roblog - Official Blog of Rob Hurvitz

28 Jun 2011 - 11:49:05 AM
Schooner EXACT

While enjoying a Zeitgeist mocha one rare sunny June afternoon, I decided to make the most of the sunshine and -- gasp! -- walk to Schooner EXACT. It was a healthy walk from Pioneer Square, but a nice change of pace, so to speak, from biking to the Georgetown neighborhood. At the moment there are still two other breweries in that area to visit, so the Georgetown bike rides aren't over yet...

Soon after I bellied up to the tasting room bar, the blue skies went away, and it started drizzling. Good times in the tasting room, though: a climbing friend of mine happened to be there, and then the Hawaiians showed up. One of these days I'll have to visit Hawaii and check out its burgeoning beer scene. In the meantime, the Schooner Exact brews are quite nice. By the time I left, the squall had passed, and things were drying up.

    Rob's Picks
  • Gateway Golden - Nice light amber color. Good hoppy flavor. Kind of a light, less-malty pale ale.
  • King St Brown - 5.5 - Good smoky coffee flavor, with hoppy undertone. Light but solid.
  • Profanity Hill Porter - A lot like the brown but less smoky, a little less coffee flavor. Not as "thick" I suppose. Good.
  • Regrade Pale Ale - 5.5 - Smooth. Maltiness balances out the hoppiness really well. Very drinkable.
  • 3 Grid IPA - 6.7 - Subtle hoppy aroma. Smooth, with a slight caramel flavor and lots of hoppiness. Very nice.
  • Brave Horse IPA - Very hoppy pale ale. Good maltiness, good hoppiness. Great hoppy aroma. Much better deal here than at the Brave Horse Tavern, and you can hear yourself think, which is nice.
    The Rest
  • Seamstress Union Raspberry Wheat - Peachy color. Raspberry aroma strong. Tart berry start, bready finish -- odd combination. Very light.
  • Gallant Maiden Hefeweizen - 5.2 - Bavarian-style. Sweet, with clove and slight banana flavors. A touch watery. Good for a hot summer day in the sun.
Schooner Exact
Schooner EXACT taster set -- Seattle, WA

This walking to breweries thing has some potential. The Elysian is really close to me, and Pike Place is a 20-25 minute walk downhill. So many more options with the bike, though.
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16 Jun 2011 - 4:14:08 PM
San Francisco Brewing Company

I was flipping through an old Moleskine notebook of mine and came across what looks like my first set of microbrewery tasting notes, from December 30, 2005. Apparently I was in San Francisco at that time and had several free hours to spend in the San Francisco Brewing Company, which closed its doors in November 2009. The notes themselves are about as basic as you can get, but they make me smile, and so writing this post seems like a decent way to say goodbye to the SFBC, even though I didn't particularly like most of their beers. Ah well.

    Rob's Picks
  • Albatross Lager - good
  • Emperor Norton Lager - good
  • St Stephens Bock - Yum! Like a brown ale.
    The Rest
  • Andromeda Wheat - meh, weak
  • SF Pale Ale - meh, borderline okay
  • ShanghaIPA - okay, but not so bitter or crisp
  • Xmas Cheer - pretty good, but nothing creative
  • Alcatraz Stout - kind of flat-tasting
SF Brewing glass
Logo pint glass from the now-closed San Francisco Brewing Company

There are other interesting things in my scribblings in the SF Brewing Co. A snippet of conversation from a nearby table: "I would rather my sister were a stripper than a telemarketer." I apparently took the picture of two couples at another table (with their camera at their request...), and they were having a "young, meta conversation," whatever that means. "A strike against the S.F.B.C.: They're playing Sting." And as far as the weather went, it was pouring down rain that afternoon.
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14 Jun 2011 - 12:21:52 PM
Brauhuus Wädenswil

This brewpub seems to have a number of names, Brauhuus Wädenswil, Wädenswiler Biere, Wädi-Brau-Huus, just to name a few. Whatever you call it, though, they have some good beer and fine food. Greg, Alice, and I visited on the occasion of my last night in Switzerland. They had six beers on tap, including a seasonal, and the Hanf in bottle. The Hanf is a hemp beer, so I guess this Wädi Brau place is run by a bunch of hippies.

