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Updated March 11: Cincinnati Observations: Two Tales of a City

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Who knew that two years ago as I was prepared to share with you my observations as someone who moved to Cincinnati from Seattle that it would be two years more before I would actually have time to do so? Two years? Hard to believe. As I intimated in the post just before this one, two major factors have kept me from writing: Raising a new puppy, and losing a lot of photos. Rest assured, my PedalPinting has continued all along. I have expanded my prowess in navigating this city, and new breweries have opened up. I am eager to share with you this new knowledge, and all the fun!

As for sharing my observations of Cincinnati as an outsider? Now I think I have time and am ready. As I told you in the past, I have been paying attention.

MetalSidewalkHoleWGrassSprout

Those of you who have followed me, be you PedalPinters or not, and those who have simply read the subtitle of this blog know that we moved to Cincy from Seattle. What you may not know is I have moved around this country quite a bit. I wouldn’t change that. It’s been an experience-rich life so far.

I find myself holding two views of Cincinnati:

1. Things suck here, and that’s just the way it is.

2. It’s not that bad.

Following is a writeup of the culture around the city, after which will appear a simple list of points – observations and their implications. These points will, as much as possible, include a photo I have taken serving as an example. I will begin this study of Cincinnati tonight, laying out my view, and I will add entries to the list of examples/points and photos in the coming days. Check back often for updates.

Here is a feel for why Cincinnati sucks and that’s just the way it is:

An old-fashioned city.

It has become clear to me that this is an old-fashioned city. I am not saying old-fashioned is always bad. I have many old-fashioned views and qualities, and I am certainly not someone who is quick to jump to accepting all things new and popular. What I see though is that people here seem behind the times in some ways, and I suspect they like it that way.

The most glaring example for me, and the one that most relates to what we do here at Twopedalsacouplepints is the prevailing attitude toward cycling on the roadways. Never before, anywhere I have lived, have I had it shouted at me: “Get on the sidewalk!!” – not “get off the road.” It is clear that a great number of people here believe that people riding bicycles should only do so on the sidewalk! I am reminded of the infamous picture of Mayor Cranley sporting a bike from the newly-rolled out Red Bike program by riding it. Where? On the sidewalk!!

Further examples can be found in the population’s participation rate in recycling, and the attitude toward the concept of recycling. It’s a glaring difference from what you see in Seattle. To start, you see written on the recycling bins and/or trucks the slogan “Cincinnati Recycles.” Okay. Whoop dee doo! Don’t make like it’s some extraordinary thing to recycle. Recycling in Seattle is much more an integrated foregone conclusion about which the City does not attempt to brag. What I see as I walk and run my athletic dog, and as I bicycle around Cincinnati is that trash cans are amazingly heavy (I know this because I very often have to move them out of the way as they are placed blocking the sidewalk) and the recycling bins are light. Some of the big, nice houses around Hyde Park have two or three trash bins, and just one recycling bin. Our household produces probably at least three times as much recycling as landfill waste. We traded in our full-sized trash bin for the small size and we rarely fill it up halfway. I also see a ton of recyclable material in landfill-bound trash bins, and I see recyclables like big cardboard boxes set out on non-recycling days.

Now, look at diet and eating habits and customs in Cincinnati. Obviously you have the whole chili thing. You also have it just assumed (and this is certainly not unique to Cincy) that everyone eats meat. Barbeque this, hamburger and hot dog that. Trying to raise a child who does not eat meat and does not consume a bunch of junk is a challenge here. Heck, the public school hands out candy for good behavior! Pathetic.

Consider also just how car-centric Cincinnati is. It may sound dramatic, but I really feel quite alone when I bicycle anywhere in this town. I am an alien in a hostile land. I very much long for the feeling, not just of collegiality, but of relative safety that I got cycling in some parts of Seattle. There were a lot of other cyclists on the streets with me, which leads to them being expected and accepted. Cycling in Cincy, you just feel that you are going out there and running against the grain – angering people and taking such a risk.  Cincinnati is most certainly not alone in this, but it is just automatic in people’s minds that if you need to leave your house you get in the car or truck.

A surprisingly segregated city, both in terms of income/social standing and of race.

I also find Cincinnati to be very much a place of the haves and the have-nots. Wealth and status are worn on the sleeve. The kind of car you drive appears to be very crucial (and predictable). Let’s just say the Kias and the Hyundais are reserved for the young, the (non-wealthy) college students and those who don’t earn much money. If you have a respectable career or social standing you are not seen in one of these vehicles.

This, I believe, is tied into the very evident attitude toward pedestrians. If you attempt to get around without the aid of a motor vehicle, you are disregarded, disrespected and endangered. You are seen as a second-class citizen at best. It is clear – and I certainly noticed this when I lived across the river in Northern KY as well –that people on foot had just better stay the heck out of the way of drivers or pay the price. Drivers will turn in front of you, cutting you off almost without fail – this whether or not you are in a crosswalk. Shocking and disturbing is the frequency of reports of pedestrians killed or injured by drivers in Cincinnati.

So, if you try to get somewhere without firing up a motor vehicle, you are in a sense viewed as a have-not – a loser or someone who must be down on their luck. After all, why doesn’t that loser walking along the street have a car? I submit to you that there is a racist component tied into this. I observe that a lot of the people walking places are black. Do I think that they are walking for exercise, or because they chose to leave the car at home? No, I suspect many of them cannot afford to drive. There you have the tie-in to the haves and the have nots. It does seem to me that to a large degree the black population of Cincinnati is struggling financially. So, as a white man, I am grouped by drivers into that same perceived class of people (not that most drivers do much actual thinking behind the wheel). I am walking or running to the grocery store so I am a loser who wishes he had a car. Now, consider the ridership of the “Metro” buses around town. Look at the race of the riders. I’ve observed that it is overwhelmingly black. Mass-transit options should be embraced by all, and used widely, not just those who aren’t able to afford to drive a personal car.

Some of you will misconstrue my words. To you, I say: Be honest – with yourself, then with others.

Here’s why Cincinnati is not that bad:

A city of “firsts,” “only-s” and “biggests.”

I often learn of facts regarding Cincinnati that reveal that this or that was the first of its kind in the nation. I learn of places, establishments, or things that are the biggest, or the only, in the country.

The Reds were the first professional baseball team (right? I don’t know for sure).

The Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest zoo in the country.

I learned from the owner of a local brewery that Cincinnati’s water treatment plant is something like the most respected in the nation. That really surprised me. I guess if you’re pulling drinking water from the Ohio River you had better be very good at cleaning it. Of course, the quality of the water that you have at your house depends heavily on the condition, and length, of the pipes between the plant and your house. So here we have a “best.”

I learned on one of the OTR guided tours (which we finally took when out-of-town guests came to visit) that much of – most of? – the iron work like balcony railings and the like in New Orleans was made in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati was one of the largest brewing cities in the nation before prohibition.

You get the idea. Some examples are slipping my mind at the moment. Feel free to share more examples in the comment section!

Good Parks

We do seem to have a good amount of parks, and they are pretty nice. I will mention the cool water fountains below in my list of observations. Even the ones that are in not-so-nice neighborhoods seem nice. This is, at least, my observation. I certainly have not been to all that many of our parks, nor have I visited the majority of the city’s neighborhoods, but it’s held true for me so far.

Surprising number of companies and businesses

You’ve got Kroger, P&G, Gorilla Glue and more very well-known companies here. We have the very respected Cincinnati Children’s. Beyond that, there seem to be a lot of businesses in Cincinnati. Seems a good thing in terms of jobs, though I haven’t really explored what it’s like to job-search here.

Pro football and pro baseball. Two nationally-known colleges

I am decidedly not a sports fan. I watch MMA as often as I can, as I have trained in it and I study self defense; but sports fan – yeah no. Still, it is pretty significant to me that we have the Bengals and the Reds – not just in our state, but right here in our very city. We also have Xavier and UC. That’s two (it seems to me) pretty major colleges right here. Now, it sucks, and baffles me, that both of them are surrounded by pretty sketchy areas of town; but at least they are here.

“The Banks”

I’m not up on the politics surrounding The Banks development in Downtown near the riverfront. I am quite sure there are many who are anti-The Banks and are resentful about it – just as you can easily find folks who are anti and resentful about every single issue and thing. All I know is that what I have seen and experienced of Downtown Cincinnati is cleaner and nicer than Downtown Seattle. There also (at least used to be) far, far fewer panhandlers here than Seattle. I have surmised that enforcement must be responsible for this. The situation has been changing, though, in recent times for some reason.

Hello! Brewery taprooms being legalized, and the appreciable springing up of new breweries.

This one pretty much speaks for itself. We moved to Cincinnati – about three years ago – at just the right time! I’m not saying we have an awesome number of breweries here, but it is reaching a level where I am starting to respect it.

Fairly consistent positive developments in the area of Multi-Use Trails and bicycle facilities.

Here again, I am not saying things are great, or even good; but it really has (I reluctantly admit) been surprising how consistently I hear of positive things happening in this regard. Let’s see: Off the top of my head: Delta Ave bike lanes which I use often. Madison Ave bike lanes which see me often. A connector trail between Lunken and Armleder. The new trail from Newtown to *almost* Lunken. (who knows when that bridge will get built) The very recent definitive good news regarding The Wasson Way trail! It is still a long way off from being all that useful but I relish the idea of rolling on the new pavement over in Evendale or wherever the first section will be constructed. The multi-use trail along Wilmer was recently redone – in concrete no less. It used to be a bicycle wheel-bender at each driveway you cross. Now it is nice, to my knowledge. There just seems to be a consistent, albeit low-power, move in the right direction in terms of livability for not just cyclists but for all.

The Little Miami River, and the three squares

I feel fortunate, and appreciate the area of town in which I live. We are sort of in the SE section of Hyde Park. It is easy to get on Linwood Ave. and get down to access to the River, where I know of two separate kayak (or canoe) put-ins. You can also have your dog swim there, and maybe go swimming yourself. It’s very cool to have a river so close!

Where I live, we can walk/run to all three squares: Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout, and Oakley. Some are farther than others, as you might imagine. The point is that it is nice to have, in a city where there are plenty of areas that are run down and not safe, these viable decent areas with community spaces – even small green spaces – and a few shops and restaurants that are useful to me/my family.

