In this, the third instalment in my series of transit trips via Lynnwood, I visit arguably the most anticipated brewery to open in the Puget Sound region so far this year: American Brewing Company, located on the Edmonds waterfront near the ferry terminal and train station…
As a relative newcomer to the Northwest beer scene I must confess that I was clueless about the anticipation surrounding ABC. This is because I was oblivious to the reputation of brewmaster Skip Madsen, aka “the Wookie”, a living legend in PNW beer circles (more here). Yet despite my ignorance, during my visit I was able to meet Skip and he graciously stopped to chat briefly.
I mentioned to Skip how I have been watching other breweries struggle for a year or more to get themselves open – how they’re still struggling – and how I was amazed at how fast ABC got their space, built it out, and got production rolling. All this, as far as I could tell, was accomplished in less than a year.
Skip simply smiled a seemingly all-knowing smile, and modestly shrugged his shoulders. I was left wondering if Yoda might be a more apt nickname than “the Wookie”. In the six months that have passed since ABC celebrated its grand opening, they’ve ramped up production to the point where ABC kegs are increasingly appearing on taps in Seattle-area bars and restaurants. And they’ve started bottling too; “22’s” of ABC goodness are appearing in local markets and grocery stores. This includes some major retail players like QFC (part of Kroger). Hey – I’m seriously impressed!
Apart from Skip’s brewhouse, the other significant feature of ABC’s facility is its large, very impressive tasting room – christened Breakaway Room after Skip’s flagship Breakaway IPA. Opening times are weekdays from 3 pm, noon on weekends. My visit was on a weekday so I timed my bus connections to and from Lynnwood accordingly: late lunch & beer sampling at Big E Ales near Lynnwood transit center (opens 11 am), then bused over to Edmonds.
Journey time from Lynnwood was approx 30 mins, getting me to Edmonds in perfect time for the Breakaway Room. The Breakaway Room is open past the last bus connections out of Lynnwood – just keep this in mind because time will slip by fast at ABC; great beer, fun people to meet, etc.
I started my visit to ABC with six taster sized samples: one from each tap; American Blonde Ale, Ed’s Red Ale, Brave American Brown Ale, Breakaway IPA, and Breakaway Caboose Stout – one on CO2 and one on nitro. In all honesty I didn’t particularly care for the Blonde – not my style – but while I was there I did notice that every other pint being poured appeared to be Blonde, so it was clearly very popular. The other brews however impressed me enough to post to my Facebook twice while I was still sitting at the bar:
- How have I not made it here before?
- These guys give Elysian and Elliott Bay a run for their money!
Ed’s Red was exactly how I like the style to be: a nice balance of maltiness and hop character. Breakaway IPA reminded me of the best bitters I’ve sampled in Portland and San Francisco: not just another ‘in your face’ NW hop monster that makes your mouth pucker; but a more citrusy, floral character to balance the hop bitterness.
The stout: wow! All I can say is I have to get The Spouse over here for one of those – particularly the nitro pour. She’s the stout connoisseur and I think she’ll confirm that ABC’s Breakaway Caboose ranks among the best oatmeal stouts in our experience.
But my standout brew – and I’m completely biased towards any really good brown ale – was the Brave American, winner of the bronze medal in the brown ale category at GABF 2011. This one-off special was brewed in collaboration with the Brave Horse Tavern in Seattle. I swear all those many generations of British working class genes flowing through me decided to have a party when I chose a pint to follow my samplers.
A word about eats: the tap room does not serve food except for light snacks like popcorn or nuts. However food can be ordered in or brought in. Menus offering several different delivery options are available behind the bar. I ordered a pizza from Garlic Jim’s; it was delivered to me right at the bar within around 20 minutes.
All in all I was mightily impressed by American Brewing’s operation and the quality of their beer. Right now the selection is limited but if the next six months are anything like the last six, I think we’ll see ABC at a point where 10-12 core/special/seasonal brews have been released, at which point I believe they will rival the best in Snohomish county (Diamond Knot and Big E, IMO), and even have the big boys in King county looking over their shoulders. 🙂
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Google Maps now incorporates Community Transit so an accurate itinerary can now be built from any originating point in the region to Edmunds. Alternatively use Sound Transit’s trip planner.