A Christmas Beer Care Package

Scroll straight to the bottom to see the haul.

A while back I was in Galway, Ireland exploring the country's craft beer scene. At a local beer bar/ tasting room for Galway Bay Brewery called Oslo bar, I sat for a couple hours chatting with the bartenders and the locals. Among those, I met James. James and I only talked for an hour or so about Irish beers and the breweries in the area, but it was clear he knew his stuff. We’ve kept in touch over the months and this year for Christmas we decided to swap crates. I’ll send him a case of Pacific Northwest staples and winter seasonals and he’ll send me a crate of Irish specialties, dealers choice. Today I am embarking on a journey around Seattle to find and fill that crate. Of course, I am going to do it on my bike.

The original plan was to try to stay within a $50 budget, but since bombers usually run over $5 and I’m looking to fill a 12 bottle shipping case, I’ll probably bust through that budget pretty fast. With any luck, I’ll keep it under $100. Shipping is another matter that might bring this whole train to a halt.  

 

The Plan - What to Buy

James indicated that he has a taste for the winter seasonals. You know, dark stuff. Bourbon barrel aged yadda yaddas, winter ales, stouts and stuff. Obviously, I have to throw in some Northwest IPAs ‘cus otherwise what’s the point? I have a few ideas already and plan to include my personal favorites like the Lucky Envelope Helles Lager. Since he lives in Ireland, it’s not like he gets access to Deschutes even though that is very common around here, so I’ll pick up some of their Christmas stuff. Fremont makes some great bourbon barrel aged stuff that has some fanatical followers, so I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on it. I asked some of the big groups of Seattle drinkers (my favorite gang, SBBD - the Seattle Bikers and Beer drinkers and the Beer Tasting Seattle Facebook group, even though they tend to have pockets too deep for my tastes) to help crowdsource the rest of the list. They came up with a few for the list: Three Magnets Wreathing Havoc, Fremont Bourbon Abominable Winter Ale aka B-BOMB, Reuben’s Gose and Porters, Deschutes Jubelale… and many more. Some of the suggestions were for Elysian beers, which since they’re owned by Budweiser I am reluctant to buy, but you can’t deny that they make good beer and at least up until a few years ago defined Seattle beer. After looking for the list, I’ll buy anything else I see that looks like it fits the criteria: local (at least to the PNW), winter seasonal or seasonal release, and (ideally) inexpensive.

 

The Plan - Where to Buy

To find all this, I’ll see what they have at some of the grocery stores first. QFC and Fred Meyer have passable selections and will be great for grabbing some of the more popular beers.

Then it’s up the hill to Greenwood area to try out Choice and Chucks. Chuck's has a big enough selection that I can finish off my journey there no matter how successful the trip thus far has been. There’s a ton of great beer shops in Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods. If I were going a little further I would hit The Hop and The Hound over in Bothell, Malt and Vine in Redmond, or Josh’s Taps n’ Caps in Snohomish, all of which are great places full of knowledgeable folks and tons of beer.  

BeerCrateLineup1.jpg

 

I wound up with a pretty good variety. A few bottles here and there and after enough stops, I had a full crate. I wasn’t able to find all the beers suggested by the crowd, but some of them made it in.

  • Fremont Bonfire Brown
  • Fremont Winter Ale

Fremont Brewery is right next to my house. Normally I don’t bother with it. Not that it’s bad, the place is just always so crowded. However, when you are buying bombers for a care kit, you can’t beat the combo of price, locality, and quality. These two are winter releases. Been awhile since I’ve had the bonfire, so I’ll have to swing by the brewery to grab a growler for myself later (and probably wait in line).

  • pFriem IPA

pFriem was suggested by a couple folks as a very PNW brewery. They aren’t really known for their IPA, but I couldn’t exactly send my Irish Buddy a Belgian beer style. He’s got the real stuff closer to him than El Paso is to New Orleans, anyway.