I am certainly forgetting some things, but I have laid out my two tales of this city. Now, on to the poignant, funny and/or frustrating observations! More soon! Check back, PedalPinters!

March 2nd update follows:

Oh, Cincinnati, why can’t we have nice things?

fecesonbreweryextwall

This pic was taken last Sunday outside the entrance/exit of a local brewery. I won’t name the place because it’s not their fault. I first thought this might be chewing tobacco, but it’s clear that it is not. As I left, I noticed another instance of this where someone apparently backed up to the wall and blew out a crap. I was all loaded up, including two full growlers, and rolling on the bike to my next stop so I did not take a pic of the second one. This is seriously messed up, people.

This was not on my list but does represent starkly and disgustingly one of my points regarding this city. Now, I am not simply taking a shot at the homeless (or necessarily blaming this on them) or suggesting that other cities don’t have public nuisance problems. This one by the way is not just a nuisance, it’s a disgusting health risk. This points, though, to what I’ve experienced in Cincinnati: You might try to enjoy something nice this place has to offer, but you will almost always have your experience affected by that base element of our local society that is ubiquitous.

Example: My family and I, for the first time, paid a visit  to the very nice area of the park at Eden Park that has the pond, and city overlook, play set, etc. We had been to the grassy area across the street, but not yet this place. We were initially trying to visit the Khron Conservatory for their annual holiday display, but there was a long line so we visited the park while we formulated an alternate plan.

We get into the park and just after I realize how nice it is, it becomes apparent that it is largely occupied by people just hanging around. “Hanging around? How dare they!?” you say. I know, I know how I sound; but I am talking about people for whom this beautiful park is just their hangout. You’ve got cars just pulling through slowly – not looking for parking. Perhaps most illuminating were the multiple signs in the parking lot, along the overlook end, that admonished people that it is not allowed to wash cars there. To reiterate: Signs prohibiting the washing of cars in the park parking lot. This is a big enough problem, apparently, at this park.

This reminds me of another example: Hyde Park Plaza. You know, the shopping center that uses the name “Hyde Park” to add class to itself, yet it’s located in Oakley. Granted, the place is essentially the closest, general-purpose shopping center to Hyde Park so I cut them a bit of slack on the name hijack.

Here’s the thing: We can’t have anything freaking nice! This shopping center is overall pretty nasty. You’ve got what the management company describes, laughably, as the “Commons.” This is simply the sidewalk leading from Kroger on through and around the place. Too bad the “Commons” is littered with trash, cigarette butts (and smokers), discarded alcohol containers and even urine. Hyde Park Plaza is also home to Michael’s (you know, that big store that sells art supplies, crafts and crafty stuff kids like). Thing is, this is the only Michael’s I’ve seen that greets customers with big signs that warn you that you are on camera.

I often run into the problem where I need/would love to be able to run my dog to this shopping center and briefly tie him out as I pop into, say, Ace Hardware, Bruegger’s Bagels (a sad example of Bruegger’s), or the like and pick up a quick item or two that we need. I know, however, that I can’t. Why? Well, it’s hard to describe, but it’s just obvious that some of the frequenters of this center would make trouble for us instead of minding their own business. It’s these people for whom the public spaces are their business and their space. It’s like the shopping center is in a bad neighborhood, yet it is not. By contrast, I do sometimes tie out my dog and pop into REI in the Rookwood shopping center quickly. I know there will not likely be a problem caused by people who have nothing better to do.

I’m certainly not trying to be elitist, and I am far, far from wealthy; but I live and let live instead of being a public nuisance and menace. Shouldn’t everybody? Cincinnati, why can’t we have nice things?

March 11 Update Follows:

Lizards! Who knew? Imported sometime in the ’50s from Italy? Anyone?

LizardOnStone2 copy

See the little scaly friend there sunbathing?

March 12 Update Follows:

Ugly, jagged wires hanging off of power poles. It really is beyond me how the City, or the utility companies do not get sued for injuries resulting from this! I have had to physically protect my child and my dog from injury on this stuff. Seems kind of like just the way it is here, doesn’t it? People put up with this crap. I’ve seen this sort of stuff all over town.

 

Updated Aug 16 With Shortcut: A Jaunty Jaunt to the Whole Foods Beer Station

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Pedalpinters, please note the bold heading near the end of this post that reads: August 14 update: And please take a look at the updated map, as I have discovered a better way that takes you right to Whole Foods from Hyde Park.

Have I lost it?

Meaning 1: Am I crazy for seeking out a beer drinking experience at Whole Foods? Meaning 2: Have I lost my drive for adventure?

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries.

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries. Oh, and the type of beer.

I’ll let you decide.

Sure, I was the only one sitting there in Whole Foods drinking a beer. Sure, the trip to Whole Foods was a mile long.

The essential elements.

The essential elements.

This experience has something in common with my experiences at Chuck’s on 85th in that I’m in the middle of a store enjoying a beer. Its weirdness adds to the enjoyability.

No doubt my blissful little roll on over to Whole Foods bears almost no similarity to many of the epic adventures I’ve had such as those to Trade Route Brewing, or Snoqualmie Falls Brewing (both chronicled here at twopedalsacouplepints).

It was, however, a highly enjoyable craft beer by bike experience, and one I plan to repeat. Lest you doubt me, I proceeded from Whole Foods on to Bad Tom Brewing (formerly Double Barrel Brewing), then into the OTR neighborhood for Moerlein Brewing Taproom, then to the brand new HalfCut beer place, also in OTR.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries. Love it.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries.

Let me provide you with my route to Whole Foods for what it’s worth. I’m sitting pretty in my location in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. I cut through the back of the Rookwood Commons shopping center to where Whole Foods is found. This lets me avoid a bunch of busy parking lot navigation and delay. It is also pretty awesome that the beer station (nestled into the coffee bar) is located at that end of the building at which I arrive first, coming this way.

http://goo.gl/maps/JPTcL

They had some very good beers on that day, making this an even more essential experience.

May 20 Update follows:

You can see by looking at the chalkboard that Whole Foods’ prices on draft beer vary pretty widely. They want $4/pint and $3/pint for some, which is almost unheard of these days. Some others are $7 and up. Consider also their growler pricing which is wonky. For instance the Battle Axe is the same price per ounce in a pint as it is in half gallon growler. Finally, it’s important to know what I was told by the “beerista” (my term, what with this being a tiny beer bar inside a coffee bar): They plan to soon start serving beers in their “proper glassware.” What this means mostly is that a lot of their offerings are going to served in smaller sizes for the same price they currently charge. Yes, I understand proper glassware and serving higher alcohol beers in smaller pours. The point is that Whole Foods is currently offering beers in a full pint (and not a false pint glass – those thick-bottomed glasses which look just like a pint glass but only hold about 13 oz. – watch for them!) that are not available in that size just about anywhere else. Forgive me, the value hound in me takes note of this.

For me, the standout beers on the chalkboard were Fat Heads Battle Axe, a baltic porter, and Jackie O’s Matriarch, a big IPA. The beer list was almost unchanged on my subsequent visit which took place last Friday. This makes me wonder about how long it takes Whole Foods to go through a keg of beer.

I first got a pint of MadTree Brewing’s Galaxy High, an imperial IPA which weighs in at about 11.2%, and is delicious. I’ve enjoyed Galaxy High at the brewery taproom here in Cincinnati, but it’s $7/10 oz. pour. This is not the first time I’ve gotten a brewery’s beer offsite cheaper than at the brewery, which defies what at least used to be the logic that states that beer obtained directly from the source is cheaper. I consider it sweet revenge to avoid the overcharging that some brewery taprooms do these days. I love MadTree. It was my sort of home-base brewery when I lived in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. Their pricing is a beef I have with them, and they’re certainly not the only brewery doing it these days – I presume taking advantage of the growing popularity of consuming beer at a brewery taproom.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch. You see my bike parking spot on the right.

Next, having asked the very helpful and courteous beerista what type of beers were the Matriarch and the Battle Axe, (and having gotten tastes) I decided I would like to have both. Not wishing to consume too much alcohol, and not having that much more time, I asked if they had a smaller pour size. The answer was no. This woman, however, was so willing to help and make things nice for the customer that she offered to go ask the manager what they could do. Upon returning, she offered to pour about 1/2 pint of each into smaller glasses and charge the price between the two beers. One beer was $7 and one was $5 so I was charged $6.

A lot of talk of price here, I know. What I wish to convey is that I have been quite pleasantly surprised by the good customer service I have been having at this Cincinnati Whole Foods location. I hadn’t paid Whole Foods much attention in the past, believing them to be overpriced and probably pretentious. They are in fact overpriced on some items, but reasonably priced on a lot of others. More importantly, it seems that Whole Foods management dictates that their employees measure up to a certain standard of customer care. I have seen it at the checkout counter, and when I ask questions. I also see it written on the wall as part of a huge display detailing their company mission. It says something like delight every customer. A pleasant surprise, and something that will keep me coming back with my dollars.

Back to beer: The Fat Head’s Battle Axe was a nice example of the baltic porter style – deep, rich and having a particular flavor I find hard to describe but yummy. Its ABV is up there around 10%. The Jackie O’s Matriarch is amazing. Rarely have I been wowed by a beer. This one is powerful good. Strong fruity-hoppiness and a backbone to support it. It, too, is quite strong – above 10%, I believe.

A couple notes on the experience of getting to Whole Foods via my route: If you choose to walk instead of ride a bike, know that there are not sidewalks taking you through the parking lot. Once you enter the shopping center from Madison, you are on a sidewalk that seems to belong to the Valvoline oil change center. After you leave that, you are on the ground sharing a fairly narrow area with parking lot drivers making time cutting through the back of a very busy lot. If you arrive by bicycle, a bike rack awaits you on the side of the building. It’s a shame they relegated bike parking to this obscure, out-of-sight location. I have always locked up to a light post right in front of the coffee bar. Another practical note: On my most recent visit, I found the convenient entrance I mentioned earlier to be closed, and a sign telling you to use the main entrance. Much less convenient. By the time I left, however, the sign was gone and the door usable. Not sure why.

Whole Foods offers self-serve water, which is always a big plus!

Nice going!

Self-serve water. Nice going!

Last time I was there, I noticed, on the other end of the counter, to my left, someone getting water from a bottled water cooler. It appeared to be self-serve for the customer as well. Weird. I’ll have to check out that option.