    Rob's Picks
  • Blond - 4.8 - Bready, slight honey flavor, hoppy finish. Pretty bubbly. Pretty good.
  • Ur-Pils - 5.1 - Good hoppiness, good breadiness. Filtered but not too light. Really good.
  • Dunkel - 4.8 - Darkest of the lot. Very malty, but not with that malty sweetness. Hoppy undertone. Very drinkable.
  • Saison - 7.8 - The waitress called it a doppelweizenbock, but it tasted like a Belgian tripel. Good caramel sweetness with alcohol edge. Greg pointed about a subtle banana flavor, but I decided to ignore that in order to continue enjoying the beer...
  • Hanf - 5 - I guess it has a hempy aroma and taste, but I'm no expert in that. Aroma has some mintiness and grassiness. Grassy/piney/minty flavors. Not sweet. Nice and crisp.
    The Rest
  • Hell - 4.8 - Cloudier than the Blond but otherwise very similar. A bit breadier, hoppiness a little more immediate, less bubbly.
  • Ur-Weizen - 5 - Sweet. Caramel and honey flavors. Pretty bubbly and not so hoppy. Refreshing, but a small glass is enough for me.
waedi beer palette and me
Me surrounded by a whole lot of Wädenswiler beer -- Wädenswil, Switzerland

The sampler beer palette looks like a ridiculous amount of beer, but at the time the glasses seemed a lot smaller. Huh. Must be some trick photography going on here.

Anyway, this concludes my Europe 2011 series of posts. I've been back in Seattle a week now and am feeling ready for whatever comes my way.

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14 Jun 2011 - 11:07:09 AM

Greg, Alice, and I spent about two days in Vals, where Alice's mother lives. It's known for some thermal baths, but we went on a hike, instead, from the end of the road in Zervreila, around the lake and down the valley. It was mostly cloudy, but the rain considerately held off until after we got back to the house. There are a bunch of great-looking hikes in the area -- I wish I'd had four or five days in Vals to explore all the nearby valleys and mountains. The local cheeses and honey and nusstorte were very yummy, too. Mmmm.

downtown vals
The bustling downtown -- Vals, Switzerland

mountains over vals
Nearby peaks overlooking the town -- Vals, Switzerland

The Zervreilahorn dominating the view at the end of the road -- Vals, Switzerland

The dammed Zervreilasee. Neither Greg nor Alice had ever seen the lake level this low. There was a fishing competition going on that day, as well. -- Vals, Switzerland

old stone barn
Old stone barn built under the shelter of a massive boulder for protection from falling rock -- Vals, Switzerland

old stone barn, side view
Side view of the old stone barn. There might be some good but extremely hard climbing on the roof of that boulder. -- Vals, Switzerland

pretty river
River cascading down to the Zervreilasee -- Vals, Switzerland

into the valley
Big, beautiful valley. Never did see the end of it. -- Vals, Switzerland

zervreilahorn, side view
Side view of the Zervreilahorn. It's a long, skinny ridge. Pretty cool. -- Vals, Switzerland

Such a beautiful little corner of Switzerland. It's places like this that make me want to spend a month or two just walking all over the country, from valley to valley, village to village. That would be an amazing journey.
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13 Jun 2011 - 11:36:38 AM
Surselva Bräu

While on our way to Vals, Greg, Alice, and I stopped in Flims for dinner at Surselva Bräu, a nice-looking brewpub. I had a big ol' salad and small glasses of the two beers they had on tap. Their other two beers were available only in bottles. All of them were 4.9%, conveniently enough.

    Rob's Pick
  • Marenghin Extra-Herb - seasonal summer beer - Crisp, lager-y, good hoppiness, good effervescence. Very refreshing.
    The Rest
  • Marenghin - Well-made, light, bready, slightly hoppy. Goes right down, but not too interesting.
  • Blutzcher - Amber color, but very light on the tongue. A bit watery. Malty, but not sweet. Not as hoppy as Marenghin.
  • Rensch - wheat beer - Had strong green olive aroma and flavor -- bad batch, maybe? Needed a big wedge of lemon to make it drinkable. Disappointing.
Two beers on tap at Surselva Bräu -- Flims, Switzerland

Surselva had all sorts of different beer glasses for sale, but after a few minutes of perusing the varieties and sizes I think I picked the best one.
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12 Jun 2011 - 5:56:36 PM
Rappi Bier Factory

Greg and Alice took me to Rappi Bier Factory (also in English) in nearby Rapperswil. They had three beers on tap, and the Big Blackbier I had from a bottle. Apparently their most popular beer is the Rappigold. The owner/brewer Steve tried a different yeast in the batch that was on tap, however, and it was, in a word, bad. Steve apologized for what he called the worst beer he'd ever brewed. Live and learn, I guess.

