Published on June 2nd, 2014 | by Katie Lowery


Hillard’s hails Chrome Satan with its own can

Chrome: it’s sexy and shiny. When you see a gleaming vehicle blazing down the street, you can’t help but stare. Satan: a mystery of evil. Filling our lives with temptation, the dark lord leads humanity astray.

You may be asking yourselves what these two things have to do with each other and if it might have something to do with beer – turns out, it does.

Hilliard’s Chrome Satan, a sexy/evil/shiny/deceptive chimera of a beer has long been a sought-after tap handle in Northwest pubs. This spring, Hilliard’s Beer, based out of Seattle, took these two elements and combined them into a newly-released can for an experience like none other. Now we don’t have to wait for it to rotate through at our local watering hole; we can get our Chrome Satan any time we want it. Feels almost sinful, doesn’t it?

The Pacific Northwest and in particular Washington is one of the richest beer environments in the world. This area is home to top breweries and some of the best bars and pubs. We literally have hundreds of breweries at our fingertips here in Washington. Hilliard’s is one these great breweries.

launch party by mipride

Chrome Satan’s launch party captured by instagram user @mipride

In October of 2011, Ryan Hilliard and Adam Merkl opened the brewery with the intent of making great craft beer with the best available ingredients.  As their website states, “ At Hilliard’s, we are dedicated to simplicity, excellence and care of process in brewing beer that can be appreciated by the informed and informal beer drinker.”  They continue, “We believe in quality without exclusivity or pretentiousness, from our ingredients to our community involvement.”

That statement alone makes me love Hilliard’s: beer for the people, by the people. But let’s get back to Chrome Satan.

First, as evocative as the name is, Chrome Satan is first and foremost an anagram for “anchor steam.” Why? Well, San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing company, the first popularizers of the distinctive West Coast “steam beer,” trademarked the name “anchor steam” and aligned it with their particular style of steam beer, also known as “California Common Beer.” A well hopped lager, steam beer is characterized by its higher than normal fermentation temperatures.

So what do you do when the company that has defined the conception of steam beer trademarks the name? You strike out on your own with a dramatic name to go with a very good product. Because Chrome Satan is a very, very good steam beer.

I remember the first time I had Chrome Satan. Back then, it was only on tap and you really could only get it at the brewery, located in Ballard.  Now, if you are from Tacoma like I am, it is hard to get up to Seattle on a regular basis.  However, when you taste something like Chrome Satan it changes you. It deceives you in a way that didn’t think possible; it leads you astray in the sense that you cannot believe is real (you know, like Satan).  That first time it hit my lips, I nearly teared up.  It’s a lager. It can’t taste that good. But it does.

On May 6, the sun was shining, but it was still chilly as the winds came off the Ballard Locks. The atmosphere was electric. The Hillard’s taproom is one of those places that you feel at home and doesn’t feel like a brewery although you’re surrounded by can machines and fermentation tanks.

As South Seattle band The Bad Things set up the stage and the Plum Bistro food truck began slinging vegan tasty food,  the Hilliard’s staff ran around making sure everyone had been welcomed and had a glass or can to enjoy.

Katie on the Chrome Satan throne

Author Katie Lowery assumes the Chrome Satan throne

The Hilliard’s staff had painstakingly constructed a throne of Chrome Satan cans, begging for photo ops. Of course, I sat my ass down, assuming the throne, and contemplated my building anticipation to try Chrome Satan via can.  Usually, when it comes to brews, they taste better through the tap, and I would be lying if I said I was not nervous to try the copper lager. Just a few weeks prior, The Red Hot had Chrome Satan on tap and I’m pretty sure I did some damage on that keg, so my expectations were dangerously high. With excitement, I ran to the line, chatted it up with the bartenders and secured my own chrome can.

It was shiny. It glowed. The can’s black and red design kept with the simple, retro style Hilliard’s has become known for. And when I finally took my first sip, I was transported back to my first taste, it was so good. As I enjoyed my very first canned Chrome Satan, I was relieved (and maybe a little irrationally ecstatic) that it tasted just like it came out of the tap. Basically, it’s damn good and now available everywhere.

As I took in the party, surrounded by friends and strangers, I realized I was lucky to be there. I love beer. I love the taste of it. I love learning about the process of making it. I love the individuals who take time to get the science behind it right.  And that is what Hilliard’s does so well.

As we departed back to Tacoma, with a belly full of food and drink, and hands full of Chrome Satan cans, I knew I couldn’t wait to spread the gospel in Tacoma. When it comes to this summer BBQing season, I will be bringing my four-pack of Chrome Satan; I mean, everyone needs to be seduced and led just a little astray at some point, why not by a lager?

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About the Author

Katie Lowery is in love with Tacoma. Especially when it involves community, drinking, food, music, and the arts. Bartender/Cook at The Parkway Tavern, Co-Owner of The Warehouse, and Director of First Night Tacoma. BOOM, goes the dynamite.

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