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Chuckanut II, Bellingham, WA

March 14, 2010

Chuckanut Coaster, Courtesy of Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen

What began as just an early dinner stop at Chuckanut Brewery on Friday turned into one of our best brewery experiences. We were finishing up are meal and savoring our beers when I innocently asked Mari Kemper if they were expanding the brewery.  They are, and she told us the story of how their new fermentation tanks became reality, and are currently being made in Tacoma. Sensing we like good food and beer she then turned the discussion to their Brewer’s dinners and their North Cascade Institute Speaker Series over night dinner at Lake Diablo on April 24.  We even talked a little about how people don’t understand that there is more to lagers than just Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. There are light lagers (Pilsners,Weizens), dark lagers (Dunkels, Schwarzbiers), sweet lagers (Bocks) and everything in between. In our opinion and judging from their medals from the Great American Beer Festival, Chuckanut nails every style. We’ll have to wait and see how they do in the World Beer Cup in April.

Mari invited us to over to the brewery to meet Will (Kemper) and Kevin (Davey) who were in the process of brewing up their newest creation a Sticke (secret) Alt. A special Double Alt that is brewed only two times a year at the Uerige Brewpub in Dusseldorf, Germany. When it is released isn’t secret, the third Tuesday in January and October, but the ingredients are.  This may well be the first attempt at this style from a brewery in Washington. Cheers to Kevin and Will for experimenting with this rare beer. I can’t wait to try it.

Beer Crossing, by Lush C 2010

We paid our tab (thank you Lush C), and made the Beer Crossing from the restaurant to the brewery.  When we arrived, Will and Kevin were in their brewer attire (red overalls and rubber boots), up stairs watching their newest beer boil.  Will invited us up to take a peak, so I eagerly climbed the stairs, and looked into the brew kettle, which was filled with the sweet wort whirlpooling around.  Will was manning the steam control, watching the rumble, letting in more or less steam, to keep the boil going to his liking.  Kevin on the other side of the platform was pondering the mess he was going to have to clean up.  He was having difficulties getting the mash out of the lauter tun, and feared that he would have to get inside to clean it up.  We were interrupted briefly by a couple cattle farmers who showed up looking to haul off the barrels of spent mash from the days brew. To their disappointment they would need to return later to get the feed for their cattle.

Looking at the clock, Will then said that in ten minutes more hops needed to be added, and that I could add them. (Getting my geek on now) I stayed at the top with Will as he continued to keep the temperature  to his liking as he explained to me the design of his brew kettle, which is powered by steam and has two jet streams to give an even whirlpool action.  We talked about the hops and barley he imports from Germany, and why he uses them even though they are more expensive.

Meanwhile, Lush C was downstairs talking to Kevin about the time he spent in Munich.  He told her stories of him and his brewing instructor loading up the trunk of the instructors 7 Series BMW with spent mash, and delivering it to local cattle farmers.  I guess the cows would get very excited when they showed up and would follow and try to lick them to get the tasty treat that Kevin proclaimed to be “Cow Crack”.

Watching the clock, a clock on the wall that Will said is the official and only time piece used in the brewery, he handed me the container of hop pellets and gave me a countdown. When he said go, I gently poured the hops into the brew, watching them swirl around and meld to the wort turning the top a nice St. Paddy’s day green.  It smelled so good!

Since it is a big beer, it will take at least six weeks to mature before being released to the public. Will said to wait even a little longer for it to really be at its top enjoyment, claiming there was no reason to rush it. I’m not sure if this beer will make it to the Seattle area, but I may check with Dog and Pony, Beveridge Place, or Brouwers to see if they can get a keg or two.  Naturally, I will be heading up to Bellingham and Chuckanut Brewery in a month and a half to try it out.

DraughtE put to work with Will Kemper standing watch - by Lush C, 2010

After adding the hops, Will and Kevin switched places, so that Will could show us the computer program he developed to help him run the brewery.  He can control almost everything in the brewery from the computer.  He brought up a screen that showed of all the fermentation tanks, with all the information he might need. He has the ability to control valve openings and temperature at the click of a mouse.  It gives him the peace of mind that he can check and make changes from home so that his beer is perfect every time.  I mentioned that I had heard that he could brew from home, he said yes, but as we saw earlier there is too much manual control of the heat on the kettle, so he’d never do it.

With that, we decided it was time to leave.  We have to thank Amy (our server), Mari, Will and Kevin for being so hospitable, and opening up their brewery to us beer geeks.  We expected to just peek in, say hi and that would be it.  After all, they were busy working.  Instead, they took the time to talk to us and even allowed us to be a part of the process.  They made this a good beer trip for sure!

Cheers,

DraughtE

Check out our previous post on Chuckanut for more information about the beer, location, and food.

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FTC Information:  GoodBeerTrips is not affiliated with the Chuckanut Brewery.  All Beer and Food was purchased by GoodBeerTrips (Lush C).  Although we didn’t pay for it, since they put me to work, I can’t even say the brewery tour was free.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2010 9:57 am

    That’s friggin’ sweet! I look forward to trying that secret Alt beer — sounds like it’ll be ready right about the time we do our Bellingham beer hike.

  2. April 7, 2010 12:26 pm

    Glad you enjoyed your visit. Chuckanut Brewery loves having you guys. Come back soon!

    James
    Marketing rep, CB&K

    • DraughtE permalink*
      April 7, 2010 2:00 pm

      Thanks. We may just have to stop by on Saturday.

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