Beer Review

Need your hot springs fill?! The Olympic Hot Springs just reopened.

God Rays

Nestled and tucked away in the Olympic National Forest is a semi-hidden gem of a hot spring which just re-opened – which I am prepared to tell you everything about so you can be inspired to get there yourself.

Having been craving a dip in some natural and sulfuric hot water as of late, I happened to come across this picture of a pixie I know named Dawn soaking away in what seemed to be quite the pristine location to do so.  I checked in with Dawn to see just where this magical picture was taken, and it turned out to be the freshly re-opened Olympic Hot Springs just outside of Port Angeles.  I checked in with the Jess about when we could head out and she simply said, ‘As soon as possible.’  Fantastic, I thought, the sweet smell of sulfur on skin would be nigh!

Port Angeles is a quiet old port town with US Highway 101 running through it on the North tip of the Washington Peninsula.  There are a few routes to take from Seattle depending on which part of city you’re in, one of them including a ferry ride from Kingston, the other including the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  Here’s where Port Angeles is in comparison to Seattle:

SEA > PA

All in all it’s about a 2-3.5 hour drive depending on if you take the ferry or not.  I personally recommend staying in Port Angeles for the night, as it does require a hike to get out to the Springs.  It’s only about a 25 minute drive from downtown Port Angeles to the trailhead, so getting a little room and going out for some drinks the night before worked out perfect for Jess and I.  We stayed at the Port Angeles Inn ($60/night, Queen size bed, full bathroom) and ended up hopping around town to a few spots before hitting the hay for the hike the next morning.

For a quick bite and a brew we hit up the Next Door Gastropub.  This spot is exactly that, a small little gastropub with $8-$15 plates, and a decent selection of NW brews on 10 or so taps.  You won’t find anything rare from the beer world here, but nevertheless you’ll find something tasty.  I snagged the Fig-N-Brie Panini and was extremely impressed.  Definitely worth the stop in.  From there we continued our usual beer hunting habits and walked over to The Lazy Moon Craft Tavern.  Here they’ve got something like 18 taps, and this is where you’re going to find something rare.  If my memory serves me correctly we found a bourbon barrel-aged stout, and some tasty IPA of sorts.  There’s a pool table, and a bunch of elder locals sipping brews by themselves.  Kind of an odd ambience to the place, but you got to remember you’re in a fishing port town.  Highly recommend stopping through the Lazy Moon if you’re in the area.  We got a good night’s rest and stopped in at Cafe New Day for some espresso and a snack (also recommended if you’re in the area), and set off for the trailhead.

As mentioned before it takes about 25-30 minutes to get from downtown Port Angeles to the parking area for the trailhead.  Head West on the 101 outta town and you’ll simply take a left onto Olympic Hot Springs Rd.  It’s very clearly marked from the 101.  From there just follow the signs for the hot springs and you’ll end up at the trailhead parking lot.  It’s a beautiful drive, and the dam has recently been destroyed and taken down, which apparently has made this drive even more pristine!  Here’s a closer look at PA vs. the trailhead:

PA vs Trail

Once at the trailhead you’ve got a 2.5 mile beautiful hike ahead of you.  We were greeted right off the bat by these incredible rays of light from the heavens above:

Jess God Rays

Some of the scenery along the way:

Mush1

Mush2

Forest Bridge

This is one of the three bridges you’ll cross to get up to the hot springs.  Looks to be semi under repair currently.

Forestry

View from the bridge pictured above.

You’ll start wondering when it is you’ll reach the end of the 2.5 miles, and then you’ll come to a beautiful little clearing with an old school styled outhouse in the middle.  It’ll look like this:

Outhouse

Head off to the right as the signs will tell you, you’ll cross another rustic wooden bridge, and you’ll start smelling the lovely smell of sulfur you’re about to dip yourself in.  Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’re basically at the Hot Springs.  You will see small pools to the left and right of the path.  Two of these pools are decent to take a tiny dip in, but the most sacred pool you must keep walking for.

Some of the scenery along the path:

Reflection

Beautiful reflection on a sulfur pool.

Sulfur Water

Sulfur water running over sticks and stones creating an epic array of colors.

Scene from one of the better of the pools along the path.

Now you must pay attention if you want to find the best pool located at these springs: go all the way past all of the pools you can see from the trail.  At that point, the trail gets skinny, overgrown, and heads into woods off to the right a bit. Go another 20 yards or so and look for a small trail that goes to the right and very uphill. It’s a bit confusing, but there is definitely a small trail.  One minute up that trail is the last and best pool.  Here’s some shots and a video from around and actually sitting inside the top pool:

From Inside

This is taken sitting down inside the pool.

WINNING

So winning.

