Perhaps it’s because I live in Portland and so I’m keyed in to every small detail of the Portland beer scene, especially comparisons to other regions, but it seems to me that Seattle doesn’t get a lot of hype as a beer town. Perhaps it does and I just miss it, but at least to me it seems like an unknown waiting to be explored.
My wife and I just returned from a short weekend trip up to Seattle. The purpose of the trip was a college soccer game and hanging out with family, so not at all a beercation, but since we were headed up that way, I offered to ferry homebrew samples up for one of the last competitions of the year, the Joint Novembeerfest and Puget Sound Pro-Am. Yeah, it’s a mouthful. I had a short list of a few places I wanted to hit while we were in town.
We started at Reuben’s Brews in Old Ballard. A friend of ours from the PNWHC works there and we made it a point to stop by while we were in town. Unfortunately, it was the Saturday before Halloween and they were PACKED! The dining room is small, and there’s a little bit of outdoor seating but it was pretty cramped. We both got one beer each and found a table. The Life on Mars IPA and Black Imperial IPA were both solid, we enjoyed them while we decided where to head to next. One thing that really impressed me about that Ballard neighborhood was, even though we didn’t get a chance to go anywhere else, there was NW Peaks Brewing, Peddler Brewing, and Lucky Envelope Brewing all within a 4 block radius. *Update to add: There was also a Lagunitas Tap Room in the neighborhood, which I just discovered is the old location of Hillards Brewing. We got cans of Hillards as a giveaway at the first PNWHC 2 years ago and I thought it was really good. Sad to discover they are no longer in business. Apparently, they got bought by Odin Brewing and then dissolved.
After leaving Reuben’s we decided to walk up to Ballard Way where we had seen a couple of good looking restaurants while we were trying to find Reuben’s. We ended up at the MacLeod’s Pub. Known for their fish and chips (which were excellent) they also had an interesting selection of Scottish beers including McEwan’s and Belhaven, plus a list of 250 scotch whiskeys. After some google sleuthing we discovered the Belhaven was made in Dunbar, Scotland, which is where one side of my wife’s family hails from. Needless to say we had to try them. The Scottish Ale on Nitro was OK, but it had a strange tartness to it, and seemed overly malty bordering on oxidation. We keep trying them, but it turns out neither my wife or I are big fans of beers on Nitro. Just not our jam. Next we tried bottled versions of the Twisted Thistle IPA, their version of an American Style IPA and the 90/ Wee Heavy. Both of those were quite good.
Our last stop of the night was close to our Air BnB, in Kenmore, called Nine Yards Brewing. They were much more laid back and less crowded than Reuben’s and we discovered that this was a local hangout for Washington State fans. (U of Washington is IN Seattle, so the WSU fans/alums are in enemy territory). We decided we would hang out a while and watch most of the game. This gave us a chance to try several beers there. It’s nice when places offer a 6-10 ounce short pour that’s a bit more than the typical 3-4oz “taster” but not a full pint. Most of the bars we went to in Seattle called this size a Schooner, which is ironic to me because that brings up in my mind a giant Stein. I’m not sure why. Wikipedia tells me in Australia and the UK a schooner is smaller than a pint, whereas in Canada a schooner is a large mug, usually two US pints (32 ounces) but I can’t imagine where I would have heard either of those two references before.
Nine Yards started out a little shaky (in my opinion) but then improved as the night went on. I got adventurous with my first beer and ordered a Marzen, which was good, but not great. Next, I had noticed a couple of Randalls on the wall filled with fresh cut fruit. I found the infusions on the menu and ordered the wheat with orange and it was incredible! The aroma was like squeezing a fresh wedge of orange, and the flavor was a subtle citrusyness added to the base beer. I followed that with a Mosiac dry hopped pale ale that was really nice and then finished with a roasty milk stout that was really good. The game started to get a little ugly in the wrong direction so we called it a night.
The next day before we left town, we met a friend for lunch up in Snohomish at the Trails End Taphouse. For being a random, hole in the wall joint, they had an amazing beer selection. The taps were mostly Seattle/Washington centered, but a couple Oregon offerings and then some really unique stuff like Founders Breakfast Stout and Firestone Walker Parabola (2013). They also had a really awesome bottle selection, both for on premise and take home. They had a lot of pretty sought after stuff such as Firestone Walker, Almanac, Founders, Bells, Stone, way too many to list. Two bottles in particular caught my eye and then I had to make a really tough decision. I had to decide between Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) and Fremont Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star. They were roughly the same price, but realistically I could only get one. Part of me thought I should get the KBS since I never really knew when I would see it again, but the other part of me said I should get the Fremont, since I was specifically hoping to find Dark Star while we were in town. I struggled mightily over this while we ate (great food too!) and watched the Seahawks game. When it was time to go I bit the bullet and chose the Fremont. I hope I made the right choice, but on the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a wrong choice in this aspect.
So, short trip but got to experience some local Seattle flavor. Cheers Seattle!