    Rob's Picks
  • XXA Xtra Bitter Strong Ale - 6.7% - Bit of a floral aroma. Sweet caramel kick to hop bite, finishes with good mellow maltiness. Kind of a strong amber.
  • Big Blackbier - 8% - A strong stout (stout stout?). Good full alcohol and stout aroma. Flavors strong, too: alcohol, dark toastiness/smokiness. Not as heavy as it looks -- effervescence helps with that. Good hoppiness and a subtle sweetness, too.
    The Rest
  • Rappigold - 4.8% - Hoppy honey lager. Watery and pretty sour. Hopefully Steve will go back to the original yeast in the next batch.
  • Linth Maisbier - 4.4% - Corn beer. Bit of an eggy/corny aroma. Light, with a bubbly tang. Slight breadiness, and decent hoppiness. Corn taste builds up -- a lemon wedge would be useful here.
Bier Factory
A glass of Rappigold at the Rappi Bier Factory -- Rapperswil, Switzerland

They had a glass for sale, too, but only with the spartan "Bier Factory" name it. The version with the color logo was from a smaller, more expensive production and not for sale. With a bit of sleight of hand, though, I was able to walk away with the fancier one. I drank a whole glass of the crappy Rappigold -- I think I deserved it...
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12 Jun 2011 - 4:47:25 PM
A Few Swiss Day Trips

I did a lot of day trips in and around Zurich, either suggested or accompanied by my friends Greg and Alice who live just outside of the city in Thalwil. So I'm just going to throw a bunch of the pictures up here in one long post, especially because I'm now back home in Seattle and want to finish up the travel posts sooner rather than later.

The first two pictures are from Lucerne, which Greg recommended as a good place to stop and have a look-see on my way from Saanen to Zurich. The trains took longer than I thought, so I only had three or so hours to walk around town as quickly as I could.

The iconic Kapellbrücke -- Lucerne, Switzerland

lake lucerne
A view of Lake Lucerne from the old city walls -- Lucerne, Switzerland

The day after I arrived in Thalwil, the weather changed from hot and sunny to cloudy and occasionally rainy. Almost made me homesick for Seattle. Almost. Greg had suggested visiting the Rheinfall (just below Schloss Laufen), which is supposedly the biggest waterfall in Europe, if you consider length, width, height, amount of water flowing, and maybe a few other factors, as well. There's a big rock in the middle of it you can get to by boat, so that seemed like a cool thing to do. The weather looked better early Tuesday than most of the day on Wednesday, so I headed out in the morning for some waterfall action and had decent weather. Didn't start raining until after I'd left for a late lunch in Schaffhausen. And it wasn't confusing at all, having Schaffhausen and Schloss Laufen right next to each other. Well, okay, so maybe it was a little bit of a tongue-twister of a day.

The famous Rhine waterfall near Schaffhausen -- Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall, Switzerland

rheinfall close-up
A closer view of the waterfall from one of the vantage spots built into the cliff -- Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall, Switzerland

The cloudiness continued into the bank holiday on Thursday, and so instead of heading up to the top of Mt Pilatus, we went underground into Höllgrotten, or Hell's Grotto. Limestone caves with cool formations. Wandered around the town of Zug afterwards.

mmm, brains
Cool brain formation in the caves -- Baar, Switzerland

mmm, red
Cool red formation in the caves -- Baar, Switzerland

not your usual stalactites
Cool stalactites in the caves where you can see the former level of the subterranean lake before it was drained -- Baar, Switzerland

mmm, creamy
Cool creamy formation in the caves -- Baar, Switzerland

The next day we headed to Vals, visiting Wasserauen en route to go up the Ebenalp gondola for lunch and a short hike. As you will see, there were lots of clouds, but they mostly cleared up in the afternoon.

awesome restaurant
The awesome Gasthaus Aeshcer-Wildkirchli restaurant built into the cliff face. The Rösti was really good. -- Wasserauen, Switzerland

flowers and bee butt
Two pretty flowers along the trail, with bee -- Wasserauen, Switzerland

trail going up
The trail, going back up -- Wasserauen, Switzerland

huts in the mist
Huts in the mist above the gondola station -- Wasserauen, Switzerland

After Ebenalp, we took a detour into Liechtenstein for an hour. Took a few pictures, mailed a few postcards. I think there are a couple cool hikes there, but we didn't do them. Maybe next time I'm in Liechtenstein...