I will note it’s surprising that the counter here is kind of less than clean looking. I see newspapers have left remnants, and I’m not sure what else is going on. Plenty of plug-ins for your electronics though (haven’t confirmed that they are live).

III

IIIXXX

A couple of interesting things were observed as I Wholly enjoyed my beer. The first was perplexing, the second pretty cool. 1.) I observed three middle-aged/old men gather at the front of the parking lot and light up various smoking articles. Right there they stood, smoked and seemed to have planned to meet for an organized old-guy parking lot smoke. A Meetup Group?

Perhaps: "

2.) I saw a couple of guys in the store sporting UFC shirts and clothing. They were obviously into MMA fighting, but I assumed they were just fans that worked out and possibly trained. A bit later I saw a white Ford van in the parking lot. My first thought was this looks like the sort of van you see on TV that transports UFC fighters on the show “The Ultimate Fighter.” I then saw a few of these UFC decked-out guys go out and get into the van. Turns out, later that week I just happened to find a UFC event on TV – on the lowly cable package we have. Watching it, I saw them show a Cincinnati Bengals player in the audience. It clicked. The guys and the van I saw at Whole Foods were with the UFC and some of them were probably fighters participating in the event that I found out was taking place at US Bank Arena. As a fan of, and student of MMA, I find this pretty neat!

xxxxxx

Don’t confront.

Ending on a couple of random notes, I’ll sign off this account of an odd, awesome beer enjoying opportunity. I hope you experience it sometime.

August 16 update follows:

Neat! I’ve discovered a better route from Hyde Park to Whole Foods. Even if you’re not coming from Hyde Park – for instance If you’re coming in on Madison from either direction – it’s your ticket to avoiding the parking lot blues. Yes, this route features one of my very favorite things: A pedestrian/non-motorized cut-through!

Right this way.

Right this way.

Now, this route is useful whether on foot or on bike. If on foot, follow the route on the (updated!) map and you’ll have stop light intersections to get you across roads. The new route avoids that major flaw in the original route if you’re on foot: your having to navigate the parking lot without the benefit of sidewalks (seems the Rookwood Commons shopping center was not designed with pedestrians in mind – at least not those who would be stupid enough to try to arrive in a manner other than by motor vehicle).

This new route puts you right at the back of Whole Foods! See, at the end of Burch Ave (a dead-end street) there is a chain link fence with a gate that is open. You can see that people use this route, as there are crude stepping stones in place and steps dug into the hill to help you down and up the dirt/grass hill! Neat!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear "earthy" they should advertise this path.

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear “earthy” they should advertise this path.

An update on the Whole Foods beer station: They have started pouring some beers in smaller glasses for the same price – as I said they would.
Another discovery: I’d reported that there was a water cooler, that appears to have nice purified water, on one end of the long counter, and a different kind of cooler on the beer station side that I assumed contained tap water. I was told recently that both contain the same water: reverse osmosis good stuff from the filling station they have where it’s available for purchase. In fact, since both coolers were empty on a recent visit, an employee told me I could just take my bike bottle back and fill it at the station – like it was no big deal. That’s cool, and something I would have considered shoplifting before being given permission.

Enjoy the new route, my friends! It’s a sweet thing.

Join me on my next adventure. Cheers and keep spinning those spokes!

Updated Nov. 21: An Adventure to Rivertown Brewing and Listermann Brewing

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Here’s a great ride I recently discovered. It took me from my Pleasant Ridge (Cincinnati) home to the awesome Rivertown Brewing in Lockland, then to Listermann Brewing right across from Xavier University.

Industrial. This building reminds me of Two Beer's building in Sodo, Seattle.

Rivertown Brewing. Industrial. The outside of this building reminds me of Two Beer’s building in Sodo, Seattle.

Both these places are great. I will get you started with a map of the route I took, complete with tips and relevant information.

http://goo.gl/maps/uKYte

Rivertown Brewing is one of my favorites in town. I am always reminded of a couple of the breweries in Poulsbo, WA and Kingston, WA. These two adjacent towns are, oh, how do I describe it, rather no-frills, blue-collar-ish towns. The naval base is relatively close which strengthens this effect. These two down-to-earth establishments stand in contrast to most of the breweries in Seattle, just a few miles across the Sound. You are enjoying the company of some really nice folks who aren’t overly concerned with how you dress or things of that nature. Many of them are open to striking up a conversation, though I am prone to receiving some “you ain’t from around here, is you” stares as I enter – especially having ridden a bicycle.

Rivertown has that same feel to me, and stands somewhat in contrast to MadTree, most certainly to Rhinegeist, and of course to Fifty West which is a brewpub complete with nice restaurant. As I write this, however, it strikes me that Listermann Brewing and Double Barrel Brewing are also similar in their blue-collar feel (forgive me for overusing the term). Maybe it’s this – the most significant quality of Rivertown Brewing – their $4 price point on pints. Both the aforementioned small town Western Washington breweries charge $4 for pints. Yes, the Rivertown  beers that are higher in alcohol are $5, but most of them are $4. That’s including tax.

I know many of you are thinking: “Come on, man! Live a little. What’s an extra dollar or two?” Well, while local craft beer is worth paying for, and their makers worth supporting, I have yet to hear an explanation of why some small breweries can pay their bills while charging $4/pint and others claim they have to charge $5. Rhinegeist, for some reason, has chosen to charge $6 as their starting point. It’s more than a matter of a few buck here and there. If local craft beer is one of your passions, it adds up; and face it: many of us don’t have a lot of money to throw around. Further, the price of beer is a very important thing. Question: How many of you don’t give a rip when the price of gas goes up? How about the price of a gallon of milk? Or the price of a pack of cigarettes (for you poor folks that smoke) (what is it, 5 or 6 dollars a pack now?) It matters. Not only does it have an impact on your budget, but once consumers accept a higher price, the price rarely ever goes back down. No, overall, it only moves in one direction.

So, thank you, Rivertown, for your $4 (and $5) price point.

By the way, if any of you are going to argue that quality has anything to do with the pint price, I give you Sound Brewing in Poulsbo, WA. Or, now that I think about it, Silver City’s Brewery Taproom in Bremerton, WA which I believe is also at $4. (See my posts on those two breweries).

SoundPorterPint27April2011

Poulsbo, WA’s Sound Brewery taproom goodness.

Silver City Taproom goodness.

Bremerton, WA’s Silver City Taproom goodness.

Go ahead and try to argue the quality of those beers. I will submit to you (though I don’t claim to be possessed of a particularly intellectual palate) that Rivertown Brewing’s beers are of fine quality. I don’t find anything better about Rhinegeist’s beer than Rivertown’s beer – though the people who run Rhinegeist choose to charge 50% more for a pint.

Now, I know I have just taken up for Rivertown mightily, but I will admit it’s confusing to me that in terms of the price of their bottled beer in stores, they are just as expensive as the other locals. The price of beer in Cincinnati is a topic unto itself and Rivertown falls in line with local convention when it comes to bottles.

Rivertown makes some tasty beers, and offers a nice variety. Standouts for me are their Roebling Vanilla Espresso Porter and their Hop Baron Double Down IPA. I just had the pleasure of paying another visit to Rivertown last night and was pleased to try their Winter Ale. Good, but sweeter than I like.

I have gotten a full flight of tasters in the past and found the beers to be fine, though I must say most of them are at least a bit more “sessionable” than I like. Their Hop Bomber is a good pale ale with pronounced hop flavor (which it had better have with that name). The Dunkel is good as well.

Allright, let’s hit the road. The route from Pleasant Ridge to Rivertown Brewing is pretty nice overall. I’ve sought out some residential street options and the route even includes a pedestrian overpass – always a favorite thing of mine. My written description of the route will be more brief than in some previous posts, as I have gone to greater verbal detail in the map. Just click the pins for information.

Head out from Pleasant Ridge at the intersection of Ridge Road and Woodford Road. Go south on the sidewalk of Ridge just a short distance until you reach Parkview Ave. where you take a right. This runs you along the north side of Pleasant Ridge Park, though houses separate you and the park. Turn left on Lester Rd, then right on Douglas Terrace.

There is a stop light at busy Montgomery Rd. Cross over diagonally and continue now on Langdon Farm Rd. The Saturday I set out on this adventure it wasn’t busy on this road. It was pretty nice going actually. It’s downhill this direction and I put myself out on the roadway due to my speed. Suddenly a very pleasant surprise appeared – bike lanes! This was getting good.

At Seymour Ave. you go by Cincinnati Gardens. I haven’t heard anything about this place other than seeing, by sheer coincidence, that a somewhat lesser known pro wrestling event was going to be held there sometime soon after this adventure.

Now, you’re looking for the entrance to a shopping center on the right which, on the map, is Hirsch Dr. It has a couple of smaller rectangular signs at ground level which display the name of the major current tenant, which is some sort of community outreach or something. Make your way in through this parking lot, but note that currently it is under construction, so you must go to the right of chain link fencing and skirt that line all the way out to Seymour Ave. Turning left, you must go along Seymour a short distance, crossing over where you can – perhaps at the intersection with Hirsch Ave.

Continue N, NW on Hirsch through what is pretty much a road through commercial properties. It has some curves and takes some turns through a less than idillic yet not overly dangerous-feeling setting. You arrive at Losantville where you turn left and cross over Reading Road. The road changes names to Kenova Ave. Shortly, turn right on Elmshade Ave., a residential road.

When you arrive at Section Rd., turn left. It takes you a short distance to a pedestrian overpass over I-75 where you have the pleasure of rolling in utter safety from drivers. Ahead there is a train track. I encountered a train on this day, but it was fast moving and cleared in about 3 minutes.

Pleasing.

Pleasing.

Suckers.

Happy to be in this cage.

The road comes to a T at a fairgrounds. Turn right onto Anthony Wayne Ave. It takes you, pleasingly,  under some busy roads. Continue, now, on what were not overly busy roads for me. The sidewalk on the right side (heading toward Rivertown) goes away before too long, but there is one on the other side. There is a short bridge you have to cross, and it has you out on the roadway. I don’t expect drivers in this region to be at all bike aware or friendly, though I had almost no bad experiences riding on the road here on this particular day.

