Hilliard’s Beer

It was a cold and sunny November Saturday, and my climbing plans got canceled. So I called beer-biking friend Jonny and made plans for a pleasant little ride to the very new Hilliard’s Beer in Ballard. I’d read a few blog posts of theirs earlier in the year and was looking forward to visiting. We hit the Burke-Gilman and slowly made our way through the weekend throngs to Fremont, where we decided to take a detour and check out the new section of the Ship Canal bike trail. It’s still under construction, but the trail part was done — all that’s left is finishing the fencing (which made it easy to get on the trail) and doing the landscaping. Can’t wait for it to be officially open! Unfortunately, its western end was more securely gated, and we had to backtrack a little ways in order to then get to Magnolia and cross the locks.

Skillet and, eventually, the Blue Truck Special were parked in Hilliard’s parking lot and serving up food. I got the veggie option from Skillet, their fresh berry brioche dessert. It was wonderfully tasty and filling, and probably packed more calories than I burned on the whole bike ride. We sat down inside and sampled the three beers they had available. I liked them all, which made it a hard choice to pick just one for a full pint, but I went with the freshly canned Amber (just two days previous). Hilliard’s is now the third Puget Sound brewery I know of that’s canning (after 7 Seas and Two Beers), and apparently the micro-canning revolution is really taking off — the Hilliard’s guy said that Sierra Nevada is going to start canning, as well. Go figure.

Update! March 24, 2012: Finally re-visited, after hitting NW Peaks just around the corner. Got the Saison this time, but the three other beers available were the same as before. Just one food truck this time, and it looked like some pork-only outfit. Ah well. May 23, 2015: Hilliard’s has been doing well. They can’t make enough of The 12th Can when it’s football season, the hipster crowd has embraced their Chrome Satan, and it’s a party at the brewery most every weekend with live music and DJs. They’ve been doing some barrel aging and just released an IPA. Busy busy busy.

Hilliard's samples

Hilliard’s samples — Seattle, WA

    Rob’s Picks

  • The 12th Can – 4.5% – Sportsy pale ale. Floral citrus aroma and initial flavor. Light, almost watery, then breadiness kicks in. Slight lingering bitterness, with a touch of honey at the end, as well. Enough flavor going on to make up for the watery aspect.
  • Joint Effort – 5.6% – Collaboration with Redhook. Bit of malty, earthy aroma. Sweet but edgy start, with caramel and slight toasty maltiness. Light herbal hops with good bitterness. Underlying funky vegetal and earthy flavors from the hemp seeds.
  • Chrome Satan – 5.7% – California Common style, with cute “Anchor Steam” anagram for the name. Biscuity maltiness. Crisp and somewhat light, with a light bitter finish. Pretty drinkable.
  • Pils – 5.5% – Lemony aroma. Light, bready, lemony, with a nice little bitter twist and subtle herbal hops. Easy drinking.
  • Murdered Out Stout – 5.1% – Light, with coffee/chocolate flavors, and a quite pleasant mouthfeel. Interesting bridge edge, with the slightest hint of sour mash flavor. Good light bitterness on finish.
  • Amber – Very slight floral aroma. Good hoppy/malty mix, with a bit of an alcohol flavor. Not a wimpy amber.
  • Regimental Scottish Blonde – Tangy, hoppy start, bready finish, with a very subtle lemon flavor. Nice and crisp for an unfiltered beer. Very refreshing.
  • Cast Iron Stout – [Name changed to Murdered Out, but my tasting notes were different enough that I’m keeping this one here because maybe they tweaked the recipe a bit, too. Who knows.] A hoppy stout, with a strong coffee start, subtle caramel sweetness, and a Guinness aftertaste. Not too heavy, as well.
    The Rest

  • The Fino Countdown – 6.3% – Sherry barrel aged porter. Bright sherry start that mellows to chocolatey, roasty malt finish. Interesting but flavors don’t quite work together.
  • Saison – Pretty cool mix of a light tripel and slight lemon flavor. Caramel and alcohol flavors. Somewhat sweet but also has a slight sour mash edge. Bit of that clove/banana taste, too. Sort of all over the place, actually. Pretty wild beer to can.
  • Nautical Reference Pale Ale – Floral and malty.  Crisp and fairly bitter, but with a very subtle sweetness.  A little too bitter for me, though.

It’s interesting how each of the Ballard breweries has its own personality. Hilliard’s sort of feels like the popular party kid of the bunch. Very few other breweries feel that way to me. So yeah, interesting.

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