Tournament of Beer: West Coast Flagships First Round April 6
Once upon a time, a boy’s popularity was based on his dodgeball abilities, Frisbee tricks, and how much of the alphabet he could squeeze off with one burp. For the same boy to acquire a comparable level of popularity in college, 1983, he needed beer. The ceremony rarely strayed from tradition. Fully unprepared for a certain someone to be surrounded by three giggling friends, boy proceeded to drink the new Redhook’s Blackhook Porter. He continued to drink until the gaggle dispersed or his stomach exploded — whichever came first. Girl, acutely aware of boy’s disposition, warned her friends that she will in fact die if they abandon her. To no avail. She is forsaken, left to ask, “May I have a sip?”
“Yup,” he answers with a burp.
Welcome to Day 2 of Peaks & Pints Tournament of Beer: West Coast Flagships, a beer contest patterned after the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Sixty-four flagship beers from Washington, Oregon and California, all seeded by public vote, and separated into four decade regions: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, are making their way through First Round action. These top 64 vote getters — the cream of the dream — are competing Monday through Friday right here, through April 25. Through online voting, West Coast flagship beer drinkers will pick daily winners until the best flagship is crowned. It’s just like March Madness, only with way more malt.
The Tournament of Beer: West Coast flagships grand champion will be announced at the Tournament of Beer Party (hopefully), April 25, at Peaks and Pints, 3816 N. 26th St., in Tacoma’s Proctor District. The final two flagships will battle live pouring from the bottle shop, taproom and restaurant’s Western red cedar tap log with the champion brewery receiving a permanent handle through the spring and summer 2020.
Please join us here daily to vote on the flagship battles, and maybe enjoy our reminiscing about our flagship drinking wonder years.
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.
Monday, April 6, First Round West Coast Flagship Games
GAME 1, 1990s
Player: Ridgetop Red, sixth seed
Team: Silver City Brewery
Location: 206 Katy Penman, Bremerton, Washington
Wonders Years: 1996, we toured the newly opened, $42 million Washington State History Museum in downtown Tacoma. We caught Oscar-winning Braveheart, did the Macarena at a wedding, and mourned the passing of Jerry Garcia. In Silverdale, Washington, restaurateurs and brothers Steve and Scott Houmes added craft beer to their lives when they teamed up with brewmaster “Big Daddy” Don Spencer and opened Silver City Brewery. The Houmes’ mission was to create happy, community-oriented restaurant and craft brewery. What they probably didn’t expect was the ability to cover an entire wall with the medals they’d go on to earn, including multiple GABF medals for their flagship, Ridgetop Red.
Player Stats: Ridgetop Red is everyone’s beer. Full-bodied and smooth, this ale hits the tongue with grainy caramel sweetness before lifting into pear and passion fruit notes. It’s never overly sweet, but it also doesn’t completely dry out in the finish: A touch of bitter Liberty hops kick in at the end, completing a well-balanced swallow.
ABV: 6%, IBU: 15
Player: Racer 5, eleventh seed
Team: Bear Republic Brewing
Location: 110 Sandholm Lane, Cloverdale, California
Wonder Years: 1995, our Tacoma Tigers minor league baseball team finally affiliated with the local major league squad, the Seattle Mariners. With the new affiliation came a name change to Rainiers. We watched Bill Gates and Jay Leno launch Windows 95, then three days later saw 19-year-old Tiger Woods win the 1995 U.S. Amateur Championship. Down in Healdsburg, California, the Norgrove family open Bear Republic Brewing behind their strong, signature Racer 5 India pale ale. Bear Republic Brewmaster Richard Norgrove was considered among Sonoma County’s pioneering craft beer makers.
Player Stats: Red Rocket was Bear Republic’s original homebrew recipe but Richard grabbed the wrong hop profile (meant for Red Rocket) that he had pre-measured out the day before and put it into the House IPA by mistake. So, Racer 5 was born — at least in its first form. It took five recipes, tweaking and feedback from the patrons at the pub to settle on what is now known as Racer 5 — hoppy, malty, and just the right amount of floral notes from the Cascade and Columbus hops.
ABV: 7.5%, IBU: 75
Tournament of Beer Analysts: An award-winning sweet caramelized red with balancing hop spice versus a grassy, earthy IPA with herbal notes. Ah, the beauty of the Tournament of Beer: West Coast Flagships. Two different styles, really. Do memories come into play? We tend to fuse social moments with our experience drinking a beer — descriptions of the place, circumstance, and crowd along with the taste of that beer. What were you doing when you drank these beers in the mid-1990s? The Tournament of Beer Analysts were soaking up Sheryl Crow and tipping Racer 5’s. If it makes you happy, right?
