The Bar Code: Boozin’ in 2014

It’s true, we’re a few weeks into 2014 already. Still, I wanted to get into print a few predictions about where the drinking scene in Seattle is headed. All of these are 100 percent guaranteed or your money back. Working for a free paper gives a writer a bit of margin of error, thankfully.

• 2014 will be a landmark year for alcohol in a legal sense. Washington state will pass more stringent drunk-driving laws in the wake of yet more tragic accidents, while Seattle will strongly consider allowing bars to stay open later than 2 a.m. Meanwhile, as we hit the second anniversary of the privatization of liquor sales, people will wonder why prices remain some of the highest in the nation, even though some of the taxes were phased out. Oddly enough, major retailers seem uninterested in lowering prices.

• Someone is going to make a local apple brandy, and it is going to be amazing. Washington has such amazing apples, and with the distillery scene growing ever more vibrant, there’s no reason an ambitious and talented distiller can’t turn out our answer to calvados, the classic French apple brandy.

• While there will still be a big market for intensely hoppy IPAs, several prominent local brewers will trend toward making more balanced and complex beers that view hops as just one part of the flavor spectrum.

• Expect more restaurants to offer suggested pairings on their menu. This is standard practice in plenty of New York and San Francisco restaurants, and it benefits both restaurant and diner. The restaurant can focus resources on a slightly smaller selection of beverages, whether wine, beer, or spirits, while diners can feel confident that they’ll end up with a fun and dynamic duo without the challenge of choosing it themselves.

Tequila and rum will continue to come out of their ghettoized niche, taking their place alongside the other cornerstone spirits (this is already happening at places like Rumba and Barrio). These spirits can do much more than make a margarita or daiquiri. With a continued influx of quality aged spirits into the marketplace, creative bartenders will expand the reach of these two liquors over their cocktail lists.

• I’ll admit that this is biased and hopeful, but Seattle is poised to explode as a wine city. The money is here, and the city has a rapidly growing base of experienced and talented sommeliers, wine writers, and wine sellers (yours truly most certainly excluded). With the quality of Washington wine at an all-time high, the moment is now.

• Wine collecting will seem passé when beer collecting hits the mainstream. Restaurants will struggle to figure out how to charge a corkage fee for a beer bottle, but they will somehow.

• The Bar Code will attempt to write a column about the new Bellevue bar named Bar Code, but we’ll both vanish when we come in contact with each other . . . happy 2014!

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