Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Potatoes, Gems and Wine

Idaho - it’s known for potatoes, the mining industry, forests and some great skiing, but now one Northwest company is working to add wine to the gem state’s list of great attractions.

I came across this story done by KNIN, Fox 9 - Boise, on Twitter and thought it was worth sharing.

The next big thing: Wines made in Idaho?

A Washington-based wine company believes wines made in Idaho could be the next big thing. Precept Wine Brand bought Ste. Chapelle Winery in Caldwell, in hopes to grow the business.

“This big company in Washington has the faith in Idaho to purchase not one but two wineries, and they have in-house PR people that can help us get the word out about the Idaho wine industry,” said Moya Dolsby, Idaho Wine Commission Executive Director.

Precept is the largest privately-held wine company in the Northwest and also owns the Sawtooth Estate Winery in Nampa.  The company hopes to bring more exposure to Idaho wines.

“How do we evolve the packaging, and how do we evolve the message of Ste. Chapelle? We can make it out not just to the consumer base, but people out there who may not have heard of Ste. Chapelle before,” said Precept CEO and Owner Andrew Browne.

Ste. Chapelle’s potential also stems from its $8 to $15 price point, a marketable price range that doesn't scare consumers away.  

Employees at Ste. Chapelle said they hope to make wine-tasting a bigger part of the Idaho lifestyle, and they will continue to hold their Sunday concerts.

“Existing wines will probably not change very much.  A couple will be discontinued and some new skews will be brought in,” said Ste. Chapelle Winemaker Maurine Johnson.

The Precept owner said people can look forward to Ste. Chapelle's new wines and packaging, next year in the spring season.

“In 2013, as we start growing out the white wines first and red wines following that, you're going to see a difference in what's coming into that bottle,” said Browne.

There used to be 32 wineries here in Idaho in 2008. Now, there are 49 wineries.  It’s a growing business in our state, despite the recession.  

Ste. Chapelle Winery produces around 130,000 cases of wine each year.  The new owners hope to eventually increase that number in the coming years.

Precept Wine was founded in 2003.  With the addition of the two Idaho wineries the company now owns eight wineries and more than 3,000 acres of vineyards in the region.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pelican Pub and Brewery

I have been spending a great deal of time touring places on the Oregon coast of late.  Something to do with dating an oceanographer I suppose.  My most recent trek was Northward along the coast to Rockaway Beach, where we joined Greg's sister, brother in-law, and nephew in an amazing house overlooking the ocean.  We took several days walking on the beaches, and enjoying the quiet of this off-season beach town while sipping meads and beers you can't get in Canada.  This, of course, came along with some incredible cooking - chicken braised in wine, broiled pork salads with sweet potato fries, and french toast with homemade plum jam.  When we finally were ready to roll ourselves out the door, we trekked South to check out the Pelican Pub and Brewery in Pacific City.

Situated right near the water, the restaurant sports lovely views, and an amazing lineup of creative beers both on tap and in the bottle.   Our first round brought us a bottle of Grand Cru de Pelican (2011).  This beer was a deep red in color, and sported a malty nose.  The flavor was equally malty with a touch of sweet caramel.  The finish was lightly spicy - cinnamon and nutmeg - with a hint of booziness like a tart liqueur.  I enjoyed the creamy mouthfeel, and the thick texture. 

 Left to right: MacPelican's Scottish Style Ale, Grand Cru de Pelican, Tsunami Stout

Later I teed off to try to Tsunami Stout.  This beer was also creamy, and was incredibly dark in color.  I have never tasted so bitter a stout!  The flavor was dark dark chocolate (like the 88% cacao kind), with strong espresso flavor intermingled.  This stout lived up to its name, and for me was a really fun sipping beer.

Greg got himself a MacPelican's Scottish Style Ale to go with his  turkey sandwich and beer-battered fries.  Brilliantly red in color, this beer was crisp and clear with strong malt flavors.  There were just enough hops to keep me interested (drinking beer in the PNW has spoiled me), and a rounded nuttiness that brought character to the flavor.  The finish was lightly grapefruit.  I really enjoyed this beer, and would certainly drink it ice cold on a hot day.

Not only were the beers wonderful, but the food was tasty and pretty.  See below Jodi's Soy-Lime Grilled Chicken Salad.

