The principal reason was a family gathering for the beautiful one of the family's 21st birthday, but whilst I was there I thought I'd better see what changes in the beer world have taken place in the 10 years since my last visit.

I was astonished. Cousins Cliff and George took me round all the usual haunts, and I have to say I was thrilled that every bar had a selection of local ales, and I did not even notice the like of Coors, Bud and the usual rubbish! Washington State has recently gone down the no smoking channel, hallelujah! It was great, and I can't wait for the next 14 months to zip past over here.

This part of the world has long been famous for its micro-breweries, especially round Oregon and the Portland district, but now everyone is having a go. Seattle is a hotbed of small breweries. My complaint over the years is that they make fine tasting beers, but spoil it all by putting them under gas. This is slowly changing - though in a funny way there are now brew pubs that will put on 6 or 7 beers and proudly announce they have one that is cask conditioned. In my experience these cask beers tend to be good, and it is quite amusing seeing them poured from a high pump by people who haven't a clue what real ale is all about. Subsequently the beers tend to be so cloudy that no self-respecting British publican would ever serve them. Having said that the porters and stouts were good and I just enjoyed having a real pint so far away. The local cider that is served on draught is also very good - just the stuff to wash down some beef jerky from an Indian reservation.

We went to The Tap House in Bellevue where there was a range of 150 draught beers - all very well but no cask conditioned here. Also visited was The Pick and Shovel near Enumclaw where they had Liverpool vanquishing Arsenal live on TV to accompany a great pint of the local real ale, so all was well in the world that day. I went up to Snoqualmie Falls and visited the brewery and tasted everything; all very good. I particularly liked the Snoqualmie Avalanche winter ale, a darkish strong beer at 7%; we came away with around 30 assorted pints for the party to celebrate my daughter's birthday.

Back in Seattle there were many good bars like Jabu's and the odd Irish pub that served great food and very palatable beers too. My favourite joint was the Elysian Brewing Company bar in Capitol Hill. The staff were incredibly friendly, the food great and the beer wonderful. A beer from Oregon I seemed to drink copious quantities of was Rogue, a well-rounded rich bitter, similar in style to Caledonian Deuchars IPA. My only gripe was the price of wine not only in the bars but also the supermarkets: the average price for a 175cl glass being around $6, roughly £3.50. A great time had by all the family and I'm waiting eagerly for my next visit to this beautiful part of the world.

Jerry Brown
[Rogue beers can be found in some off-licences and supermarkets over here - Ed]