Here’s a story about a man nam…No, no, no, nobody named Brady. Don’t panic. This is a beer tale. A rather twisted beer tale and I’m going to just skim it because it’s really none of my business but…I have a brewer pal named Mark Hood, up here in The Soggy Corner of America, specifically in the small but dynamic beer hotbed of Poulsbo, Washington, who founded and helped build the first Washington state brewery specializing in Belgian-style ales, Sound Brewery. In Sound’s too-short existence, Mark created several rather amazing ales, not all of them Belgian. After initially swearing that he would not just crank out IPA after IPA (in fact, he had originally planned to do NO IPAs), his customers’ repeated requests prompted him to make a few and they became classics of the style, here in the Nanny State. Humulo Nimbus, Humonkulous, Reluctant, and anniversary editions for Town & Country Markets and Seattle’s Chuck’s Hop Shop…all resonated strongly with our PNW HopHeads.
But his masterpiece was a brilliant, quirky, indefinable Belgian-style ale called “Monk’s Indiscretion”, one of my personal Top Five All Time beers.
About three years ago, Sound was commissioned to make a series of beers for a major computer game manufacturer. Mark did the beers, bottled everything, called trucks for delivery…and got stiffed. The customer refused to pay and declared bankruptcy and then reincorporated under a new name. Classic evasion tactic for someone looking to avoid paying our LARGE fees to a supplier.
Mark read the writing on the wall and decided to close down Sound, before the lease on his restaurant and accompanying brewery real estate bankrupted him. I was there on the last day of Sound, bought a shitload of beer and then scoured every area beer shop, BevMo, Total Wine, and grocery store for more of the Monk’s Indiscretion. I came away with a LOT of it and bought a beer fridge just to maintain it, convinced I would maybe never see it again.
Happily, about eighteen months ago, Mark found local buyers for the Sound brewery, stocks and equipment. The new owners, realizing what they had, asked Mark to come on as brewmaster, which he did. First order of business: make a new freakin’ IPA…and revive Monk’s.
I was jubilant and, within a coupe of months, had the new canned version of Monk’s in my sweaty fist. It was even better than the original. And somehow, here in a state which has been VERY late to the party of Belgian-style beer – in which, in fact, a number of retailers declared flatly that there was no market for Belgians – Monk’s remained Sound’s largest selling beer and is now the best-seller from the new Echoes Brewing of Poulsbo, WA.
Sound. Echoes. Get it?
I keep a detailed list of the fifty or so beers that stick most strongly in my mind, out of the 20K+ beers I’ve sampled in my adult life. On that list are names like Sierra Nevada Celebration, Deschutes The Abyss and Jubelale, Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome, Stone Double Bastard, Dogfish 90, Three Taverns A Night in Brussels, Cigar City White Oak Jai Alai and Churchill, 21st Amendment Toaster Pastry, Samichlaus, Fort George The Optimist…and Sound Brewery Monk’s Indiscretion. In my Top Five, no brewery has ever placed two beers.
Under the new label of Echoes, Mark realized a long-held idea of making a sort of Imperial Belgian-style Tripel; an enhanced version of the old Sound Tripel Entendre. He called it M.O.A.T. – Mother Of All Tripels. About two weeks ago, I got a text from Mark, saying that he had saved me a four-pack of M.O.A.T. and asked if I would be over his way, which is about 40 miles from my house. The day before Christmas Eve, we went over there to see our granddaughters and dropped in on Mark.
On Christmas Eve, with family in the house, I opened the first can of M.O.A.T. while we sat and talked. I was on my third sip before what I was tasting registered. I stopped talking and just stared at the can. I took another sip. Then another. Then, I put my hand up and said to my family, “I just want to get this in: this is from my friend, Mark Hood, and it may just be one of the best beers I have ever tasted in my life.”
And it is. It took me about eight solid hours to think about it and make certain that it actually IS that great and I’m not just speaking from my affection and admiration for Mark Hood, the human being, as decent, intelligent, talented, hard-working and creative a guy as I have ever known. I finally had to admit to myself that, no, this beer IS one of the three to five best ales I’ve ever tasted, no matter what context I evaluate it in. As a Belgo-American ale, it stands up with anything I’ve ever tested, the ONLY exception being Mark’s own Monk’s Indiscretion. It is an 11% ABV behemoth that doesn’t come off as strong but retains a bit of lightness on the palate, belying an enormous set of flavors and a satiny body that paints the palate like a big Stout. It’s just the slightest bit sweet but not cloyingly so, and leads with yeast-driven spices and tree fruit, buttressed with lovely, substantial grain character, and finishing with bright, citrusy, floral hops that carry a really lovely edge of bitterness. Along that Journey Across Your Tongue you’ll find biscuity toast flavor, honeydew, lemon curd, sultanas, subtle nuttiness, and a woodsy tang reminiscent of tasting forest air. The over all effect is achingly fresh, vibrant, and surprising. It tastes even remotely like very few beers I’ve ever sampled and it is so wickedly easy to drink that a cautionary note is sorta required, here. This is so easy to enjoy and so compelling that you could wind up on your lips, if you’re not aware of the 11%.
Echoes Brewing “Mother. Of. All. Tripels”, unless Washingtonians have even less general beer awareness than they used to, SHOULD wind up being considered a Pacific Northwest icon, a beer that helps define a style with many, many drinkers who maybe are not currently aware that they may actually like Belgians. It certainly takes no great beer acumen to like it. Mark made a limited run of M.O.A.T. and it was sold out by the time it was released. Yes, that’s right: I am telling you about a beer that you cannot buy, right now. I try never to do this, any more, and am only telling you now because Mark informs me that he plans to make it a year-round beer and will brew the next batch sometime this winter or early spring. (I hope I got that right)
So, in police terms, here’s your B.O.L.O. for M.O.A.T. Subscribe to the Echoes Facebook feed and be looking for it. I plan to buy a minimum of two, three cases, so you’re going to have to beat me to it.
This is – to use a term I generally do not like or use – an AWESOME achievement in Belgo-American ales and…now ya know. B.O.L.O.