Food & Drink

Ode to Manny's

How Georgetown Brewing Company Came to Make the Best Beer in the Universe

Ode to Manny's

Kelly O


Declaring any one beer to be the world's best is impossible. It's so subjective. Nevertheless, Manny's Pale Ale—created and brewed by Georgetown Brewing Company and served at roughly 500 bars around Seattle—is the best beer in the entire world. This fact is seconded by the only other person whose opinion matters: my significant other, aka he who must share pitchers with me. Prior to discovering Manny's, Jake gravitated toward Redhook ESB, I liked Shiner Bock, and pitchers were impossible, or at least imperfect, requiring one of us to make do for the sake of the other. Manny's changed everything, throwing itself in our path with ever more regularity and steadily earning a place alongside making out, marijuana, and Melrose Place on the list of Things We Love Together.

Manny's status as a bridge-building beer is no accident. As creator and namesake Manny Chao tells me, his dream with Manny's Pale Ale was to create a craft beer with "something for everyone"—hoppy enough to attract fans of India Pale Ale, but not so hoppy as to repel those wary of IPA (the cilantro of beer). The result: a pale ale with a "rich and complex malty middle with a snappy hop finish," as the Georgetown Brewing Company website puts it. This snappy hop finish is Manny's distinguishing characteristic, giving each sip a slightly salty sheen (think of salted fruit), and is the result of extended experimentation.

"I was always looking for that taste and kept adding hops to the back end," says Chao. "Eventually, I added some to the front end, and it all came to life." Thus was born Manny's, a built-for-pleasure beer that's delicious when ice-cold and continues to flourish even as it inches toward room temperature in a pitcher, while the 5.3 percent alcohol content guarantees a lovely buzz without bloat- inducing levels of consumption.

I ask Chao which beer best scratched his itch for the taste of Manny's before Manny's was invented, and he names Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. How many imperfect rough drafts preceded the perfection of Manny's? He says, "About eight batches..."

"More," says Roger Bialous, Georgetown Brewing Company's cofounder. Bialous and Chao met in the 1990s, when the lifelong Pacific Northwesterners (Manny is from Beaverton, Roger is from Port Angeles) crossed paths in Seattle and discovered their mutual love of Ultimate Frisbee and good beer. Back then, Chao was working in tech, Bialous was working in health care administration, and neither was very happy.

"We'd hang out, drink beer, and complain about our jobs," says Chao, whose experience as a home brewer guided them to the next phase of their lives.

The premier products of the Georgetown Brewing Company were brewed in 2003 at the old Rainier Brewery, where Chao and Bialous rented space and set up a 15-barrel system they'd purchased used from a defunct North Carolina brewery and hauled across the country. The first dispensary for their product was the Latona Pub—the owner is an old friend of Manny's. Other outlets soon followed, and in 2008, the Georgetown Brewing Company relocated to its own space in north Georgetown, quadrupling in size in the process. Last summer brought the opening of the on-site retail shop/tasting room, where customers can buy GBC products in reasonably priced kegs and freakishly thrifty growler jugs (refills: $6!).

After I profess my undying love for the product bearing his name, Manny gives me a tour of where the magic happens: an airplane-hangar-sized warehouse rigged with dozens of huge stainless-steel vats. It is the only place I've ever been that smells like beer while being immaculately clean. "Making beer is 90 percent cleaning and 10 percent brewing," Chao tells me. The cleaning and brewing is done by a small staff that rotates through the various tasks, an arrangement that guarantees every worker understands every step of the process. The crew brews 10 times a week, producing 10 batches of Manny's (which accounts for 85 percent of GBC's business) and two batches of its other brands, which include Roger's Pilsner, Georgetown Port, Lucille IPA, and Lisa's Chocolate Stout—the last of which comes with a heartwarming backstory involving a chocolate-loving employee named Lisa who one day reported to work to find a surprise new product created in her honor. ("Did you cry when you learned that your dream beer existed with your name on it?" I ask her. "I tried not to," says Lisa.)

