Seattle Beer News Top 10 Beer Spots – #2 Brouwer’s Cafe

July 19th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Bar Reviews

This is the 2012 Seattle Beer News list of the Top 10 Beer Spots in Seattle. Many great bars, pubs, and breweries won’t make this list; that doesn’t mean they aren’t outstanding places. Check out the previous post for #3.

Brouwer’s during the 2009 Sour Fest

Beer Mecca. That is the phrase that comes to mind when trying to summarize my thoughts on Brouwer’s Café. Their combination of 60+ taps of outstanding beers from around the world, an extensive bottle list with many rarities, a food menu that continues to impress, and a year-round slate of exciting special events makes it not just one of the best and most-recognized beer bars in Seattle, but in the entire country. Many locals call it their favorite bar, and most beer geek visitors to Seattle have Brouwer’s at the top of their list of places to visit. It is absolutely a world-class bar that deserves all of the recognition it gets.

The Beer: The selection at Brouwer’s is like something out of a beer geek’s wet dream. 60+ taps of well-thought-out selections entice you on any given day. Their menu is split mostly between Belgian imports and American craft beer, with other select imports thrown in as well. With their volume of taps, they do a great job of supporting local breweries while still offering beers from all over the world. They often have cask beer, as well as various beers on nitro taps. A recent tap list offered 9 Washington beers, 21 craft beers from the rest of America, 13 Belgian beers, and 7 other European imports.

You can’t miss the windows of bottles sitting quietly behind the bar, and even if you plan to stick to draft beers you should ask your server for a bottle menu to check out the selections. They can get pricey, but if you feel like splurging on something special to share with your friends, this is the place.

Brouwer’s also throws some of the best festivals anywhere. Their annual Hard Liver Barleywine Festival features 60+ taps of barleywine and is a hell of a good time. Other festivals include Hopfest (coming up on Sep 27), Sour Beer Festival, and Big Wood, which focuses on wood-aged beers. They pull out all the stops for these fests and usually have a few things on tap that you wouldn’t otherwise find in Seattle. If you can put up with the crowds, these festivals are not to miss.

The Food: The food has continued to get better and better over the years. They have a solid seasonal menu with salads, sandwiches, and offerings such as Mussels & Frites and Carbonnade. They usually have a sheet of weekly specials these days, which almost always has something difficult to pass up. They also have a bargain happy hour menu, which includes what might be the best dish in the house: a simple bowl of outstanding spaghetti Bolognese for $5.

The Atmosphere: The atmosphere at Brouwer’s is probably best described as a modern beer hall. The main floor has several booths and even more tables, and the long bar has room for probably twenty or more people to pull up a stool. The room is large and cavernous, and there is a wrap around second level that holds even more tables, as well as the “parlor” room which has a large table perfect for groups. The design is modern and wouldn’t exactly be described as cozy. While the layout works well for large events and festivals, it definitely does not have the feel of a local corner bar. I’m OK with that. On weeknights, the atmosphere is pretty relaxed. But, the place fills up on weekends with the local Fremont crowd, college kids, and all other walks of life. Loud music is not a rarity.

Overall: This place is special. Their everyday selection paired with their events makes it a cornerstone of the Seattle beer community. Locals are lucky enough to be able to visit whenever they’d like. Visiting beer enthusiasts just wish they could.

Brouwer’s Cafe
400 N. 35th St.
Seattle WA 98107
206-267-BIER (2437)

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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Zac

    This is easily one of my top-5 places to visit in Seattle – for beer or otherwise. Any idea as to when Brouwer’s will expand to central Missouri?

  • Sanford

    I can’t argue with the quality of Brouwer’s selection, but I have yet to go there at a time when I didn’t have to yell to the person sitting with me in order to have a conversation. Not my vibe. If I had the time/lifestyle to go there on a weeknight, I would, but I’ll take BPP or Uber over Brouwer’s any day.

