Bremerton: More Than A Summer Brewfest?

For Seattle beer fans Bremerton poses an awkward question: is there more than just the Summer Brewfest to tempt us across the water? No offence to Der Blokken Brewery but previously they alone didn’t provide enough justification to make the 2-hour round trip on the ferry, except of course for that awesome Summer Brewfest. However with the recent openings of Silver City’s Bremerton taproom and Slaughter County’s Port Orchard brewpub, I figured perhaps there is now sufficient critical mass. This post documents my attempt to test my theory: a Fueled by Beer transit trip to Bremerton to visit all three breweries…

The starting point for this trip is Colman Dock, Washington State Ferries’ main terminal in downtown Seattle. If you’re like me, with a starting point out in the ‘burbs, use your favorite trip planner (Metro; Google; Sound Transit) to connect with the 10:00 am (or later) Seattle-Bremerton ferry departure. On arrival in Bremerton go directly to the Kitsap Foot Ferry dock and take the next departure over to Port Orchard.

On arrival in Port Orchard exit the foot ferry dock and walk to the left along the waterfront boardwalk towards the Gazebo, then head past the public restrooms, and climb the stairs to Bay Street. Cross over to the sidewalk and continue walking left along Bay Street to the Westbay Center: Slaughter County Brewing is in the back of the center overlooking the water – and that’s not even the best part.


Slaughter County Brewing Co.

sclogoAnyone who is familiar with Maritime Pacific’s Jolly Roger Taproom or Baron Brewing’s Pillagers Pub will immediately feel at home at Slaughter County.

And of the three pirate-themed pubs I have to say that for me Slaughter County does ‘pirate’ best. As soon as you walk in it is obvious that this is a labor of love for owners and Minneapolis natives Scott Kirvan and Connie Jacobs.

It is not an exaggeration to say that they both ‘live pirate’ to the max. They are the kind of people Mrs Fueled by Beer and I like to hang out with at parties. Follow their Facebook and Twitter musings to see what I mean.

During my visit I was fortunate to meet and chat with both Scott and Connie. I believe it is fair to say that Scott is still ironing out some kinks in his brewhouse, hence his one brew at a time output since the pub’s late-August opening. However, the guest taps were all very good, with a distinct emphasis on local Kitsap brews.

IMG_2456

Slaughter County Brewery & Pub

This business model: ramp up in-house brewing with a quality rather than quantity approach, while building a solid clientele by providing the best neighborhood gathering experience, has a lot of merit.

It has served Big Time in Seattle’s U-District, it seems, since Noah was sent to Home Depot to buy some lumber. And it has been a key ingredient in the success of Naked City, who for me provides the Seattle area’s benchmark for a standalone brewpub operation. I believe Slaughter County has the same potential in Port Orchard, where there is clearly a niche to fill. I hope they succeed.

After combing through Facebook postings and tweets I believe the following list covers the Slaughter County brews released to date:

  • Brownasourus — Sour Brown Ale – strong coffee and cocoa nib flavors
  • SMASH Braggot — Maris Otter, Willamettes, & Honey
  • “Wag’s Special Bitter” ESB
  • Bondsman’s Bitter
  • Arrvest Ale! (on cask and draft)
  • Sleepy Hallow Pumpkin Porter (releasing 10/27)
IMG_2451

Wag’s Special Bitter

Now, to my experience at Slaughter County: although not on tap at the time, there was still enough Wag’s ESB left in a keg for Scott to pull a pint for me to taste. And I got a sneak ‘straight from the brite tank’ preview of the Sleepy Hallow Pumpkin Porter that should be flowing out of a draft tap, and maybe also the cask beer engine, as I type this post.

Just like when I was a kid, and gorged ’til I puked on Lardy Cake, I wanna go back to Slaughter County for some more of Scott’s brew!!!

As my photo album from the trip shows, Slaughter County Brewing’s pub is very ‘homey’ and family-friendly.

For beer geeks like Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer, where great beer, good food, convivial company, being able to hear one’s self think, is all-important, and The Daughter is welcome too, this is 180° degrees from the sport’s bar concept that so many brewpubs try to emulate – and we try to avoid. When’s the last time you saw leather couches in a brewpub?

IMG_2459As all good things inevitably do, my visit to Slaughter County Brewing ended far too quickly: I had a tight schedule to keep. So, when it’s time to leave, retrace your steps back to the foot ferry dock, and ride back over to Bremerton. Ferries leave the Port Orchard dock on the hour and half-hour until 8:30 pm.

Next up is the taproom at Silver City Brewery located a short walk from West Bremerton Transfer Center. This location is 4 miles from downtown Bremerton. From the downtown foot ferry dock head up to the street level to the Kitsap Transit bus bays. Of the several routes that run between downtown and the westside transfer center, #11 Crosstown Express is the quickest. Check Google Transit for other options.

Silver City Brewery & Taproom

Unfortunately, during my particular trip, this leg did not work out as intended. And I was disappointed that the gentleman at the taproom couldn’t find a way to accommodate me considering my reason for visiting and the lengths I had gone to to get there.

Long story short: I arrived at the taproom right on schedule at 2:00 pm, the time Silver City’s website led me to believe the taproom would be open, only to be turned away because the opening time was actually 3:00 pm.

However I was able to take photos, and I was invited to purchase “Beer to Go” in a growler or 22 oz bottles (that I already buy at Total Wine & More in Bellevue). Given my situation: traveling on foot and by transit, this suggestion was not very helpful.