 Even Caius wanted to get in on the action, taking the knife from his dad to dig into the house-made donuts.

Two thumbs up to the Pelican - we had a great lunch, with some lovely beers.  I'd definitely go back again!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Make New Friends, With Beer

I probably shouldn’t admit that I didn’t even see Seattle Beer Week coming.  My “other” non blogger life has been a little nutty lately so I was excited when entertaining an out of town guest lead me to information about the upcoming celebration.  I wasn’t able to make it to nearly as many of the 200+ events that I wanted to but did take in a few.  The entire week allowed me time to enjoy delicious beer while making new friends and keeping the old.

Friday 5.11.12 "Beer & Cheese":

WestToast’s own Josh Gana and I hit up Urban Family Public House for the beer and cheese pairings.  There were choices from Colorado as well as more than a half dozen from Bend’s Boneyard Brewing

 We both picked from that menu - Josh enjoying a ‘Suge Knite’ Giant ImperialStout & ‘Up in Smoke’ Rivers Edge Chevre while I grabbed a ‘Hop Venom’ IPA paired with ‘Dry Jack’ from Vella Creamery.

We lucked out and got there early into the evening and in no time, was a line out the door.  We invited a couple of guys to squeeze into our table and before we knew it we were a table of five.  Time with our new friends included tastes of everyone else’s beer and cheese, discussion about the best croissants in Seattle and what it was like living in State College, PA when the ‘Sandusky Scandal’ broke.  It was a couple of great hours of beer, cheese and conversation for less than 15-bucks each.

Monday 5.14.12 "Anacortes Anniversary Brew":

Green Lake is one of those neighborhoods that I love, yet I get incredibly lost every time I try to drive around.  I decided to brave the awkward streets for a taste of Anacortes Brewery’s taps.  I invited my new friend Willie who claims he likes microbrews, even though I’d only seen him drink light beer until this point.  Latona Pub was actually easy to get to driving south on Interstate 5.  We easily found parking and only had to wait a few minutes to get a seat.  As soon as we did the beer started flowing.  I grabbed the Latona 25th Anniversary Cask IPA while Willie took the mainstream version of the same beer.

Both were fantastic, the cask version being very Sweet, Hoppy, Cloudy & Bitter (that was the extent of the notes I managed to write down).  The night included a raffle and we bonded with the table of three next to us as all five of us walked away with prizes.  Mine included an Anacortes pint glass and pint koozy -- which I LOVE!

Tuesday 5.15.12 "Beer & Ice Cream":

I heart ice cream and I heart beer - So I couldn’t pass up the chance to combine the two.  Especially when I heard the beer was coming from one of my favorite NW breweries.  Widmer teamed up with Chuck’s Hop Shop (a magical place that you all should visit) to create three pre-selected combinations and a fourth beer you could pair on your own.

During an impromptu Arizona State University Seattle Alumni gathering Craig, Andrea and I raved about how well the two went together, why we’d never done this before and how four beers and four generous scoops of ice cream ruined any sort of calorie count for the day.

Though - all those calories only cost us 10-bucks!  A steal that has us screaming for more.  In case you’re wondering -- I chose coffee ice cream for the last pairing while many others there that night chose butter pecan.

Tuesday 5.15.12 "Beer In A Can":

Despite the full bellies Seattle Beer Week had more to offer on Tuesday.  Craig and I slowly made our way over to Phinney Ridge to visit The Park Pub and try a can of Churchkey Pilsner.  Yup - It’s a can that you need a good ole’ fashion churchkey to open.  The place wasn’t packed but we grabbed one of the last couple of empty seats and the atmosphere was great inside the bar with the Here’s how describes what’s inside.

“Inside each Churchkey can, craft beer lovers will find a delicious Pacific Northwest-brewed Pilsner-style craft beer. The recipe for which was originated by Portland-based home brewers Lucas Jones and Sean Burke – who have been crafting home brewed beer in their garages for many years, and are passionate about their beer and the community they cultivate with it – the Churchkey Pilsner is made using only the highest quality ingredients. The body of the beer comes from the light, grainy pilsner malt taste, accented by a smooth clean bitterness. The Saaz hop taste and aroma featured in the Churchkey Pilsner make for a uniquely complex, yet sessionable beer at 4.9 percent ABV and a 29 IBU.”

