Metier Brewing: Washington’s First (and only…?) Black-Owned Brewery
We started getting requests for Metier Brewing back in May, mostly off of an article from Wine Magazine. listing them on a list of “10 Black-owned breweries [in the US that] make great beer.”
Metier is known for their award-winning Coconut Porter called “Black Stripe.”
We have carried their beers for the past few months, including Black Stripe, their “Trail Blazer” Pale Ale with a label featuring Major Taylor, a professional Black bicyclist at the end of the 1800s who set world records.
I spent some time with Rodney and his staff, and highly recommend you take the trek to Woodinville to check out their brewery. They have a group of the nicest and most fun staff you will find.
Many of you tried their New Zealand IPA and their Wheat ale as well, and we have a keg of their Raspberry Cream ale we hope to tap in the next few days.
IPAs and Russian River Brewing: a Tale of Cold Beer
One of the most common beer-related questions we get here is “do you have Pliny the Elder IPA?” or similarly “do you carry anything from Russian River?” If you have not heard of this brewery or beer, “Pliny” is one of the highest rated beers, and most sought-after breweries. People line up around the block and down the street at their brewery for their annual release of the Triple IPA called “Pliny the Younger.” And no we don’t have any, because they picked up their beer and left Washington State in 2013.
(If you haven’t tried their beer, if you are in the Napa area, it is definitely worth going out of your way to get. I believe you can find it occasionally in Oregon still, and if you can get some, do. It’s an IPA even my IPA-hating friends really have liked.)
(if you see any for sale in WA, it is probably bootlegged!)
This provokes another question though: why did they leave? Do they not like apples, or everything being ever green?
It turns out the answer has to do with refrigeration.
I mean, indirectly. The real answer has to do with that they didn’t have enough beer to go around. They posted a letter that said as much (the letter was originally supposed to be just for distributors, but it got out and they finally posted it on their own website), but this was at the same time that our liquor laws changed, and both BevMo and Total Wine were arriving to the state en force.
Our new liquor laws, sponsored by Costco and recently voted in, put negotiating power in the hands of wine and liquor retailers. Those aforementioned big-box alcohol retailers could now negotiate pricing on wine and liquor (but not beer) directly and leverage their volume to get better buying prices.
And if you’ve been to any of these stores, you know that almost all their products sit warm on shelves. They sometimes have a few cooler doors, but those usually house beer where the descriptor “cold” is the best thing you can say about it (or perhaps “cheap,” leaving “tastes good” as a distant third).
It turns out that some breweries really really care about the quality of their beer, and will have nothing to do with places that keep their beer warm.
In Russian River’s letter they started by clarifying that “The beer we are not sending to Washington is going straight to Downtown Santa Rosa to feed the machine we call our brewpub. It will not be distributed to other wholesalers.” But then continued by saying “I did, however, address the difficulty we have had managing our brand in Washington, which appears to be due to some unique state liquor laws. But that’s not why we pulled out. That only helped us decide which market.”
Covid has created a number of very interested changes, one of the biggest is brands that used to only put their beer in kegs now putting it in cans or bottles. Cloudburst Brewing, near Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, is one of those brands, a brewery that makes life-changing IPAs. Other beer too, but they are renowned for their hop-forward beers, and for hating Anheuser Busch. When Cloudburst released their cans for the first time ever, they made keeping their cans cold a requirement to purchasing them for resale. When I got their first email that included buying cans back in June, they had this disclaimer: “Cans must be stored cold. No floor stacks, end displays, or bar top sales. COLD means refrigerated the whole time!”
They are not the only brewery. There are many like them that. I have talked to some who tell me stories of finding bars keeping their kegs stored warm, and tell me they won’t be back to sell those bars more beer again.
A quick Google search will tell you why this is, but here is the short version: oxidation speeds up quicker when beer (or anything, really) is not kept cold. Allaghash Brewing has a great line about this on their website: “Think of it this way: as the temperature of your beer goes up, the effects of oxidation increase exponentially. So a beer sitting at 60 degrees Fahrenheit will retain its original flavor for much longer than a beer sitting at 90 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Yes, there is a moral to this tale. I’m guessing you have figured it out by now 🙂
We currently pick up or get delivered directly from over 25 breweries and five cideries (quick rough count), including from Seattle (Standard, Holy Mountain, Cloudburst, Lowercase, etc), Tacoma (E9 off the top of my head), Bellingham (Wander, Atwood, Structures, Aslan, North Fork, Kulshan, Chuckanut, Boundary and, well, actually I think nearly all of them), Yakima, Corvallis, Portland, Bend, Eugene, and a few other smaller places like Goldendale, Woodinville and Burlington.
I’m not sure why I felt the need to list all of those. But there is a lot of great beer coming out right now, and getting it fresh and keeping it fresh is a passion of ours! (and tasting it fresh…)