roblog - Official Blog of Rob Hurvitz

23 Oct 2009 - 7:19:04 PM
Bike Tour Breweries

During the Islands Bike Tour last month we made time to visit three breweries en route. The first one was great, but then it was all downhill from there.

Port Townsend Brewing Company - Port Townsend, WA
Conveniently located at the end of the bike trail into town, this brewery has a tasting room but no kitchen. Which is fine because they have some great beer. There's a Mexican place just across from them, if you're hungry. They also sell logo pint glasses, so I got to carry one of those around in my panniers for the rest of the trip. What surprised and delighted me most about this place was that they had four different IPAs on tap. You don't see that very often.

    Rob's Picks
  • Chet's Gold - slight hoppy edge, refreshing, goes down easy. Good for a hot day.
  • Bitter End IPA - good! Decent hoppiness, citrusy. My fave of the four IPAs.
  • Hop Diggidy IPA - little crisper than the Bitter End, floral
  • Strait Stout - a touch on the light side, but a good all-around stout
  • Peeping Peater Scotch Ale - smoky, really nice
  • Imperial IPA - kinda creamy, nice!
  • Barley Wine - wow. Best barley wine I've tried (but I usually don't like barley wines). 10.5% - extremely dangerous. Usual strong taste reserved for the finish.

    The Rest
  • Pale Ale - ok, but nothing remarkable
  • Reel Amber - ibid
  • Brown Porter - ibid
  • Boatyard Bitter - not bad, but kind of blah
  • Single Hop IPA - spicy edge, not an intense hoppiness. My least favorite of the four IPAs.

Port Townsend Brewing
Port Townsend Brewing taster tray - 1

Water Street Brewing - Port Townsend, WA - Update: Closed!
Well, this place has a lot going for it -- relaxed hang-out vibe, cool decor, friendly and pretty waitstaff, great food. Unfortunately, beer is not on that list. Very disappointing, especially after all the good stuff at PT Brewing. Oh well. They also sell hand-blown, hippy-esque glasses (for $25/glass!), but no logo pint glasses, contrary to the artwork on their web site. I only had so much room in my panniers, though, so that was okay. Did I mention they have great food? The BBQ tofu sandwich was all sorts of spicy awesomeness.

    Rob's Pick
  • Queen Nina's Imperial IPA - kind of a messy IPA, but good enough

    The Rest
  • Schwag Lite - kind of meh
  • Purdy Pale - has that soapy flavor I'm not so fond of
  • Strange Brew Single Hop - well-named. Hoppy, but taste is all over the place.
  • Panama Red - vague caramel flavor, but mostly bland
  • McPrior's Irish Stout - slight formaldehyde aroma, watery, mostly tasteless. Pretty bad stout.

Water Street Brewing
Water Street Brewing taster tray

San Juan Brewing - Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA - Update: Closed!
Last and, unfortunately, least was the San Juan Brewing Company and Front Street Ale House. Forgettable beer and mediocre food. Two bad tastes that go worse together. You gotta be leery of a place that touts their Bacon Beer as their most famous ("as mentioned in the New York Times!"). They had an insert in their menus saying they were out of the Bacon Beer at the moment, which was some welcome news to me, but when the taster tray showed up, there it was. Wayne generously offered to drink that one.

    Rob's Pick
  • Blockhouse Red - decent amber, but only 4.0%

    The Rest
  • Raging Main Ale (limited edition) - has a stale, paper-y taste. Not bad after a few sips, actually, but not great. Their strongest beer at 6.6%.
  • Royal Marine IPA - kinda hoppy, but kinda big for an IPA, which masks the hoppiness. A little too well-rounded for my tastes. 4.3%
  • Eichenberger Hefeweizen - kind of watery. Meh. 4.0%
  • Haro Strait Pale Ale - slightly floral, mostly meh. One of my least favorite Pale Ales, actually. A mere 3.5%.
  • Ale Diablo Pepper Beer - peppery! Gives you something else to think about as you drink this otherwise mediocre beer.
  • Starboard Porter - a Zen koan of a beer. From the beer menu: "Molasses" - yup. "Version of a straight-forward stout" - yup. "But without the stoutiness" - odd. What is a stout when it's not a stout?
  • Bacon Beer - Wayne sez, "inoffensive"

San Juan Brewing
San Juan Brewing taster tray

Only one more brewery post, and I'll be all caught up!
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19 Oct 2009 - 4:40:22 PM
Islands Bike Tour

Well, my summer was rolling along with the occasional hike, run, walk -- nothing too demanding -- when I got an email from my friend Wayne. He had just been laid off, his last day would be the upcoming Friday, would I be up for a week-long hiking or biking trip starting the following Monday? Absolutely! That's the kind of thing I should've been doing more of this summer.