As they say -- It’s a little more satisfying to drink something that takes a little bit of work to open.  We also thought it was pretty rad and in fact, there is a sixer in the fridge right now.

Thursday 5.17.12:

I made tentative plans with a girlfriend for noon on Thursday BEFORE I looked at the Seattle Beer Week schedule.  Big Mistake. Huge.  Luckily, my newlywed friend Kristin is pretty cool (as you can see)!

She was perfectly willing to pass on coffee and meet me at Brouwer’s Cafe for the 4th Annual Sour Beer Fest.  She’s a former Seattleite, turned Portlander who recently relocated back to the Emerald City.  We met up at the door just an hour after the daylong event kicked off and the place was already packed.  It was so full that after we ordered our first round at the bar (I had a Russian River ‘Deviation’) we were forced to ask a couple of lovely ladies out on the patio if they would share their four person table.

They were waiting for someone else but quickly scooted to make room for us and the guy (Eric) at the next table moved his bike helmet so I could fit into the booth seat against the wall.  While the two of us caught up and enjoyed some tasty sour beer (I think both of us liked our first choices a little better than our 2nd) we also made at least one new friend.  Eric quickly brought us into his table’s conversation (they were 25+ sour beers in by the time they left around 2pm).  He told us that he takes Sour Beer Fest off every year, about the cool birthday celebration happening over the weekend at Noble Fir and included us in his daily survey: “If you had to give up eating cheese or having oral sex for the rest of your life - What would you keep?”

I was only able to make it to five of the events but hope to increase those numbers next year.  I take my hat off to the organizers, bars/restaurants and breweries involved - the week was fantastic and had enough variety to make any kind of beer lover happy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Getting Jolly with my friend Roger

May 20, 2012 marked two significant occasions in Pacific Northwest booze lore: the final day of 2012 Seattle Beer Week and the first birthday of this fine educational publication you are reading right now,

Fortunately for Andrea and I, we live in Seattle so Seattle Beer Week served as a de facto 10 day celebration of the greatness that is us, and our humble little blog. Emphasis on *humble*.
One of the events I particularly enjoyed this year was the Jolly Roger Vertical Event at Maritime Pacific Brewing Company. Not only was the beer damn good, but as I bellied up to the bar to sip some brew and reminisce on my Jolly Roger Christmas Ale experience during Winter Beer Month, and reflecting on the past year of our new blog format.

Until the launch of WestToast, I'd been primarily a wine writer and really didn't understand how connected beer was to the world of wine.  I'd been to plenty of wine vertical tasting events, but beer?  You can do that?   As I learned at Maritime Pacific, the answer is yes, and it's every bit as meaningful as a wine vertical.

So, on to the event.

Jolly Roger Christmas Ale is an English Strong Ale / Winter Warmer, weighing in at about 8% ABV. Released annually in the winter, I was a little surprised to see a vertical tasting in May but that wasn't going to stop me. I arrived slightly after 5 PM to a packed house. Despite a full selection of draft beer and food, the star of this show was the 5-year vertical tasting of Jolly Roger featuring the 1997, 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2011 vintages. A 15 year old beer? I couldn't even legally drink then!

As I started to taste through the beer, I was particularly struck by the 1997...followed by the 2004 and then the 2005. As I dug a bit deeper into why the older vintages were speaking more to my palate that specific day, I found that the older versions had a bit more complexity and had opened up after years of conditioning. Turns out, hops fade over time which increases the perception of sugar and booziness in the older vintages, and being a sweet tooth who likes higher gravity beer both are good for me.

This was an important lesson, one that I fully comprehended in wine but hadn't even thought about in the beer landscape. Much a wine will change over time, so does a beer. It takes a hearty beer to stand up for 15 years and Jolly Roger is definitely a strong contender. I'm definitely waiting for the 2012 release this holiday season. After all, who doesn't need a good strong beer to help get through the holidays?

