While visiting family in the Seattle region, I wanted to take the opportunity to explore the Woodinville (and neighboring Redmond) area, best known as the state's primary wine producing region.  Instead of wine, though, this time I wanted to spend a day visiting some of the tasting rooms of its burgeoning craft beer brewing industry.
Woodinville's beer history began when the the Redhook Ale Company moved its Washington facilities to the town after outgrowing its other two breweries in the Seattle region.  Redhook still claims to brew craft beers but is part of the Craft Brew Alliance with Widmer and Kona Brewing, a publicly traded company (Nasdaq: BREW, Anheuser-Busch InBev owns about 1/3 of the company ). Due to its popularity and accessibility we decided to skip Redhook on our planned tour to focus on a cluster of micro and nano brewers.  I found a few online from other blogs, then the other two stops we made were added because of recommendations from some of the brewers themselves.  It really is a supportive beer making community, with just five small manufacturers and Redhook in Woodinville, plus Black Raven and Mac & Jacks in Redmond.
Twelve Bar Brews (12826 NE 178th St. Suite C, Woodinville) is named after a popular musical chord progression most commonly in blues.  The owner was on hand to give us a lot of attention at our tasting, answering all of our annoying questions, and a sneak peek of his operation in back.  On tap for tasting ($1 per taster glass) were:

  • Wicked Riff IPA (6.9%, 85 IBU) - strong and dry with five different hops
  • Pentatonic Pale Ale (4.5%, 30 IBU) - five grain ale with wheat rye, oats, and two kinds of barley
  • Supertonic India Black (6.9%, 80 IBU) - strong, black, and hoppy
  • Turnaround Red (5.7%, 45 IBU) - a crisp Northwest red ale with caramel malt and lots of dry hops
  • Guest Tap: Golden Hills Brown Lager

Dirty Bucket Brewing Company (19151 144th Ave NE Suite 101, Woodinville) was my favorite stop of the day. The owner was really inventive in the way he was brewing his beers, adding in certain elements that created some new flavors and incorporated historical brewing practices.  This brewery is a nanobrew that just opened in April 2012, so it is mostly available direct from Dirty Bucket either through growlers or just stopping by to have a pint or two.  In our tasting flight ($6), we had:
  • Ruski Porridge (5.5%) - oatmeal/coffee stout
  • Filthy Hoppin' IPA (6.5%, 72 IBU) - American IPA
  • XXX-tra Filthy IPA (9%, 100 IBU) - whiskey barrel aged Imperial American IPA
  • "Vixen" Christmas Pale Ale (6%) - Northwest pale ale with juniper berries and ginger
  • Bedraggled Irish Red (5%) - red ale

Triplehorn Brewing Company (19510 144th Avenue NE, #6, Woodinville) just opened in late August 2012 and is located up the street from Dirty Bucket.  I wasn't very impressed with the tasting room experience.  There was no interaction with the brewery representative pouring the flights, and all you needed to know was on a laminated page you are given.  For our tasting, we had six samples ($8 + tax):

  • Mystic Belgian (8.5%) - amber in color with subtle notes of caramel, spice, citrus, and pepper
  • Barrel Aged Harvest Porter (7%, 22 IBU) - aged for over 2 months in syrah barrels
  • Nemesis Milk Stout (9.5%, IBU 62) - dark roasted barley and chocolate malts, sweetened with milk sugar
  • Falcon Cloak Blonde (6.5%, IBU 25) - smooth and pairs with lighter foods, low IBU means less bitter but still flavorful
  • Landwink IPA (6%, IBU 58) - balanced malt to hop flavor, rested "dry hop" on simcoe to get piney, floral, and earthy notes on the back end. This is the flagship Triplehorn beer
  • Folkvang Red (5.8%, IBU 32) - malty beer without a big hoppy taste, light smoke flavor and UK hops
Mac & Jack's Brewing Company (17825 NE 65th Street, Redmond) is a popular brewery in the area and is still offering its beer in draft only.  Several local brewpubs offer the beers, and you can buy growlers direct from the retail store.  There isn't a formal tasting room, but they were more than happy to pour us some samples.  On the weekends, there are twice daily tours, but we arrived a little too late for one and too early for the other.  While they had several beers on tap, we opted to just try two, as this was the last stop on the tour and I had reached my beer limit.
  • African Amber - this is the original beer that the brewing company owners made in their homebrewing operation and is the Northwest's first unfiltered, dry hopped amber ale
  • Serengeti Wheat - an American style hefeweizen brewed with 50% locally sourced two-row pale malt and 50% locally grown northwest malted wheat
As a fun bonus to the day's self-guided tour, we were directed by both Twelve Bar and Dirty Bucket to visit the local micro vodka distillery because they were extremely friendly, very proud of their product, and offered free samples of their classic and infused vodkas.  They were absolutely correct about all three!

Project V Distillery and Sausage (19495 144th Avenue NE, Woodinville - right across from Triplehorn) is a source for handcrafted vodka that is created using wheat from the owner's grandfather's farm in Eastern Washington.  While there is a formal tasting room and retail store with homemade sausage and (coming soon) other pork products, if the crowds are small the owners are very proud to show off their operation.  Everything in their facility was thoughtfully designed and installed by the husband and wife team.  Currently, they are making four variations of vodka in their small industrial park location:
  • Single Silo Vodka (80 proof)
  • Distiller's Cut Vodka (100 proof)
  • Double Silo Vodka (160 proof)
  • Chai Infusion Vodka 
Unlike the craft brewers we visited today, it is actually possible to order this vodka anywhere in the U.S. by asking your local liquor store to contact the distributor (Click Wholesale).  
A vodka tasting accompanied by a classic reggae record