11.11.11: A Brouwer’s Beer Odyssey

Here’s the set-up: We’re in Seattle for a long weekend and we’re thirsty. So, of course we have to visit the recent the subject of our Brewtal Truth column, Matt Bonney, director of operations at Brouwer’s Cafe. As you may remember from our interview with Bonney in Decibel, Brouwer’s specializes in what he calls “the more esoteric, kind of special [beers].” What we didn’t know was that the dude is chummy with brewers across the states (and probably in Europe, too), so he frequently gets beers that no other pub in Seattle has (or will have).

A longtime Decibel subscriber, Bonney admitted he was more stoked about being featured in our humble mag than any other he’s been interviewed for and featured in. And before we could even get a glance at the 64 beers Brouwer’s has on tap, we had a glass of Stone Brewing’s brand new Vertical Epic Release 11.11.11, which we were, in fact, drinking on that very date. A discussion of the importance of Spinal Tap, of course, ensued.

The latest Stone Vertical Epic was a big, darkish beer with a lot of spice and dark fruits on the nose, but the complexity the aromas seemed to be promising didn’t necessarily materialize on the palate. However, since this brew is meant to ideally be cellared until 2012 and consumed in a vertical “epic” (i.e. all ten years in a row, from ’02 to ’12), a little time may do it some good.

Our first beer wasn’t even finished before Bonney handed us round two: Firestone Walker XV anniversary ale. This black-as-night brew was served in a deep snifter to capture its unbelievable complexity. It is a blended beer that consists of eight different Firestone Walker offerings. It is, according to their website: “76% Barley Wine style beers, 19% Stout and 5% Imperial IPA.” We were not going to be leaving this one unfinished. Bonney assured us that no other bar in Seattle had XV on tap and we nursed this barrel-aged, 12.5% delight quite happily for the next we-have-no-idea-how-long.

After two double-digit bruisers—and it was barely 7 pm—there was no way we were going to stay vertical at this rate. Since we both had other plans for the rest of the evening, Bonney said adios and left me with one more special beer: Duchesse de Bourgogne, a gorgeous oak-aged sour red ale—served in a red wine glass, no less—from the Flanders region of Belgium. It was the perfect way to cut through the heavy, boozy flavors left on our palate from the previous two monsters.

Thirst for great beer quenched, we stumbled onward, sad to leave Brouwer’s behind, but happily anticipating the great beers we’ll drink there the next time we find ourselves in Seattle.