Or, a random Tuesday night during Seattle Beer Week. Five tasters, five ounces each, 8% ABV. You do the math.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happening Now: Seattle Beer Week

Despite having lived in the far west for more than half my life I still consider myself a Wisconsin Girl.  I love Johnsonville Brats, drink beer and cheer for the Packers so you would probably assume (and be correct) that I’m thrilled Seattle Beer Week is happening right now.  I wasn’t able to make it to kick off events last night but am excited about some of the fantastic things planned around the area this week.  Here are a few of the ones I think look the most exciting, though there are dozens listed each day for this 10 day event - which arguably is one of the best things to happen to Seattle in 2012.

Inking & Drinking:
05/11 from 06:00 PM-02:00 AM at Pub at Piper's Creek
Reprise of last year's hugely popular Beer Week Function - come get some free new ink at Pipers! Artists on hand to indelibly render the logos of our brewery sponsors on your private/public canvas! Hosted by Skagit River Brewing & Left Hand Brewing

Tour de Pints #4:
05/12 from 11:00 AM-07:00 PM
at The Pike Brewing Company
Oil up your chains, grab your helmet, and come join Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery on this year’s 4th annual Tour de Pints! This year’s Tour will take us past some of Seattle’s iconic locations as we bike 20+ miles to and from some of the most defining pubs, taverns and taprooms Seattle has to offer. 
We’ll start this year’s Tour at the heart of downtown Seattle’s Pike Place Market: The Pike Brewing Company. From there we’ll head north along Elliot Bay and across the Ballard Locks to Hilliard’s Beer in Ballard. Feel free to grab a bite from Snout & Co while we’re there! Next, we make our way up Phinney Ridge to Naked City Brewery & Taphouse, a local favorite in the Greenwood neighborhood. From the top of the ridge, it’s all downhill from here is as we cruise east to Ravenna Alehouse. The more ambitious amongst us will have an opportunity to prove themselves in a Feat of Strength: bike from Naked City to Fiddler’s Inn and beat the rest of the group to Ravenna Tavern. Once we catch our breath its south along the Burke-Gilman trail to Fremont Brewing Company’s Urban Beer Garden for a quick break and then off again to Hale’s Ales where we begin our final leg of the Tour toward our final destination, one of the newest pubs in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, The Wurst Place. 
You won’t want to miss out this year! There will be prizes and bar-swag available at each of the stops for a few lucky winners and a special giveaway at The Wurst Place for everyone who completes the entire Tour. There is no need to sign-up beforehand, but we will be asking people to sign a waiver at the first or second stop. Helmets are required! For more information check us out on Facebook at

Beer & Cheese w/Widmer:
05/12 from 01:00 PM-05:00 PM at The Cheese Cellar
Beer & Cheese – Widmer Brothers Beer and Cheese Pairing at the Cheese Cellar
May 12th Two sessions : 1-3 and 3-5. Tickets $20 available for pre-sale at The Cheese Cellar
5 Widmer Brothers Beers paired with 5 artisan cheeses

Kegs & Eggs w/Elysian Brewing Co.:
05/13 from 10:00 AM-03:00 PM at Brave Horse Tavern
Kegs n’ Eggs ~ with Elysian Brewing Co. the official Beer of 2012 Seattle Beer Week - Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout we are pairing it with a brunch special of house made doughnuts with bourbon caramel n’ chocolate dips Plus Elysian will be here.

This is Washington Dammit!:
05/14 All Day at Beveridge Place Pub
Twenty-four Washington Beers from twenty four different breweries, All $3 PINTS

Ride The Bull:
05/14 from 06:00 PM-11:00 PM at Brouwer's Cafe
Cowboy Up! Wear your Western Wear! 
Brouwers Cafe and Big Sky Brewing Co present Seattle Beer Week's first Bull riding night! DRINK...rare and exotic brews from Missoula, Montana's big ballers. SEE...brewery celebrities. RIDE... the mechanical bull - single or tandem, it's all good. GRAB... some cans... of Big Sky IPA for the first time in Seattle. SMELL... the glove. the fear. the fun! Be there Monday night May 14th from 6pm 'til the COWS COME HOME.

Northwest Women In Beer:
05/15 from 05:00 PM-08:00 PM at The Pike Brewing Company
Pike Brewing Co. Museum Room
Women brewed beer or favorite beers to sample.
Women owned food business, small bite samples.
Come learn about the historic significance of women brewers.
Raffle, food, beer and the proceeds benefit, Planned Parenthood!
Not just for women, guys should come too!!