  • tad

    What I really cherish is when you go to a place with an extensive beer menu and the bartender plops down the menu and asks what you want to drink. You feel very lucky to have their attention and the elusive offer of having your order taken, but you have no idea yet which beer you want. So you ask for a minute to decide, and the bartender, having fulfilled their duty, never comes back to you. Especially precious is when you see them over chatting with folks they know as the clock ticks down on the amount of time you have to be out getting a beer.

  • John

    Does this mean we can assume that Beveridge Place is #1?

  • Victor

    Good beer selection but I’ve always had horrible experiences with the wait staff and bartenders. Just rude and almost impossible to get a drink. Their ego has gone to their heads. It’s unfortunate 🙁

  • Sanford

    @Tad – have had that very same experience several times! Usually just order from the bar.

  • Greg

    Not sure when all the other commenters are going to Brouwer’s…it’s a regular stop for me (I live in Wallingford and my gal is in Fremont) and I can count on one hand the number of bad experiences I’ve had in Brouwer’s over the years. 1) Waitress forgot to put in my food order, had to remind her 30 min later. 2) Trying to order at the bar at any festival. One of the lady bartenders gets REALLY cranky. 3) Same bartender snapping at me at the bar I can’t order two beers at once (for comparison purposes). The servers theorize this is only for lack of space, and it’s fine at the tables. They are invariably knowledgeable on the beer (except when it’s all new at festival time) and unfailingly friendly. Wave them over if they haven’t been by your table in a while. And visit if possible during the week or a Sunday at happy hour.

  • Steve_2.0

    Beer as a cocktail or a single malt scotch ? !
    Sure ! Specialty stuff; knock yourself out !

    I honor and appreciate Bottleworks for creating such a special place, appreciated by many.

    It’s just not (usually) my cup of tea; or, eh, beer !

    My BEST experiences here have been on weekday nights during Happy Hour. You can get some AWEsome beer for $1 off .. (maybe more?). It’s more low-key during HH on weekdays, too.

    On the downside for me is the ‘Pretense’, “Attitude” and liquor (it’s just the crowd … i.e. single malts vs. blended scotches)

    You can probably find some AWEsome beers here from Belgium for $15 — $30 a piece ! Waaay cheaper than a trip or phone call to Belgium.

    But for me … it’s just Beer .. it should taste good-great and not be expensive.

    I feel more comfortable at “Stumbling Monk”. And my wallet stays thicker, also.

  • Nick S

    Brouwer’s may be beer mecca, but like Mecca, attracts more than its share of pilgrims. It’s simply too crowded and unpleasant to deal with on a weekend night, especially if you are there with even a small sized group (more than 2 people).

    The primary reason for this, I believe, is the lack of a host/hostess (at least when I’ve visited). Instead of being able to put your name on a list for a table, you have beer geeks nervously roaming the hall, upstairs and down, hovering over patrons that look like they may be nearing the end of their glass (“Excuse me, are you guys leaving?”)… only to order another one. So, you order a beer at the bar, your belly rumbling while seated patrons gobble frites, standing awkwardly between the bar and a table, glancing every which way for a free table.

    This is not pleasant or relaxing, but does make you feel a bit smug when you do finally score a table and get your order in, glancing around at the poor, desperate slobs doing what you were just doing for the last half hour.

    Here’s to hoping that Brouwer’s will add a host and seating list. Until then, I’m unlikely to return, at least on a weekend.

  • Service?

    I have been to Brouwers so many times and I honestly love the atmosphere, food and beer. BUT we stopped going after so many experiences waiting for beer, and more importantly when asking about the selection getting lukewarm response from the wait staff. I love to go into pubs and try the new drafts, talk about what is next on their rotating taps, and get input on what they like and why. I have never gotten much out of the staff and thirsty as I am HATE waiting 10 minutes or more for them to take my order. We work practically next door and have basically given up on them. Maybe they will get better after these posts.

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