This adventure sees me back over on the Kitsap side of the water – deep in Kitsap you might say – at least from the perspective of this non-native Washingtonian who lives on an island across from downtown Seattle. While the vast majority of my beer by bike adventures take place in Seattle, here’s another one (see my post on Poulsbo’s three breweries) on the Peninsula. This pretty much exhausts the brewery opportunities that I will roll up to by bike in Kitsap County. Well, that is until I do a writeup on our very own new home town Bainbridge Island Brewing. That post will probably be a deviation in that I likely will describe running there rather than riding a bicycle.

Speaking of deviations from the standard, this adventure in Bremerton could be called a hybrid. Trying to ride a bike all the way to Bremerton would be dangerous and for all I know illegal. Here’s what I did: I needed to take our car in to have its brakes checked so I chose a location of Les Schwab in Bremerton over by all those car dealerships. I carried my bike in the car (a compact SUV that allows us to carry our two good-sized dogs) and set out on two wheels after dropping off the car in the shop. So here we have a hybrid car/bike adventure.

I knew about Der Blokken Brewing shortly before it opened, a few years ago. I got myself over there a few times by car on the occasions that I had a reason to go to Bremerton. Then one time we needed to take our car to the dealer to get looked at. This dealership is in Bremerton just up the street from the Les Schwab I mentioned. I brought my bike on that day, thinking I would just pedal around a bit instead of waiting around the dealership. At the last minute, I decided to try to get over to Der Blokken on my bike. This involved looking up directions on my Blackberry. That day was an adventure. I had one of my bikes that I usually use for short in-town jaunts. I had no cargo carrying capability – not even a backpack. I was so unprepared for a significant bike ride that I was holding my Nalgene of water by the carrying strap with my fingers as I gripped the handlebars. What was I thinking? On that hot day I battled unfriendly roads and drivers, got lost a bit, and discovered that the Mannette Bridge was out. That last part left me almost aborting the mission then scrambling to put together a new route. I wasn’t very familiar at all with the area, so it wan’t obvious to me that I would have to get over to the Warren Ave. Bridge and cross there. But that’s what my phone told me to do and I made my way successfully, thankfully safely, and quite sweatily to Der Blokken.

On another occasion, I once again had to take the car in to the dealer. I also needed to pick up homebrewing supplies at Olympic Brewing in Bremerton on Wheaton Way north of the Warren Ave. Bridge. Briefly, here’s my route from the dealership to Olympic Homebrew Supply to Der Blokken Brewery:

The dealership is on Werner Rd. and West Hills Blvd. From there head east (on sidewalk) and cross busy Auto Center Way (by crosswalk). Be cautious as you cross the onramp for Hwy 3 (I still am on foot here, trotting along in the crosswalk that consists of stripes on the pavement that I’m pretty certain 90% of drivers don’t recognize. Stay on the sidewalk here as you go over the bridge that carries you over Hwy 3. We really haven’t started our ride yet have we? After the bridge I go ahead and get out into the road and start pedaling. Go straight at the light at National Ave. The road you are on, now called Loxie Eagans Blvd, having changed names back around Auto Center Way, curves around to the left and ends at Arsenal Way. Turn right. Follow Arsenal Way which takes another left curve and ends at Hartford Ave. Turn right onto Hartford Ave. Take your first left onto Summit Ave. Proceed about 750 ft. with a park on your left. At this point you find a neat little cut-through to your right that leads you to Burwell St. This consists of two sidewalks separated by a dirt/landscape center. So if you brought your car you’re out of luck.

Proceed and be ready for a very steep descent as you head toward the stop light intersection at Callow Ave. I have had this light take quite a long time to change, and as with so many stop lights, not recognize a bicycle and rider. I’ve had to resort to dismounting and hitting the walk signal and running across. Soon, the road begins to go uphill. I go ahead and ride in the road as long as I can, but when I hear cars approaching from behind, I bump over onto the sidewalk for this ascent. Remember, we are in enemy territory here in Bremerton. I have had experiences that back up this stereotype. Further, a cyclist just knows when he or she is in a place where they are not considered to belong. Yes, many of you are cringing and writhing at the thought of scampering off onto the sidewalk. I do what I think will most help me stay safe. I do strongly dislike the message “retreating” like this may send to drivers, but it’s the lesser of two evils.

