales was originally founded in Ashland, a Southern Oregon college town home to the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Inspired by this festival, Joyce introduced this English-style oatmeal stout as one of their three original beers when his first pub opened in Ashland. It has remained in their product line ever since, earning the most awards and highest ratings of any of the Rogue beers. It’s made from Northwest Harrington, Crystal, and Chocolate malts, roasted barley and rolled oats, along with Cascade hops for all the roast, plus some bitterness but and a mellow chocolate aftertaste.
ABV: 5.7%, IBU: 60
Player: Pale Ale, eleventh seed
Team: Pyramid Brewing
Location: 1201 1st Ave. S., Seattle, Washington
Wonder Years: 1984, we saw Apple Computer’s famous ad “1984” then bought a Macintosh computer through the University of Washington student program (hehe). We watched Hulk Hogan defeats The Iron Sheik to win his first World Wrestling Federation championship. Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial. Down in Kalama, Washington, Tom Baune and Beth Hartwell founded Hart Brewing. Their pioneering spirit gave the Northwest the groundbreaking, highly hopped Pyramid Pale Ale — a beer well ahead of its time — as well as many others that have withstood the test of time. Then, things got crazy. In 1989, Hartwell sold Hart Brewing to Seattle investors. In 1992, Hart Brewing and Thomas Kemper merged, and in 1995 went public. In 1996, Hart Brewing changed its name to Pyramid Breweries. It continued, however, to market its Thomas Kemper products under the Thomas Kemper name (Will Kemper called bullshit and left). A few years later, the mergers continued anew as they bought MacTarnahan’s, which became Portland Brewing and were later bought by Magic Hat and then North American Breweries. It continues, but that’s enough for now.
Player Stats: The Pyramid Pale Ale today isn’t the same as Hart Brewing brewed in 1984. Pyramid updated it for flavor and aroma expectations of today’s hop lovers. It’s dry-hopped with Amarillo hops for a distinct citrusy aroma that takes the lead over a light malt body.
ABV: 5.7%, IBU: 45
Tournament of Beer Analysts: “A stout! A stout! My kingdom for a stout!”
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Game 2: 1980s
Player: Hefeweizen, third seed
Team: Widmer Brothers
Location: 929 N. Russell St., Portland, Oregon
Wonders Years: 1984, the last passenger train departs from Tacoma’s Union Station and the building is abandoned. Van Halen tells us to jump. Prince wants us to go crazy. Kenny Loggins wants us to kick off the Sunday shoes. We, instead, want to call the Ghostbusters as the depressed, run-down downtown Tacoma is pretty scary. Down south, Rob and Kurt Widmer opened a 10-barrel brewery handcrafted from scraps. The brothers sifted through a library copy of Oregon Names in search of a name for their brewery. They decided to incorporate their last name only after a friend suggested they look around the world and see that most of the breweries with 100 years of heritage or more had family names on them. Rob and Kurt opened for business near fellow fledgling brewery BridgePort, after nine months of hard labor and ingenuity — with a little help from dad, Ray. Their tanks came from a junkyard: remnants from a nuclear power plant that failed to get licensed. Mash tuns were hand-stirred, 100-pound bags of grain heaved about by the brothers themselves. Distribution was a labor-intensive affair. Without a forklift, the brothers loaded kegs onto a table, from which they would toss the containers into the truck. Often, Rob and Kurt made deliveries themselves, loading kegs into their dad’s vintage Datsun truck — a vehicle they still bring out for special occasions. The Widmer brothers’ story in many ways parallels Ken Grossman’s hardships to launch Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. two years earlier.
Player Stats: It began on May 15, 1986, when Rob and Kurt Widmer dropped off the first keg of their cloudy, unfiltered wheat beer to the Dublin Pub, the small Southeast Portland bar that at the time served as the brothers’ entire distribution network. Widmer Hefeweizen became Portland’s first breakthrough beer. The unfiltered version of the Widmer’s Weizenbier was unlike anything most people had ever seen, or tasted. Brewed with Cascade this hefeweizen has a nice citrusy, lemony flavor and aroma, but it’s balanced and smooth.
