A lot goes into crafting our beer: Skill, equipment, quality inputs, time – the list goes on. But one unaccounted-for ingredient is camaraderie. It takes a tight team to get beer from hop to hand, and we’ve got just that.
The ABC staff [+friends] celebrated the Halloween season in style last night, with homemade lasagna, pumpkin carving, and of course — our masterful brew. No knife fights broke out, only three beers were spilled, and at the end of the evening, we carried our lit pumpkins into the walk-in cooler — lights off — see the creations in all their glowing glory.
Clearly, we get along rather well.
PS — Don’t forget to stop by the tasting room tonight for our Spooktacular extravaganza. I heard a rumor about a special Halloween beer, and I am certain that German sausages will make an appearance. Most important of all, our pumpkins will be on display – how can you say no to that?
Happy Halloween from your ABC team!
We’ve done it again.
American Brewing Company won the bronze at this year’s Great American Beer Festival – this time, for the Baltic-style Polska Porter. Bronze might sound like third place, but in competition with upwards of 4,300 beers in 83 categories, it feels just like gold.
Brewers Skip Madsen and Dan Payson, along with Mike Ryman and ABC tasting room manager Janna Taylor, accepted the award on the grandstand stage of the GABF, held at the Colorado Convention Center.
“It was an epic moment,” said Payson. “It says that we put a lot of care into what we brew.”
Epic is a fitting word for the event, the largest commercial beer festival in the world. 666 breweries were represented at this year’s gathering, held every October in Denver. GABF is Mecca to beer pilgrims nationwide, brewers and drinkers alike.
For Madsen, this is not his first trip – or his first win. Last year’s GABF ended with a Bronze for ABC’s Brave American Brown, and previous years the master brewer — entered either solo or with other breweries – came home with bronze, silver, and gold across myriad categories.
However, the repeat experience has not put a damper on his excitement.
“I was stoked!” said Madsen. “I thought the Baltic was going to win. And it did.”
Awards, recognition, and growth are a boon to any new microbrewery, but such a rapid rise can compromise quality. Not true of ABC, says Payson: “We’re getting a lot of demand and production keeps increasing, but we continue to take the time to taste the beers at all stages and make sure it’s ready to be sent out for distribution.” Although laborious to do so, the ABC brewing team keeps quality as its first priority.
The award-winning brew is sold exclusively in our tasting room, and it’s limited – come in for a pint before it’s gone!
Hops are no laughing matter – but Skip Madsen, American Brewing Company’s acclaimed head brewer, is laughing anyway. Not at hops, necessarily, but jovial as he is, it is hard to catch him with a straight face. And this week, he had something notable to smile at: the opportunity to participate in the exclusive 12-person Hop Selection team, held in Yakima, WA – to determine this year’s best product for Washington distribution.
This honor is held high, and awarded only to those with special skill and expertise. Madsen has it, and then some. “Hops are my middle name!” said Skip, and they really almost could be: with 20+ years of brewing under his belt and over 200 signature beers to his name, not to mention myriad awards and accolades, this guy knows his stuff.
Hops, which give beer (especially IPA) its slightly bitter, floral bite, play a major part in brewing – for both taste and, traditionally, stability properties. Washington beers are known for their extensive use of the Humulus lupulus plant; nearly 75% grown on American soil come from the Yakima Valley, and the combined production of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho produces over 50 million pounds annually. “Hops are essential to beer. They’re like the spice in your soup,” said Madsen, whose signature beer, ultra-hoppy Breakaway IPA, uses Washington varieties such as Citra and Amarillo.
This year’s selection session was held at Hop Union, a grower-owned supplier, and the results of the judging will in part determine what (and from which Washington farms) buyers will be able to choose from in the coming year.
And the prospect of next year’s Hop Selection team? “It was a great honor; I learned a lot,” said Madsen. “I would love to do it again!”
This is an event to mourn having missed. Acclaimed craft breweries in WA, along with eleven pairing restaurants, went to town – with a wall-to-wall lineup of chefs and brewers alike, each bringing to the table a beer and a dish to form nearly a dozen happy unions of culinary nirvana. Gourmands and beer snobs rubbed elbows at the sold-out event, held at The Yacht Club on Lake Union, with a late summer sun silhouetting nearly 200 attendees, tasting goblets in hand.