SCROLL DOWN TO VOTE >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Game 2: 1990s
Player: Stone IPA, third seed
Team: Stone Brewing
Location: 1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido, California
Wonders Years: 1996, we listened to Weezer’s ode to angst, Pinkerton, Beck’s Beck-iest album, Odelay, Wilco unleashed the sprawling Being There, Fiona Apple introduced us to her inimitable talents with Tidal, Sleater-Kinney destroyed our eardrums with Call the Doctor, and the Spice Girls entered the world and brought the joy of pure, unabashed pop music back to the charts, paving the way for boy bands and future pop divas. Down in Los Angeles, Greg Koch and Steve Wagner first met as musicians, then bumped into each other again taking a weekend beer appreciation course at UC Davis. Their shared interests led to homebrew sessions, and they even bottled a few of their beers as Koochen Vagner Brewing Co. When they decided to open Stone Brewing, they decided to go big — a 30-barrel system. When Stone IPA hit the scene in 1997 as their first anniversary beer, IPAs were strictly in the realm of the extreme beer enthusiast. The original brewmaster, Steve Wagner, amplified a British classic by infusing it with extra flavor and character, care of heavy doses of Centennial, Chinook and Columbus hops.
Player Stats: Stone IPA was one of the first beers that really knocked our socks off with hop bitterness, thanks to Magnum, Chinook, Centennial, Azacca, Calypso, Motueka, Ella, and Vic Secret. Even though Stone IPA’s profile is definitively “outdated,” it’s still one of the most well-respected and best-selling IPAs in the country with tropical, citrusy, piney hop flavors and aromas, all perfectly balanced by a subtle malt character.
ABV: 6.9%, IBU: 71
Player: Dick Danger Ale, fourteenth seed
Team: Dick’s Brewing
Location: 3516 Galvin Road, Centralia, Washington
Wonder Years: 1994, we watched Payton and Kemp lead the Sonics to a franchise record 63 wins, but get ousted from the postseason by Denver, marking the first-ever win by a No. 8 seed over a No. 1 seed. We attended Kurt Cobain’s memorial, and we made burgers on our new George Foreman Grill discussing six degrees of Kevin Bacon. In Centralia, Dick Young turned his 9-year homebrewing passion into a career, launching Dick’s Brewing in the back of his Northwest Sausage and Deli. Production and distribution grew from 200 barrels in one state to more than 3,000 barrels a year in six states. Dick’s creative passion for brewing also grew, starting with three recipes in 1994 to more than 20 styles in 2009, when the 56-year-old entrepreneur died from an aortic aneurysm. Every so often someone would point up to the motorcycle above the brewery’s main office and tell a story about Dick “Danger” Young, the beloved craftsman, motorcycle-riding rebel.
Player Stats: Dick Danger Ale, Dick’s first beer and flagships, is the original Cascadian Dark Ale. A large percentage of black malt gives this distinctive ale its dark brown/black color and slightly roasted flavor. The Magnum hops provide a backbone of bitterness and large late additions of Mt. Hood hops lend good flavor and aroma in the finish.
ABV: 5.2%, IBU: 45
Tournament of Beer Analysts: “Whose idea was this tournament? Well … Stone IPA is everywhere. Dick Danger Ale, from what we can tell, is just in Western Washington. Seems like Stone IPA might have the advantage, but Dick Young is a legend, and the Dick’s CDA has a way cooler name.”
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GAME 3, 2000s
Player: Vortex IPA, fifth seed
Team: Fort George Brewery
Location: 1483 Duane St., Astoria, Oregon
Wonder Years: 2007, we learned lots on a new multimedia entertainment device called an iPhone, such as reunions by Police, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and Van Halen with David Lee Roth; Pamela Anderson exes Lee and Kid Rock get into an off-screen scuffle during a performance by Alicia Keys at the VMAs; and brewers Jack Harris and Chris Nemlowill opened Fort George Brewery. Our iPhone told us that the brewing duo was caught in a tornado in the Midwest while hauling their original brew system cross-country from Virginia. It made sense for them to whip up their flagship, Vortex IPA.
Player Stats: With a hearty 7.7% ABV unfiltered, unpasteurized organic malt spine that makes way for Simcoe, Amarillo, and Centennial hops Vortex is medium bodied with a resinous mouthfeel, grapefruit more than pine and finishes with lingering hop bitterness.