New Belgium Sour Symposium:
05/16 from 11:00 AM-06:00 PM at The Stumbling Monk
This will be a sour beer seminar and blending workshop led by New Belgium's master blenders Lauren Woods and Eric Salazar. 
There will be 2 sessions 11-2 and 3-6. Space is very limited. SECOND SESSIONS SOLD OUT!

Barley Wine Brewer’s Dinner:
05/17 from 07:00 PM-11:00 PM at Pyramid Breweries' Seattle Alehouse
Enjoy a four-course, beer-paired dinner featuring our special Beer Week Cask Barley Wine. The dinner includes a brewery tour and a free growler to take home. 7 p.m. $45, all-inclusive. Advanced purchase required. Tickets available at:

Liquid Sunshine in A Can:
05/18 All Day at Super Deli Mart
Super Deli will be featuring beers from 21st Amendment on draft and will offer 20% off on all Canned Beers from California. Come in and grab some growlers of 21A and a few cans of California finest Beers!!

Sound Brewing Night:
05/18 from 07:00 PM-10:00 PM at Hopvine
Sound Brewery Night: A Night of Beer, Food and Music 
The boys in Poulsbo are brewing some amazing beer and we will be sharing some of their special craft with you on Friday. Live music and something special from the kitchen will be included in the fun. 
Special Beers: 
We'll be bringing a keg of WW3, our Tripel Entendre aged for a week in a barrel that had Bainbridge Island Organic Distillery's Wheat Whiskey in it.

Sudsy Shuffle w/Beer West:
05/19 from 11:00 AM-03:00 PM at Brave Horse Tavern
First Annual Sudsy Shuffle with Beer West Magazine were talking shuffleboard tournament!

2nd Annual Free BBQ SWB:
05/20 from 12:00 PM-03:00 PM at Fremont Brewing Company
The 2nd Annual "Oh My Gawd, What Have I Done to My Liver!" free BBQ. Come to our Urban Beer Garden between 12pm-3pm and get yer BBQ, have a frothy beverage and take pride in surviving SBW 2012.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

They Make Wine There? - New Mexico Red

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It was an amazingly beautiful day here in the Willamette Valley.  Sun-drenched and satisfied, I decided to make dinner for Greg and upon his return from a week in North Carolina.  The menu - spaghetti casserole, braised kale with caramelized shallots, crimini mushrooms, and balsalmic vinegar.  For dessert I made up a rhubarb crisp complete with an oat-crumble topping.  All of the produce came from the Corvallis Saturday Market...all except the tomato sauce for the casserole.  That was the last jar from last year's canning. I love it when food comes full circle.

I wanted to get the perfect wine to go with the meal and felt a bit stuck.  Generally I go with red when I am doing tomato sauces, but I felt that the citrus flavors in a sav blanc or chardonnay would be better with the crisp.  I the end I just went with what was closest (I try to be a wino, but I end up just being someone who likes a nice glass).  I grabbed the bottle of Primitivo from Black Mesa Winery in New Mexico.  Chris had left it on my coffee table from the evening before, and there it was - looking at me and asking to be sampled.

Initially the wine was very tart, full of ripe cherry with a lingering floral-ness.  Greg described it as sour.  As we ate our main course the wine's flavors broadened to blackberry and some of the high acid flavors mellowed.  I enjoyed this pairing.  I poured myself a second glass with dessert, and enjoyed how the acid in the wine balanced with the tart rhubarb.  I was worried that this wine might overpower our dessert, but it ended up being a lovely compliment. 

I surely don't think of wine when I think of New Mexico, but this one was a lovely surprise.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

May the Fifth Be The Start of Mint Julep Season

Cinco de Mayo was an exciting day for me, but not for the reason you may think.

Some friends and I took advantage of a rare spring sunny day in Seattle to do some hiking, and on the drive there, I mentioned that we should go out for a drink afterwards.  The Gerald in Ballard was hosting a joint Cinco de Mayo and Kentucky Derby party, I told them, and I was keen to check it out.

Knowing my relative disdain for all things tequila, Rob and Erin looked at me quizzically, completely oblivious to the real meaning of my statement.

