Behind the Scenes at Hale's Ales, Seattle, WA
Hale's Brewery in Seattle, Washington has been in the craft beer scene since the early 80s. Inspired by the ales that founder and president Mike Hale tasted during a year long bicycling trip in southern England, Hale's produces their lineup of beers using traditional English brewing methods. Key to this method is employing a yeast specially adapted to open-topped fermenters. Housed in a 17,000 square foot building, formerly an industrial hose manufacturing plant, is a 30 barrel, gravity-fed, all steam-heated brewing system plus a 125 seat pub. The open floor plan, which shows off the fermenting room behind panes of glass with mirrors on the ceiling, allows pub visitors to take in the sights and smells of the brewing process.
The Hale's line up starts with a Pale American Ale—it was their inaugural brew back in 1983. The Mongoose IPA offers a hoppy pine aroma and is nicely balanced against the malts making it very drinkable. If "the hoppier the better" is your mantra, the turbo-charged Supergoose I.P.A is the way to go. The English influence is most notable in the Cream Ale, Cream Stout, and Special Bitter. Other offerings include the Troll Porter and the Red Menace Big Amber in addition to a number of seasonal beers.
During my visit, Hale's was offering a vertical tasting of a popular seasonal, the Wee Heavy Winter Ale. I was able to taste the 2002, the 2003 and the 2010 versions. They poured a deep rich mahogany color with hints of caramel and roasted malt without being too sweet. It may have been a nice warm day here in Seattle but these winter ales were tasting mighty fine.
Operating with a classic English brewing method while satisfying the hop-centric tastes of the Pacific Northwest is part of what makes Hale's a unique brewery. A bit of the old world combined with the new. In a sense, Hale's offers the best of both worlds right here in Seattle.