This is going to be quick ‘n’ dirty, because I’m swamped with trying to get a condo ready to sell and planning for a brand new house but I wanted, in the wake of the last post, “Murderer’s Row…“, to note that one brewery which SHOULD have been included in that list was left out.
And I apologize.
I recently wrote a post about the sour/brett/barrel program that’s being driven to dizzying heights at Engine House 9, in Tacoma, Washington, by their visionary brewmaster, Shane Johns. In that post, in an attempt to contrast what a miraculous development that program is, in a city which seems least likely to spawn it (or support it), I did a little, quick, 270-word scene-setting which, apparently, caused the earth to tilt off its axis and threatened to wipe out civilization. Those 270 words – less than 10% of the post – became the focus, with all the high praise for E9 being dead lost in a tsunami of static. So, here it is without the craziness and obfuscation:
E9 absolutely belongs in Murderer’s Row and, in fact, should have been mentioned prominently, right next to de Garde Brewing and Breakside Brewing and those others who are both hitting their top gear and changing the face of Northwest beer.
According to BeerAdvocate, E9 has, to date, produced 13 sour/wild/brett ales. There are more in the works. I’ve now tasted seven of those. Without exaggeration, they are on a par with any brewery in the US, that I have tried, in overall quality, inspiration, and drinkability. Shane, a former chef, has an unerring palate and a casually expert hand at blending just the right batches to produce exactly what he wants. Maybe even more importantly – and as a chef, myself, for over three decades, I can attest to this the hard way – he knows how to fix things when they don’t go as planned and has the insight to get it that, sometimes, accidents result in something better than the goal. The 2015 release of the first sour I ever tasted from E9, Le Pérelin, is coming up within days and I plan to be there to bring bottles home. We just finished, in fact, our last bottle of Shane’s Raspberry Wild Ale and mourn its absence every time the temperature gets over 70 degrees.
Shane and his wife Jessica have taken on another job title, these days: Parents. So, if Shane can spare the energy, despite what has to be a lot of sleepless nights, to make startling beer, I can step aside from painting and carpentry and moving stuff to write this addendum…and take a LOT of pleasure in doing so.
Again, whatever the inference taken from this may be, it is shocking that such an adventurous, cutting edge brewing plan is being carried out in a staunch blue-collar town like Tacoma, and it represents – Finally! – a genuine Breakthrough, in Washington state, in moving a wildly dynamic brewing culture out of its rigid rut of Pale/Amber/Stout/Porter/ESB/IPA/DIPA/IPA/IPA/IPA and nothing else. The level of excitement for E9 is real and growing and now includes its spiritual cousins, Holy Mountain Brewing, as named in “Murderer’s”. With the emergence of these two breweries, every brewer in
Washington now has a bit more latitude to make any style of beer they may want and still have legit hopes of finding an audience for them.
If I had not just reviewed E9, they would certainly have been in “Murderer’s Row” even though that would have been a misnomer. What Shane Johns is doing at Engine House 9, in its sleepy Tacoma neighborhood, is not “killin” anything. It’s literally helping to give birth to a future in which Washington joins Colorado and California and Oregon and Michigan and Vermont as a place where wide-open, no-boundaries creativity can not only survive but flourish.