Pano of Pool

This is a panorama shot from above the main pool where the hot water is actually coming out of the ground.  On the left you have a changing area and a spot to put your items.  The large log acts brilliantly as a backrest.  Sometimes there are carpets in the bottom of the pool to keep the silt down, but they had been removed by someone for cleaning this trip.

Here’s a video of the scene:

We were fortunate enough to make it on a weekday, which I would highly recommend if you can, as there will be much less humans out there in general.  I think we spotted something like five or six people on the way out to the springs, and once we arrived at the top pool we were greeted by one older local gentleman who warmly welcomed us.  We chatted away fantastic hot spring conversation with Jack until he took off, leaving the pool to just us!!

Overall this is definitely one of my new favorite hot spring experiences.  The hike is just enough to keep the away the miscreant crowd, it’s totally rustic and not built up, you can still be naked and not have to worry about it, and of course, the hot spring itself is magic.  Jess and I highly recommend making the trek out there, and if you do, please let us know, we’ll totally tag along!  Enjoy!

Jess Bridge

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Mikkeller Continues To Take Over The World.

Mikkeller BKK

 

Searching for the brand new Mikkeller Bar in Bangkok isn’t necessarily what I’d call easy.  At least it wasn’t when I was trying to find it on the second night after it was opened officially.  I found their address and plugged it into Google Maps, and up came some far off soi off a soi on Ekkamai off Sukhimvit that I thought for sure was going to have me end up in some strange Thai neighborhood in Bangkok wondering where I was.

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, owner of the gypsy brewery Mikkeller, has chosen to stick his third bar on the planet (the other two are in Copenhagen, Denmark – his home country, and San Francisco) not in the heart of New Bangkok, but hidden, right nearby. The bar itself is simply a house in the more upscale Ekkamai neighborhood converted into a living space upstairs, and the bar downstairs, with the refrigeration and keg storage space in the back.  They’ve turned the lawn into an exceptionally lounged out grassy area with squatter tables with upscale beanbags for chairs.  There’s a patio as well with about eight or so taller sit tables for those that don’t feel like being on the ground, but not in the AC controlled non-mossie environment inside.

To locate the bar, you can now search it on Google Maps, but I may as well just tell you how to get there anyways:  Head to Sukhimvidt Road and head towards Sukhimvidt 63 which is the Ekkamai neighborhood soi.  Take a motorbike taxi from there down to Ekkamai 10, which will be on the right hand side of the street coming from Sukhimvidt.  From there it’s a short walk.  Simply walk down Ekkamai 10 and take your first right.  Then take your first left.  In about 20-40 seconds on the right you’ll see a house, yes I said a house, that just happens to be where you’re going to find absolute deliciousness in the beer realm unlike anything else in Thailand, or potentially all of SE Asia for that matter.

When asked on why Mikkel had picked the location, Pete, the Tap Master (says his card), resident of the establishment, and more outspoken of the three main gents that run the place, simply said, “He wanted it to be a destination.  We don’t want every drunk idiot traveling in Thailand to be able to just stumble in.”  Mikkel’s beers range from a 1.3% ABV Low Alcohol Wheat Ale called ‘Drink’in The Sun’ all the way up to a 14% ABV American Strong Ale brewed with To Øl called ‘Walk On Water’.  Like any new product or service anywhere, these types of things can take some getting used to, especially when the country you’ve landed in normally serves beer at a flat 4-5% ABV.

That evening I chose carefully (as always) and ordered a 12% Imperial Stout named ‘George!’, a juniper berry infused IPA named ‘Baltic Frontier’, a brilliant sour from Mikkel in the ‘Spontaneous Series’ titled ’Spontandoubleblueberry’ (which ended up being one of the best beers I’ve had in almost a year), and a really well done DIPA (Double-IPA for those not in the know) called ‘Dangerously Close To Stupid’.  All were fantastic, with the blueberry sour being one of those brews that your intense beer hunter/geek/snob yearns for in his or her global search for the best brews on the planet.

Though I haven’t actually been to Mikkel’s other two bars in Copenhagen and San Francisco, I hear that the esthetics of the bar are fairly similar as far as paint job, colors, weird little figures on the wall, and such.  Though I was too busy drinking as many danky brews as possible, I snagged one photo out of the few times I’ve been there – it’s not great, but pictured above.  The establishment boasts 30 taps (and around 40 bottles) of all sorts of rare beers – and that’s not just rare for Asia, rare for the world.  Two of the taps are house beers, the Sukhimvit Pilsner and Sukhimvit Brown, both made for Mikkel at De Proef in Belgium according to Mike (one of the three gents).  I sampled them both, here’s what I had to say about them on RateBeer.com:

Mikkeller Sukhimvit Pils | 3.9/5
On tap at Mikkeller Bangkok. This was an absolute delight! Pale yellow pour, medium white head. Notes of grassy fields and a light spice hop. Flavor is light but full of grass, spice hop, and a beautiful bitter finish. Wish I could get 6er’s of this in the States! A must try if you hit the BKK location.

