Russell Lemon Ale : Russell Brewing Company, Ltd. :Something else ???
Manny’s Pale Ale : Georgetown Brewing Company : Pale Ale
Crooked Coast Amber Ale : Driftwood Brewery : Amber
Damnation : Russian River Brewing Company : Pale Ale (Belgian and then some)
A beer question: just because something is on the menu, do you have to order it?
This particular philosophical inquiry occurs in the precious hours of late afternoon on a particularly ponderous day. We’ve left Mt. St. Helen’s raw mindmelting landscape to head north, turning the this eventual question after the impulse of my friend Richard, pointing to a sign directly overhead and saying, “Tacoma? That’s home to the Museum of Glass.”
Well, Richard’s a glass-artist and he should know a good sidetrip when he spots one at the last second. I fling the white tank across three lanes in the nick of time and twenty minutes later we are wandering the luminous halls of downtown Tacoma’s MoG.
Later, after a dizzying display of color and light and really fragile artwork, one needs a beer and, after a quick rundown of the tap list, the question pops up: do I order the Lemon Ale?
“Heck yes,” my wife is encouraging me in this year blog thing, “as a taster you do order it, yes.”
“Mr. Clean.” My friend Helen wrinkles at just the smell of it. “I mean it, household scrubbing Mr. Clean.”
Which leads to a two-part understanding for this year of ale: order the weird stuff, but order it as a sample first.
My real beer choice is Manny’s. What’s Manny’s? The waitress–she was a rounded, Asian version of a more joyful Amy Winehouse–described it as “something like the Ninkasi IPA…they both look the same.” So does lime jello and a Granny Smith apple. So why Manny’s? Well, it’s not an IPA, it’s not from Portland (we move forward, always forward), and…well, it’s also not very good.
Manny’s taste spreads out like a glimmering amber glass in sunlight. Actually, that’s our view from the cafe overlooking the MoG glass garden. No, Manny’s is more a sweet, bread, yeast ball that skips away from you, rolling into the Tacoma harbor. I did get a good taste in before spilling it.
So I turn for a deep sip from my wife’s Crooked Coast Amber Ale and am rewarded with the same clumps of tastes, now more bodied, now more balanced. Even so, the glass works and the oysters on the half-shell were more rewarding. You know what–if you were there you would–it’s all enjoyable fuel to get us through a quick stop in Seattle and up to the border crossing.
The border guards welcome us to Canada…personally. Real personally. They’ve invited me to pull into parking place A and chat with a Canadian cultural and contraband representative to discuss our visit to the Great White North. We answer the requisite questions–home? reasons for visiting? places to stay at? beers we enjoy?–and, after watching CNN wail for 30 minutes about Irene devastating NYC, the nice lady at the counter invites us back for the verdict: “We only wanted to talk with you because it’s been such a long time since you’ve visited Canada. Enjoy your stay.”
Our exhausted arrival at Vancouver’s Granville entertainment district is like driving onto the Daytona beach of Canada, or a polite, family version of a red light district. The Vice Squad has thrown up a blockade for next mile or so heading north from our hotel just to free space for very young girls in very tight, very short skirts to parade aimlessly full of intention through the night.
It’s a fanciful, pleasant envisioning of the Inferno, so it seems only proper when we return to the room to pop open the Russian River Damnation procured from Belmont Station. Damnation: so apt a name for our weary state. I pour out four small paper cups, despite the vessel warning clearly imprinted on the cork, and raise it high.
“Here’s to being here.” Sweet heavens of illumination. There ain’t nothing like a Russian River, not even another Russian River. There’s a paint of tartness to the palate and mostly an efflorescence whose job it is to keep the complexity from settling into wine or clove or malted bread. “It’s good to be here.”
Rating Russell Lemon Ale : -1%
Rating Manny’s Pale Ale : 56 %
Rating Crooked Coast Amber Ale : 67 %
Rating Damnation : 93 %