ABV: 7.7%, IBU: 97
Player: Brew Free! Or Die IPA, twelfth seed
Team: 21st Amendment Brewery
Location: 563 2nd St., San Francisco, California
Wonder Years: 2000, we toured 1864 pioneer and postmaster Job Carr’s replica cabin in Old Town Tacoma. The year also brought us some of the greatest pop culture memories in history — like Jennifer Lopez’s Versace Grammys dress, Brad and Jen’s wedding, and the brilliance of Bring It On. In San Francisco, homebrewer Nico Freccia and veteran assistant brewer Shaun O’Sullivan founded 21st Amendment Brewing in the South Park neighborhood. As avid beer enthusiasts, Freccia and O’Sullivan were determined to establish an ongoing celebration of the overturned 21st Amendment to the Constitution and gave their brewery the amendment’s namesake to commemorate it.
Player Stats: Brew Free! or Die, 21A’s flagship beer, is a blend of Pale barley malt, Munich and light Caramel malts. There’s a mighty hop package too: Warrior, Centennial Simcoe and Amarillo. It’s dry-hopped in the fermenter with pine-like Simcoe, floral Ahtanum and fruity, spicy Amarillo. It has an enticing nose: sweet malt and spicy hops. The taste is full and satisfying, with a fine hop-malt balance that lasts into a long, drying finish.
ABV: 7%, IBU: 70
Tournament of Beer Analysts: “If California votes in this dang tournament, then we’ll have a game. If not, Fort George owns the Northwest and Vortex will whip voters into a frenzy.”
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GAME 4, 2000s
Player: Universale, fourth seed
Team: Fremont Brewing
Location: 1050 N 34th St., Seattle, Washington
Wonder Years: 2009, we can’t stop laughing over The Jersey Shore and Kanye West’s embarrassment at the VMAs. The Universe realigns, though, when Sara Nelson and Matt Linecum open Fremont Brewing in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, releasing a distinctive Northwest twist on the classic pale ale, Universale.
Player Stats: Fremont’s Northwest-style, flagship pale ale is full of flavor with a balanced mix of malts and hops. Bready, nutty and slightly sweet malt flavors blend harmoniously with a healthy dose of “C” hops — Columbus, Centennial and Cascade — imbuing the beer with fruity and floral aromas and a balanced amount of bitterness.
ABV: 5.6%, IBU: 35
Player: Immersion Amber, thirteenth seed
Team: Two Beers Brewing
Location: 4700 Ohio Ave. S., Seattle, Washington
Wonder Years: 2007, we gasped at Britney Spears’ shaved head, Tony Soprano’s fade to black in a diner scene, and when Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and fullback Mack Strong presented President George W. Bush with a Seahawks’ No. 43 jersey. But, we celebrated Mad Men and the launch of Two Beers Brewing. After a homebrew starter kit and an inspirational tour of New Belgium Brewing, Joel VandenBrink founded Two Beers in a 170 square foot ActivSpace facility along Highway 99 in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. VandenBrink engineered his beer recipes on two burners and two 27-gallon fermenters. In a Chevy Astro Van, lovingly named “Brutus,” VandenBrink and first employee Tyler Pickel delivered Immersion Amber Ale to Washington state outlets.
Player Stats: Immersion Amber is still very much a Two Beers beer. The aroma is sweet malt and mild citrus hops. Caramel malt and burnt sugar play off a mix of floral, citrus, and spicy hops and a bit of tobacco.
ABV: 5.2%, IBU: 27
Tournament of Beer Analysts: “The brewery that launched in Fremont will win.”
VOTE BELOW (Vote on All Four Games) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
TUESDAY, APRIL 7 TOURNAMENT OF BEER: WEST COAST FLAGSHIPS ACTION
Game 1, 1990s: 7. Scotch Ale, Boundary Bay Brewery (1107 Railroad Ave., Bellingham, Washington) vs. 10. Amber, Scuttlebutt Brewing (3314 Cedar St., Everett, Washington)
Game 2, 1990s: 2. Tacoma Brew, E9 Brewing (2506 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, Washington) vs. 15. Adam, Hair of the Dog Brewing (61 SE Yamhill St., Portland, Oregon)
Game 3, 2000s: 1. Manny’s Pale Ale, Georgetown Brewing (5200 Denver Ave S, Seattle, Washington) vs. 16. West Coast IPA, Green Flash Brewing (6550 Mira Mesa Blvd., San Diego, California)
Game 4, 2000s: 8. Pilsner, Chuckanut Brewery (601 W. Holly St., Bellingham, Washington) vs. 9. Total Domination IPA, Ninkasi Brewing (155 Blair Blvd., Eugene, Oregon)