Kentucky Derby Party.

One of the best days of the year for a bourbon lover like myself:  the start of Mint Julep season.

In fact, I was so excited I made up a song about it.  It went a little something like this:  Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, BOURBON.  So really my song was just the Batman song with the word Batman replaced with Bourbon, but if you ask Rick nicely, he may show you a video.

In case you are as confused about Mint Juleps and their connection to the Kentucky Derby as Rob and Erin, allow me to educate you.  We are, after all, an educational publication.

What is the Mint Julep?

The Mint Julep is rather simple in composition:
  • Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Crushed Ice
  • 2 Tablespoons Simple Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Water
  • 2 Ounces of fine Kentucky Bourbon
Muddle the fresh mint in the bottom of a collins glass, fill the glass half-full with crushed ice, then add the simple syrup, water, and Bourbon.  Stir, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, and enjoy.

If you're making your own simple syrup, throw a few fresh mint leaves while it boils to infuse some extra minty goodness.

If you didn't plan ahead, water and sugar stirred really well can pinch-hit for simple syrup in a bind.

What about this horse race thing?

The Kentucky Derby has been called the most exciting two minutes in sports. Held the first Saturday in May in Louisville, Kentucky, the race is 1.25 miles and represents the first leg of the US Triple Crown.

The Derby has run every year since 1875 and the event is rife with tradition. Goofy hats being one of the more interesting, and luckily for us, Mint Juleps is another. I'm not much for horse racing, but Bourbon is a different story.

Booze and Horsies?

A match made in heaven. Just, not at the same time. The Mint Julep originated in Kentucky, and it's use of Bourbon makes it a perfect fit for the pomp and circumstance that is the Derby. In fact, the Julep has been promoted by Churchill Downs, the horse track, in association with the Derby since 1938 and over 120,000 Juleps are served each year during the 2-day Derby celebration. That's a lot of booze!

In the supreme display of pretentiousness, those sitting in Millionaires Row and the Derby can enjoy $1000 Juleps served in hand-engraved sterling silver cups with premium Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Grab my monocle and top hat, mate!

The Derby is commonly recognized as the start of Mint Julep season, and for those of us in the proletariat left to drink at a bar in Seattle, The Gerald serves a pretty mean cocktail.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Day in Vancouver B.C.

The City of Seattle has been doing quite the promotional push lately with their "2 Days in Seattle are 2 Days You Won't Soon Forget" advertisements. We even wrote about it. But what if you're already from Seattle? You already spend every day in Seattle, so where should you go for a weekend? And what if you're from Portland and already erratically spend 2 days in Seattle from time to time? The answer is clear; you head north and spend half of that time in Vancouver B.C.

Neither Josh nor I had spend much time in Vancouver aside from specific work- or event-related activities, so this would truly be our first chance to explore on our own. Even better, Josh's good friend Steve loaded us up with recommendations of places to hit up and Tourism BC gave us an amazing hotel recommendation. Here's how it went down.

I had driven up to Seattle the night before, so we were all set to head up on a beautiful Saturday morning via Josh's German-engineered mechanized chariot. What normally would have been a 2.5 hours or so drive ended up being a bit more due to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. I'd normally link to an event such as this and provide more information, but my blind hatred for tulips at this point prevents me from mentioning the word "tulip" without getting flashbacks of going 3mph on I-5. Event-related traffic aside, driving to Vancouver is a breeze. The border guards are also incredibly friendly, unless I suppose you're rooting against the Whitecaps (we weren't, Go Whitecaps!, eh).

Our first destination in Vancouver was to check in at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Well, that's after we circled the block a few times avoiding an active movie shoot taking place down the street. After valeting the chariot, we walked in to the lobby. It was hip, modern, and clean but comfortable at the same time. The customer service was impeccable, and most importantly, the desk agent pronounced my name correctly. Usually, it's Gorrrr...err...gran...uhh...buffalo? Not at the Coast Coal Harbour! The star of the show at the hotel, besides from the location, was the guest room. Featuring floor to ceiling wrap around windows and beds that were so comfortable that we had to eat cookies while laying in them, we felt like a million bucks (Canadian) in our room.