Mikkeller Sukhimvit Brown | 3.4/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK in January. Sampled a few that night, but went for the two house brews first. The Pilsner being rather outstanding, and the Brown not really adding up so well beside it. Earthy flavors amongst a touch of sweet coffee malt, and a minor roast end. Thin body. Decent, but not great.

At the end of the 2014 excursion through Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand Jess and I had been through Bangkok five to six times in three and a half months.  Each time we stopped through the Big Mango we would stop at Mikkeller if we had the time between flights and attempting to catch up on some sleep.  We sampled around 18-20 different brews in our stop ins, and by far our favorites were the recurring Spontaneous series we kept seeing on the menu.  The Spontaneous brews are a series of sour bretted (Brettanomyces, a non-spore forming wild yeast strain used in souring beers) beers with different fruits infused – the Doubleblueberry and Gooseberry were the top contenders by far.  Here’s what I had to say about those on RateBeer.com:

Mikkeller Spontandoubleblueberry | 4.5/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK…sometime beginning of February. FULL ON. If you can find this one, get it. I don’t know how often I rate Appearance as a 5, but this beer is blue. Full on brett blueberry funk on the nose. Blends somehow brilliantly and perfectly. You know it’s gonna be a puckerfest. A touch of sweet fruity malt up front before a blast of wood, barnyard, and in comes the blueberries – abound! All over. But sour blueberries, just heaven. Brett and wood in the finish, everything lingering forever – this is one tasty beverage!

Mikkeller Spontangooseberry | 4/5
Tap at Mikkeller BKK beginning of February. This was another one of my favorites in the series Spontan. Whatever it was in the gooseberry it really kick in well with the brett and funky barnyard flavors for a beautiful sour elixir I wanted to drink forever. Dank!

Basically what I am trying to say here is this:
Even if you have only a day or two in Bangkok, if you’re a beer geek whatsoever – stop through Mikkeller BKK.  You won’t regret going on a bit of a Goose chase!

~ CRAFT BEER REVIEW for DOGFISH HEAD’s NEW ‘POSITIVE CONTACT’ ~

3.6 out of 5

AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 16/20 Well, you got to give it to them.  DFH continues to pump out some really odd and wild ideas with their brews.  Some really hit it, some do not.  After hearing this one was going to be more on the actual “limited” status (aka 66 cases of 6 to the state of Washington, with many stores selling one-per-custy), I hopped on it as soon as I caught wind when it was going to be released, as I just happened to be in a larger city (Seattle) when it dropped.  Found one at Whole Foods downtown, they got 12 bottles total.  What made this interesting was that the beer guy at WF didn’t know what was coming with Positive Contact.  I informed him that inside each case, in his case twice, was a brand new 10″ from Deltron 3030’s Dan The Automater.  Gangster.  Anyways, I attempted to score one of the two records, failing unfortunately.  Grabbed one of the twelve for $12.99+tax (thankfully not any more than that) and went on my merry way to an epic weekend of glamping upon glamping in The Meadow. Upon opening the bottle in the Meadow, a light apple esther comes wafting out the bottle, speckled with hints of yeast.  A deep pale gold pours into the glasses. Hints of the spices start to hit the nostrils a bit more once the brew sits in the glass, but these notes are not overpowering.  Once the brew hits the tongue an overall sense of many flavor notes step in slowly one after the other: citrus, green and yellow apples, muffled peppery spice, and straw…which transmute into what mainly seems to be a light cider.  Definitely don’t believe I’d tasted anything quite like it before.  That said, the flavors, while noticeable, were unfortunately faint in their delivery.  The cider note takes you through the finish with a polite hint of the 9% ABV, but does not linger for all that long.  I was happy that the token malt characteristics of many DFH brews over the past 5 years were not present for the most part!  A novel idea mostly pulled of once again, but it could use just a tiny kick in general for my tastes.  Nice work to whomever got a plate with their brew!

| Craft Beer Review | Stillwater Import Series Vol. 2 ’A Saison Darkly’ |

3.9 out of 5

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20

skoisirius (1072) – Earth, USA – JUN 30, 2012

11.2oz from Belmont Station in Portland. Pours a deep dark brown, barely able to see through at all. Aroma is roasty toasty with gentle hints of banana, rose, and the hibiscus. Flavor is sweet up front with the rose (and the berries?), and gets spicier with the hibiscus as the flavor settles on the palate. Remains fairly roasted throughout. Has a nice kick to it. Lingers. Quite a thick brew, lips smacking for sure.