Beer Drinker, Beer Maker

Seattle may have been denied a Super Bowl victory, but it still has a national champion: Please raise your glasses to Tom Schmidlin, 2006 Beer Drinker of the Year. How does one qualify for such an august title, you ask? By submitting one's "beer résumé" to Denver's Wynkoop Brewing Company, Colorado's first modern brewpub, which started the BDOY contest in 1997. Once selected as a finalist, one spends a February day answering a barrage of questions from a panel of judges gathered to determine who most deserves the title. Previous winners have come from the Northeast, the Southeast, California, and, in 2004, Bothell, so Schmidlin is the Northwest's second titlist. A tall, strapping lad with a wife and 1-year-old twins (from the beer résumé: "Single handedly insured that there will be at least two beer drinkers in the coming years"), he met his wife-to-be at a brewpub in Portland, enjoyed good beer on his honeymoon in Ireland, drank Kölsch in Cologne, and "enjoyed several beers at the Hidden Tree Belgian Beer Bar and Garden" in Beijing. He lives in Ballard and vows never to leave the Pacific Northwest. Like a lot of us here, he likes—hell, loves—good beer. But he's also an accomplished home brewer, who began with malt extract and brown sugar before graduating to all-grain. He credits his passion for brewing and, particulary, yeast as motivators in switching from mechanical engineering and computer programming to a University of Washington Ph.D. program in biochemistry. His studies obviously served him well in Denver, and his 2006 BDOY award has earned him media attention. Up in Lynnwood, Rick Ellersick has pursued another kind of beer passion, becoming the owner and lead brewer of Ellersick Brewing Co. His brewery is in a nondescript warehouse building, but the taproom inside is simple, warm, and welcoming, with as many as 11 beers on tap. Ellersick's skills were tested in assembling the brewery. The space was bare-bones, but today it houses a 10-barrel brew house and a small forest of cylindroconical fermenters, as well as a walk-in cooler for lager conditioning and keg storage. Ellersick also has home-brewing experience, and he and hired brewer Dave Edgar have brewed up such delights as a Winter Blackberry ale, a Dunkelweizen, a very popular and nicely attenuated Scotch ale, an even more popular IPA, and several others in the rotation. As is common with startup craft breweries, Ellersick Brewing delivers to accounts in the area, but individuals can also get to-go containers. The brewery will fill growlers and "party pigs," as well as a range of keg sizes. Two passions for beer and brewing, two paths to the future: one as a biochemist and honored beer drinker, the other as a brewing entrepreneur. Wish Schmidlin and Ellersick luck in their endeavors, and then, ponder this: Where could your passion for beer take you? For more about this year's Beer Drinker of the Year competition, see www.wynkoop.com/happenings_drinker.html dscheidt@seattleweekly.com

 
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