When I propose a future in which Georgetown Brewing Company products are available around the globe, Chao balks. "We want to stay an independent company. Selling out to a big manufacturer would be too much like work. I really like everyone who works here, and we just want to keep doing what we love." recommended


Comments (55) RSS

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hans millionaire 1
great story, and I also love manny's :)
Posted by hans millionaire on April 27, 2011 at 12:51 PM · Report this
camlux 2
Alas, if only I could buy bottles of the amber nectar....
Posted by camlux on April 27, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Manny's is the best beer and I'm so glad MY wife introduced me to it.
God Bless you Chao.
Posted by useurfeet on April 27, 2011 at 3:17 PM · Report this
Hooray for Manny's! And Manny!
Posted by Blech on April 27, 2011 at 3:28 PM · Report this
hillpagan 5
A few months ago I was in Seattle for the weekend and staying at a businessman's hotel. Flew in late afternoon, drove in heavy traffic through sideways rain at dusk to the parking garage. I live in a sleepy, trafficless berg and was fairly stressed out by the time I checked in. They let me know that their complimentary dinner was just about to end so I went straight to the dining area where I found a kind gentleman presiding over a tap of FREE Manny's (also there was some kind of pasta bar getting cleaned up, I skipped it). I asked if I could take the beer to the room and he offered me a tray with two extra beers on it. I went up and proceeded to fall in love with Manny's Pale. It was definitely the best beer I'd ever had at that moment.
Throughout the weekend I continued to seek it out and found it wasn't just situational- it's a great beer, for just the reasons described in this article. I like IPAs but I don't need them to hit me over the head with the hops. This is a fantastic, well balanced beer.
Posted by hillpagan on April 27, 2011 at 3:28 PM · Report this
hillpagan 6
It's a very nice well balanced beer. It's interesting reading that they were going for an everyman's beer, since I think that's exactly what they achieved. Whenever I'm in Seattle I have as much of it as I can.
Posted by hillpagan on April 27, 2011 at 3:40 PM · Report this
On top of the delicious beer, Manny is a really nice guy who also happens to be quite hot.
Posted by anonanonymous on April 27, 2011 at 4:22 PM · Report this
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You can't beat a cold Manny's. It is the very best!
Posted by Esmerelda on April 27, 2011 at 6:18 PM · Report this
Meh. It's no Mirror Pond.

Now their Nine-Pound Porter, that's another story.
Posted by Hutch on April 27, 2011 at 6:50 PM · Report this
I think Manny's is pretty boring. But I'm an IPA guy. If they were trying to go for an everyman beer, they did a good job. It is a safe bet with non-beer-o-philes. For Seattle beers, I still prefer any of the Maritime Pacific 'lighter' brews. But to each their own. I'd love for Georgetown to go a bit further and produce some more interesting brews for more ambitious palates.
Posted by paulus22 on April 27, 2011 at 7:57 PM · Report this
Seeds 12
Hooray for EVERYTHING georgetown makes.
Posted by Seeds on April 27, 2011 at 9:16 PM · Report this
Oh, Manny's is OK. Georgetown has many far better beers in their lineup. And I much prefer Maritime Pacific or Schooner Exact.
Posted by Engine Joe on April 28, 2011 at 7:49 AM · Report this
A testament to the power of Manny's - a couple years ago my fiance and I moved to Pullman which was going to be a bit of a shock coming from Seattle. I was having an easier time with the adjustment and really worried whether she was going to make it. Then she found Manny's at the Coug, the iconic campus pub, and everything has been ok ever since.

God bless you Manny's!
Posted by longball on April 28, 2011 at 10:02 AM · Report this
Not only do they make great beer, but Georgetown also supports lots of great causes around town.
Posted by en on April 28, 2011 at 12:21 PM · Report this
for the record, Manny's is the 4th best beer georgetown makes. it's an avg pale ale for the pac NW.
Posted by dacoach on April 28, 2011 at 1:20 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 17

I sometimes drink Manny's but it does have an aftertaste.

I'd say it's probably the 3rd best.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 28, 2011 at 1:51 PM · Report this
seandr 18
Manny's is awesome. Roger's is even better.
Posted by seandr on April 28, 2011 at 1:53 PM · Report this
Fnarf 19
You've got to be kidding me.

The best beer in the world doesn't come pressurized out of a keg, that's for sure. It doesn't even come out of the US. Manny's is good beer, to be sure, but it pales (see what I did there?) next to proper Real Ale, as served fresh from gravity taps in pubs in the North of England.

One of the things that kills off American beer is the absurd quest for super strength. Those beers @16 likes? They're freaking 8 percent! By American standards, Manny's, at 5.2%, is very mild, but it's right in the sweet spot of tolerable. American ales also dump in the most flowery hops by the ton, which is a horrible thing to put in beer. Manny's scores high on this scale, too, being very moderately hopped.

But best? Not on the same continent as best.

The best beer in the world is Banks's Mild, now that Cain's has killed their mild ale.