vaduz castle
Vaduz Castle, from below (didn't visit the castle, though) -- Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Whew! I was certainly busy with the day trips. But then we spent two nights in Vals, which I think warrants its own post. And then there were three more microbreweries poured in for good measure. So much to write about! I think I'm going to need a vacation after I get all these posts done.
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5 Jun 2011 - 2:32:37 PM
Rathaus Brauerei

On the way from Saanen to Zurich, I stopped in Lucerne for about three and a half hours (I thought I'd have a couple more hours, but the layover in Interlaken Ost was 30 minutes, and the train over Brünig Pass took a while. After running around Lucerne on a hasty "walking" tour, I settled down in the Rathaus Brauerei to sample the two beers they make.

    Rob's Pick
  • Pils - 4.5% - Light, not sweet, nice breadiness, no lemon/honey flavors. A good solid pils.
    The Rest
  • Wheat - 4.5% - A sweet wheat. Interesting and different. Sort of a malty sweetness, but not that bock-y sweetness, maybe a malty/honey combo. I liked it well enough, but I'd order the pils if I ever go back.

rathaus brews
Two beers in the Rathaus -- Lucerne, Switzerland

I also ended up buying a glass from them, figuring it would stay in Zurich until I fly back, so it's not nearly as crazy as carrying a beer glass to Zurich as, say, from Amsterdam...
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5 Jun 2011 - 3:05:58 AM
Micro Brasserie du Chamonix

My first French brewpub! It's owned by a Canadian guy, but still, it's in France, and maybe he's French-Canadian... Anyway, my climbing friends knew about the Micro Brasserie du Chamonix (MBC), and so of course we went. MBC was out of its Blanche des Guides brew (my friends' favorite), but I got to try the other five on tap, including a seasonal. They have a good veggie burger, too, which went down fast after a long day of hiking. After four or five weeks of European beers, it was comforting to find a place that made the kind of beer I've grown accustomed to in Seattle. As far as alcohol percentages go, all the MBC beers are 5%, conveniently enough.

    Rob's Picks
  • Blonde de Chamonix - Nice and light, with honey flavor. Not so bready, but good balance with light hops. Quite bubbly, goes right down. Great post-hike beer.
  • Granite de Pale Ale - Nice full-bodied pale ale. Big maltiness, but not too big. Hints of caramel. Good hoppiness in the aftertaste.
  • Dark Vador - Their bock, but doesn't have that bock-y malty sweetness I don't particularly like, although it does have a malty taste to it. Fairly smoky, too. More like a porter.
    The Rest
  • Stout des Drus - Sort of a watery Guinness, but not bad. Dry smokiness, not too heavy. The problem with a Guinness-like stout is that I always compare it to a Guinness...
  • Seasonal (Snowslayer Ale?) - A light ale. No honey flavor like the Blonde, a bit more watery, and a slight caramel flavor. A little odd.

MBC tasters
Little tasters at the MBC -- Chamonix, France

As I was typing up this post I finally realized that the MBC acronym sounds like "embassy," and their logo features those letters in a Canadian maple leaf, so I suppose this place is basically the unofficial Canadian embassy.
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4 Jun 2011 - 2:06:51 PM

Why did I wait so long to visit Chamonix? It's an amazingly beautiful place. There were times when I'd take a picture of the Mont Blanc massif, and then 30 seconds later I wanted to take the same picture again. Most of the time I was able to resist, but I still ended up with many, many pictures of the same mountains but from slightly different angles, with slightly different lighting, at slightly different exposures. But I somehow managed to restrain myself and pick just ten to put up here for your viewing pleasure.

The first day, Kristian and Joanna dropped me off at a pass, and I started hiking along the Tour du Pays du Mont Blanc while they went off and did some cool multi-pitch climb. Plan was to meet up in Chamonix at 5:00. Switch-backed up to the traverse, then up to Lac Blanc, where the restaurant and hut were closed. Had a fine lunch of bread and some Gruyere cheese which I'd picked up the previous day, and stared at all the pretty mountains. Then followed the trail down to Le Flagere, one of the chair lift/gondola spots, which was also closed. Odd, that. At the rate I was going, it looked like I'd get to the lift directly into Chamonix by 4:00, which seemed perfect. Turned out that one was closed, too. I found a sign there that informed me all the lifts had closed for the season on May 25th and would re-open June 11th. It was May 28th -- doh! The silver lining was it kept the trails fairly empty, which is apparently not the norm. So that was nice. What wasn't so nice was the sign for the trail down to town said it would take two hours, getting me in 6:00 -- doh! I decided to hustle and see by how much I could beat the estimate, and I managed to get down in one hour, although I was pretty zonked when I met up with K+J. Ibuprofen, water, and a fine beer or two at the Micro Brasserie du Chamonix helped fix that (more on MBC in my next post...).

