What I Learned This Summer

I try at least once a year to travel to the European brewing heartlands, where the classics of beer brewing are the everyday tipple. I've been doing this since nearly forever, but this last time, while touring Germany, Poland, and Austria, I realized something: I gained surprisingly little by leaving Seattle and its beer culture behind. Sure, there's nothing quite like the Altbier brewery pubs of Düsseldorf, and Vienna's Ottakringer brewery brews world-class malty lagers. But it's a telling sign that one of the best brewpub beers to be encountered in Vienna is the all-American Victory Hop Devil, a clone beer brewed (with the full cooperation of Pennsylvania's Victory Brewing Co.) at the 1516 Brewing Co. brewpub. On the other end of the scale, larger German breweries known for hoppy pilsners are marketing mild-flavored "gold" lagers, aimed at those with less-sophisticated palates who find robust flavors too overwhelming after growing up on sweets and soft drinks. Kinda sounds like the mass market in North America, doesn't it? A couple of hours after returning to Seattle, I was sipping Stone Brewing beers at a brewer's dinner at the Collins Pub. A couple of days later, I was sampling from a range of intensely hoppy beers at Brouwer's Cafe's Hopfest 2005. Another couple of days later, I was enjoying an imaginative "Around the World" beer tasting at my local, the Beveridge Place Pub. My in box has a notice of a "Tuesday Fight Night" at the Duck Island Saloon, in which Browar Polska will pit its imports against competitors from Click Distributing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13. This is part and parcel of what quality beer drinking has become in Seattle. We have access to an extraordinary range of many of the world's best beers, and we also have a local brewing community that is second to none in producing an impressive range of robust, richly flavored beers in so many styles. With all this at hand, will I ever have reason to go beer hunting again? OK, sure, probably, but . . . dammit, there's no place like home. dscheidt@seattleweekly.com

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