After about three miles you reach the intersection at Shepherd Ln./Dr. Turn left. From there it’s a short distance until you see, on your left, the building that houses Rivertown and other businesses. I don’t recall ever seeing a sandwich board out, so you just have to recognize the building. As I point out on the map, the building is  sort of terra cotta colored (see the pic at the top of this post) masonry on the bottom and tan metal on the top half. The building is set back from the roadway and you will be looking at the end of it as opposed to the front or back.

Ride on into the parking lot, but please beware of something I discovered: There is a towing company called Millenium Towing located beyond Rivertown, and its employees, based on a couple examples that I have seen, irresponsibly and rudely drive insanely fast through the parking lot.

I have taken to locking my bike up to the gas meters/pipes a bit beyond the second of two doors with “taproom” on them. There is, of course, no bike rack at Rivertown.

Enter and find a no-frills, yet nicely appointed taproom.

Beers listed on individual signs complete with ABVs (thank you).

Beers listed on individual signs complete with ABVs

There is no self-serve water here, nor is there a sink behind the bar where the beertender might refill you water. But I am used to refilling my water bottle in the bathroom sink. Speaking of sinks, I imagine Rivertown’s serving their beers in plastic cups is due to the taproom not being set up to wash glasses. Do I enjoy drinking my craft beer from a plastic cup? Of course not. But I still like Rivertown. Interestingly, the other brewery I visit on this adventure also serves their beers in plastic. This is something I had no idea went on until I moved here.

One pleasure of visiting Rivertown is seeing and interacting with Nugget. Nugget is the brewery cat taken in off the street/parking lot. A beautiful little boy, this cat is pretty social. They do make a point of trying to keep him off the bar and tables.

Awwww.

Awwww. Young Nugget seems to have a good life these days.

A couple tasters and a Roebling. Oh, and free pretzels complete with mustard!

Rivertown’s theme of historic Cincinnati.

A couple tasters and a Roebling. Oh, and free pretzels complete with mustard!

A couple tasters and a Roebling. Oh, and free pretzels complete with mustard!

A particularly nice feature of Rivertown is the free pretzels, usually accompanied by mustard! I can think of three breweries in Seattle that offered free pretzels, and some that charged for them. Very nice to have this here. Again coincidentally, my next stop today, Listermann Brewing, would also offer, if a bit less freely, free pretzels and/or chips of some kind.

The price on growler fills here at Rivertown, is awesomely in line with the pint price. A note on the growler fills though: I noticed on past visits that they spray sanitizer on the top margin of the exterior of the growler after filling and capping it. On my most recent visit, I noticed they also spray quite a generous amount of sanitizer inside your growler prior to filling it. They dump the sanitizer out of course, but I really don’t like the idea. I have read that these sanitizers used in brewing are safe, but I don’t trust this. I requested to have my beertender refrain from using it inside my growler, and he readily agreed. I realize that Rivertown not having plumbing behind the bar is probably a big part of the reason for their sanitizer use (most places run some water into customers’ growlers before filling), but I like to opt out.

Thanks, Rivertown for being a friendly, down-to-earth, affordable brewery taproom.

Next, off to Listermann Brewing.

November 21 Update Follows:

Leave Rivertown and retrace your route on Wayne Ave going south for about 2.25 miles. When you get to the fairgrounds and find City Centre Dr., turn left.  Enjoy your pedestrian overpass again which take you to Section Rd. Next take Elm Shade right, then Kenova left. Cross over Reading Rd. and the name changes to Losantiville Ave. Shortly, turn right on Hirsch Dr. where you ride through the curves of this commercial road. Turn left at Seymour Ave. and find, on your right, the spot where you emerged from the under-construction commercial property and ride along the chain link fence. Emerge onto Langdon Farm Rd. and turn left.

After about 1500 ft., you deviate from your outgoing route as you turn right on Rhode Island Ave. (it may also be called Section Ave., but at the intersection it is called Rhode Island), a residential road that takes you south. Ride about 1.5 miles to where you cross over Norwood Lateral Parkway. Proceed to where the road sort of Ts just after a conspicuous small yellow building where you dogleg right then left. The road changes names to Allison St. Next, the road Ts at Hopkins Ave where you turn right, then after a short distance turn left on Ivanhoe Ave.

Ivanhoe meets up with Montgomery Rd. where you turn right. You may want to sidewalk ride on this stretch of crazy Montgomery Rd. It’s not too far until you find Dana Ave. I recommend crossing over Dana Ave. then using the sidewalk to ride the remaining 1000 to 1500 feet until you find Listermann Brewing on your left.

Cool entrance. By far the fanciest thing about Listermann.

Cool entrance. By far the fanciest thing about Listermann.

Lock your bike up to the street sign just out front (it should go without saying there is not a bike rack here). Enter through a very cool stone doorway with a glass door. Listermann Brewing’s taproom is fairly small and basic. Listermann is also a homebrew supply store. Perhaps this lends to the very no-frills taproom ambiance. The only thing that makes this place look and feel pub-like or tavern-like is the very small “bar” that accommodates something like 4 people.  This is all fine with me though. All I really require is good beer for a good price served with professionalism and/or friendliness. Listermann delivers on 1.5 – 2 of those criteria.

See the shadow of the street sign that is our bike rack.

See the shadow of the street sign that is our bike rack.

Beers here are good and fairly interesting if only in their names and graphic identities. You’ve got the 562 Lateral, the Leopold, the Jungle Honey, the revered Nut Case peanut butter porter, Intergalactic IPA, Friar Bacon smoked bock and so on. I’ve tried all these. Another revered one seems to be Cincinnatus which is apparently a bourbon barrel aged stout. I have not had the opportunity to try this one. You see though, the creativity in the naming and identities.

As for price: $5 is the starting point. Well, this is the new norm. Just recently I paid another visit to Listermann and was reminded that their Nutcase is $6.

In terms of service, Listermann is good and bad. I’ve had some very good experiences with a certain beertender who is quite genuine and nice but lacks a sense of urgency and an awareness of how to effectively move customers through the line. I’ve also had an experience or two with a guy who is apparently an important person there and is not very friendly (or is at least rough around the edges and quite gruff).

I’m going to get a bit controversial here and mention that I’ve seen a few instances at Listermann Brewing of benefits being given to those who are friends of the ownership – as in discounted tabs or free beer. Now of course I know this sort of thing goes on at every place that pours drinks. What I’ve seen happen here is simply less hidden, and it’s not too enjoyable for us poor unimportant folks to witness.

The front window.

The front window.

Listermann Brewing’s taproom has a few small tables with chairs where one can enjoy their plastic cups of beer. Points are scored with me by their offering free self-serve water in the form of a water cooler (as in the traditional workplace type water cooler). Nice. Not only self-serve water, but bottled water tastiness! A big TV is hung up in the corner behind the bar, and on my most recent visit was blaring ESPN complete with all its commercials. Not a very classy or enjoyable touch.

My favorite beer by Listermann is probably Nutcase, the peanut butter porter with its subtle peanut flavor.

There is another line of beers here under the Triple Digit name. As I understand it, they are also brewed in-house. I have yet to hear the official meaning behind the name, but it seems to imply more potent beers. From memory, I think they do tend, overall, to be stronger. The one that comes to mind and that seems to most often be on tap is Aftermath, the imperial, or double, IPA which weighs in at some 10% ABV.

A good place to be if your phone needs charging.

A good place to be if your phone needs charging.

If you are male and need to use the restroom you’ll find that Listermann is one of the places that features a beer keg urinal. This unit’s makers have thoughtfully used the cut-out piece of metal turned it upside down and welded it back on as a catch pan to help keep the floor a bit cleaner. I haven’t noted yet whether this keg urinal is made from an old macro brewery’s keg, such as Bud or Miller, as are the others I have seen (at Diamond Knot brewing in Mukilteo, WA, and Emerald City Beer in Seattle).

Listermann is a solid local brewery that I’m glad we have here in Cincinnati. I understand its founders are the folks who started it all in terms of modern craft brewing in this town. Not surprisingly, they have a loyal following that (judging by the turnout at their annual Oktoberfest) is none too small.
To return to Pleasant Ridge from Listermann Brewing, take Dana Ave. to the right to where you turn left on Montgomery Rd. Sidewalk ride until, after about 3000 feet, find Williams Ave. and turn right. Williams Ave. treats you to some nicer, and some not-so-nice riding as you make your way, crossing over I-71, where the road changes names to Markbreit Ave and takes you out to Madison Ave. at Oakley Square. Turn left if you’re going to Pleasant Ridge. Madison takes you to Ridge Road which, as I point out in the map, is quite bike unfriendly and requires me, at least, to sidewalk ride.

Thanks for joining me in checking out these two nice local breweries. I’m psyched to find a reasonably doable route. I look forward to our next adventure!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

A Visit To Rhinegeist Brewery

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It’s time to run on over to Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewery. I apologize, but I don’t have any pics for this post. Read on and you’ll see at least one of the reasons.

Yes, loyal readers, my first visit to a Cincy brewery after moving here was not only human powered as always, but the only equipment I employed to help get me there was a pair of shoes.

Coincidentally, those shoes have something in common with my bikes: They were obtained at a very low cost. How fitting that, due to my slip up, they were the only shoes I had upon moving here (I let the movers pack up all my other shoes). Yes, these Nike Air athletic/trail-running shoes were bought at a yard sale in almost new condition for $1. I tried to offer the seller at least $5 but he didn’t want it. Here you see one of the perks of living in an affluent community as I did.

Same thing with the bike that we had delivered to our temporary apartment days later: Got it for free. It’s a Fuji Grand SE, probably from the 80s or earlier, in what seems to me to be near new condition. It had a destroyed rear wheel due to its being accidentally dragged behind a car when it slipped most of the way off a bike rack. I just needed to add a new (used) rear wheel – that I got for free from a nice little Seattle bike shop because the owner wouldn’t officially sell it as it had a flaw he considered to be dangerous – and a new (used) tire and I had myself a great, sturdy bike with lots of life left in it.

As alluded to, I was in my new city with no bike for a few days. When I got a little piece of free time, I hatched a plan to run from our Covington, KY apartment to Rhinegeist – a trip of some 2 miles or so.

