I know it’s department of redundancy department around here sometimes, but let me repeat myself again in setting up this post that Seattle, Washington, was the home of some of my finest experiences with microbrewed craft beer. Not only was it the place where I had my first truly great ale (RED HOOK, 1989), but I lived there for two years circa 1997-99 for graduate school, and intimately learned the whys & wherefores of many fine Northwest breweries (Deschutes, Bert Grant’s and Alaskan most prominently). I returned to Seattle this past weekend for a 10-year gradschool reunion, something I never imagined myself doing, but you know, it was Seattle. Any opportunity to return to what I call “America’s second-best city” is always welcome.
Naturally, drinking great beers was going to be part of my beergenda, I mean agenda. I’m going to break these posts into two parts, one detailing the handful of NW beers I was able to sample during my brief visit, and another separate post on my visit to BROUWERS. So cutting to the chase – I started off the non-reunion part of my trip with a visit to the BOTTLEWORKS store in the Wallingford neighborhood (pictured). You guys ever read THE BEER RETARD? Well, he works there. Chris is the fella’s name – a great American. And funny enough, Bottleworks is located a mere 4 blocks from my 1998-99 abode in Wallingford. My studies may have taken a far different turn had it been open and running during that time; as it was, they did open in ’99, right as I was moving back to San Francisco, and are celebrating their 10-year anniversary now.
BOTTLEWORKS is a heaven-sent beer emporium, right up there with CITY BEER STORE and HOP CITY and BIERKRAFT. Better still, they’ve installed taps there now, so they have an honest-to-god bar right inside the store, pouring weirdo Northwest beers you’ve never heard of. Everything in the store is chilled, and divided into US, German, Belgian and English sections. It’s no so huge you get overwhelmed, but you can definitely do some financial damage here. Luckily Chris steered me to a few stellar Washington beers I’ve never had, all of which were 22-ounce bombers for under $5 (!). Reviews of each shall be forthcoming, once I get them into my digestive tract.
That night at a grad school event I had a pint of GEORGETOWN BREWING’s MANNY’S PALE ALE. This brewer does not bottle their wares, and instead gets their beers into as many bars and restaurants as will carry it. MANNY’S is a rock-solid pale ale. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A cloudy, straw-colored pale ale with a lot of flavor and a good deal more hoppiness than I’d expected. Honey flavor, not in a cloying way but very much adding to the drinkability. I’ll bet this will continue making its way into a lot of restaurants etc. – nothing at all to argue with here. 7/10. I topped that off with a very pleasurable MAC & JACK’S AFRICAN AMBER, which we reviewed last year right here.
On Saturday, in perfect 80-degree weather, after the University of Washington college football game, I had time to kill on my own. It was high time for beer hunting. I drove to the Greenwood neighborhood, home of a place I’d read about called NAKED CITY TAPHOUSE (as well as of GORDITO’S, the tacqueria my wife and I went to incessantly when we lived in Wallingford). Well, I got distracted by a place across the street from NAKED CITY called the PILLAGER’S PUB even before I found the former bar, whose sign was obscured by trees (they grow ‘em big in the Pacific Northwest). PILLAGER’S PUB is a pirate-themed bar, I kid you not. And yet I still walked in there, because of their fine selection of local beers and general airy, easy vibe on a Saturday late afternoon. They pour their own “Three Skulls” brand of beer of multiple taps, along with the entire lineup of German-themed beers from BARON BREWING, another local concern. I skipped all of these in favor of a beer from a brewery that’s not really even in existence yet called BREAKAWAY BREWING – they’re “coming soon”. How’s that for rare & hard-to-find, Aaron Goldfarb? BREAKAWAY IPA had strong bitter hops and poured a lovely, murky yellow/orange. Real deep piney hops shooting through this one – this is a man’s man’s IPA. If you like bitter, you’ll love these guys’ first beer. I love bitter. 8/10.
Finally, and I’m telling this all out of order here, but before the game I went to another old haunt, SCHULTZY’S SAUSAGE in the U-District, right by the school. When I was regularly grabbing lunch here in the nineties it was a little hole-in-the-wall; now Schultzy’s is a full-fledged restaurant and beer hall, with waitresses, big TV's and everything. I highly recommend a visit for lunch & beers next time you’re in Seattle, even if it’s a “student place”. I hate early-afternoon drinking, but I couldn’t pass up tacking onto my order a pint of CHUCKANUT ALT that they had on draught from Bellingham’s CHUCKANUT BREWERY. Their alt is a clean, copper-colored opaque altbier, much like ALASKAN AMBER but with a deeper caramel malt body and more bitterness. It adds some carbonated zing and a lot of complexity. Maybe a little too much zing at times. I was impressed, but by the end I’d had enough. Could have been the time of day. Let’s call it a 6.5/10 and “promise to have another one next time I’m in Seattle” (right!).
Come back to this space soon for an epic Part 2 of Let’s Go…..Drinking In Seattle!