Finding a special brew is easy on East Pike

Looking for an unusual beer, but don't know where to find it? No worries mate, just hop into Pike Street Beer and Wine and check out the stock.

Not only will you find Foster's, everyone's favorite Australian brew, but also Lev, from the Czech Republic, Singha from Thailand, San Miguel from the Philippines and almost every beer you have ever heard of. More than 500 different brands from who knows how many countries stand on the racks. For those less inclined toward hoppy suds, a variety of quality wines fill shelves against one wall.

The shop at 518 E. Pike St. occupies two store fronts at the at the northeast corner of Belmont Avenue and East Pike Street. The outside has something of the look of an old-time shop. Inside it is spare and modern, letting the racks of bottles make any statement that needs to be made.

Beers are sorted by country, as with the European countries, or by continent, as in the African, Asian and South American brews. On the United Kingdom rack is a quart bottle of Wells Banana Bread Beer. It says, right there on the label, "brewed with bananas."

U.S. micro-brews and craft beers are well represented, and even the big macro-brews can be found as well. Should you, for whatever reason, want Budweiser, you can get that, too.

"We are a specialty beer store," noted proprietor Anthony Yap ("But everybody calls me Tony."). Though he has been open less than two months he is already building a coterie of regular customers.

Yap spent many years going overseas for an American company, setting up foreign businesses. The notion of having his own business had been brewing for some time, and this year it finally came to a head when he opened his shop.

"I got fed up working for other people," Yap said simply and sincerely. "I've always liked beer and wine. Why not do something you like?"

And what is his favorite beer?

"That's a tough question," he said. I like a lot of different beers."

But he admitted that his taste runs to the Belgian beers, which may explain why he has two freestanding racks, packed both sides, with 50 or more varieties from Belgium. It is better represented than any other country. He tries to stock every Belgian beer imported to the states.

"They are among the best beers in the world, and they have a lot of following in the area," Yap said.

Beer education is part of Yap's plan, and to that end he has beer tastings in his shop every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Brewery representatives are scheduled to pour and discuss the fine points of the beers they are featuring. This weekend, Bill Hemmen of the Mendocino Brewing Company, of Hopland, Calif., will be showing off the company's traditional ales. Dec. 14 will feature a variety of winter beers, and Dec. 21 will, perhaps not surprisingly, feature Christmas beers.

Some of the tastings focus on foreign beers, some on American and some are mixed.

"Some of the American beers are really good, and a fraction of the price of some imported beers," Yap said.

The tasting on Dec. 28 brings in the wine side of the shop, just in time for New Year and the shop will be breaking out the bubbly. Yap promises "killer sparklers" for less than $20.

"We are a small business," Yap said. "But we try to have a wide selection of wines."

Since he has been open for such a short time, Yap is still learning his customers' tastes and still stocking up.

"I think this is a great place to be," Yap said of Capitol Hill. "On Capitol Hill, I have high visibility and there is no store like this around here."

Yap also hopes to make arrangements with local artists to hang their work in the store and sell it off the back wall. He has not quite gotten to that, but it is part of his plan to become a vital element of the neighborhood.

He said he has had many good comments from customers. The comments and the repeat trade make him think that people like the store and that he has landed in the right place. Plus, the business has at least one great advantage over others.

"I get to taste all different kinds of beer every day," he said, laughing.

Pike Street Beer and Wine, 518 E. Pike St., is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information call 778-1086.

Korte Brueckmann lives on the Hill and can be reached at
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