It seems like I’m always writing about trips to places like Portland where I try to visit as many beer spots as possible in a single day, but when is the last time I did that in Seattle? Yeah, never. With the amount of beer spots to visit here in town, it’s quite amazing that I had never before taken the time to do a day long bar crawl.
That finally changed this past weekend when several of us (ranged between seven and fifteen people throughout the afternoon/evening) headed to Capitol Hill to see what was on tap around the neighborhood. With so many good beer bars in a concentrated area, it was no problem to walk everywhere we went. Chris Devlin was part of the group, and we’ll both give you some thoughts below on each spot we visited (forgive our duplicate thoughts; we put our comments together separately). Keep in mind that a bar crawl of this magnitude isn’t for the faint of heart; there was a good amount of drinking involved…and we paid for it on Sunday. But, it was worth it.
1st Stop – Hopvine
Geoff: I know people that love Hopvine, but I’ve never had a great experience there myself. Food issues, service issues, and after this trip…beer issues. Jeanne ordered a small glass of the Elysian Trip IV, which was nice, and I ordered a pint of the Iron Horse IPA, which I usually really enjoy. But, this pint was very buttery and tasted like crap. After hearing that the Silver City IPA they were pouring was also tasting a little “off”, we finished by sharing a small Boundary Bay IPA, which was thankfully free of issues. If these quality issues are a common occurrence at Hopvine (I don’t go there often enough to know), then they need to figure things out.
Chris: I live stumbling distance from the Hopvine, but I haven’t been there in about six months, because the beer quality can be a roll of the dice, and I don’t enjoy the atmosphere. I decided to start the day with an IPA. Geoff told me the Iron Horse was off, so I asked for a sample of the Silver City. It was slightly better, but off enough that I wasn’t having a pint. They also had the Deschutes Abyss and Elysian Trip IV, but other than that it was the same beers as always, so I settled for the Boundary Bay. I have better luck at their sister establishment, the Latona Pub, where they take more care with their beer quality and selection. Maybe I should’ve had soup–that’s one thing the Hopvine always does well.
2nd Stop – Smith
Geoff: I had only been in Smith once before, so I was looking forward to returning. On a Saturday at 2pm, there was a nice big table with our name on it and plenty of good beer on tap. The Big Al Pale Ale was just phenomenal, and Jeanne and I split a glass of St. Bernardus Abt 12. Their brunch menu was also enticing.
Chris: If I’m drinking beer on 15th in Capitol Hill, Smith is where I’m going. They have a good mix of locals and imports on tap (Big Al Pale, Maritime Flagship Red, Fuller’s London Porter, St. Bernardus Abt. 12) and pretty good food. The two drawbacks to Smith are the crowds (although that wasn’t an issue on a Saturday afternoon), and the fact that they use shaker pints. I reminded myself we were in for a long day, so I stuck with the lower octane Big Al and Maritime. I probably should’ve eaten something, but luckily one of our pub crawlers handed out tasty, homemade cherry rolls as we left for our next stop.
3rd Stop – Elysian
Geoff: I’ve been to Elysian many times, and it is one of my favorite breweries in town. I enjoyed my first Bifröst of the season and then followed it up with a schooner of their ESB on cask. They had a few interesting seasonals/special releases beers on the menu, but I felt like sticking with a couple classics. Jeanne ate the fish tacos here, which are always very good.
Chris: I stop by Elysian regularly because it’s one of the best spots in Capitol Hill to sit quietly at the bar and have a few pints. They always have at least a couple beers worth drinking and the bartenders are mostly very cool. I continued to play it safe here by having a Fields Pale Ale and ate fries off other people’s plates. When it’s fresh, the Fields Pale may be my favorite beer in Elysian’s regular lineup. I think it has a better hop character than the Immortal IPA. Must be the Simcoes.
