#40 African Amber: Mac & Jack’s Brewery, Redmond, Washington
State: I’ve got mad love for our Cascadian sister state, even if Seattle is the L.A. of the PNW. While it gave us an admirable wealth of great music, let’s not forget Washington also spawned Candlebox, Microsoft, Starbucks, and WASRT.
Brewery: Began back to 1994, Mac & Jack’s focuses on accessible beers and remains draft-only, explaining why it's on tap everywhere. Yes, there really is a Mac and a Jack.
Beer: There are around 150 breweries in the state, many making creative and delicious beers, yet Washingtonians honestly do rave about this 5.2 percent alcohol African Amber marked by its confounding banality.
Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Distributed all across Washington and parts of Oregon and Idaho. It’s available at Bete Lukas Ethiopian restaurant but don’t let the name fool you, it’s not really an African beer.
Average score: 56.25 (Washington’s state marine animal, the orca, easily won the tie-breaker with Mississippi.)
Washington’s Yakima Valley produces some 80 percent of all the hops grown in America. But this malt bomb gets the state’s pedestal? Brewers here compose some of the most thoughtful IPAs in the land. It shares in Cascadian Dark Ales’ provenance. It claims the country’s first modern brewpub (RIP Yakima Brewing & Malting a.k.a. Grant’s Brewery) and largest pumpkin beer fest, care of Elysian Brewing. Yet folks here treat African Amber—known to most simply as “Mac’n’Jack’s,” to the disregard of all/any other beers it brews—as if it’s starring in some sequel to Reality Bites.
It’s downright frustrating that a beer like this had to represent the state (it’s not like the Sonics are around to do it) when there are beers like Sound Brewing Co.’s Monk’s Indiscretion that should do the talking for Washington brewing. It’s a 10 percent Belgian Strong Ale that’s abundantly dry-hopped making it seriously everything African Amber is not. It’s rich, complex yet approachable, and would pair nicely with Finocchiona salami from Salumi or the Fig, Fennel, and Almost bar from Theo Chocolate, or many other Washington institutions.
By the way, tickets are not yet sold out for the upcoming Elysian Great Pumpkin Beer Fest. That’s a better way to enjoy Washington.
For anyone curious how the tie-breaker went down between Shamu and Flipper: