All right, now where were we? Oh right, it’s last Saturday. I’ve just finished watching the Washington Huskies vanquish the hated Idaho Vandals in person with a bunch of my ex-grad school classmates at “Husky Stadium”, and I’ve subsequently started exploring Seattle on my own, stopping at various beer watering holes on the way. Well, it’s dinnertime. I’m saving the main beer event for last. It’s time for my first-ever trip to BROUWER’S CAFÉ in the Fremont district. Get this – I even own a Brouwer’s t-shirt, which I bought through the excellent Desteenation t-shirt company, but I’d never supped ales there before. Everyone told me this was the #1 beer hotspot in all of Seattle, and that I couldn’t earn any Northwest drinking stripes without a sit-down there. I wanted those friggin’ stripes.
The Fremont neighborhood, though small, has one of those classic cool-city neighborhood vibes, with all the Thai restaurants, hipster bars & bookstores you can handle, with no chain stores of any renown. Fremont also is a quintessential “maritime” ‘hood, being right on a lake, with a bridge that rises and lowers to let boats pass through, and a perfect view from the waters’ edge of greater Seattle, Mount Rainier and so on. I went to my first-ever beer festival there in 1998, and used to drink frequently at HALE’S ALES about a mile or so away from the main part of the district. BROUWER’S CAFÉ has located itself slightly off the main path in a big wooden building with exceptionally high ceilings, and thus has a cool, clean, well-maintained warehouse feel, without all the de rigeur exposed piping and strange angles so typically of a 1990s-era microbrewery. It is a Valhalla of beer. Not only does it have an astounding selection of draft beers from Belgium, Germany and the four corners of the United States, Brouwers also has a superlative bottle selection, all the fancy-schmancy glassware you’d expect, and even prides itself as an honest-to-god restaurant, not a pub. It appears to be frequented by beer connoisseurs of all colors and creeds, not the standard-issue beard/glasses/belly male varietal.
So while I grazed on a weak spinach salad and an excellent shrimp ravioli, I also tried a couple of beers. First choice was an easy one: RUSSIAN RIVER PUBLICATION. Yes! This beer is only on tap at the country’s great beer bars and at the brewery itself, which, yeah, is only 90 minutes from my house, but how often do I really get up there? Sadly, not often enough. PUBLICATION is a saison loaded with hops and Brettanomyces bacteria – you know, the good stuff. It has a very mild sourness and lots of “zest” in the flavor, tasting slightly of butterscotch if you can believe it. The aftertaste is full of juicy yeast and pepper. Another total knockout beer from one of the grandmasters of world brewing. I wished I’d had a far larger glass than the 10 ounces they plied me with. 8.5/10.
My next, and sadly, my final beer (I was driving) was a tough call. Rather than spin the wheel and go for a Northwest beer of unknown provenance and goodness, I noticed that they had Hedonist Beer Jive’s #2 favorite beer in the world, TRIPLE IMPERIALE from BRASSERIE DE L'ABBAYE DES ROCS, on draft. I’ve only had it in bottles. Too good to pass on, and no question about it, this is one of the finest ales ever crafted by man. It retains its 10/10 ranking by HBJ – with bells on, you know what I mean? This is a beer that I’ll just make a point of ordering every time I see it, period. It’s that good. I exited BROUWER'S with a single tear streaming down my face, as I so wished to consume more beer, and yet the totalitarian, police state driving laws of AmeriKKKa prevented me from doing so. Nah, I’m just funnin’ ya, that was more than enough beer spelunking for a day. Next trip I’ve got planned is to Chicago in a few weeks – check this space for the “deets”, as the youngsters say.