It’s interesting that this post has thus far focused on saving money (well all my posts have that focus when you consider how much money riding a bike saves). Money is one of my biggest complaints about Rhinegeist Brewery. Their beers start at $6 per pint. I’d like to hear their justification for this. Do they believe their beers are 50% better than those of one of their Cincinnati counterparts, Rivertown Brewing who charges $4 per pint? Yes, I know $5 is the new $4. But a brewery going ahead and setting their base price at $6 sucks and should be taken very seriously by all beer lovers. Listen to me, people, this cracks further open the door for beer prices to continue to rise.

My take on the reason? They feel they can get away with it. Sadly, they’re right. It seems to me that what Rhinegeist is selling is not beer but an image. Yes, this is hippest of Cincinnati’s breweries. Beer made by hipsters for hipsters. The brewery is located in the gritty, gritty Over The Rhine neighborhood. It is in, I guess, a historic old brewery building. It’s industrial with historical cred. Rhinegeist’s Facebook presence, which of course is more important these days even than a website presence is, let’s just say, too cool for this aging beer lover. Their beer names are catchy and cryptic. Spikelet, Uncle, Truth, Fiction, Cougar. I know there must be meanings behind these names but I’m pretty sure I just wouldn’t get it.

Enter Saber Tooth Tiger, their imperial IPA. Yes, this beer is so awesome that a release party complete with early sign-up and admission charge was held. A release party for a beer from a brewery that is barely a year old? It must have been some good beer.

Let’s step back and take a look at the simple route I used to run to Rhinegeist.

After running across the Roebling Bridge on the awesome separated pedestrian/bicycle lanes, I went left at the roundabout then followed the curve to the right onto Rosa Parks St. which quickly becomes Vine St. From there it’s maybe 1.5 miles of running through downtown and waiting at the stoplights (or as is customary here, jaywalking as soon as there is a break in traffic) to where you take a left onto W Liberty St. From there, the next major street you cross is Race St., then the next major one is Elm St. where you turn right. Maybe 1/4 mile up Elm St. is Rhinegeist on the right. I have since discovered a better (less congested, safer) route into Over The Rhine that I will discuss in an upcoming post.

I first saw the parking lot they use on the left, and thought the next doorway into an old building (they’re all old) might be the entrance. I heard some loud talking behind that door but thankfully I chose not to try to open it. I thought I’d check things out and make sure I knew where I was first. So along I walked – in fear. Let’s shoot straight here: I’m a fit, man near somewhere near his prime with mixed martial arts and self-defense training and a nasty mean streak but I was afraid as a lone white person in this neighborhood. What? I don’t think we should be talking about this you say.

Allright, back to my assessment of Rhinegeist, which I realize will also draw plenty of ire. Oh well. In case you haven’t learned by now, I’ve got to call it as i see it. You deserve nothing less.

There I was walking up and down the sidewalk waiting for, I think it was, 4:00 when they were scheduled to open. I had found what looked most like their front door on the east side of the street. I would have taken a picture of it for you but I didn’t think it would have been smart to display my phone. To my relief, after a while a car pulled up and parked directly in front of the front door. From it emerged two folks who adjusted the odds slightly in my favor. I did go ahead and step up the concrete steps and try both glass doors at one point, but they were locked.

Finally on one of my saunters by the entrance I thought I heard some action at the door. The nice woman who had been standing by her car told me that she saw the front door being unlocked. I thanked her and again stepped up to the entrance where I found the open door. That was how Rhinegeist greeted its waiting customers: coming down, unlocking and opening the door and quickly disappearing into what I found was a somewhat confusing entrance. No signs welcoming you or courteously pointing the way to go. Just dark hallways and concrete flights of steps leading up. I get it. This is part of the appeal.

I went the way that seemed most logical. I kept ascending the flights of stairs. When I had gone as high as I could climb, a doorway opened up a view of an expansive warehouse area with no immediate view of anything indicating I was in a place customers ought to be. Finally my scan to the left revealed a bar in the distance. Okay, now I knew where to go.

Once I reached the mostly empty bar with its row of taps behind, I took a seat. Shortly the woman asked what I wanted. Now, I’ll give her a bit of credit – she did at least display some modicum of courtesy as she took my order, but that faded somewhat as my visit progressed and she became increasingly engrossed in whatever business she was conducting on her cel phone.

I inquired about tasters, which of course is the best way to experience the offerings of a new place. I agreed to the price and found the beers to be fine. Most of Rhinegeist’s beers are sessionable. Yes, it seems this is the new trend. So I enjoyed my 4.8% ABV Cougar and my 3.8% Uncle (Are you kidding me? This is pretty close to “3-2 beer” which I learned about during my extended stint in Minnesota) and my 5.5% Spikelet, etc. After, I ordered their other taster lineup that included a couple of beers from their “rarity” series. You know, what other breweries call seasonal or limited. I will mention the beer called Mosaic. This beer impressed me. Even at its somewhat diminutive ABV, it took my palate by surprise. Pretty tasty. This taster set included their beer named Truth. Surprisingly, Truth comes in at 7.2% and also happens to be pretty good.

Unfortunately, Truth costs more. Yes, Truth will cost you more than $6 per pint. It costs more in ingredients to make a stronger beer, you know.

I honestly don’t recall, but I do think I got to try, with great reverence, the Saber Tooth Tiger as well.

Two things give Rhinegeist any chance of seeing me there again: A while after I had been there, the beertender wheeled out a bucket of self-serve water. In addition to that, a stout, bearded young man who had been carrying out various tasks began to also man the taps. He and I actually struck up a conversation after a while and he turned out to be pretty cool and genuine. Rhinegeiest has no idea what a service that guy did their business that day.

After finishing my tastes, I went ahead and paid the, if I recall, $7 for a pint of “Truth” (amazing that it comes in a full pint, not a smaller pour). Hilariously, a couple weeks later I would purchase a pint of “Truth” at a rather historic, crummy bar called Fries Cafe for a dollar less. I proceeded to take a second walk around the place, observing the giant overhead fan that is actually pretty cool, and the cornhole games they have set up, I used the restroom and began my descent of the flights of stairs.

Once out onto the street, I ran toward the safety of downtown. It bears mentioning that downtown Cincinnati near the river is very nice. I certainly don’t require this, but the whole area down toward the river and by the stadiums looks pretty new and is clean. Witness the power of sports in our society. Yes, this area is a total contrast to the Over The Rhine area and is also a contrast to downtown Seattle. The only redeeming quality I have yet seen in OTR is the Findlay Market (think Pike Place Market) and the cool but mostly very overpriced Park and Vine store that peddles green home goods and food. I’d also like to note that I’ve seen far fewer panhandlers in Cincinnati than in Seattle. Cincinnati’s harsher climate partially explains this.

Rhinegeist, carry on. I’m at least glad you’re there having folks with the money to spend spending their money on a local product. If I’m ever in the neighborhood – at Findlay Market or at Christian Moerlein Brewery’s taproom – and I find myself needing a place to get a beer, I might pay another visit.

Updated July 8: An Adventure to Standard Brewing and Machine House Brewery. Now with Emerald City Brewery!

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I am not in the business of reviewing new breweries. Not on this blog anyway. Clue me in to a new brewery and I’m there as soon as I can be, but I leave the buzz and reviewing business to others. As such, I hadn’t planned on doing anything on these two new(er) Seattle breweries. The route from Georgetown to the Central Business District, however, I found worthy of documenting.

I also was not in a hurry to visit Machine House Brewery because I read that they brew and serve only traditional English-style cask ales that are quite sessionable. I figured I’d get there next time I rode down to Georgetown, but I wasn’t in a hurry. My first visit to Machine House occurred as I participated in the 2013 Tour de Pints, put on by Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery. I was pleasantly surprised with my experience and decided I should share it with you sometime.

I succumbed to the charm of these windows.

A view from inside Machine House Brewery. I succumbed to the charm of these windows. Across the street there are some of Georgetown’s hip little shops and bars including the venerable 9lb Hammer.

Standard Brewing was a new brewery that I wanted to get to, but I didn’t get the opportunity until several weeks after they opened up shop.

Pretty Standard, eh? Actually pretty attractive.

Pretty Standard, eh? Actually pretty attractive.

Therefore after, on a recent adventure, visiting both I had what I needed (including pics – yay me!)

My visit to these two breweries was part of a larger adventure which saw me rolling down to Tukwila and Kent to visit BJ’s Brewhouse and Airways Brewing. You can read about that route at: https://twopedalsacouplepints.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/an-adventure-to-airways-brewing-trade-route-brewing-and-bjs-brewhouse/

Since the adventure to BJ’s and Airways takes me through Georgetown, I planned on hitting Machine House. Very interestingly, at Airways Brewing I talked to a guy who arrived by bicycle with a friend. Turned out he was also going to Machine House after Airways too. I said maybe I’d see them there. We left at slightly different times and took slightly different routes, but I saw them on the Interurban Trail ahead of me a couple times, and once again as I emerged onto Airport Way and began that straight blast back into Georgetown. This gentleman, interestingly, was someone heavily involved in Cascade Bicycle Club and mentioned that he organized Cascade’s recent inaugural Brews Cruise.

They did indeed stop in Machine House Brewery as I was enjoying my pint and I had more good conversation with this guy and his friend who, as it turns out, owns a Performance Bike shop in California. I’ll share my impressions of these breweries as well as the route I used to visit them next. Below is the link to this adventure’s map:

http://goo.gl/maps/Mybtq

Taken during Tour de Pints. Cool brick just across from front door.

Outside Machine House Brewery. Taken during Tour de Pints. Cool brick just outside front door. Well, the whole place is brick.

From the ferry terminal, head up Marion to 2nd where you make a right onto this one way street. There is a bike lane here on the left side of the road. Of course it’s busy and not all that safe a road, but it works. Take 2nd all the way south to Jackson where you make a left. On Jackson it’s a short stretch up to 5th where you turn right which takes you into the International District/China Town. At the very next street, in fact, a look to your left reveals one of those cool Chinese structures that stand over the roadway. Pretty cool.

Continue on 5th – a street with no bike facilities – about 1500 feet until you reach the intersection with Seattle Blvd. Before you reach it though, you go by the large, well known and liked, pretty cool Asian market called Uwajimaya. I love that name. And oh the stuff they have in there! Now at Seattle Blvd., I take a position in the right lane as I wait for the light. We will be turning left here onto the diagonally -running street (not the 90 degree left which would be Dearborn). Of course make sure the driver(s) behind you who are going straight don’t hit you.