4th Stop – Quinn’s
Geoff: For those not familiar with it, Quinn’s is a nice restaurant (same owners as Restaurant Zoe) with a solid beer list. Some might call it a gastropub, but I try my best to not use that word. There is a focus on Belgian beer, but you should think twice before getting any bottles because it’s crazy expensive for some things ($13 for a bottle of Orval!!!!???). I had a pint of the Speakeasy Hunters Point Porter, which is a treat that I had never seen before in Seattle. They also had a cask of Georgetown’s 9lb Porter and Russian River Pliny the Elder on tap. I had a few tastes of some small bites that various people ordered, and the Devils on Horseback (something like dates stuffed with bleu cheese and wrapped in bacon) was enough to make me want to come back again some other time for more food; outstanding. Overall, this place probably isn’t for everyone, but if you’re as interested in your food as you are your beer, then this might be a required stop. I’m also not sure the staff really enjoyed our group of 15 or so (at this point) mostly tipsy bar crawlers coming in for just a single drink and a couple of small plates…
Chris: Quinn’s is not the kind of place I’d just drop by to have a few beers. They’re more about high-end food, with beer as a complement. The draft selection is reasonably-priced and has a few surprises (including the Speakeasy Hunter’s Point Porter, a beer you rarely see outside of the Bay Area), but the markup on bottles is obscene. $12 for a Schenkerla Marzen and $13 for an Orval? You’ve gotta be kidding. I had a pint of Georgetown’s 9 Pound Porter on cask, which was alright, but more interesting was that I went omnivore for a bite of a Devil on Horseback, bacon wrapped around a cheese-filled date. My lady tried to tempt me with the beef tartare, but I wasn’t drunk enough for that–yet.
5th Stop – Oddfellows Café + Bar
Geoff: This was the only place on the crawl I had never previously visited, and I’m glad we did. It’s definitely not a beer-focused cafe, but they had a few well-picked choices on draft, including Firestone Walker IPA and Stone Smoked Porter. Oddfellows opens for coffee and light breakfast at 7am, and they have full food service from 11am to midnight. I sampled some Mac & Cheese (worthy), as well as Buffalo Fried Chicken Livers served with a bleu cheese salad; very nice. I’ll be back.
Chris: Like Quinn’s, Oddfellows focuses on food, but they surprised me with some good beers on tap (like Firestone Walker’s Union Jack IPA). At this point I was in desperate need of something to soak up the alcohol, so I got a bowl of good mac n’ cheese. The Buffalo Chicken Livers were also good (when I drink, I try a bite of anything that isn’t tartare). The only downside was that I made my one regrettable beer call of the day. Thinking more of my sobriety level than what I really wanted, I chose the Stone Smoked Porter over the Union Jack. The Stone was okay, but one taste of someone’s Union Jack reminded me that it was what I should’ve ordered.
6th Stop – Stumbling Monk
Geoff: I’ve been in the Monk more than anywhere else in the neighborhood. It has a laid-back atmosphere with no scent of pretension or beer-geekery. Just good beer with a heavy Belgian focus at great prices. I had a snifter of the Pike Entire Boubrbon Barrel Imperial Stout (tasting great) and then a bottle of the Ice Harbor Barleywine, which they haul in themselves from the brewery. This place rocks. We were all feeling good by this point…a group of four of us adults couldn’t recall how to play the boardgame “Sorry”, if that gives you any indication.
Chris: The Monk is arguably the best place to drink Belgian beer in Seattle. Where else can you find solid Belgians on tap for under $7? Also, the bottle list is extensive for a small place, and not too pricey. Everything on tap was around 10% and I was craving something sour and kinda drinkable, so I went with a bottle of the Petrus Aged Pale. It’s not exactly a session choice at over 7%, but the tart edge was just the wake up I needed to rally for our last stop of the night.
7th Stop – Summit Public House
Geoff: Amazingly, I think that about seven of us made it to the Summit to finish things off, and we were all feeling pretty good by that point. The Summit is more along the vein of the Monk: good beer in a relaxed environment. I somehow thought it was a good idea to start with a high octane Maritime Jolly Roger; couldn’t pass it up I guess. I then sipped on the low 5% ABV Firestone Walker DBA while we played quite a bit of pool and got some pizza from next door (which, was surprisingly good). I need to come here more. Overall, this was an easy crawl to do walking-wise, and I’ll hopefully be visiting most of these places more often in the future. Staying out as long as we did wasn’t necessary…but it sure was fun!
Chris: Despite having the first pint I ordered disappear, and losing twice in pool to a comically tight-shirted hipster, I had a lot of fun at Summit Public. More than any other place we visited (except for maybe the Monk), Summit is the type of place where I could spend hours. They have free pool and good beer on tap (Maritime Jolly Roger and Firestone Walker DBA, among others). I had several more pints of the DBA and stayed with the most hardcore of the group, who lasted until 1 a.m. I probably should’ve left one hour and two pints earlier, but I have no regrets. It was a good finish to a long day. Where and when for the next one?