The next day, all three of us went to a dam in Switzerland, and we then hiked across the border to France. About an hour in, K+J split off to do another climb (Grand Perron), and I continued on the trail to a hut, then up to the Col du La Terras, or some such (Terrace Pass -- a big, flat ridge), where it was mostly snow. It was in good shape: soft enough to easily kick steps or walk, but firm enough that there was not much post-holing. Had lunch on top, then headed down a pretty gorge back down to the dam.

how do you say 'goat' in French?
These goats were all over the place. I thought their horns looked pretty cool. -- Chamonix, France

tour du pays du mont blanc
A section of the Tour du Pays du Mont Blanc trail -- Chamonix, France

lac blanc
Lac Blanc, with a little ice -- Chamonix, France

lac blanc + mountains
Lac Blanc, with part of the Mont Blanc massif (sans Mont Blanc...) -- Chamonix, France

lac blanc reflections
Lac Blanc, with part of the Mont Blanc massif (including Mont Blanc...) -- Chamonix, France

aiguille d'argentiere
Aiguille d'Argentiere (I think) -- Chamonix, France

aiguille verte
Aiguille Verte -- Chamonix, France

mont blanc
Mont Blanc -- Chamonix, France

mont blanc glaciers
Glaciers of Mont Blanc -- Chamonix, France

mont blanc sunset
Mont Blanc sunset -- Chamonix, France

So yeah, I liked Chamonix. One of these days I'll have to go back and do some actual climbing.
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3 Jun 2011 - 3:49:04 PM

After my brief stay in Tübingen, it was a short 7.5 hour journey on eight different trains and a bus to Gstaad, Switzerland, where two other climbing friends of mine are now living. Technically, they are closer to the little town of Saanen than Gstaad, but Gstaad is bigger and more well-known (recently thanks to Roman Polanksi). It's a very scenic area, with beautiful nearby mountains, farms covering the rolling hills, and tons of walking/hiking trails. I got in a short walk and a long walk, as well as a quick day trip to Gruyeres.

big top gstaad
Some sort of sports tent with mountains in the background -- Gstaad, Switzerland

Giferspitz, supposedly a fun scramble, if you manage to catch one of the infrequent busses to the trailhead (I didn't...) -- Gstaad, Switzerland

mountain cows
Cows enjoying the view -- Gstaad, Switzerland

purty mountain
Purty mountain I ended up hiking below on my long walk -- Gstaad, Switzerland

barn with a view
A barn with a view -- Gstaad, Switzerland

trail flowers
Little flowers on the trail -- Gstaad, Switzerland

thunder lake
I got to this lake on my long walk, and that's when the thunder started -- Gstaad, Switzerland

My friends had weekend plans, and I at first thought that meant I'd be saying goodbye Friday evening, but their plans were to go to Chamonix, France, and do some climbing. So I invited myself along. My shoulder was bugging me so I didn't climb with them, but rather did some amazing day hikes. Stay tuned...
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2 Jun 2011 - 9:37:02 AM

On the way from the Netherlands to Switzerland I stopped in the German town of Tübingen to visit a couple friends. They had lived in Seattle for a couple years, and I'd met them through climbing. Unfortunately, I was only able to spend a day and a half with them, but I got to meet their year and a half old twins, as well as do a little sightseeing. It was a great time, and I wish I'd been able to stay longer.

Tübingen is a university town with lots of cool old half-timbered houses, windy streets, and good cafes. Good biking, too. I biked out to an old monastery, but didn't have time to do an interesting loop back to town. Next time, I guess.

postcard view
The postcard view along the Neckar river -- Tübingen, Germany

old buildings
A mish-mash of old buildings in the main square -- Tübingen, Germany

junk 4 sale
"Junk" for sale piled in a chest outside an antique/secondhand store -- Tübingen, Germany

monastic courtyard
Courtyard garden in the Bebenhausen Monastery -- Tübingen, Germany

monastic hallway
Monastery hallway -- Tübingen, Germany

summer refectory
Summer refectory at the monastery -- Tübingen, Germany

Thanks for the hospitality, Wolfgang and Ursula, and it was great to meet Paula and Andrei!
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