It’s a short stretch until you take another diagonal turn, or veer you might say, onto Airport Way. It’s about two miles on Airport Way, a four-lane road with no bike facilities until you get to a nice brewery called Emerald City Brewery.

You know what? I should do a quick writeup of Emerald City Brewery here since we’re going right by it.

Pretty nice setup.

Pretty nice setup. On my first handfull of visits, the bar wasn’t there and the beer was dispensed from those igloo cooler setups.

Back when Emerald City Brewery opened about three years ago I was excited to check it out. It was a bit difficult to find a time that they were open that worked for me, and I remember trying to call them a couple times and ask if they were open only to get voicemail and leave a message that wasn’t returned. When I finally got there though, the two guys who own and started the place were pretty cordial. In fact on a few subsequent visits they remembered me even though it was months between visits.

Emerald City’s bread and butter is Dottie’s Lager. I guess that’s Dottie on the back wall. Yes, their theme artwork is the classic pinup girl. A large version of her is plastered on their artwork-wrapped delivery vehicle. This brewery is located in a space formerly occupied by the Rainier Brewery. Pretty cool place to put a new craft brewery. Dottie’s Lager is produced off-site in quantities far too large for their small experimental, or beer-lab system to accommodate. It’s on this very small, in-house system though that variations of Dottie’s and other beers are produced.

The small system on which new beers are created.

The small system on which new beers are created.

Emerald City at times caters to the younger crowd and the sports fans. They told me they want to be a go-to place for Mariners and Seahawks fans before and after games. Only one time has it been very busy in there when I’ve been there, and it was filled with younger, energetic folks. I’ve seen pictures of events they’ve held there that filled the parking lot out front with people.

One of the variations I’ve had there is Dottie’s Lager aged in whiskey barrels. Last time I was in Emerald I was very pleased to see that they now have an IPA. It comes in at a respectable ABV (despite a recent trend toward making IPAs more sessionable which harkens back to its British roots supposedly, I believe an IPA should be 6.5% or higher) and was nice and tasty.

A notable touch you’ll find at Emerald City is a urinal in the restroom that is made from a beer keg. A Miller Beer keg I believe. The owners told me that, yes, this is intended to make a statement. I had the privilege of peeing in another of these statements in Diamond Knot’s taproom in Mukilteo, WA – a Budweiser keg there if I recall.

A view from the back of the place.

A view from the back of the place.

Looking out the garage door. Note the light rail train across the street. Seems to be a big facility where these are based or serviced there.

Looking out the garage door. Note the light rail train across the street. Seems to be a big facility where these are based or serviced.

Allright, now on to the heart of Georgetown where we will visit Machine House Brewery.

It’s maybe 2 1/2 miles farther south on Airport Way from Emerald City Brewing to Machine House Brewery. All of it is without bike lanes or sharrows but it is typically not bad. In fact, only on my most recent trip down there did I find it overly busy. This was on a Friday. Maybe most of my prior trips there had been on the weekend and there is a lot of commuting traffic, perhaps to Boeing. Come to think of it, I believe in my prior post(s) I described the route down to Georgetown using 1st Ave all the way down to Lucille which takes you over to Georgetown. This was because the Airport Way bridge was out for what seemed like many months. I discovered a couple months ago that its replacement had finally been finished. So the route to Georgetown is as described on the map in this post. Unless you had somewhere else you wanted to go.

Speaking of the bridge, I am glad that as before, sidewalks adorn both sides. Sidewalks that are wide enough to ride. I’m not sure if they were designed with cyclists in mind or simply to accommodate pedestrians passing each other safely. But they are the only way I advise riding across the bridge. Now there is just one problem: At the end of the bridge it decidedly is not designed for cyclists. You are let off the bridge after you are made to curve a bit around to the right at the intersection which serves to hide you from drivers behind you who are turning right. Further, they are none too happy when you roll on across that part of the intersection, making them wait and doubtless become indignant that a cyclist just transitioned from the sidewalk to the roadway or is riding across a crosswalk. If memory serves, this intersection crossing is a two-parter – first the one I just described then from that concrete island across the street the rest of the way. So, really if you have ridden the sidewalk across the bridge, there is no viable way to continue riding on Airport Way unless you are willing to annoy drivers and risk being hit. Dismounting may be the best option. Oh well.

Once you get across the intersection, ride on for a bit more than 1500 feet to your destination. It’s hard to find unless they have a sandwich board out on the sidewalk which they are known to have. Machine House Brewery is in one of those big, old historic brick buildings on the east side of the street. The building used to house Georgetown Brewing which moved a ways to the north a while back. As I look at the map, I see that it’s actually across from where Doris St. goes to the right. Look between two buildings and you’ll see a tall brick smokestack back in the parking lot. If for any reason, that alley is blocked or if you miss it, don’t worry. Just proceed to the end of the buildings to a big open parking lot and turn in there and head back to it.

The bar.

The bar. Cask handles on left. That’s a 1/2 pint in front of me.

In relatively nice weather you’ll find the doors open. There’s no official place to lock up your bike, but you can usually find something to throw a lock around. I haven’t yet mentioned that Machine House pours beers in Imperial Pint glasses (20 oz and shaped in that traditional British style). The glass pictured above is a 1/2 pint and shares the same shape. I believe buying a 1/2 pint here is a pretty good deal unlike at many places. Now, I’m not sure if the 1/2 pint is 1/2 the size of the 20 oz glass or if it’s literally a 1/2 pint which would make it a worse deal.

The casks that hold the specialty beers you might say. Note the sign for stinging nettle beer and "beer ginger."

The casks that hold the specialty beers you might say. Note the sign for stinging nettle beer and “beer ginger.” Soccer, of course, on the tele.

Along with the aforementioned 20 oz pours for the good price of $4 (no tax on that), here’s what made me decide I would make Machine House one of my options in the future: I enjoyed drinking the beer. Sounds like a “duh” I know. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t thrilled with the sound of their beers. I like carbonation in my beer and for it to be somewhat colder than cask ale. I also like my beer to be more potent than something in the 4.x ABV range. So I wan’t expecting to enjoy the beer that much. On that first visit, however, they had a stinging nettle beer and I found drinking it pretty pleasant. I also had their “beer ginger.” It is indeed beer, not ginger beer, hence the arrangement of the words. I found myself really drinking the stuff instead of something more akin to sipping as I do with more powerful brews. It was a refreshing experience. I must say though that I was considerably less pleased with their other beers which did hit my pallet like I expected them to. Still, I like the place. There is a pseudo European feel there (not that I’ve ever been to Europe).

A view of the brewing operation back there past some art.

A view of the brewing operation back there past some art.

Some pretty art.

Some pretty art.

Machine House Brewery is pretty okay with me now. It really represents the only brewery tasting room in Georgetown and come to think of it, is thus far free from that extremely annoying attitude you find in hip neighborhoods in terms of service. In times past my go-to places in Georgetown were Julie Mae’s Saloon and 9lb Hammer, both of which come complete with said attitude. Machine House satisfies an important need in its neighborhood.

Next we’ll use a route to get back toward Seattle proper that I only somewhat recently disovered. It’s always neat when you don’t have to retrace your route and can instead make a loop. It’s on to Standard Brewing next.

Exit the Machine House parking lot and turn right onto Airport Way. Proceed to the first stop light and turn right up the onramp-looking thing. This takes you nicely over railroad tracks onto Lucille St. At first you see a sharrows symbol on the pavement and soon it turns into a bike lane to help you ascend the ramp in safety. It’s pretty steep but not too long. There is a perfectly viable alternative to riding on the road here, and it’s riding on the separated sidewalk (or walking if you choose). Once you get up the hill, the sidewalk is no longer separated by a nice concrete wall and metal railing, but it’s still a sidewalk and still pretty wide. Whichever way you choose to go up this ramp, your next turn is near.

Take a left on 12th Ave. After about 3500 feet on this street, you get to Snoqualmie St. where you make a little jut over to the right and then turn left onto 13th Ave. Shortly you get to Nevada St. where you make another quick jut over to the right in order to get to 15th Ave, a busy road where you need to go left. It’s a stop sign intersection here and you just have to wait until it’s safe to turn left. It is heavily traveled but has a speed limit of 30 mph. At first you have no bicycle facilities then sharrows appear. Between Spokane St. and Hinds St. a bike lane appears going this direction (it’s still sharrows the other direction). You are now climbing. At about Lander St. the environment becomes more business and less residential. At the intersection with Beacon Ave you lose your bike lane and are left with sharrows. Keep going straight on 15th Ave. Soon it’s back to residential.

After a while the road changes names to Golf Dr. as you are going through a park though it’s not easy to tell. Your next major landmark is the bridge you curve down. It’s called the Dr. Jose P. Rizal Bridge. I don’t know who this guy is/was, but signage makes sure you know his name. It’s a pretty good decline here and riding out on the street is feasible due to your speed. Once off the bridge it’s sharrows on a busy street in or near the International District as you make your way to your next turn, Jackson St. Turn right on Jackson.

Jackson is a busy major road in Seattle but it’s pretty common to see bikes here. I’ve never had much trouble on it. When the road begins to climb you get a bike lane. There are indeed some climbs on this stretch as we head toward our destination. See the map for a bit of detail. Your Jackson St. travel is maybe a 1.25 miles. At 25th Ave. you can see Standard Brewing across the street. If you are inclined, make a left here, or if it’s busy you may want to dismount, get over onto the sidewalk and use the crosswalk.

We made it to Standard Brewing. Let’s check it out.

The sight of the place from across the street as I rode up was pretty striking. This place needs no sandwich board out front. The name is painted nice and large in white on the front of the grey wall. It was refreshing to have such a clear signal I’d found the place I sought. I don’t recall any official bike parking but I locked up around the side to something like a gas meter or tree.

Was very nice to have fellow cyclists there.  This shot was taken from up by the front door. You can see the squeeze it takes to get in.

Was very nice to have fellow cyclists there. This shot was taken from up by the front door. You can see the squeeze it takes to get in.

Heading toward the entrance means squeezing through a fairly narrow walkway. At least it is narrow when you have people standing there drinking their beers. To the right is some outdoor seating as you head toward the door. Once inside you see a very minimal space with flat black walls with some art on them. To the left is the counter and beyond that the brewhouse with its small system.