As it turned out there was very little on tap at the brewery that I hadn’t tasted before so I wasted no further time; I took some photos and left. And therein lies the problem with this location; its isolation…

IMG_2477When I arrived back at the transfer center I found to my amazement that all four bus routes heading downtown leave at the same time – on the hour – there is no staggering of departure times.

This left me with a 40 minute wait for my pick of four buses – ludicrous – so I decided to hike along Kitsap Way and 11th Street, then over the Manette Bridge to my final port of call: Der Blokken Brewery. I had an hour and a half until Der Blokken opened and it had turned out to be a gorgeous day, so this unplanned 4.3 mile walk was actually quite welcome.

With hindsight, my thoughts concerning Silver City Brewery & Taproom are thus: given its location and limited transit service, the original brewpub in Silverdale might be a better place to sample Silver City beers – but only if you happen to be in that area.

As a transit destination from Seattle neither of the Silver City locations make any sense, particularly when their beer is so widely available in and around Seattle. But as I will show in my conclusion, this is a good thing. Focusing your day on the neighborhood Slaughter County and Der Blokken Brewpubs will provide Bremerton’s finest beer tasting experience.

So, after arriving back at the downtown ferry terminal from Port Orchard, unless there is a burning desire to visit Silver City, feel free to walk across the the Manette Bridge to Der Blokken Brewery. Timing should not be an issue on Fri/Sat/Sun – but keep in mind their 4pm opening time on Tue/Wed/Thu – and that they’re closed on Mondays.

Der Blokken Brewery

Before this trip my only exposure to Der Blokken was at the Bremerton Summer Brewfests. Those experiences were enough to convince me that Der Blokken brews some pretty excellent beer but I had no idea that they also operate such a wonderful brewpub.

The Manette neighborhood where Der Blokken Brewery is located has a charm you won’t find on the Bremerton side of the bridge. Its quiet streets are mostly residential with a compact commercial core along tree-lined E 11th Street leading to the brewery.

While Der Blokken’s building is pretty nondescript from the outside, once inside you enter an uncluttered, almost austere Bauhaus-like restaurant space that exudes a casual hip, industrial vibe. Kids are welcome in the restaurant, the small bar seats five or 6 on stools.

During my visit six of Der Blokken’s twelve taps were pouring house beers so I ordered a tasting flight of all six. I had previously sampled the Der Blokken Black, a surprisingly light bodied Porter/Stout that is very easy to drink. The other Der Blokken brews were all excellent: English and Belgian style Pales; Double IPA; Scotch Ale; and Irish Red. I would have happily downed a pint of any one of them but my choice to accompany my food order was my standout on the day, the Pactolian Pale Ale.



In addition to great beer Der Blokken has very good food offerings. I was offered choices from separate standard, happy hour, and daily special menus that rival the best in Seattle (read Elysian and Elliott Bay). I chose two appetizer options: the mini Putine and a Sourdough loaf. Both were larger than I anticipated so half of each came home with me in a doggy bag.


Conclusions

In this state of 170+ breweries I find it strange that there aren’t more standalone neighborhood brewpubs along the lines of the Oregon model perfected by McMenamins and emulated by others so successfully in and around Portland.

In Washington it seems most brewpubs belong to larger production breweries whose output goes mostly to wholesale customers in kegs, bottles and cans; with relatively little consumed on-premise. Ironically it is McMenamins who is showing Washington the way through their half dozen or so Emerald state brewpubs.

Fortunately there are some notable exceptions among Washington-based breweries – where beer is brewed and distributed almost entirely through the brewpub. And these establishments produce what I consider to be among the best beer in the state, matching the best to be found at neighborhood nanobrewery taprooms.

These include: Tacoma’s E9; Puyallup’s Powerhouse; Lynnwood’s Big E; and in Seattle there’s Big Time, Naked City, and all three Elliott Bay pubs. Now, after visiting Bremerton, I believe I can add Der Blokken to my list of best brewpubs. And I believe Slaughter County deserves to join Fremont’s recently opened Outlander Pub among my ‘ones to watch’.

And finally, if like me, you choose to pass on Silver City on any future Bremerton brewery trek, you might want to make the trip a loop: one way on the Seattle-Bremerton ferry, the other way on the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry. The #86 Southworth Shuttle connects ferry foot passengers to Port Orchard (weekdays only).

And, just in case you missed my earlier link to the photo album from this trip…

Bremerton & Port Orchard Brewery Trek
Advertisements

4 comments

  1. Mr. Fueledbybeer!
    Great article on the local breweries! I just thought I would drop you a line to let you know I have a great friend, Mike Montoney, that will be opening a brewery/taproom up in the Silverdale area by the end of this month called “Rainy Daze Brewing Co. Really, really great beer!! If you have not heard anything of this or need anymore info dont hesitate to contact me. I think it would be well worth your while to taste a few of his beers once open. Thanks for checking us out over here on the other side of the Seattle ferries!!

    1. Thanks for the heads up Josh. Yes, during recent travels I have heard about Rainy Daze and their reuse of Battenkill’s brewhouse rig. Although they won’t satisfy my criteria for Fueled by Beer destinations I do hope they can get themselves on tap early on at places like Tizleys or the Hare & Hounds – places that are reachable by transit.

Please feel free to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s