The Cheapest Way to Get a Buzz (Without Starving Yourself)

Try a tour of Manny’s house.

The only thing better than beer is free beer. And it wouldn't be a brewery tour without free samples. But there are samples—and there are samples! And Roger Bialous of Georgetown Brewing Co. knows how to pour 'em.Located in a still-standing portion of the old Rainier Cold Storage building on Airport Way, the Georgetown Brewing Company offers free tours of its facility on the last Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. The night we visited, my wife and I were the only ones who showed up, and Bialous was extra generous with his time, not to mention his product."Let's get you two some beer," he says, standing at the counter of his brewery's retail section. "Unless you have a preference, we usually go from lightest to darkest."We want to try all four beers they offer, so Bialous begins by pouring us his namesake, Roger's Pilsner. He doesn't pour us just a taste, either: We're talking just under half a pint of beer. While we guzzle back the samples—which include Chopper's Red Ale, 9 Lb. Hammer Porter, and their flagship, Manny's Pale Ale—Bialous explains his company's origins in a very casual manner, as if we were out-of-town friends seeing what he's been up to lately. (Bialous started the company in this historic building with former Mac & Jack's employee Manny Chao in 2002.)I'm already feeling well-lubed from the hefty samples when Bialous pours me a full pint before taking us into the bowels of the brewery. We stroll through the shipping and receiving area past pallets of shrink-wrapped kegs, and stand under massive fermentation vats in a room smelling of cooked grain. In the dusty storage area, Bialous gets us acquainted with the ingredients, encouraging us to eat some malt, which tastes and smells like Grape-Nuts. We also nibble some dry hops, which, for a hophead like myself, was like discovering the birthplace of my favorite beers.While we stand and chat, the brewer working this particular shift zips about, checking temperatures, hoisting bags of grain on his shoulders, and scraping huge volumes of spent grain from the cooker. It's demanding physical labor, and for a minute I feel guilty just getting drunk while he hustles his ass off. That is, until he informs us that a vat of Manny's has aged to perfection and is ready to be tasted, if we like.We like.A legend whispered late at night over hookahs on Greek Row tells of a land called Woodinville, where beer flows freely from the tap, souvenir tumblers abound, and desperate drinkers can get hammered for $1. Can such a place really exist?It's easy to get lost trying to find the Redhook Brewery in this small northeastern 'burb. Most signs in town guide you to Chateau Ste. Michelle. Even though it's a recession and you have no intention of gracing the tony grounds of the winery with the passé flip-flops you're wearing after deciding to make your house payment rather than get new shoes, follow the signs anyway. The mythic brewery is about 100 yards down the road.The rumors don't do the operation justice. Everyone is sent upstairs to a wide room with bar tables, surrounded by windows looking into the brewery. Before anything even gets started, you're handed a tumbler with a sample of ale and given a few minutes to start warming up your buzz before your bartender/guide goes into his spiel. It's not so much a tour as it is a chance to look through windows and learn terms like reinheitsgebot, the first German law governing craft beer, followed by more samples.Any disappointment about not spending more time among the 400 vats of beer quickly evaporates as your souvenir tumbler is replenished yet again. Answering questions during the guide's increasingly hilarious chat (there's a dry-hopping joke) will get you even more fill-ups. And the legend? That's true: the flowing brew, the souvenir glass, the sheepish acknowledgment of Budweiser's one-third stake in the company—all yours for only a dollar.bbarr@seattleweekly.comlonstot@seattleweekly.com

 
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