Search & Distill: At the Hop and On the Shelves

Not much isn’t going on with seasonal beers right now.

With Oktoberfests in Fremont and Enumclaw, various hop or harvest fests in bars around the Sound, and hearty seasonal releases, it's a great time of year in this state to love beer. The seasons teeter between summer and fall, and our beer preferences totter from hops to malt. In short, not much isn't going on with beer right now.The selection of brew in grocery stores has improved since the beginning of the year, and much of that has to do with the greater availability of micros. Diamond Knot (Mukilteo), Port Townsend, and Silver City (Silverdale) breweries have all amped up their wholesale efforts, and you'll find bottles of their wares all over town. Like the flavor of the finest toffee you've ever had (as compared to a waxy Brach's pick-a-mix), Diamond Knot's brown ale strikes many chords of roasted malt, caramel, and nut. But the Black I.P.A. from Iron Horse (Ellensburg) takes the prize. A complete paradigm shift awaits with your first sip of what starts as a toasty porter and ends with a sucker punch of mouth-raking hops. And Quilter's Irish Death, the brewery's other dark wonder—which the steward at Whole Foods' Roosevelt store rightly calls "beer candy"—just might be my new sleepy-time tea. At 8 percent alcohol, it's like someone made beer from the inside of a Whopper—my most secret dream made real.Silver City's Fat Scotch Ale needs no introduction, but many of us beer nerds are glad they felt it needed distribution. It offers a knife-edge balance of hearty and sweet malt, with light notes of fruit and camp (as in the woods) on the finish; I need to figure out how I can carry it around in solid form so I can snack on it all day. Beer Jell-O, perhaps?One place to keep up on what's new, dark, and different this time of year is the Latona Pub (6423 Latona Ave. N.E.). The Green Lake establishment makes room for beer geeks and regular folk alike, with knowledgeable but never beerier-than-thou service, a classic and well-executed menu, and a rotating tap of the very best of what's going on in beer in this region right now. And during their recent hop harvest celebration, they "Randallized" a few brews for increased hop delivery.The Randall is buzzing right now. This device is basically a way to make a hop speedball out of any beer. It goes between the keg or cask and the tap, and you pack it with fresh hops, through which passes the already brewed beer. The result adds an herbal-tea element to the beer, in that you get these freshly released aromas from a variety of hops. If you see this advertised at a bar near you, try it out.msavarino@seattleweekly.com

 
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