The hand of the nice beertender wiping up. Beyond, see the brew system.

The hand of the nice beertender wiping up. Beyond, see the brew system.

Above and to the right of the counter is the menu board which is of a distinctive type. It seems to fit here.

Don't know that I've seen a beer menu board of this type before. It works nicely!

Don’t know that I’ve seen a beer menu board of this type before. It works nicely!

The beertender was nice and cheerfully dispensed me my set of tasters. I believe I saw it listed somewhere that a taster set of all the taps was available. I opted for that, but had to specify that I didn’t want the last two offerings, ginger beer and pineapple beer. While I am intrigued by them, I didn’t have room in my belly or day for them.

I took my rack of little glasses outside where I found a spot at the nice railing they attached to the wall. A great idea that makes room for more customers, but at the same time it makes things crowded along the walk. I enjoyed standing there with a view of the intersection and all the traffic as I explored my beers.

Here are your cross streets. And your cross walk. And a couple bikes locked to a do-it-yourself bike rack.

Here are your cross streets. And your cross walk. And a couple bikes locked to a do-it-yourself bike rack.

Standard Brewing’s beer was good. I remember enjoying most if not all of them. I don’t recall if I liked the red or not, but I don’t like many reds. I am impressed by the fact that Standard’s beers come in at respectable ABVs. This is clearly a conscious decision. Even their pale is over 6%, and their West Coast IPA is 7.3 which for me is about the magic number for an IPA. I’ve had many lower ABV IPAs that tasted perfectly fine, but for me and IPA should be serious. It seems to me Standard is bucking the trend of leaning toward the sessionable. I would comment more on the taste of their beers, but it’s been a few weeks since my visit and I don’t remember much more than I did find them nice and tasty.

I like this wall rail.

I like this wall rail.

I don’t know what is behind the name Standard Brewing. For me it fits. They’ve got a plain little building in a non-fancy location. Their color scheme is black, grey and white. Their beers are solid. I would like to make it one of my standard places.

The ride back to downtown is mostly a straight, mostly downhill, shot down Jackson then simply using the appropriate streets to get where you need to be. My map shows, as always, directions back to the ferry terminal. So after flying cautiously down Jackson, turn right on 4th. At Yesler Way, the road takes a slight curve left as you go under a bridge. After the bridge, a bike lane appears on the left side of the road. 4th is a one-way street and I always ride in the bike lane on the left side of the street, but coming from Jackson, there is no bike lane and as such I feel a bit funnier about being on the left. I suppose after enough jockeying with buses, I might take to using the left side all the way from Jackson.

At Columbia St. turn left and follow it down to Alaskan Way where you turn left and find the ferry terminal entrance ahead on the right.

Thanks for joining me on another adventure! I look forward to our next one.

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

 

 

New, Rather Epic Adventure Coming Right Up

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I’m almost never over in Seattle in an automobile, thank God. When I am, I like to take advantage of the exorbitant fee I am paying to drive over on the ferry. Soon I have to give someone a ride to the airport and have stylings on a hybrid adventure that I eyed last November, but bailed on due to weather and the uncertain, untested nature of my directions.

Instead, on that occasion after making an early morning trip to the airport I opted for my Boundary Bay trip where my feet don’t touch the ground from the airport to Bellingham. Well, except for at that rest stop several miles outside of Bellingham where I take a nap. Even though that adventure is by car, it’s still grand. Nothing like waking up after my nap, stretching my legs, maybe doing some exercises in the wooded area in the middle of the rest stop, then motoring on up to Boundary Bay just before opening time, securing a parking spot right in front of place. It’s like: I’ve got the whole day in front of me, and one of my brewery meccas all to myself. (Actually, I’ve never had it to myself. Seems a few regulars are always sitting in there before opening time).

When in Bellingham, I used to hit Chuckanut Brewery, but since there is a new brewery in town now, I skip Chuckanut. I don’t really like their beers. Now there is Kulshan Brewing nearby, which is pretty good. These days, I understand there is a new place called Elizabeth Station – a bottle shop that has beers on tap. I would definitely like to check them out.

Of course the challenge here is to really limit one’s self, as there are places to stop on the way home as well. These places have included Diamond Knot, Skagit River Brewing (not recommended at all), and North Sound Brewing (recommended). I have had success in getting the beertenders at Boundary Bay to let me do tasters only, which is actually immensely enjoyable.

This time, my decision will be way easier on the way from the airport, however, as the bridge near Mt. Vernon is out. Enter my epic hybrid adventure, the directions for which have been living in a drawer for months.

Relying solely on Google Maps, I have planned a bicycle ride from Issaquah to Snoqualmie. I’ve never been to Issaquah, but I plan to visit their Rogue Ale House. From there there are supposedly separated trails much of the 14 mile or so trip to Snoqualmie, where I get to visit Snoqualmie Falls Brewing. I have been there before. I suppose this doesn’t sound too epic. It’s just that I’ve never confirmed that these trails exist, (except via Google Street View which is pretty good evidence), and it seems too good to be true. What’s more, at a certain point the map shows one of the trails dead-ending tantalizingly close to where it could make a connection to a residential street that would connect to another trail that would take me basically all the way to my destination. So I will have to go down that trail and see if it goes through. If not, I’ll have to turn back and instead get out on some country roads with no shoulders, where I expect trucks hauling boats, and travel a few miles to where I can pick up a trail.

So if I go missing, send the search party to look between Issaquah and Snoqualmie.

Look for an account of the adventure complete with map and photos right here!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Updated June 25: A Visit to The Beer Junction

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June 25 Update:

As you found at the end of this post, I didn’t have any pics to share with you from The Beer Junction. Well I’m fixing that now. I made it back to the Junction and it so happened that on that day they were having a neat IPA event called Hop Hysteria. I like a good IPA.

Funny

Funny.

When I arrived that day it wasn’t too busy, though it got busy later. From the start, there was an annoying drunk middle-aged guy in sunglasses who was loud and going up to strangers like they were his friends. At one point he was telling strangers to take a drink from the can of ginger beer he had ordered to see what they thought of it. Apparently drunk guy didn’t like the taste of the ginger beer. I assume he didn’t realize that is wasn’t actually beer. One set of guys he who just entered got solicited with this enticing offer and after the first guy declined, the drunk guy said to the second guy “you’re not a pu$$y, you’ll try it” and despite my sending him my strongest ESP suggestions to DONT DO IT, MAN! he complied. Drunk man first noticed me outside when I arrived and I guess he saw something in me that kept him from approaching me that day. Eventually drunk guy left. Quality, interesting craft beer is wasted on guys and gals like this (and gets them too wasted too fast) who really ought to stick to sports bars and their Budweiser, although much of the clientele at craft breweries and beer bars are more similar to him than most people allow themselves to realize.

Anyway, upon locking my bike up to a small tree out front and entering the place, I immediately began to study the chalkboard menus in order to try to get a handle on how I was going to proceed. When it was my turn at the counter, the beertender handed me a piece of paper that listed in very nice detail the offerings.

Start studying.

Start studying.

As you may know about The Beer Junction from this post, they offer taster sized pours. If you at all value variety – and I very much do – this is the only way to approach something like Hop Hysteria, or simply a place with a good number of exciting options on tap. Even so, I had to eliminate a good number of viable choices in order to make this a reasonable experience. I went for their four taster option, as I understand it’s not more expensive per ounce than the eight taster option. This allowed me to order four tastes and enjoy them as I planned my next four tastes.

As part of this event, Beer Junction had set up a randall, or a device that pushes beer through a water filter full of hops.

I didn't figure out the routing of the hoses and piping, but the ice-emmersed coil was evidently there for cooling.

The randall setup. I hadn’t before seen a randall set up with a cooling coil after it like this. Note also the growler filling stations in the background. I talked about them below in the prior post.

The beer on randall this day was Avery’s Maharaja Imperial IPA. On the menu the randall is touted with an exclamation point as containing Ahtanum hops, so I assume they are a rare or coveted hop. It was tasty.

Most of the eight beers I tasted (repeat, tasted) that day were good. Some were great. Despite my affinity for enjoying local beer, my favorite was pretty easy to decide upon: Stone Brewing’s Enjoy By 7-4-2013 Double IPA. It had, for me, the right crisp, citrusy tartness without being unpleasingly bitter on my particular palate. Just awesome.

The only downer in the experience that day came when I calculated in my mind what my bill should be. It dawned on me that I had essentially just consumed two $10 pints! In a way I’m glad I was too excited about the beer selection to take a second to realize what my tasters’ prices would amount to in total. Oh well, it was scrumptious fun that allowed me to experience eight different interesting beers.

Below I will pop in the rest of my pictures from the day, which will round out this write-up of The Beer Junction. Before doing so I will mention that I did indeed try that route alteration I discussed in my prior posting. This consisted (pull up the map via the provided link) taking Oregon St. on the outgoing trip to connect me straight from Fauntleroy Way to California Ave where Beer Junction is just a stone’s throw to the left. This, I believe, cuts off some distance and keeps you off of some busy roads. The tradeoff is that on the outgoing trip, Oregon St. is quite uphill. In fact, I (as I am known to do) chose to dismount and run up most of the hilliness in order to save wear and tear on my bike. Was it worth it on the outgoing trip? I’m still undecided on that. As described in the prior post, doing so allows you to avoid a significant amount of walking/running your bike on a sidewalk that is almost always congested. But the dramatic climbs come close to canceling out that benefit. Now, when it comes to the return trip, it’s a slam dunk: When you leave Beer Junction, go left and take Oregon St. straight downhill to Fauntleroy Way where you take a left and continue on.

The Beer Junction continues to please. Cheers!

A look at their bank of taps.

A look at their bank of taps.

The collection of tap handles on one wall. Below it are found maps for some reason. I could imagine worse decorations I suppose.

The collection of tap handles on one wall. Below it are found maps for some reason. I could imagine worse decorations I suppose.

Tap handles even on the ceiling. Also note the free water on tap for the talking. A must in a place that I might consider worthy.

Tap handles even on the ceiling. Also note the water cooler below the TV – a must in a place that I might consider worthy.

 

A great selection of beer in the bottle shop area.

