the “tour” of the Redhook Brewery was more of a tasting than a “tour,” but I suppose that was the case in New Glarus last year though not so much when we did the microbrewery tour of downtown Denver. I’d been to the brewery in Woodinville the last time I visited Seattle (to see Christin over an impossibly sunny November weekend while I lived in San Diego) and the primary change wasn’t so much in the offerings on the “tour” as my appreciation of those offerings.
after handing over our rumpled dollar bills and receiving our beer cap entry tokens in return, we were herded to the second floor of the building, overlooking the distillation and fermentation tanks which, not surprisingly, looked very much like those in New Glarus, though perhaps not as pretty. access was also much more restricted at Redhook and the bottling line wasn’t running (on a Friday) so there wasn’t so much hustle-n-bustle as taste-n-sip.
our “guide” was an acerbic type and shared his name with one of my companion’s siblings. he gave the young couple nearest the bar a hard time for whispering (loudly) between themselves and generally teased people as we made our way through six (or seven?) different tasters. already a fan of the ESB and Winterhook, I also discovered I quite like the IPA which departs dramatically from my reaction on the last tour (but comes as no surprise; mmm hops). and this time I knew enough to retain information about what IBU means (International Bitterness Units) and when I had drinks at the Vintage the other night the information on their beer menu made even more sense!
after successfully launching the brewery in central Seattle in 1981 by Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker (of Starbucks and Pete’s Coffee fame), and moving through locations in Fremont and Ballard, the brewery moved out to its current location in Woodinville in 1994. when it was one of the first tours I ever took, it was a novelty — not exactly a microbrewery, but a craft brewery sounded nearly as exciting and inventive. now, however, having been to so many microbreweries and knowing the difference between a craft brewery, a microbrewery, and a brewpub, touring Redhook and hearing their history (again) seemed somewhat less so. following a 2003 licencing agreement with the Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and subsequent merger, Redhook started the Craft Brew Alliance which distributes to 48 states (excluding Utah; as our “guide” cautioned — to a room full of beer tasters — going to Utah is a “poor life choice”). Kona Brewing came under the Craft Brew Alliance umbrella in 2010 and they’re traded on the stock exchange. more to my point, I suppose, though is the fact that AB InBev owns 32.2% of the company and yesterday I read a piece (entitled “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer”) about how that merger has had detrimental effects on how some long-produced import beers. I’ve got no complaints about Redhook — it’s just much closer to the Starbucks model than the New Glarus or Lake Louie model, if you will. I enjoyed more than a few packs of ESB and Winterhook while I lived in San Diego but for now I’ll stick to my (more) local brews.