The road climbs for quite a distance, peaking between High Ave and Anoka Ave. You are then treated to a descent that pretty much continues all the way to the water. Since right now we are describing how to head over to Oly Home Brew, then using Wheaton Way to get to Der Blokken, we won’t go all the way down to the water. We will turn left onto Warren Ave.

Having turned left onto Warren Ave from Burwell St, head north and after maybe a mile and a half, you get to the Warren Ave Bridge. Rejoice, friends, there is a sidewalk on both sides of this bridge.

After you get across the water, the bridge continues and takes you over another roadway. You are heading uphill here. Since it’s such a stretch of uphill on this busy roadway, I just use the sidewalk. A note of caution though: Whether you stay on the roadway or use the sidewalk, you have to deal with about three instances of onramps/offramps of sorts joining/leaving the roadway. No doubt drivers here are not expecting to find cyclists and are not looking for them. Here, as I am riding on the sidewalk, I dismount and walk across where these curved side streets occur. At Sheridan Rd, the homebrew supply place is in the shopping center diagonally across to the left. I won’t bother taking us there now, rather I will describe using Wheaton Way to get to Der Blokken.

To do this, simply take a right on Sheridan Rd, then very shortly, take a right on Wheaton Way. Why, that takes us back the way we came from, you say. Yes. The reason I am describing this route is to detail what is a pretty neat ride down Wheaton Way into Manette – the neighborhood of Bremerton that houses Der Blokken. This of course will be useful for you folks who will be coming from the north on Wheaton way, say from Silverdale.

Wheaton Way here, heading toward the water and Manette, is downhill with a few slight uphill stretches and is sort of curvy. The first light you encounter is at Lebo Blvd. Shortly after that, the road curves left slightly and begins to more or less parallel the water. Shortly, you go by an interesting building on the right – a bowling alley with a brick protuberance about a story tall with the word “bay” on it. I’m sure this is a landmark in the community.

When you arrive at Manette, you encounter an nice new roundabout. Make a left onto Harkins St., then very shortly, when the road ends at Pitt Ave, make a right. After another very short distance you see another landmark in front of you at a stop sign intersection where a big sign reads “TV” and underneath it “Manette Radio.” Turn left here onto 11th St. The second street you next come to is Perry Ave. on the corner of which is Der Blokken Brewery!

The foregoing directions were, as mentioned, from the day I adventured, Nalgene bottle gripped in my handle bar-holding, sweaty fingers from the car dealership to the homebrew supply shop then down to Der Blokken. Next I will describe how on another occasion I went straight from the dealership to Der Blokken.

On this day (do I sound like Joey Greco here or what?), as I mentioned, I dropped my car off at Les Scwhab to get the brakes looked at, then set out on my bike. I actually headed over to the new Silver City tap room first. See, coincidentally, it is located nearby, right off of the very same road – Auto Center Way. I arrived there, had a great time enjoying a few little tasters and was pleasantly surprised by my experience. I had with me two growlers in case growler fill prices were reasonable there. The beertender was nice enough to let me know that happy hour started at, I think, 1:00, when growler fills would be significantly cheaper. I thought for a moment and realized that my timeline fit very well with that. So with empty growlers aboard, I set off for Der Blokken, planning on returning afterward for my fills at Silver City.

The directions are the same except instead of turning left (north) from Burwell onto Warren Ave., keep heading straight down toward the water. After about 2500 feet you arrive at Washington Ave. which parallels the water. The Manette Bridge is about 1500 feet ahead. Before you reach it you will find, at 6th St., a low concrete wall in the middle of the road and the option to veer to the left of it. Stay to the right and go straight. Shortly you reach the Manette Bridge where you make a right.

The bridge was recently replaced. It had pedestrian facilities on it before, but now they are wider. Absolutely, ride your bike on the sidewalk across this bridge, and enjoy! At the end of the bridge is the roundabout referenced before. Stay going straight and you’re on Harkins St. As described before, make a right on Pitt then a left on 11th and proceed to Perry and you’re there!

Congratulations, you braved Bremerton drivers and roads to arrive at a nice brewery. I’ll describe it and my experiences there soon.

January 23 update follows: 

Step inside Der Blokken Brewery and you realize you have just stepped inside a restaurant. Straight ahead is a servers’ stand with water pitchers and other gear a server could use. On both sides of you are tables for dining. Look all the way to the left side of the room though and you see where the beer happens – the bar with its array of taps and the permanent chalkboard running the length of the line of taps. This chalkboard of course lists what is poured from the taps below.

