Exploring Seattle’s Booming Beer Scene

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Seattle is home to nearly 70 breweries – a staggering number more than few states can boast. Summer is one of the best times to lie on your back in this ocean of cool beer as the pandemic loosens its grip. While breweries continue to take root in this thirsty city, sometimes in the most unexpected places, there is always something new to try and a new place to go. Ersatz biergartens have proliferated in parking lots as the pandemic has forced breweries to get creative with how to collect people safely.

Exhibit A consists of tall buildings about three miles north of downtown Seattle, where a gray industrial estate has become a popular brewery in just a few years. Eleven breweries with tap houses occupy the roughly six-block square of the now-named place. Ballard Brewery District; Another opening of Bale Breaker Brewing Company, a respected brewer, will take place in late summer.

But even this list doesn’t quite capture the sudden momentum. Turn your eyes a few more blocks in any direction and the number of breweries with tap rooms increases. Cloudy Beer He added a satellite broadcast room to the nearby brewery about a mile west of here. It sits a little further south holy Mountain Beer, one of the best microbreweries in the country. A beer lover can wander around for days. Best of all, nearly everything is so close that the thirsty and curious can explore on foot or with one of Seattle’s ubiquitous shared scooters or city bikes.

The robbers didn’t know if anyone was coming, but customers started arriving before they even opened. Two more breweries opened within eight months. One of these Stoup Beer. Like Robbings, Lara Zahaba, who started Stoup with her husband, Brad Benson, wanted to make a beer near the bustling neighborhoods nearby. Both owners said the more breweries popped up, the better all breweries were doing. “Rising foams lift all boats,” Adam Robbings joked.

Craft beer is a peer industry. It’s not uncommon in the neighborhood these days to see a forklift driving down the street as a brewer drops grain for an understaffed colleague. 11 breweries in the immediate area have collaborated on everything from a beer festival to unified pandemic safety protocols (including common signs of the need to wear masks when not at the table, and an agreement not to allow groups that exceed government mandates).

Wandering around the neighborhood at noon in mid-June, at first, nothing seemed to have changed since I lived nearby ten years ago, practically the only reason to come was to look for a body shop, not a well-made mechanic. farmhouse beer. I drove past a wreck site, past a company that did asphalt stripping and a company that did heavy equipment repairs.

Sometimes the air would shake to the ominous sound of a large ship’s horn in the nearby Lake Washington Ship Canal. The scene made me happy. So much about Seattle has become luxurious over the last decade, leaving much of the city feeling polished and superficial. Yet here was the more smug city I fell in love with decades ago, less affluent, less concerned with looks, less like everywhere else—even it was changing.

I followed the cracks in the pavement obec Beer, starting point for my slow progressing bacchanal. There I met Tan Vinh, a food and beverage critic for the Seattle Times.. Tan is an old friend with an unfailing palate. He also knows the city’s beer scene better than almost anyone. That pint was my Virgil.

Obec’s layout is typical of breweries everywhere in the neighborhood, so to say the pandemic has turned the place upside down. Everyone was now sitting outside, under white tents, at picnic tables set on the asphalt in the front.

The Pacific Northwest is famous for its great, hoppy beers that suit a region that grows about 95 percent of the country’s hops. Obec turns the other way, proudly presenting its less aggressively forward-looking Old Country beers. The highlight was the garnet, a garnet-colored beer that sits between pilsner and dark ale, which is rarely made outside of the Czech Republic. At Obec and elsewhere, users can often order 5-ounce bulk flights. (about $2 to $3) so they can sip on countless offerings without falling off the bar stool.

Then we walked about four blocks away. Fair Isle Brewing, its beautiful interior with wooden beams evokes the inside of the kegs where some of its beers are conditioned. In the land of IPAs, “We produce Saisons and farmhouse beers… and that’s it,” says Fair Isle’s website. Highlighting funky yeasts and bacteria, these so-called “wild” beers are popular right now. A portion of Fair Isle’s patio is reserved as a pop-up area for the city’s young talented chefs to test their concepts or promote their brands.

