Friday, 29 May 2015
Here at Hilliard’s Brewery in the Ballard district of Seattle the cans are being filled, four (or was it five?), at a time, the caramel coloured beer with its flecked head of foam, before a movement of the machine forward sees the foam being flicked off, smoothed, and then a top is added and pushed down. The beer is ready to be sent over to Sweden. It’s a sunny day outside and light floods the brewery; it was once a service garage for a car dealership and there are big windows and on a day like this, being in a brewery like this, there is nowhere else I would rather be. Especially when I’m handed a glass — a jam jar I laugh, a mason I then say, and after another look, it’s a glass version of the can — of their Saison. Dupont yeast, Pilsner malt and Goldings hops and we’re away in a neverneverland of spiciness, fruitiness, dryness and a beautiful mouthfeel. I can imagine myself in the tank country of Wallonia. ‘We only do cans because it’s a better way to store beer,’ says Adam Merkl, who founded the brewery with Ryan Hilliard in 2011 (they also do draft but it’s bottles that are avoided, and the sounds of the canning line are accompanied by wheezes and huffs and puffs, rather than the tinkle of laughter that a bottle line produces). ‘Enjoying this?’ says Dustin Boast, the guy that brought me to the brewery, a former accountant who started Road Dog Brewery Tours, which does what it says and takes people on tours around Seattle breweries. I am indeed and then I get a taste of a sour in progress, an ESB with Belgian yeast. Refreshing, lemony and shapes of grapefruit being thrown. Good one. I try more beers, chat with Adam and the guy on the canning line (apologies to him for not noting down his name) and generally enjoy the ambience of this brewery that I’d not heard of before. And afterwards in the mini bus Dustin takes people around in I say that what we’ve just been doing is the most important part of beer, not just drinking the stuff but talking to the people who make it, swapping stories and telling tales. Beer’s about the people as much as what is in the glass. Dustin smiles. ‘Bingo!’ he says.