Turk’s Head ESB
The Alameda Brewhouse, a Northeast hop spot that features agreeable edibles and décor that drapes steely modern flash over its blue-collar torso, turns 10 this summer. Brewmaster John Eaton, who’s been tending the tanks for the last four years, touts all the selections brewed on the premises: Black Bear XX Stout is an award-winner, and the Klickitat Pale Ale is the top seller. The brewhouse also pours Siskiyou Golden Ale, a popular entry that’s earned the evocative moniker “lawnmower beer” for its hot-weather drinkability.
But the Turk’s Head ESB is the most robust and distinctive brew here, leading off with plenty of hops and cleaning up nicely with a dry finish and a lingering caramel roasted malt aftertaste. And it favors finesse over power.
“It’s a real English-style ESB (extra special bitter),” Eaton explains. “And it’s pretty low on alcohol, only about 5 percent. The idea is that it’s still full-bodied and has a lot of crisp bitterness to it—and you can make it a session beer.”
In other words, you won’t need to call in a lightweight as your relief pitcher.
“At a lot of breweries, their best beer is like 8 percent alcohol, which is fine, interesting and good,” he continues. “But we’re not talking about a beer that people can sit down and have a couple of and feel OK. English beers are a little lower in alcohol and a little more subtle. But Turk’s Head still has a lot of hop bite and malt backbone. It should be smooth and crisp and leave you with something.”
Besides a hangover, that is. Just because the Bambino and Mickey Mantle had the intestinal fortitude to play through the previous night’s chug-a-lug doesn’t mean you have to attempt it yourself.
Bridgeport Brewing, among the most guzzled of the veterans on this squad (established in 1984), is currently ranked No. 41 among the top 50 American breweries in production. Brewmaster Karl Ockert is the company’s revered elder statesman; aside from a five-year “professional odyssey” in the early ’90s when he ventured forth to start some pubs in Washington and serve a stint in the majors with Anheuser-Busch, Ockert has been the brains behind Bridgeport’s brew. And the venerable ivy-festooned pub on NW Marshall St—recently renovated to include a bakery in its more brightly polished interior —is still teeming with fans of his ageless ale artistry.
“I tell people that when Dick Ponzi and I were first building this place, we didn’t know if we were going to be in business for three months or 30 years,” Ockert says. “And luckily, it’s been closer to the 30-year mark.”
For the last decade, Bridgeport IPA has been a Northwest all-star, successfully steering palates away from watery domestic lagers and viscous stouts toward lighter, hoppier pleasures. In part thanks to Bridgeport’s consistent firkin excellence, IPA has become the pad Thai of the local brewpub menu.
“It’s pretty much been the gold standard of IPA,” says Laurelwood’s Mike De Kalb, while John Eaton, the brewmaster from Alameda Brewhouse, cites Bridgeport IPA as possibly his favorite bottled beer.
“Our IPA has gone from being a niche beer that we were going to brew every once in a while, because it was so hoppy, into being a leader in that category,” Ockert enthuses.
But there’s a rookie from foreign soil in the Bridgeport clubhouse that’s been turning heads of late. Supris (soo-prees) is a yeasty blonde seasonal offering with a jolt of spice and fruit, making it a top prospect on the summer beer circuit. Ockert is pleased with the newcomer’s performance, but concedes its emergence posed a challenge.
“It’s a bold departure for us because we’ve been all about Northwest ingredients, which is typified in the IPA,” he says. “The Supris is German barley, German malt and German hops, Czech hops and Slovenian hops, and then we use this Belgian yeast that gives it a very yeast-driven, spicy clove flavor. It’s a difficult beer for us to make, because we have to rely on foreign ingredients, but it’s really worth it.”
It certainly accords with beer fanatics’ immigration policy: Give us your yeasts, your malts and your Slovenian hops—yearning to be beer.