We decided on a bike tour idea that he'd been thinking about for a while: ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge, work our way up to Port Townsend, ferry to Whidbey, continue on up to Anacortes, ferry to San Juan, circle the island and maybe hop over to Shaw, end up on Lopez where we would meet his wife and get a ride back home. We would break it up into six easy pieces because neither of us were in top biking shape.

Rather than bore everyone by exhaustively detailing the entire trip, I'll just touch on some of the highlights.

Day One: We met at Zeitgeist before getting on the ferry, and I learned that riding while holding a cup of coffee takes much more bike fu than I currently have. Good lunch on Bainbridge a couple blocks from the ferry with our former co-worker Randy. We shared our dinner spread at the campground that evening with our friend Aaron who was heading into Seattle from Port Townsend.

Day Two: Port Townsend Brewing has good beer, Water Street doesn't.

Day Three: Of course, the longest ride of the trip was on the day with the worst weather. Ended up taking a rain break at Fort Ebey State Park, but caught a couple hours of non-rain to get across Deception Pass. A bit of a drizzle during the last bit into Anacortes, though. I was glad I packed my earplugs because of the constant roar of jets in and out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station all the way up until midnight.

Day Four: The Doctor's Office in Friday Harbor. Nice little cafe. Good biker company in San Juan County Park.

Day Five: Lime Kiln lighthouse. Fifth day of biking made the hill climb from Cattle Point really, really hard. Gorgeous weather, but forecast called for rain that night -- we decided to splurge on a room in Friday Harbor instead of camping on Shaw Island. Gave us time to hit the San Juan Brewing Company (not so good), and we avoided the downpour from around midnight to 6 a.m. (double-plus good).

Day Six: Putting the bikes on the car when we met Cindy on Lopez Island, and she had bags of clean clothes for us. Yay! Shark Reef Park, Iceberg Point, and Spencer Spit are all nice spots. Maybe someday I'll go back to Lopez and bike around.

So yeah, it was a good trip. About 135 miles total, more or less. I then spent the next three days not doing any physical activity.

Pictures and some more details are available on my newly created Islands Bike Tour photo gallery page. Enjoy.

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15 Oct 2009 - 7:21:00 PM
Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company

I'd been meaning to check out the Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company for years and finally made it there this summer after an afternoon of rock climbing. I forgot to bring along my little Moleskine for jotting down my random beer tasting notes, but fortunately, I had my nifty new iPhone with me and was able to tap them slowly into the Notes app, and then email them to myself. Too bad I didn't just write this post while I was sitting there tasting their beer rather than two and a half months and four brewpubs later. It hasn't been a very good summer for keeping on top of things.

Update! (9-Sep-2011) - I stopped by again after a fun bike ride on the Iron Horse Trail from x38 to Snoqualmie Pass. I was pretty thirsty but only had one beer -- had to get back to Seattle to see Archers of Loaf play a reunion show.

    Rob's Picks
  • Harvest Moon - 5.3% - seasonal - Good complex maltiness. Subtle breadiness on the finish. Not too light, not too heavy. A fine beer.
  • Copperhead American Pale Ale - Quite nice, with a bit of a floral aroma and good hoppiness. I'll have to try the nitro next time.
  • Steam Train Porter - Strong chocolatey flavor, almost coffee-esque. Slurped this one right down.
  • Wildcat IPA - Not as crisp as I usually like, but fairly solid.
    The Rest
  • Summer Ale - Pretty good. Drinkable and not as light as I expected (more of a pilsener), but nothing really stood out about it.
  • Haystack Hefeweizen - Okay. Citrusy edge, so no need for a slice of lemon.
  • PGA Amber - Pretty blah. Not much of anything going on with this beer, unfortunately. At first my geek side thought the acronym stood for Pretty Good Amber, which would've been a misnomer, but the beer menu had all sorts of golf lingo sprinkled in its description. Oh well.
Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company
Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company taster tray