ABV: 4.9%, IBU: 30
Player: Columbia Street Amber, fourteenth seed
Team: Karl Strauss Brewing
Location: 1157 Columbia St., San Diego, California
Wonder Years: 1989, we watched Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and apparently so did Barack and Michelle Obama on their first date. New Kids were “Hangin’ Tough,” Mötley Crüe visted “Dr. Feelgood” and Beastie Boys were yelling “Hey Ladies”! That year, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner opened Karl Strauss Brewing Company, a brewery and brewpub on Columbia Street in downtown San Diego, the first commercial brewery in San Diego since 1953. Karl Strauss, a German immigrant with 44 years at Pabst Brewing, was Cramer’s cousin. After he worked his way to the top of Pabst, Strauss left to consult. Intrigued by his cousin’s idea, Strauss helped designed the brewery, created the recipes and trained the staff, before lending his name to the operation.
Player Stats: Columbia Street Amber poured Feb. 2, 1989, when Karl Strauss Brewing opened its doors. Imported Munich malts give Columbia Street Amber its deep bronze color, smooth body, and crisp toasted flavor.
ABV: 4.5%, IBU: 18
Tournament of Beer Analysts: “In San Diego, Karl Strauss is king; Hefe could easily claim a place on Craft Beer Mt. Rushmore, if such a thing existed. This will be fun.”
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GAME 3, 2010s
Player: Crikey IPA, one seed
Team: Reuben’s Brews
Location: 5010 14th Ave. NW, Seattle, Washington
Wonder Years: 2012, it’s sadness, as Whitney Houston dies, and we can no longer carry the Encyclopedia Britannica print version (gone!) or 6-packs in plastic bags (outlawed). Then, everyone “Gangnam Styled” when Adam and Grace Robbings opened Reuben’s Brews in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Apparently an award-winning homebrewing career can transfer into an award-winning professional brewing career.
Player Stats: Reuben’s Brews doesn’t make a bad beer. Ever. Crikey is a prime example. The number one seed’s bouquet bursts of resin, fresh sliced grapefruit and sweet, tropical scents. The aroma carried through to the palate, with its hop-forward focus gifts grapefruit, orange and bright grassiness. The bold flavor culminates in a bitter backend that can be described as a truckload of Cascade.
ABV 6.8%: IBU: 53
Player: Kölsch, sixteenth seed
Team: Occidental Brewing
Location: 6635 N. Baltimore Ave., Portland, Oregon
Wonder Years: 2011, Charlie Sheen proclaimed he was #winning, Adele was actually winning, Oprah and Harry Potter called it quits, and Ben and Dan Engler opened Occidental Brewing deep in Portland’s St. John’s neighborhood under the Gothic bridge. Four months later neighborhood kid Sam Carroll knocked of the Occidental front door. Today, Carroll knocks it out of the park as head brewer, making well-balanced, continental-style beers with a smile.
Player Stats: Occidental’s Kölsch reinforces that brewery’s reputation for making great German beer styles. The Kölsch is made with ale yeast and is fermented warm, yet commonly aged at colder temperatures, making it a hybrid between the lager and the ale. This is Occidental’s homage to the delicious ale of Cologne, Germany. It’s effervescent with subtle fruity sweetness, dryness, and a light- to medium-body. Crisp and dry, it is clean and lager-like, with a pleasant, slightly spicy hop profile supplied by German Perle.
Tournament of Beer Analysts: “Occidental’s Kölsch is one of the best of its style on the market. It would dominate the Tournament of Beer: West Coast Kölsches. But, it’s not that tournament and number one seed Crikey has won a number of awards including Best IPA in the Pacific NW in the 2015 US Beer Tasting Championships.”