The beer district has become the coveted real estate for food trucks, given the taverns’ lack of cuisine. This is not drunken food. Seattle’s most celebrated chef, Tom Douglas, sells sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas, and manages the occasional pop-up from his company’s warehouse space in the brewery district, which he partially redesigned during the pandemic. Serious TakeOut. (Try the smoked turkey sandwich with pimento cheese, $12.)

Elsewhere you can find food trucks or pop-ups selling smashed burgers, birria tacos, and even an excellent bowl of shoyu chashu ($15). Midnite Ramen food truck. I settled on Fair Isle with a crispy house saison ($6 and $9) and a nice margherita pie. from Guerilla Pizza Cuisine.

We went to Stoup Brewing one afternoon. Its patio is spacious, its walls are surrounded by brightly colored shipping containers, and rough-edged wooden boards are topped by picnic tables. Stoup is known for producing forward-thinking West Coast IPAs such as its signature IPA, which features Citra hops, the current star hop of the beer world with its distinctive citrus flavor.

With 20 taps, the beer list is always solid, said Tan, with a 5-ounce tray (from $2.50 to $4) ahead of us. He took a sip of Stoup’s Robust Porter and declared it more than solid. “One of the best porters in Seattle,” he said. (The Doorman has won several awards.)

At Stoup and elsewhere, the clock determines the customer. On weekday afternoons, parents often meet up while their kids play Jenga and board games. After 5 pm, technicians and office workers come in for a cold. On quiet weekends, dogs and their owners frequent the courtyards, and teams from the ballpark around the corner gather to laugh and retell the game that has just ended. All this adds to the feeling that more than just beer is being fed here.

On a sunny Thursday, every table on the spacious porch of Reuben’s Brews was filled by 4:22 pm and the waiting list had begun. (It can run to 100 people on a busy evening.) The scene felt like a plain Oktoberfest. This place is perhaps the area’s biggest draw for a reason: Everything Reuben’s Brews makes is thoughtfully done and sometimes exceptional, Tan told me. And there’s variety, too: Two dozen beverages are on sale, from rye beers and home-brewed alcoholic seltzer to a draft-conditioned beer collaboration with another local brewer, Machine House Brewery. Reuben’s now has three locations in the neighborhood.

I had a reservation at the brewery’s new Barrel House, an ordinary metal building that was Ballard’s rickhouse version of a distillery: cool, quiet, somewhat dim, the walls were previously lined with 100 barrels of French oak containing gin, red wine or bourbon, but would now help add flavor to the beer. The focus is on time-consuming beers. We ordered apricot sour Czech style and a barrel fermented doppelbock. Both were perfect. But the third beer got us cold: It was a style of old ale called Wormwood Scrubs, and was two years in the making, including secondary fermentation in oak barrels. “It tastes like stinky blue cheese,” Tan said. “I love it. Beautifully crafted.” It was the best beer we had tasted all week.We sat in the cool warehouse, tried the big beer and the fig, vanilla and bourbon in it, without rushing to go elsewhere.

You don’t need to feel constrained by the boundaries of the Ballard Brewery District. You can walk this last beer about a mile west by heading to Cloudburst in Shilshole, the shoebox outpost of Cloudburst Brewing (with its embedded dough truck) near the brewery Pike Place Market. Nominated for the 2020 James Beard Foundation Award, Steve Luke is a magician who builds higher-alcohol IPAs that often lack the heat or sharp elbows that such beers can exhibit in less hands.

But the brewery district has lots of interesting beers and people watching if you don’t want to wander around. The day after lunch, I sat down at a picnic table. Urban Family Brewing Co. It was only Wednesday, but the place was half full. “Is this a bichon?” At a nearby table, a young woman guzzled at another woman holding a leash attached to a small white bath mat. “Does it lick everything? My dog ​​licks everything. Bichon something?”

The two strangers began to talk. “Uno!” yell. victory over your younger sister. Their father stared at them as they sipped a ruby ​​grapefruit sour beer. A pickup truck pulled up to Stoup Brewing across the street and emptied the vegetable bins. Soon people in the neighborhood would drop by and probably raise a pint while they buy their organic carrots. Every table around me was full before I left.

It was a growing community, a flower sprouting from a crack in the pavement. This flower was watered down with beer and it was going great.


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