There is a roll-up garage door on the left side of the bar and on nicer days it’s open which is nice. I must say though I’ve been blasted by afternoon sun from this door and its windows.

On my most recent visit – the brake-check hybrid visit – I must report with sadness that I was very disappointed with the initial service, or lack thereof. I say initial because once I did get service, the woman was pretty nice. This is the woman I have had as my beertender before, and she is really a nice person. The problem (as is the case with so many places) is that she was being asked to run the whole place at the time I came in. This means she was playing the role of server to the dining guests as I waited, unacknowledged, at the bar as the minutes ticked by. I would have gotten up and left, but that wasn’t a very viable option for me in this case given the nature of this trip.

When I finally was granted the chance to order a beer I asked if I could get five tasters of my choosing. The woman told me about their predetermined flight. I asked if I could choose my own beers and she somewhat hesitantly but cordially replied in the affirmative. Okay, now things are on track. I made sure the beertender did not get away without taking my money after she set the tasters before me. No more waiting for me. A beer adventurer’s time is quite limited.

That day I had three or four of Der Blokken’s brews and the rest guest taps. I enjoyed the Castover Belgian Gold which is rather strong, the Der Blokken Black which they describe as a porter/stout, and the Sacred Hop, their double IPA. Tasty, all.

Something I wonder about regarding Der Blokken is: I recently took a look at their website and it looks different than I remember (or maybe I don’t remember). The big thing I didn’t know is that they are, to quote, Woman Owned. Woman Run. Woman Brewed. I didn’t know this, and frankly, it’s kind of like okay I get it. Congratulations.

January 31 update follows:

Now on to the rest of this adventure – back toward the Manette bridge.

Silver City’s Bremerton Taproom is next and getting there from Der Blokken is a retracing of the route we used to get there from over at the Les Schwab where we dropped of the car for a brake check.

When you get back on to Loxie Eagans Blvd and have Hwy 3 ahead of you, of course be careful about the highway onramp, the bridge over the highway then the offramp. Fortunately, there are crosswalks at the onramp and offramp and there is a sidewalk on the bridge. You may choose to dismount safely and become a pedestrian at these points. Even if you do I recommend trying to be sure the unsuspecting motorists see you before you put yourselves in their paths.

Once across Hwy 3, turn right onto Auto Center Way and get ready for a surprise: marked bike lanes! Here lies one of the more confounding mysteries I have encountered in my travels and perhaps a great example of irony. I would love to know how and why bike lanes were installed here in Bremerton on a stretch of road that serves warehouses, industrial businesses and many auto dealerships, yet we on idyllic, progressive, forward-thinking, “bike friendly” Bainbridge Island can’t get any.

Well, enjoy your approximately 3/4 mile stretch of bike lane here on Auto Center Way and look for Katy Penman Ave where you will take a left. Likely, you will see a sandwich board out at the corner if they are open.

Talk about a beacon. Oddly, I don't think the sign is visible until you pull onto the street.

Talk about a beacon. This pic was taken from the parking lot.

Just ahead on the left you will find your destination. The times that I have visited Silver City in Bremerton they have, fortunately for me, not been too busy. I have been told by the beertender there, however, that there are times that people are lined up out the door – most notably when the ship yard employees get off work. They come in with their growlers (I imagine, trying to get in on happy hour pricing if they’re like me) and it’s packed. Packed is what I associate with Silver City.

Packed is what I expected to find on my first visit to this relatively new tasting room. Instead, I had the place to myself for a while. It was not long after opening time on a Saturday. The beertender was a nice guy. Contrast this with my every experience at Silver City’s Silverdale restaurant location (its long-established original presence). On a few occasions I was fortunate enough to find an open barstool, or my wife and I two contiguous seats at a table in the bar area. Every other time I visited the Silverdale restaurant location there was no available seating in the bar area. After a couple experiences of getting off work early and rushing straight to Silver City on a weekday afternoon hoping to get a coveted seat only to find none, I began to cross Silver City off my list. When Hales Brewing opened their Ale House in the same shopping all complex, it was curtains for Silver City Restaurant. I have only set foot in there once since then in order to confirm what I already knew. No room. I used to say – and I still believe it – that Silver City could open two more locations in close proximity and they would still do more than enough business. Yes, Kitsap County folks love their Silver City.

