Black Raven Brewing in Redmond, Washington is a hit. Since opening in the spring of 2009, they nabbed a 1st Place People's Choice Award in the 2009 Washington Brewers Winter Festival and won the 2010 Northwest Brewing News reader's choice award for best brewery in Washington. On any given day, crowds wait in the parking lot for the doors to open.
I had a chance to visit recently and see what was going on behind the scenes, from unusual brewing ingredients to special beers aging in the barrel room. Check it out in the slideshow »
Black Raven brews some of Washington's finest IPAs, barrel aged ales, and rare beers. The Trickster IPA, a favorite for Northwest hopheads, blends piney hops with a bright citrus flavor. When you can find it, the Wisdom Seeker Double IPA, is a perfect example of a West coast Double IPA: the hops and malts are big and bold with a strong floral aroma. For something richer and less bitter, the Tamerlane Brown Porter offers chocolate and nutty flavors yet retains a nice hop character.
Black Raven is currently operating at full capacity, and the brewers work long hours. During my visit the brewers were cleaning the tanks and getting ready for a "double brew day" of Trickster IPA, which would kick off a 15-18 hour production starting the next morning around 6 am.
But it's not all hard work and no play. To celebrate Earth Week, Seattle's Latona Pub makes sure all beers on tap are delivered without the use of trucks or motorized vehicles. Kegs from various breweries move throughout Seattle by handtruck and bicycle. I watched Black Raven's brewers strap their rare Put a Bird on It IPA (an homage to Portlandia that seemed like pure hops) onto a handtruck, then walked a half mile down a street and dirt trail, where it was loaded into a small homemade boat and paddled down the Sammamish River to the Red Hook Brewery where it was transferred to bicycle to complete its 17 mile journey.
With the sun shining down in Seattle, everyone was relieved the boat didn't sink. It was another good day for beer in the Northwest.