For the holiday-frazzled, here's a Saturday outing that comes with its own mellowing agent: beer. Tour the Redhook brewery on the edge of Woodinville. Get there early enough...
Editor’s note: Take a day’s vacation without going far. Our “Super Saturdays” series offers simple outings to entertaining destinations by car, bus or bicycle.
For the holiday-frazzled, here’s a Saturday outing that comes with its own mellowing agent: beer.
Tour the Redhook brewery on the edge of Woodinville. Get there early enough for lunch in the leather chairs by the fireplace in the Forecasters Public House, then nurse a beer until it’s time for the tour (at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. weekends, or 2 and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, no appointment necessary).
And there are many beers worth dawdling over: There’s IPA (India Pale Ale), aka Ballard Bitter, which harks back to the label’s Seattle origins and still has “Ya Sure, Ya Betcha” on the label. Or for seasonal appeal, try Winterhook, which the menu calls “a roasty blend of two noble malt varieties.” (Where else is a menu item described as “roasty”? It’s my favorite new word.)
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With a mere smile and nod to accommodating wait staff, I could boldly order strange new beers. Like Chinook Copper, which Redhook sells only in the Pacific Northwest (“unfiltered and fermented for extended period at colder temperatures”). Or the black-as-night porter affectionately called Nitro (for the nitrogen pumped into it, rather than for explosive qualities — presumably). Cask-conditioned ales “available only in 20-ounce Imperial pints” (no pantywaists, please). I was riding the wild tap on a roasty, beer-culture adventure.
Four of us toddled round when it came time for the 40-minute tour ($1, or free if you print out a “tourbuck” from the Web: www.redhook.com; minors welcome; wheelchair accessible).
By the gift shop we met tour-guide Judith Vidal, a sort of elder beer goddess with spiky hair (red more from henna than heredity, one suspected), skin-tight denims, and an elegant bouquet of roses in a tattoo twist up the back of her neck. (Sharing some of Redhook’s heritage — Ballard High, Class of ’58 — she was lots of fun, and this surely isn’t the first time that’s been said of her.)
“We are CLI-I-MBING the stairway to BEER hea-uh-VEN,” Vidal wailed in a fractured Led Zeppelin tribute as we ascended to the brewery’s tasting room.
Vidal told us about Redhook’s 1981 birth in Ballard, its move to Fremont, and finally the construction in 1994 of this modern, stylized complex in Woodinville.
As she served up tastes of beer in shot glasses (which you get to keep), Vidal recalled Redhook brews of yore, like the famed Double Black Stout made with Starbucks coffee. “You could put vanilla ice cream in there! Yum, yum!”
She showed us the bottling line (go Monday or Tuesday to see it in action) and a room with 56 mammoth fermentation tanks. “If you drank four pints of beer every day for 33 years, you’d drink one of these tanks!” she said. (Don’t bet your lunch on that math; they figured it out one day after drinking a lot of beer.)
After four tastes, clear your head with a walk in the fresh air. Get your designated driver to whisk you across the road to the bucolic grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle winery.
From the parking lot, follow a path around the pond and fountain where you can quack at ducks, admire ornamental evergreens and bamboo and soak up the feeling of rural isolation engendered by a grove of alders that acts like a living-room drape between the Chateau and the suburbs.
At Redhook’s Forecasters Public House, I wallowed in the pleasures of a pulled-pork sandwich (oozing with tangy barbecue sauce made with ESB ale, $8.50) and sailed through a schooner of Winterhook ($2.75). The menu includes a range of appetizers; burgers and sandwiches in the $8-$9 range; soups and salads, and even a kids menu (minors welcome except for Friday and Saturday nights after 9). No smoking.
Even if there’s no time for a free tour of the winery (daily 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., hourly during the week, every 30 minutes on weekends), don’t miss the shop at Chateau Ste. Michelle. As you enter you’re soothed first by the piped-in classical music and then by the modulated voice of a goateed gentleman in an apron asking, “May I offer you a taste of our merlot?” There’s something to be said for a shopping experience that includes carrying a crystal goblet with a generous slosh of ruby liquid redolent of blackberries, smoke and the merest suggestion of dark chocolate. Amble amiably among the art glass, silver and even a selection of winter fleece clothing, then pick up a bottle of that rather nice merlot for $15.99. 10-5 daily. 800-267-6793 or www.ste-michelle.com.
What’ll it cost me?
Brewery tour ($1), lunch ($11.25) and wine purchase ($15.99): $28.24 plus tax.
Getting there: From Interstate 405, take the Wenatchee/Monroe exit to Highway 522 East. Take the Woodinville exit and stay to the right. Turn right on Northeast 175th. Turn left at the four-way stop onto Highway 202. Travel approximately 2 miles. The Redhook Brewery is on the left, across the road from Chateau Ste. Michelle.
Brian J. Cantwell: 206-748-5724 or firstname.lastname@example.org