Once checked in, we decided to partake in an obligatory Tim Horton's run. For those of you who don't live near one of Tim Horton's limited US locations, think of it as Canada's version of Dunkin Donuts, but more of a national institution. Kind of like how if you're in the States for the first time, you should tame a bald eagle or buy a gun. Same thing in Canada, although way more delicious and far less dangerous. Our first run through their line, however, was met with peril. Josh and I learned two very important things for Americans traveling to Canada: 1. Tim Horton's doesn't take Visa (although it takes Master Card) and 2. Debit in Canada does not mean the same thing as it does in the US. In short, the Canadian debit system only works intra-providencial, meaning a BC debit card will only work in BC. This resulted in an necessary ATM run and after going through the line for a second time, mediocre, yet patriotic donuts and coffee were had.  Eh?

After a bit of wandering, we walked from our hotel along the gorgeous Coal Harbour shoreline towards Vancouver's Gastown district. Vancouver's oldest and potentially first neighborhood is now one of its trendiest; also interestingly named after one of Vancouver's founding residents, Gassy Jack. Most importantly for this publication, it's also home to Steamworks Brewing Company. Located in the heart of Gastown, Steamworks is immediately distinguishable by its ample outdoor seating, relaxed gastropub-esque atmosphere, and good times being had all around. Josh and I grabbed a seat in the downstairs restaurant and did what any online beverage journalist worth his salt would do; ordered one of almost everything they brew. OK, so maybe it was just a taster tray, but at the same time, look at this monster:

If this is a typical Canadian taster tray then we Americans have been seriously one-upped! What you're looking at are five on Steamworks' regular brews along with three seasonals. We took notes on all of them, but I'll highlight three for the sake of time.

Lion's Gate Lager - Of the array put in front of us, this was definitely the most surprising in terms of how much I enjoyed it. I'm really not a lager guy at all and more often than not I probably would have skipped this one, but it was unlike any lager I had ever tried. This one poured an almost amber color with big, malty hues of butterscotch. Much more complex than a typical lager and it even got a little bit sweeter as it warmed up. This may put off fans of traditional lagers, but it made a new fan out of me.

Empress IPA - Dry-hopped with hops from Mt. Hood, this IPA comes out actually quite muted compared to typical Northwest variants. Josh's guess is it sits somewhere in the 60 IBU range, which for him made it a perfect session beer. If you're a fan of most Northwest ambers, pick this one up and you won't be disappointed. Want something super hoppy? Their Double IPA is where you should look.

Coal Porter - Most surprising about this porter is that it doesn't or feel like a porter at all. My first question after looking at it is whether or was poured on nitro or not, but apparently it normally pours as if it was. Super creamy mouthfeel with a decent amount of white head combine to what most would equate with a milk stout. Other than the creaminess, it's malty and contains the typical notes of a porter.

All in all, Steamworks is an excellent place to hit up for good beer, great food, and watching three hockey games at the same time. Do yourself a favor to and go for the taster tray.

With eight little beers in us, it was time to do what any great Canadian citizen would do; go to a soccer match! Ok, so maybe soccer isn't quite as popular as hockey, but Vancouver is home to Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps FC. As fellow Cascadians (Go Timbers!), Josh and I thought it would be fun to round out the night by watching the Whitecaps take on FC Dallas in the brand new BC Place stadium. While the crowd wasn't nearly as rowdy as what we're used to in our respective cities (Go Timbers!), the match itself was thrilling and the crowd really got into it towards the end. For you beer fans, the picture is much bleaker. 99% of the vendors only carry Budweiser and I had never heard of the couple of micros we found. They also only come in little plastic cups, but on the bright side, the come with a Starbucks-esque top so you don't spill on your way to your seat or dump it on your face. Hooray safety! Vancouver ended up winning 1-0 and the closest thing we saw to a soccer riot was a drunk guy unsuccessfully kicking a road barrier (Go Timbers!).

With a full day of Vancouver under our belts and a night of restful slumber, it was time to head back home. A huge thank you goes out to Steve for his great dining suggestions, Tourism BC for information on lodging, and the Coast Coal Harbour hotel for such incredible hospitality and fantastic room service. Another shout out goes to the US border guards who have on file no less than 50,000 photos of Josh and I crossing into the country. USA! USA! USA!

Steamworks Brewing Company on Urbanspoon