Mrs. October

Swimming from Elliott Bay to Al’s, Elysian Fields to Hale’s, in search of Oktoberfest brews.

While the bands oompahed and beer flowed at the Pyramid Alehouse this past Friday and Saturday, I was walking amid thousands of pinked-out ladies at Seattle's Breast Cancer 3-Day, a 60-mile hike to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. So bummed was I to miss the Washington Beer Commission's second-annual Oktoberfest this year that I decided to work while I worked out, folding some fall beer investigation into my practice walk. (Yes, you have to practice walking.) So, one Thursday before the event, I sampled beers I would have had at Oktoberfest. They ran the gamut from rich to light, from fall seasonals to beery tea. I'm a professional, kids. Don't hit the sidewalk half-cocked and try this yourself without proper training, because you could get hyponatremia (weird salt deficiency), or at least some nasty cramping. In my mind, the carbs and water in one pint of beer far outweigh the alcohol content, but I am a professional bartender, not a professional doctor. So that day I stretched, hydrated, then quickly ticked off the 1.55 miles from my house to Elliott Bay Brewing (4720 California Ave. S.W.) and ordered a schooner of its Hop von Boorian (the Hop Harvest Elliott Bay would be serving at Oktoberfest hadn't debuted yet). The brewery set me up with a flavorful, clean Belgian pale ale, rich enough for me to feign nourishment and just mouth-drying enough to encourage my water intake. I trekked 5.42 miles south to one of Seattle's newest breweries, Big Al's Brewing in White Center (9832 14th Ave. S.W., the old Pacific Rim space). Big Al's Abbey Wheat—one of its two flagship beers—is another hybrid, its distinctive Belgian sweetness melding with classic wheat-beer character, as well as aromas of late-summer fruit and spice. If it were food, I'd cover it in whipped cream and devour three servings. (Since it wasn't, I drank mine with two tacos from La Fondita.) Two beers in and I succumbed to cheating, taking the bus to Elysian Fields south of Pioneer Square (542 First Ave. S.). On the bus I felt breezy and bold, but the 5 percent alcohol in my previous beer affected me more than it should have, so I only ordered a schooner of Night Owl Pumpkin Ale when I arrived. One of the most judiciously spiced pumpkin beers available, the Night Owl shines on tap, when the pie spice and hops come together to remind me of a slice of Macrina's delicious squash bread. Next, a 5.12-mile trudge to Hale's Ales in Fremont (4301 Leary Way N.W.) rewarded me with another fall seasonal, the O'Brien's Harvest Ale; its toasted-nut and toffee creaminess always confuses me as to whether it's an amber or a brown ale. I started to think that the sports drinks I would be forced to drink all weekend just weren't going to cut it. Shooting straight east, I decided to break up the walk with a stop 1.68 miles later at Bottleworks (1710 N. 45th St.) for an Oktoberfest beer proper, which I enjoyed outside Wallingford Center. Baron's Oktoberfest nailed the style. It was perfectly synchronized to the late-summer moment—its dark copper color hinting at fall, with just a touch of that rich malt I crave when it's cold, snapped back by an assertive hop finish. The 1.38 miles to Big Time Brewery (4133 University Way N.E.) allowed me to "listen to my body," which told me that exercising, like splashing cold water or hot coffee, does nothing to mitigate the effects of alcohol. Big Time's Kölsch 45 not only refreshed me but fit into one of my current beer obsessions. Like a pilsner with benefits, the kölsch tastes like the September sunshine—but I still needed a double espresso from across the street if I was to make it to the finish. My final stop, 16.32 miles and five compass points later, rewarded me with the strangest brew of them all: a gruit from The Ram (2650 N.E. University Village St.). Hop-free, just like in ye olden days, this beer was brewed with a mix of herbs that included mugwort—a novel, welcome tonic after my long slog. If you attended Oktoberfest this past weekend, you drank well. If you've been thinking about exercising more, I think I just invented a new sport. Hardly as complicated as skiing and shooting, walking and drinking is my new favorite fall pastime.

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