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GAME 4, 2010s
Player: Starburst IPA, eighth seed
Team: Ecliptic Brewing
Location: 825 N. Cook St., Portland, Oregon
Wonder Years: 2013, we added new words “twerk” and “selfie” to our vocabulary, and the world welcomed a new pope and a new royal baby. Speaking of babies, the trend of unique baby names continued that year. Channing Tatum had a daughter named Everly Tatum with wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum, and Fergie and Josh Duhamel welcomed a baby boy they named Axl Jack. Jessica Simpson had her second child, Ace Knute, and Kristen Bell gave birth to her daughter Lincoln Bell, whom she lovingly referred to as a sloth. In Portland, John Harris named his new brewery Ecliptic Brewing combining his love for brewing and astronomy. Harris’ background in one steeped in Oregon’s rich craft brewing history. After beginning as a brewer at McMenamins’ breweries, he moved to Deschutes where he created the recipes for Mirror Pond, Black Butte Porter, Jubelale, and Obsidian Stout. He spent the next 20 years of his career as a brewmaster at Full Sail in charge of creating the Brewmaster Reserve line of beers before purchasing a brewhouse from friend and Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione to open Ecliptic.
Player Stats: Harris’ flagship dry-hopped Starburst IPA explodes with Amarillo, Azacca, Centennial, Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops for fresh flavors of citrus, fruit and pine. Starburst is backed by 100 percent pale malt for a super clean finish and puts the focus on the hop flavors and aromas.
ABV: 7.8%, IBU: 75
Player: Citra IPA, ninth seed
Team: Stoup Brewing
Location: 1108 NW 52nd St., Seattle, Washington
Wonder Years: 2013, tunnel-boring machine Bertha begins under Queen Anne while the Seattle Seahawks would go on to beat the Denver Broncos for their first Super Bowl victory. Over in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, scientist Brad Benson and foodie Lara Zahaba opened Stoup Brewing. Washington state’s first female Cicerone, Robyn Schumacher, became Stoup’s third partner, assisting Benson in the brewing laboratory. Team Stoup believes in building beers that unroll with a distinct start, middle, and finish.
Player Stats: The Stoup formulas work well on their IPAs, especially their flagship Citra IPA. A first sniff will elicit images of tropical fruit and citrus thanks to a healthy dose of Citra hops. Next, pale malt sweetness keeps things in check with slight bitter, citrusy fruits and grapefruit. Citra IPA finishes dry with very bright, tangerine and Meyer lemon character lingering. Science!
ABV: 5.9%, IBU: 50
Tournament of Beer Analysts: “Ecliptic and Stoup breweries opened in 2013. Ecliptic’s John Harris managed to brew beer without losing his s— over NASA’s Voyager 1 reaching interstellar space that year. Stoup’s Benson managed to brew beer without losing his s— over extraterrestrial neutrinos discovered in Antarctica that year. One of these gentlemen will lose today. Afterward, they’ll toast each other with their respective IPAs and invent something new. You know they will.”
VOTE BELOW >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15 TOURNAMENT OF BEER: WEST COAST FLAGSHIPS ACTION
Game 1, 1980s: 1. Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing (1075 E. 20th St., Chico, California) vs. 8. Pale American Ale, Hale’s Ales (4301 Leary Way NW, Seattle, Washington)
Game 2, 1990s: 10. Amber, Scuttlebutt Brewing (3314 Cedar St., Everett, Washington) vs. 2. Tacoma Brew, E9 Brewing (2506 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, Washington)
Game 3, 2000s: 5. Vortex IPA, Fort George Brewery (1483 Duane St, Astoria, Oregon) vs. 13. Immersion Amber, Two Beers Brewing (4700 Ohio Ave. S., Seattle, Washington)
Game 4, 2010s: 10. Sweet As! Pacific Ale, GoodLife Brewing (70 SW Century Dr., Bend, Oregon) vs. 2. RPM IPA, Boneyard Beer (1955 NE Division St., Bend, Oregon)