American Brewing Company featured our Piper’s Scotch Ale, a copper-red malted ale with roasted barley and a light hand on the hops. New-kid-on-the-block (and Craft Beer + Food surprise vendor) Radiator Whiskey partnered with us to create an ale-braised beef tongue slider, trimmed with arugula and beer-infused mustard, all piled on a Macrina Bakery potato roll. The toothsome, savory beef made for a stellar contrast against the sweet, malty Scotch Ale – like they were made for each other.
In addition to the American/Radiator team, other notables included The Triple Door’s banana leaf salmon with Elysian’s Backstage Pale Ale. A standout seasonal offering came from Emmer & Rye, who featured a squash roast with ancient grains, paired perfectly with Pike Brewing’s Harlot Harvest Pumpkin Ale. On a sweet note, microbrewery/creamery Bluebird self-paired a stout ice cream with the stout itself, served up as a (irresistible) grown-up float.
Eleven total venders contributed to the event, from which all proceeds go to support The Garden Project. Backed by Seattle Tilth, The Garden Project promotes urban gardening, community, and food-system awareness in King County. However, it isn’t just charity that drives hosts Kendall and Kim Jones – they have high aims in aiding the craft beer community as well.
“It’s important to have events like this to showcase that great beer can be paired with great food,” said Jones. “As the craft beer industry grows, they’re making all these interesting flavored beers, and we need to challenge our chefs to think about pairings. We need to challenge people to think about it. It’s important to push the craft beer industry to the next level – to get it out of the taverns and into the restaurants.”
If you missed it this time around, don’t despair. A repeat is likely; keep watch on http://www.craftbeerplusfood.com/ for next year’s gala – or come in and console yourself with a pint of our malty-delicious Scotch Ale.
Brewing in the (rather substantial) shadow of brewmaster Skip Madsen is no easy thing – especially if you studied architecture, not chemistry. But Madsen’s right-hand-man Dan Payson is up to the task – and more than that, is stepping out this week with his debut beer, the Peloton Saison. It’s certainly not his first independent brew, but it is the first one you get to try – if, that is, you’re lucky enough to live near American Brewing Company’s tasting room. And let me warn you: Payson brews incredible beer.
A Chicago native, Payson moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2006 for a job with an architecture firm in Seattle. While creative, detail-oriented work was his passion, a confining office job was not. To alleviate the drain of computer screens and cubicles, he purchased a 5-gallon home brewing kit and made his very first batch of beer in the apartment he shares with girlfriend Cara in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood.
“I brewed the wort on the electric stove top, and fermented the whole thing in our hall closet,” said Payson of his humble beer-brewing beginnings. “It was very satisfying to see the product happening right in front of you. With architecture, it might take two years to see your end product; [with beer], what you make takes two weeks.”
This new-found love for brewing got Payson thinking about a career change, but it wasn’t until 2010 that something fortuitous occurred: while enjoying a few pints at Piper’s Creek Pub, he had his first run-in with Skip Madsen’s signature Breakaway IPA.
“I saw the hockey stick tap handle, and as a hockey player, I had to try it. I knew it was an excellent beer and whoever made it loved hockey.”
This discovery put him on a search for the hockey-loving brewer who made what Payson described as “the best IPA I’ve ever tried.” After finding Skip Madsen at American Brewing Company, he became a regular customer, and was soon spending his spare time volunteering in the brewery. When a job offer came, Payson couldn’t say no. “Sure, I took a pay cut. But there are so many benefits – all the beer I could ask for, and the opportunity to create my own recipes and share those with the community.”
Along with the Peloton Saison, which is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale, Payson has Cascadian Dark Ale in the works – it’s easily the best beer I’ve tried all year. It’s a bit hoppy, a little roasty, and not too sweet – sure to round out October better than a pumpkin. Stay tuned and visit the ABC website for upcoming releases and specials from Mr. Dan Payson!
Ashley Davidson, Marketing & PR @ American Brewing Company