In case you're wondering, I'm trying to figure out how these beer posts should look. When I first started them I thought I shouldn't say anything bad about any given brewery and/or their beers, and so I decided to only mention the beers I liked (or, in one or two cases, disliked the least). Hence, the "Rob's pick" and "Runner(s)-up" devices. The number of runners-up was my nudge-nudge-wink-wink way of letting you know if I thought the brewery made good beer or not. But yeah, enough of that. Not only is this an inconsequential blog on the internet, but beers I've liked and disliked have sometimes been almost complete opposites with the preferences of friends who have been with me, drinking the same beer. So basically, what I scribble here doesn't really matter, except to me. But if for some reason a brewer is scouring the web looking for any sort of recognition, stumbles across my amateurish tasting notes, and gets all depressed and weepy by the opinions of a complete stranger, well, at least they have plenty of beer on hand in which to drown their sorrows. Anyway. I like the "Rob's pick" thing, but I'm not sure how to incorporate that with a list of all the beers I've tried. A paragraph followed by the pick and runners-up? Bulleted lists of the beers I liked and didn't? Some sort of ranking? Hmm.

Update (8 Jan 2011): Well, not too long after this post I decided on what format to use, and now I'm finally digging through my early, sometimes sparse, notes and adding the rest of the beers. You can thank me later.

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4 Oct 2009 - 12:05:47 PM
Summer Hikes

I went on a few hikes this summer and am finally getting around to mentioning them. I used to be fairly diligent about keeping the roblog up-to-date with these sorts of things but now I just seem to let them slide. I blame Facebook.

Sloan Peak (7835')

More of a climb than a hike -- there's a glacier crossing and a scramble to get to the summit. Our alternate start featured the worst bushwhack I've ever done, and my camera case stealthily opened up on one of my many slips 'n slides, letting my 2nd camera of 2009 quietly slip out. Didn't notice it was gone until after we'd cleared the bushwhack, pretty much. So, no pictures. Sigh. Other than that horrible bushwhack, though, it was a good climb.

Perry Creek

Went with four friends, two of whom were worn out from a previous hike or run or some such. So, instead of going all the way out to Mt Forgotten, we only went as far as the alpine meadows at the end of the Perry Creek Trail. Nice views of the surrounding peaks, though, such as this one:

Mt Forgotten
Mt Forgotten

Seven Fingered Jack (9100')

I went with two friends on what was supposed to be a three-day, five-peak camping trip. On the way up to Leroy Creek Basin, though, I managed to get a very annoying blister on my heel, and so I decided to reduce my peak-bagging that afternon to just 7 Fingered Jack and skip Maude, which I'd gone up several years before. My two friends headed off to Maude, and I slowly ambled towards 7FJ. As it turned out, we each only got one peak. The next morning, my blister was only about half healed, so I lazed about in camp as the two of them tagged 7FJ. We then packed up and headed back down to the main trail to camp somewhere closer to Dumbell, but, after much deliberation, we bailed and just headed out, which was fine by me because I would've just had another lazy day of napping around camp while waiting for them. Ah well. At least it was a beautiful area, especially getting on towards sunset when 7FJ and Maude were lit up all warm and pretty.

7 Fingered Jack
7 Fingered Jack

Pratt Lake

Headed out on the Talapus-Ollalie Lakes trail with a few folks and managed to miss the turn-off for Ollalie Lake. So we ended up going all the way out to Pratt Lake, which was quite nice. Hadn't been out to that lake before.

Pratt Lake
Enjoying a sunny day at Pratt Lake

Granite Mountain (5629')

Went out on a beautiful Sunday with Jonny up the Granite Mountain trail, just off I-90. The Granite Mountain turn-off a little ways up the trail was well-signed, otherwise we might have ended up at Pratt Lake. Trails criss-cross all over along the I-90 corridor. There's some re-routing work being done for Granite Mountain, although it's almost done. At the bench with the pond below the lookout you used to head left and go up the bouldery/talus slope, but now you go right through some pretty meadows, pass below the lookout, then zig-zag up to it.

Granite Mountain
Just below the fire lookout on the summit of Granite Mountain

I just realized that these hikes were each done with different folks. So either I have a lot of hiking friends, or nobody wants to hike with me more than once. Hmm.

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