Another couple aspects of Silver City had vexed me: The atmosphere in the bar, and the fact that the standard beer pour appears to be an imperial pint – something on the order of 20 oz. At least it looks like one. Maybe I’m mistaken. Volumes of glasses can be tricky. So upon earning a seat and the honor of having my order taken, I would be confronted with a “what’ll you have” from the serious bartender who was usually moving away from me two to three seconds after asking, off to fill his or her next mixed drink order or round of beers for the restaurant. When my beer arrived, I would be saddled with all 20 oz of it. To cap it all off, the general feel of the establishment is just too big for it’s britches–too slick, as I call it. I mean come on. This is Silverdale, WA, not L.A. I am here for some local craft beer, not Coyote Ugly or Cocktail. Relax, give me a second to ask for a beer menu. And don’t disavow knowledge of my existence after getting the beer menu for me.

In fairness: The bartenders are quite busy. They and most of the staff I ever encountered there were relatively professional and courteous. In fact I could tell the management mandated it. So I don’t want to condemn them too badly. It’s just not what I’m looking for.

I was aware of the fact that Silver City had moved its brewing operation out of the restaurant location and into a space in Bremerton. This opened up more space, presumably for the bar area. Many months later, when I heard that the Bremerton space actually poured beer, I assumed the worst – based both upon its location in blue collar, industrial Bremerton, and upon my prior experiences with the company. Later still, the need to go to Bremerton arose so I checked them out on their website and on Facebook. I was surprised to see that the Bremerton space was a full-blown tasting room on the order of the nicest tasting rooms out there. I had an image in my mind of a small counter in a warehouse where the staff would provide samples during certain hours. When I saw online that they served their full lineup of beers I decided to make a visit happen and see how my experience would be. And here we are.

As I mentioned, the place was not busy at all when I rolled up the first time on my bike. A guy in a pickup had followed me down the road that leads to their location. He, it turns out, was coming for a growler fill. It was, I think, 12:15 and they opened at noon. I expected a full parking lot. It was empty save the Silver City trucks. I rolled up to the front door to check the hours on the door, then pulled up to a place to lean my bike (it goes without saying there’s no bike parking). The guy in the pickup asked me if they were not open. Just then the beertender graciously opened the door up and assured us they were open.

I happily sat down at the bar and found the tasting room even more pleasing than its depiction on the website. The decor is nice, new, clean and tasteful. I am impressed. A second room full of seating and tables is over on the left. To the right is a window through which you can view the very large tanks and the occasional employee going about their tasks.

The bar with ever so popular sheet metal.

The bar with ever so popular sheet metal.

 

Unsure if they offered this, I asked about a schooner size pour. The answer was yes. I explained that I was out tasting at multiple establishments and the nice beertender made me aware that they offer taster size pours too. Perfect! Well, near perfect – as with most places, you pay more per ounce for smaller pours.

I recall tasting their St. Florian IPA – quite nice. I finally found out the deal on this one. I knew St. Florian is the saint of firefighters and proceeds from the sale of this IPA go to that cause. But I didn’t know that this is the same beer as their Indianola Pale Ale. Indianola is no more. It’s now St. Florian.

Also enjoyed that day was, among others, their Big Red – an imperial version of their wildly popular (and to me, not very good at all) Ridgetop Red. The Kitsap masses love it though, as does much of the Seattle crowd. The Big Red though, is a major improvement. It’s what I wish Ridgetop was. I had the Old Scrooge – nice. The Whoop Pass double IPA was also good.

Nice to have the complete lineup here, and right from the source.

Nice to have the complete lineup here, and right from the source.

The beertender informed me that Happy Hour was starting later that day (3-5? seven days?) and after thinking about it, I realized that fit in very well with my plans. I could make my journey to Der Blokken without lugging a gallon of beer with me, and when I returned, I would get $2 off each growler fill.

I had a great time doing what I always wished I could do at Silver City: Sit down and taste, in a non-hectic atmosphere, my choice of what really are good beers.

Forward now to the present hour after my trip to Der Blokken and I am just stopping in for my Happy Hour growler fills. The parking lot now is almost full as are all the seats at the bar. This is something closer to what I expected. The friendly beertender guy from earlier was leaving and being replaced by a less friendly woman. I got her attention and my jugs filled.

Back out to the bike and a quick roll on the (I just have to say it) Auto Center Way bike lane back to the Les Schwab for my car.

What a nice and different adventure. Thanks for joining me. I look forward to our next beer-by-bike adventure.

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

 

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