A Visit to Big Al Brewing

By | 08/23/2016

This last weekend, we decided to head north for a bit and stopped in to meet with Kevin from Big Al Brewing in White Center, WA. Big Al Brewing lives up to the name of microbrewery. Set in a small warehouse just off one of the main roads, this unassuming yellow building is the setting of what appears to be many a great time.

Big Al Brewing building

Big Al Brewing sits back from the road on 14th in White Center.

When we first walked past the fence, the first thing we noticed was a group of people enjoying barbecue straight from the grill. You can’t see it in the picture, but on the left is where a couple of charcoal grills were set up with some great food cooking. We later learned that it’s pretty normal for some of the regulars to be outside making some food and enjoying a tasty beer or two.

Growlers on the shelf

Growlers and Growlets line the shelf at the end of the bar

It was here that we met Kevin. He does a lot of the marketing for Big Al Brewing, plus he’s a lot of fun to talk to. I thought we’d be there for maybe an hour to try a couple of beers, but instead we stuck around chatting about life and everything else for more than two. This seemed to be common for Diana, who was tending the bar, as she was talking with the other patrons who where there like they were long lost friends catching up on old times.

We stepped into the bar and the first thing I heard was, “What should we try first?”

Being the northwest guy I am, I saw the Big Hoppa IPA on the tap list and knew I had to try it first. This 80 IBU IPA isn’t as hoppy as you would think. Instead, it has a balance with the malts that smooth over the slight citrus bite you get from the 5 different hops that are used in the blend. Some IPA drinkers may not appreciate that, but in my opinion it’s a bold take on a northwest staple.

Beer in hand, we took a tour of the brewery itself. Upon walking in, the first thing you notice is “Little Al” as they call it. This homebrew kit is where experimental brews are tried in small batches to see if they will work for the production lines.

Little Al

“Little Al” the experimental homebrew kit that started it all.

You’ll notice a barrel next to “Little Al” that will be getting put to use later on this year. Alejandro, or Big Al, doesn’t typically use barrels that have been used for bourbon, but it looks like this is going to be a special brew. With any luck, we’ll be invited back when it’s ready to give it a taste.

There are 4 Fermenters spread around the warehouse that are used for the larger batches. I failed to ask what was in them while we were there, but whatever it is, I’m guessing it will be tasty. My guess is that it’s likely their year-round brews being finished off before the next seasonal hits them.

Barrels of aging beers

Barrels of aging gold waiting for their sweet release.

The next thing we noticed was the stack of barrels that are used for aging the different brews that are getting ready to be kegged. The majority of these are the sour beers that Alejandro is fond of. Most notably is the Time Capsule Series that we tried next.

The Time Capsule August 08 is only available in bottles. This brown has been soured and was part of the first batch created in the brewery. With an ABV of just over 7% and an IBU of 26, I was a little hesitant to give it a shot. I’m still new to sour beers, and I haven’t tried a sour brown ale that I am aware of. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise as the malty brown ale blended well with the sour notes of dried fruit. There were hits of tropical flavors to it such as mango and pineapple that didn’t stand out, but were a sweet reminder that this was a soured ale.

myself and Kevin talking beer

Standing with Kevin, talking about the brew process used at Big Al Brewing

We returned to the bar after the tour and chatted for another good hour before it was time to go home. Before I left, I was given the opportunity to try each of the year round beers.

Big Al Amber is a lighter amber with mild hops and slightly heavier malt. It’s a good beer to enjoy while watching a game (such as the Mariner’s game we were watching during our visit), and would go well with any meal you’d like to try it with. It went great with the hot dog we were given by one of the regulars that was celebrating his birthday.

Probably my second favorite beer of the night was the Civ’s Straight Red. This red ale was definitely more malt than hop. With it’s deep red color and rich malts, you’d mistake this for an amber, but it’s not. Why? because they told me it isn’t. If you go to a Sounders FC match, you might even find this brew on tap in section 109. If you don’t go to the match, go down to the brewery and get one there, instead.

This leads me to the favorite beer of the night, the Time Capsule November 2015. This Wild Ale has been soured with citrus style hops such as the Lemondrop, Apollo, and Falconer’s Flight. On top of that, the French Saison yeast and pale malts tame the hop flavor in a way that makes this beer the perfect way to end a 95 degree day in the Seattle area. Checking in with a modest 6.8% ABV and a low IBU of 35, this beer could be one that you’ll find yourself drinking an extra one of without realizing it.

All in all, I have to say that Saturday was a great day to head up north and visit a new set of friends. We hope to get back as soon as we can and try out their next batch. So, thank you for the invite Kevin. Next time, I’ll have to get you to come south and you can tell others about some of the beers in my general area.

Tonight, I finished my growler of the Big Hoppa IPA that you read about earlier. You might wonder why I didn’t bring home the Time Capsule, and honestly, I’m wondering that as well. Guess I have a reason to go back up and get another fill.

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