  • Lazy Boy Mistletoe Bliss

I love Lazy Boy brewery. I don’t think this beer or the brewery has the mindshare to be considered a PNW Christmas staple, but as I was shopping I found that not really many beers do. This represents the tiny Everett brewery segment in the crate. Extremely obscure in Ireland, to be sure. Plus it has wax on the lid. For $5 a bottle, I couldn’t pass it up.  

  • Lucky Envelope Grapefruit Eniac IPA
  • Lucky Envelope Helles Lager

Lucky Envelope has strong representation in this crate despite the fact this Ballard taproom being a relatively small brewery. I just love the place so much and none can deny that Lucky knows what they are doing. The Grapefruit IPA is such an American thing, it had to be included. The Helles Lager is simply my favorite beer ever, so it’s in there too.

  • Reubens Robust Porter

Reubens made it in simply for being an awesome beer. This particular beer was recommended by a couple people, though I’ve never known any particular Reubens brew to stand out among the others. Welcome to the crate.

  • Sumerian Narcissism IPA

This is another beer that is in my top 5 favorite beers in Seattle. Maybe it's the 20-mile bike ride it usually takes me to get to this beer that makes it taste so sweet. Even so, finding it in a bomber meant it goes in the crate.

  • Black Raven Festivus
  • Black Raven Coconut Porter

Black Raven is the undisputed king of craft brew on the east side (am I wrong? Get at me, Mack and Jack's) so a few of their beers had to make it in. A winter seasonal and a beer I personally love the piss out of.

  • Schooner Exact Hoppy The Woodsman
  • Schooner Exact Woodsman

These were the highest end beers that made it into my crate based solely on the suggestions of others. Schooner Exact is a great brewery, but I don’t often spend more than $5 on a beer. This time I did. I hope it pays off, though I’ll have to ask James how they are ‘cus I’m sending him both! Should make a fine side by side comparison.

Execution

I was able to get the whole haul in two trips with nothing but my bike and panniers. I wouldn’t recommend it. I would have made it in one trip, but the sale at Bevmo that was closing its doors meant I had to stock up on hard liquor at the same time. My Thule bike bags didn’t like the idea of a small amount of weight in them, so one of them fell off the back of the bike mid-ride from the impact of a small bump, smashing into the ground. Thankfully no beer was harmed. I rode up the hill to hit Fred Meyer, Choice, Chucks, and Lucky Envelope all in a row. Fred Meyer has a lot of beer, most of it in 6 pack and big box form, but their bomber section is nothing to scoff at. Four of the beers I got were there (most of the cheapest ones). "Choice" is an old gas station turned beer store and teriyaki restaurant. No bike racks, but they have a solid selection of beer and gum. They ended up not having anything for the crate, but I picked up a few for myself anyway. When I got to Chucks I was ready to fill up and head home, but it turns out that while their selection is very extensive, not many of their beers really fit the criteria. They cast a very wide net and have beers from breweries all around, especially hard to find and expensive ones. They don’t bother much with the kind of beers I wanted to fill this crate. I still ended up grabbing a few because of course Chucks is still going to have something for everyone. Lastly, I stopped at Lucky Envelope to grab a few from their fridge. This is how I always recommend buying beer. You put your money right into the hands of the brewery that makes the beer and are guaranteed not only the freshest beer (Erin, behind the bar says it was bottled literally the day before) but also the least marked up. Lucky filled out the rest of the crate.

 

Overall Thoughts

It's the perfect Seattle Everyman crate. It ended up having a very big Seattle focus. Lots of Ballard and the neighborhoods that surround Seattle. Apart from pFriem, it's all Washington. Gathering it on bike wasn't bad at all except for the bag malfunction. So much for Thule. Looking at it now, the shipping cost will probably be higher than the cost of the beer, so perhaps it makes a better gift for a local beer lover. I'll update this post with the full price of shipping once I find out. 

Thanks for reading!