The best beer that's available in the US is still a properly poured pint of Guinness. The Irish know a thing or two about malt as well.
Posted by Fnarf on April 28, 2011 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Goldy 20
Manny's is my mainstay, but if you like the hops, give the Lucille's IPA a try.
Posted by Goldy on April 28, 2011 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Jessica 21
Note to self: do not read articles extolling the joys of one of your favorite beers while you're pregnant. It's just frustrating.
Posted by Jessica on April 28, 2011 at 1:59 PM · Report this
Um, Mannys is a decent beer, but come on.

I do like that Nine-pound Porter quite a bit, though.
Posted by Actionsquid on April 28, 2011 at 2:00 PM · Report this
seattlestew 23
I love Georgetown Brewery and most of their beers, and I definitely support local and regional businesses, but to call Manny's the "best beer in the world" (even using admittedly subjective hyperbole) is, in my own subjective opinion, just wrong. Manny's is the most ordinary, mediocre, and overrated beer in Seattle. It is the proverbial "Budweiser" of local microbrews. Give me just about any other "pale," let alone a beer with real body and flavor, over Manny's.
Posted by seattlestew on April 28, 2011 at 2:01 PM · Report this
Westlake, son! 24
Manny's is, indeed, awesome.

If only they'd can it. I have to settle for Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues.
Posted by Westlake, son! on April 28, 2011 at 2:04 PM · Report this
w7ngman 25
It's odd that he modeled it after Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, because I think that's a pretty hoppy beer. Way hoppier than Manny's. I think everything SN makes is pretty over-hopped, though, especially their porter. Porter should be caramely with complexity on the malt side, not bitey and hoppy.

While I do consider myself a huge fan of Manny's, one thing I've noticed is a pretty large inconsistency from keg to keg. Sometimes it's real hoppy, other times not, sometimes a bit flat, sometimes over-carbonated. When I drink the first few sips of Manny's, it's only about half the time that I get that "Yep, that's a damn good Manny's" taste. But it's always drinkable.

I don't know if it's just a consequence of a micro brewing process (can they really be considered micro?), inconsistent ingredients, or kegs going flat (how that could happen to a keg of Manny's, I'm not sure), but it's not really something I've noticed with other micros.
Posted by w7ngman on April 28, 2011 at 2:14 PM · Report this
I like Manny's because it gets my wife drunk.
Posted by Reasonable Doubt on April 28, 2011 at 2:20 PM · Report this
@23 is spot on. Manny's is overrated. The Lucille, Nine Pound, and Rogers is better. I drink Manny's only under duress. Solid marketing, tho
Posted by dacoach on April 28, 2011 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Something I appreciate about Manny's: bartenders used to think my order was "a pint of mayonnaise", or once, "a pitcher of mayonnaise." This hasn't happened recently but it happened nearly a half-dozen times in GBC's early days.
I like how it's able to accommodate a lot of different beer preferences. When you want a pitcher for a group that includes a devotee of Rainier tallboys, a stinky-skunky hops lover, 2 people who don't care and a nerd who'd rather be drinking scrumpy, Manny's works.
Posted by alight on April 28, 2011 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Belgian's are the cilantro of beer.

IPA's are the jalapenos.
Posted by biliruben on April 28, 2011 at 2:34 PM · Report this
I love Mayonaise but best beer in the world? lol you're serious too.
Posted by Stay Creepy Seattle on April 28, 2011 at 2:37 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 31
@19 once again proves he can't hold his beer.

If it isn't 8 percent, you're not doing it right.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 28, 2011 at 2:46 PM · Report this
douchus 32
Fnarf, King of the Arseholes! The Douchiest Douche of Douchmerica! Also, Hater Extraordinaire!
Posted by douchus on April 28, 2011 at 2:51 PM · Report this
Manny's is a good, safe beer, but it's only the best beer ever if your beer palate is still in it's infancy.

And note to Northern England Beer Superiority Guy: while warm, flat, tasteless beer may make you nostalgic, it’s not in the same league as 90% the beer available in this city.
Posted by JohnQ on April 28, 2011 at 3:01 PM · Report this
Manny's is my favorite beer in teh world. You have inspired me to stop for a growler on the way home tonight.
Posted by clint on April 28, 2011 at 3:04 PM · Report this
Oh Manny's, how do I love thee? Well, not as much as 9lb Porter, that's for fuckin sure! but we can still get along, right? yeehaw!
Posted by novabird on April 28, 2011 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Fnarf 36
@33, you mean "alive", not "warm and flat". CAMRA would disagree with you. But you're fine, you stick to your lifeless fizzy stuff.

