Boe Trosset, one of the owners of Bellinghams Aslan Brewing, holds up a glass of gravity fed pilsner after tapping the ceremonial first keg of beer week.
Boe Trosset, one of the owners of Bellingham's Aslan Brewing, holds up a glass of gravity fed pilsner after tapping the ceremonial first keg of beer week. Lester Black

Seattle Beer Week brings some insane beers to the city, everything from the incredibly tart to the extra boozy and dripped in bourbon to beers that are old as fuck. But the annual event kicked off Thursday evening with something exceptionally simple: a gravity keg of local pilsner sitting on a bar top in Ravenna.

The official beer of this year's weeklong party is Washington Gold Pils by Bellingham's Aslan Brewing and at 5 p.m. yesterday Boe Trosset, one of Aslan's owners, tapped a special gravity keg of the beer at Toronado, officially kicking off this Seattle Beer Week.

I was at the bar to join in on the opening night festivities for the festival—by the end of the night I visited four of Seattle's better beer bars—but not before Trosset handed me a glass of his gravity-fed, unfiltered pilsner. I think it may have ruined lager for me. It was delicious, with a clean grain profile and a delicate softness totally unlike a conventional draft version of a pils. Trosset told me they were inspired to serve the beer in the traditional German method, called "Holzfass," after the Aslan team made a trip to Germany last year.

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"We went to some of these beer gardens and they had this fat barrel sitting there and they tapped it and we said what’s this all about? And they said it was Helles Holzfass and we were like, “Yah! Gimme that!” Trosset told me.

After the ceremonial tapping the packed crowd at Toronado paid their respects to Matt Bonney, one of the founders of the Seattle bar who died unexpectedly last month. Bonney helped run some of Seattle's most influential beer bars, including Brouwer's, Bottleworks, and Burgundian, before opening the Seattle outpost of Toronado (the original Toronado is an iconic beer bar in San Francisco). Phil, Matt's brother, praised his brother before raising a glass of pilsner for his brother.

"Matt passing away was very unfortunate, but with all unfortunate things you have to see the beauty and if it wasn’t for Matt we wouldn’t have bars like Toronado and we wouldn't have a lot of things in the beer industry," Phil Bonney said. "He has touched us all deeply in so many ways."

Phil Bonney memorilaizing his brother at Toronado Thursday night.
Phil Bonney memorilaizing his brother at Toronado Thursday night. Lester Black

After Toronado, we crowded into a bus and headed down to Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle. I needed to get some food so before I popped into Zeek's Pizza next door and ordered a glass of Skookum's Sabroni IPA, an opaque beer that tasted like key limes and vanilla. Zeek's collaborated with Balebreaker Brewing to make Cascade Pass, a double IPA that tasted like a pungent mix of spicy winterfresh and green hops. Also, did you know the local chain no longer serves any corporate beer and will deliver six packs of craft beer when you order pizza for delivery? Pretty cool!
Skookum knows how to haze.
Skookum knows how to haze. Lester Black

I eventually made my way over to Beveridge Place where there were a baker's dozen of casks sitting on their bar for their Cask-O-Rama event. I ordered a Machine House (duh) Nut Brown that was a predictably delicious glass of nutty pleasantness.
Brandon Pollelger of Beveridge Place pours some cask beer.
Brandon Pollelger of Beveridge Place pours some cask beer. Lester Black

I ran into Kendall Jones of the Washington Beer Blog and learned more about an event he is moderating next Friday at Reuben's. He's going to moderate panels that examine topics like hops and barrel-aged beers with some of the region's best brewers. It sounds pretty interesting.
Kendall Jones with Reubens owners Adam and Grace Robbings.
Kendall Jones with Reuben's owners Adam and Grace Robbings. Lester Black

After Reuben's the beer week party carried on to Ounces, that taproom off Delridge Way that has terrible parking but a great beer list.
Dan from Ounces pours some beer Thursday night.
Dan from Ounces pours some beer Thursday night. Lester Black

I wanted something light at this point in the night but then I saw Future Primitive's King of Hubcaps double IPA and I thought, why not get a hoppy, alcoholic, old school burner of a double IPA? It was good! And Future Primitive's brewer, Kevin Watson, has a goatee that's longer than his face so that's saying something. Plus Future Primitive co-owner (and Pine Box owner) Ian Roberts is one of the founders of Seattle Beer Week, so ordering this 8 percent double IPA in the midst of a beer crawl somehow felt right.
Ian Roberts, Kevin Watson, and Mike Baker, at Ounces.
Ian Roberts, Kevin Watson, and Mike Baker, at Ounces. Lester Black

Eventually we left Ounces and made it to Brouwer's cafe up in Fremont. I saw Aslan's Washington Gold Pils on tap so I ordered a glass, remembering the soft deliciousness I had started the evening with. But Brouwer's version was on a conventional draft system, not from a gravity keg like the one I had at Toronado. It had a pleasant grain flavor, a bit of gassy hop character, but felt considerably sharper and more bitter than the gravity version. Like I said earlier, I think that gravity keg ruined lager beer for me.
Aslans unfiltered gravity keg of pilsner may have ruined all other lagers for me.
Aslan's unfiltered gravity keg of pilsner may have ruined all other lagers for me. Lester Black