A great selection of beer in the bottle shop area. Wow, I notice tap handles even back there! Through those doors at the back and out in the hallway are found the restrooms. The restroom door takes a code that seems to have been kept the same for some time now.

 

Prior posts follow:

It’s time to go to West Seattle and check out one of my favorite places. It’s a bottle shop that has lots of great beer on tap.

You’ve noticed I’ve become savvy enough to start including maps of my routes. I am, in fact, now starting a post by working up a map. Let me go ahead and show you the map, and we’ll get into the description of the route and the establishment in the coming days.

http://goo.gl/maps/NCVd8

The Beer Junction seems to be a pretty popular place, though I’ve not had much trouble with overcrowding there. Part of the reason for this is it has a service line (makes sense, as it’s still a bottle shop after all). There is, however, a small bar – probably five or six chairs worth. Awesomely, they have provided more seating along the side walls with shallow tables for your beers.

The route over to California Junction in West Seattle is a mix of nice separated paths, not-so-hospitable busy streets, and some hilliness. The beginning section of the route is along the trail that runs along Alaskan Wy. and Marginal Wy. This has been under construction for what seems like years now. The “street view” images on the provided map show that. It has undergone several changes and detours, so all I can tell you at this point is just try to follow the map and any signs you see as you ride. The most notable part of the route is the crossing of the low-level bridge to West Seattle. There is a protected pedestrian/bike path over the bridge that is oh so enjoyable!

May 21 update follows:

As stated, the route from the ferry terminal on the Elliott Bay Trail is in flux for a bit along Alaskan Way. The trail at first is on the east side of Alaskan Way, then at a certain point (indicated by big orange signs usually) you cross over to the west side of the street. There is a nice new section of the trail that runs on the west side of Alaskan, complete with street lights. At a certain point the separated trail ends and you are left to either ride on the sidewalk with its rim-bending bumps, or get out on the road (now called Marginal Way) with its bike lane and frequent semi-truck traffic coming or going from the docks. Really though, riding out on the bike lane isn’t too bad. There is, for some distance, striping delineating a buffer zone between the bike lane and the car lane. Even after this disappears, I don’t feel all that bad out there despite the truck traffic. It’s a flat ride here, and I enjoy opening it up, full of hope and excitement at the beginning of my beer outing. Yes, if I’m heading down south here, I usually do it first, before heading up north toward Fremont, Ballard, Greenwood, or wherever I am adventuring that day.

When you arrive at the overpass – Spokane St., you see a friendly set of green signs. They talk about trails. Honestly, I’ve never really known just which trail I take. I imagine I am on all three before I’m done. At any rate, this is where you turn right and sort of start your trail ride toward the bridge.

As described in our map, you do a couple little juts across traffic, a good amount of which is semi trucks, so use cation of course. After this, you are at the stop light intersection (11th Ave) where you cross the street, essentially getting diagonally across to head onto the bridge. I have seen cyclists literally go diagonally across the intersection. I may try this if I see there is no traffic. As it is, there isn’t usually much of a wait to cross the crosswalks. Now, if you want to avoid this intersection you can do as the engineers intended, and stay straight, then let the trail loop you under the bridge, then back around to where you can get on.

Now you get to climb up the bridge. Shortly after you come off the bridge, you have a choice of like three directions you could go. I used to follow the trail to the right (the Alki Trail according to the sign). this takes you down to an intersection where you wait, and wait, for your chance to make something like three crossings of roads. I guess I used to think I had to stay on the Alki Trail. But doing so actually takes you out of your way in addition to adding in those long waits.

So, instead of heading down and to the right, go up and straight ahead. This takes you to to where the trail becomes a sidewalk and curves left, paralleling Delridge Way. Stay riding on the sidewalk, crossing over various cross streets and driveways until you reach the stop light intersection at Andover St. This intersection is recognizable by the huge American flag that is almost always flying in front of a building. Dismount and use the crosswalk to cross Andover St. Once across, find a safe time to get out onto the roadway. Continue, passing the big fitness center on your left, until the road takes a 90 degree left. Follow it, then take the next right at Yancy St.

Get ready for the steepest climb of the trip. At the top, you need to turn left onto AvalonWay. No trick to this one – just wait for a break in traffic and cross over. Watch for cars coming out of 30th Ave. on your left also while you wait.

Now you begin a fairly gradual ascent on Avalon that lasts about 1/2 a mile and takes a right curve. At 35th stay straight. At the next light, Fauntleroy Way, turn left. As you wait for the light, observe the sign on the building across the street that reads in large letters “non-violent martial art.” I always enjoy a chuckle at this.

Now on Fauntleroy, be advised that as you approach the cross street Oregon St., your lane becomes a right turn lane so you must be cautious about that as you proceed straight.

As I write this, the idea has finally dawned on me: Why not take Oregon St. right and let it connect you to California Ave? Seems like a shortcut and a less busy street. Then I remembered Oregon is way steep. I will consider using Oregon St. next time though, as it may be a good trade-off. I almost certainly will use Oregon St. on my next return trip from Beer Junction as it seems like a great short cut heading that direction – especially since where Oregon intersects Fauntleroy there is a stop light, so turning left should be no problem.

Today, having stayed straight on Fauntleroy, you are treated to a view of the nice, clean, large, new Trader Joe’s on the right.

Next, you find the stop light intersection with Alaska St. Turn/curve right. Then proceed straight until you reach California Ave. No bike facilities on this stretch of road, and it’s fairly busy. I don’t recall having any nasty encounters here though. I imagine this is due to drivers being accustomed to seeing cyclists around these parts. Once I cross the street at California, I dismount and walk/run on the sidewalk about 800 feet until I reach The Beer Junction!

Another bright idea for improvement has just occurred to me: Given that the relatively narrow sidewalks here are pretty populated with walkers and shoppers – at least on non-rainy days – I wonder if it would be quicker and less frustrating to, instead of walking on the sidewalk to our destination as I recommended, make the right turn onto California Ave, ride to the next light, then dismount and cross the street and make the much shorter sidewalk trek to Beer Junction. I will try that next time.

Well, good job making it over to West Seattle and the little beer-lover’s playground that is The Beer Junction. I will go into a bit more depth on my impressions of the place next.

May 30 update follows:

After locking up to a tree near the storefront, and by so doing, partially blocking their sandwich board, enter and be greeted by a chalkboard overhead that lays out what’s on tap. Look ahead and to the right and see another chalkboard that does the same. If I recall, one of the boards specifies the ABVs. Proceed straight ahead and you enter the bottle shop area which is plenty impressive. I’ve spent a little time browsing it while sipping a beer. Yes, nothing like drinking an interesting beer while window shopping for interesting beers.

An extensive selection of tasty beers is offered by Beer Junction both in the bottle shop and at the taps up front behind the small bar. For a corkage fee, you may enjoy that interesting bottle of beer in a glass.

Also offered are growler fills. The Junction, in fact, was one of the first places I saw one of the fancy new growler filling devices that supposedly do a better job. I say supposedly. The first place I saw one was at Georgetown Brewing, and I haven’t been able to tell a difference in the beer I get from there. One benefit is that the unopened growler of beer is supposed to stay good longer. At any rate, it does seem proper that the vessel of beer you purchase and take home should be filled by some method more scientific than sticking a neoprene tube down it and dispensing into it like a pint glass. The device looks impressive at least. Always trying to keep my beer budget under control, I only get my growlers filled at a few key places around town – places that at least for now offer fills for around $10 (I shoot for $8). But you’re not going to get a fill of that Port Brewing or Ft. George awesome beer for $10 you say? That’s correct. I’ll stick to enjoying those interesting beers in smaller doses and leave the exotic growler fill prices for those who can better afford them.

Speaking of smaller doses, here is one of my favorite things about The Beer Junction: They deal willingly in the realm of the taster-sized pour. They even officially offer a splash. The pricing for such – even for the splash! – is laid out on their chalkboards. Talk about offering versatility! They have 4 taster set and an 8 taster set. Just say you want to do the taster thing and the friendly guy behind the bar hands you a sticky pad on which you write your numbers (corresponding to the numbered beers on the chalkboard) and he will dutifully pour and place the tasters in a wooden paddle for you to savor. The last time I was there, I took a look at my receipt (yes, they gave me an itemized receipt) and I confirmed that the price-per-ounce is higher than with a pint pour. This is to be expected, but I guess I am spoiled by the awesome and very surprising policy of The Junction’s smaller and older counterpart – the venerable Bottleworks’ – policy of charging the same price per ounce for 1/2 pours as for full pours.

I mentioned that the beertender would probably be friendly. Here is the other of my favorite things about The Beer Junction: Friendly staff. There is one guy who strikes me as the owner who is particularly professional and friendly. He’s fairly young, so maybe he’s the manager or something, but he’s always been good. In fact I don’t recall any bad service to date from this place – a remarkable thing in today’s climate.

The atmosphere at Beer Junction is clean and pleasant. There are a couple of TVs that usually display sports of some variety. On one of the walls are on display rows of tap handles – always fun to view. The space appears to be newly renovated. There are no restrooms, but just go out the glass doors at the back of the place into the hallway and you find shared restrooms with code-locked doors. You’ll have to ask a staff member the code.

On nice or sunny Seattle days the front windows are opened, almost transforming the indoor tables by the windows into outdoor seating, as they are opened up right onto the sidewalk. One day I enjoyed an interesting sight as a boy stood just outside one of the open windows looking in and licking an ice cream cone and very near him on the other side of the low wall separating inside from out sat boys of a more advanced age savoring their treats.

Beer Junction, I’m thankful for you. In the craft beer on-tap world there are too many places where exists an abundance of attitude, entitled punk employees, a lack of information and of appreciation for the customer. At The Beer Junction I feel like just what I am: a customer choosing to spend my beer dollar here. I hope they keep it up. Oh, and they have great beer.

We’ve already discussed a bit of detail regarding the ride back. The only further note may be that once you reach Marginal way (the spot where I said the trail sort of really begins) you can either ride on the sidewalk “against traffic”, or you can cross over and ride on the road where I believe you will find bike lanes most of the way. At a certain point, the Elliott Bay Trail picks up (again, the area is under construction, so this point varies unfortunately).

Thanks for joining me on this journey over to West Seattle. I wish I had some photos of the place, but hey, just google it. I look forward to our next adventure.

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

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