@32, you got a groovy thing going there with Will in Seattle. Good luck with that.
Posted by Fnarf on April 28, 2011 at 3:40 PM · Report this
knobtheunicorn 37
Does anyone know where to get Yuengling in Seattle?
Posted by knobtheunicorn on April 28, 2011 at 3:44 PM · Report this
@37, no, but Yuengling was my favorite beer when I was in DC many years ago. I recently went back and visited, itching for a Yuengling, only to discover it cannot hold a candle to my favorite beers here, namely Manny's and Mirror Pond
Posted by iviola on April 28, 2011 at 4:25 PM · Report this
redhook esb, shiner bock, and manny's. sorry, if those are your benchmarks you have no place declaring anything the world's best beer. the pacific northwest is FULL of much better beers. they are yours for the sampling. you should really expand your palate (or not, like what you want, cool it with the idiotic declarations).
Posted by taint on April 28, 2011 at 5:48 PM · Report this
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I suppose if I were a bigger beer snob, I wouldn't insist that in order for a beer to be considered "best", it must be actually available for sale in most, though not necessarily all, of the places where I actually buy and drink beer.

So you can fuck right off with whatever beer helped you feel superior when you were ever so recently abroad.

Also, I can't be the only person who gets the splatterpoops from unfiltered beer. Manny's tastes fine, but it isn't worth upsetting my delicate digestion.
Posted by robotslave on April 28, 2011 at 6:55 PM · Report this
Shiner Bock is overpriced swill for hipsters who have moved on from PBR.

Manny's is OK but there is that aftertaste. Maritime Pacific, served fresh at the Jolly Roger Tap Room, is fantastic!
Posted by xxxSTEVExxx on April 28, 2011 at 7:33 PM · Report this
Unfortunately you can't get Yeungling here. I've looked at every bottle shop in the city - they just don't ship outside their territory.
Posted by Reader1 on April 28, 2011 at 10:44 PM · Report this
Texas10R 47
"...throwing itself in our path with ever more regularity and steadily earning a place alongside making out, marijuana, and Melrose Place on the list of Things We Love Together."

Melrose Place? Ah yes, the Bud Light of television viewing.
Posted by Texas10R on April 29, 2011 at 5:11 AM · Report this
Abby 48
Come on, Fnarf, you can't say the super-strength is an American obsession only. Here in the Netherlands, 5.2 is standard for your regular biertje. Belgian beers tend to be stronger, 10% is not out of the question, but your standard dubbel or blonde will be about 6-8%. And those are beautiful beers.

Personally, I'll take the Belgians over the English. But they have lambics, and Flanders red ales, and those will sway me to anything.
Posted by Abby on April 29, 2011 at 5:21 AM · Report this
Call the Heartland Cafe in W Seattle. They used to carry Yeungling but not sure if they still do.
Posted by beero on April 29, 2011 at 8:56 PM · Report this
I'd say Manny's is the best gateway beer ever, sure. Start there, enjoy it as you can, and then find yourself a good beer store (like Full Throttle, conveniently also in Georgetown) and explore from there.

Worked for me, anyway. :)
Posted by Chris B on April 30, 2011 at 10:09 AM · Report this
Seeds 51
If you're not stoked on Georgetown, you're either too much, or not enough.
Posted by Seeds on May 2, 2011 at 8:19 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 52
Can't comment on Manny's, as Roger's is the best in the NW. No other beer matters.
Posted by wilbur@work on May 2, 2011 at 10:57 PM · Report this
Well when you compare it to Redhook ESB and Shiner Bock I'm sure it does seem like the best beer in the world, of course you could also say that Transformers 2 is the best film ever made if you've only seen Krull and Breakin 2 Electric Boogaloo.

I mostly like Manny's and a 6$ growler fill is an absurdly good deal but it far from the best beer in the city, region, world.

I'm assuming that you are trolling for comments with that ridiculous declaration, if so nice work.
Posted by Tornado on May 3, 2011 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 54
Manny's is always on tap in the Rathskeller at Chez Vel-DuRay.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on May 3, 2011 at 7:58 PM · Report this
I love Manny's, and several of Georgetown Brewery's other beers are nearly as good. Their growlers are indeed a bargain at $6 but I wish they would custom fill their growlers upon purchase. As it is, the beer in their growlers is flatter than the beer on tap in your local pub because it's been pre-filled and has been sitting around for a while. Still, it is a great deal for the price.
Posted by TS on May 10, 2011 at 2:50 PM · Report this

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