Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fermentation and civilization are inseparable.

“Fermentation and civilization are inseparable.” – John Ciardi, American poet (1916-1986)

Ancient history shows that almost any substance containing sugar can naturally undergo alcoholic fermentation, so it’s probably no surprise that beer was not invented but rather discovered thousands of years ago. 

While beer is no longer used as a form of payment, and people no longer greet each other with the expression “bread and beer”, toasting someone’s health before drinking beer is a remnant of the ancient belief in beer’s magical properties.  Beer’s association with friendly, unpretentious social interaction remains unchanged. Whether in stone-age villages, ancient banquet halls, or modern bistro-pubs in Ballard, beer has brought people together since the dawn of civilization.

Our little neighborhood establishment is a vessel for an abundance of conversations, smiles, debates and laughs that fill the space between the brimmer (top of glass) and heeltap (last drops at the bottom of the glass). Just as the conversations morph with the ebb and flow of the evening, our tap list aims to mirror that evolving, magical quality celebrating community.  

In total, we have eight beers on draft, rotating with the seasons and brewer’s yields. All are Northwest regional, ranging from as far east as No-Li Brewery in Spokane, to Backwoods Brewing Company in Carson, to a few in our own backyard and everything in between. Ballard has a cornucopia of breweries, ten in total, within a five mile radius of each other and two of which, we are currently featuring.  Meredith recently enjoyed a field trip to delve deeper into their current line-ups and practices.

First off, Stoup Brewing. It was a sunny afternoon, doors just opening, and the friendly faces of Brad Benson (co-owner/head brewer), Robyn Schumacher (co-owner/assistant brewer with cicerone certification--basically a sommelier of beer), Jason Bass (Sales Guru), and Danielle Zahaba (tap room crew), as the welcoming committee. As Robyn threw her backpack over her shoulder, taking off to enjoy the evening, it was clear that the days’ brewing was over.  Danielle began pouring samples of the seven beers they currently offer, from their India Session Ale (ISA), think of a lighter IPA in both color and alcohol content, yet still ripe with full flavor hops, to their Porter displaying delicious chocolaty, espresso notes.

Jason was kind enough to pull up a chair after a day of surfing to share more about the brewery.  Their namesake refers to a drinking vessel of various sizes.  Isn’t it ironic that their name and ours are quite inter-connected? Certainly an ode to the many laughs and conversations one has whilst enjoying a tasty beverage.  

Sipping through their line-up, tables filled up quickly.  Folks just getting off work, in from run, with their dogs, or just strolling by to enjoy a pint in the open air environment, and it felt good. Rumor has it that the weekends are intensified by food trucks offering up tasty bites to accompany their amazing beers. 

Stoups neighborhood vision is very much akin to ours.  It was casual, communal, relaxing, and welcoming. Bottom line, not only does Stoup have great beers, but they are also a team of passionate, great people, loving what they do, and that love shines through in everything they do.  

Next up was Populuxe Brewing, just a few blocks down from Stoup.  With limited tap room hours, co-owner Peter was kind enough to open the doors for an intimate tasting.  Populuxe is the union of Peter Charbonnier, Jiri Zatloukal and their partners who have been lifelong home brewers and experimenters. All four of them still have full time jobs, a testament to the passion and love they have for beer, that can only help in, one day, realizing their dream of brewing being their only full time job. Populuxe is a combination of both popular and deluxe.

Looking around, the walls are adorned by a local artist and the space is just about as quirky as the vision itself.  It felt right. Pouring a sample of their outstandingly tasty wine cask aged beer, Peter explained that they are a small operation. An operation so small in fact, that they only brew six barrel kegs and are referred to as a nano-brewery.  For this reason, unless you pop by Brimmer (we are one of only a few restaurants pouring them on tap), if you want to enjoy a pint of their beer, you’ll have to stop by the tap room. In the summer, Populuxe will welcome food trucks into their backyard for the Ballard/Fremont community to enjoy.

When asked what his thoughts were on all the local breweries, both new and emerging, Peter warmly responded that with great beer, there can never be enough. How true. That statement resonates with our own mission and why we feel so fortunate to be pouring some of these awesome local brews in a community that truly supports one another.  

We hope you’ll stop in for a pint or schooner soon and toast to the passions in your own life.


Jen and Meredith

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