Northwest Brewing

What a long, strange trip it’s been for Laughing Buddha Trade Route Northwest Brewing. The joke I made in my original Trade Route post (“before they changed again, I figured I ought to pay them another visit”) ended up being more prescient than I expected. They started out as Laughing Buddha in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood, then changed their name to Trade Route and re-located to Pacific, WA. Couple years after that, they sold it to some new folks who eventually renamed it Northwest Brewing. When Laughing Buddha’s old South Park neighbor Baron Brewing called it quits, Northwest acquired their Three Skulls brand. They’ve kept some of the old Trade Route beers and come up with some of their own, as well, so their line up is a curious hodgepodge of three different breweries. And then in the inaugural Washington State Beer Awards, they won a silver medal for their bourbon barrel aged stout. I think that surprised a lot of people.

Anyway, I’ve been debating how to write up this visit. New owners plus new name would seem to warrant a new post, but they still make some of the old Trade Route beers, which is a point in favor of updating the old post. I suppose the decision could be even more complicated if I’d managed to visit Baron Brewing before they closed. More posts is better for the blog, though, so I’ll go with that — gotta keep my page views trending up, up, up.

Update! (9/3/2013): The answer to my third question in the concluding paragraph below turned out to be Yes. A couple weeks after I published this, there was an odd little release event for Northwest Brewing at the Central Saloon, a bar in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. The Central’s been around for a long time in one form or another but seems to cater to the tourist crowd these days. So yeah, not a place I usually visit. They had Northwest’s bourbon barrel aged stout, seasonal double IPA, and the blood orange wit on tap. Full pint pours for each, which was a little surprising for the 8% or 10% stout, but I didn’t argue the point.

Northwest Brewing

Taster tray at Northwest Brewing — Pacific, WA

    Rob’s Picks

  • Jet Stream Lager – 4.5% – Crisp, light, bready, with a light spicy hoppiness. Bit of lemon flavor, too. Very refreshing and drinkable, with a slight touch of bitterness on the finish.
  • Joker Amber – 6% – Caramel start to a spicy finish. Quite drinkable.
  • Three Skulls Pale Ale – 5.2% – Bitter start to floral hoppiness, with a spicy finish. Underlying toasty maltiness but not too strong. Initially didn’t like it, but it grew on me.
  • Sumatra Coffee Stout – Coffee aroma. Fairly strong coffee flavor and a roasty malt character. Kind of light on the stout for a stout, but pretty good.
    The Rest

  • Single Batch Bourbon Barrel Imperial Oatmeal Stout – 8% or 10% – In different places I saw 8% and 10% ABV numbers for this, so figured I’d list both instead of guessing. Anyway, it started off quite well. Sweet dark bourbon aroma. Lingering bourbon and coffee/chocolate flavors, with a bit of oakiness, as well as some sweetness on the finish. Medium body, light carbonation. Sweetness was fairly cloying and built up, though – towards the end there was almost too much residual sweetness to drink. Usually these kinds of beers are served as 12 oz pours because of limited availability and higher ABV, but at the release event we were getting full pints, which was good because hey, it’s a full pint of bourbon barrel aged stout but bad because of the sweetness build up. Oh well.
  • Crazy Bitch DIPA – 8.2% – Big hop aroma: citrus, tropical fruit, floral. Bigger initial hop flavor blast: citrus, grapefruit, passion fruit, pine, light floral. Touch of caramel maltiness. Then in the latter half the hop flavors dissolve away and the wateriness comes out, ending with bitterness.
  • Hoppy Bitch IPA – 6.5% – Floral start to caramel finish. Fairly bitter.
  • Three Skulls Blood Orange Wit – Light breadiness with light banana/clove flavor, a bit of citrus, a hint of coriander. Interesting but not my thing.
  • Ginger Pale Ale – 5% – Ginger aroma. Ginger start to caramel finish. Citrusy, too. Better than I remember, but still not really my thing.
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Beach Blonde – Fruity aroma. Strawberry and rhubarb flavor mix, with a hint of nutmeg. Bready base. Fruit flavors pretty strong, almost syrupy, but with a bit of a tart edge.

During my February 2013 visit, they were out of two old Trade Route holdovers, the Midnight Ale and the Mango Weizen. In my old Trade Route post, the Midnight made the Rob’s Picks list, but the Mango Weizen was on The Rest. There’s probably a good chance they would’ve ended up on the same lists here, but you never know. Looking at the Northwest Brewing web site now, I don’t see an entry for the Midnight Ale anymore, although there is something called Local Ink. Did they rename the Midnight Ale? Did they retire it when they came up with Local Ink? Do they have any more of their bourbon barrel aged stout available? So many questions! Will the mysteries of Laughing Budda/Trade Route/Northwest Brewing never cease? I suppose only time will tell.

For historical reference, here’s my old Trade Route post.

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