Go Seahawks! Sorry, I can’t help it. We are all just a little bit excited around here, as I’m sure all of you Denver fans are. Mark reached out to me last week to ask if I would be interested in a little wager on the big game, and as part of it we decided to each put up a post on each other’s site to give you all an idea of what makes the beer scene in each of our cities so great. I think that Colorado has one of the best beer scenes in the country and I tend to visit about every other year (I was in Breckenridge just a couple of weekends ago). I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Washington beer, but we certainly have a lot going on here in Seattle and beyond.
There are many great beer scenes in this country, and most of them can claim a multitude of breweries and beer bars. At last count, fellow beer writer Kendall Jones of the Washington Beer Blog put the total at 217 active breweries in Washington. By my count, 44 of those are in Seattle and probably twice as many would fall into the Puget Sound area. In Seattle, old school breweries like Elysian Brewing and Big Time Brewery share the stage with newer places like Reuben’s Brews and Fremont Brewing. But, even with so many breweries, I’d say that our beer bars and bottle shops are actually the most impressive part of our beer scene. Beveridge Place Pub, Pine Box, Stumbling Monk and The Sixgill recently made Draft Magazine’s list of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars for 2014, and that is leaving out equally stellar places such as Brouwer’s Cafe, Uber Tavern, Beer Junction, Collins Pub and many more.
Like I said, though, all good beer cities have plenty of breweries and bars. What really sets Seattle apart these days? A few things:
– One of my favorite things about Washington is that the large majority of our breweries don’t distribute out of state (we keep our best beer here), while at the same time we get a ton of beer distributed from the stellar breweries down south in Oregon (and all over the country/world). Local beer bars always do a great job of featuring WA breweries, but OR breweries get equal billing at some spots. Who can argue when we get the likes of Boneyard, Double Mountain, Fort George, Upright, Hair of the Dog, Cascade, Oakshire, pFriem and many more? I do have to say that the negative side of WA breweries not distributing very far is that WA beer doesn’t get a whole lot of attention or respect outside of the NW; kind of like the Seahawks.
– Good beer is really just the norm in Seattle. I don’t just mean in craft beer focused bars, I mean pretty much everywhere. It’s harder to find bars with a bad beer selection than it is to find one with a good beer selection. I’d wager a bet that you can find at least something as good as Manny’s Pale Ale from Georgetown Brewing or the African Amber from Mac & Jack’s Brewing at no less than 90% of the places pouring draught beer in the city (please don’t make me visit every one to find out). Most bars don’t even bother to put any of the typical “BMC” beers on tap that you’d find in most cities. Not only does our baseball stadium have a great selection of beer, there is a good amount of local beer pouring at Seahawks games these days (Schooner Exact IPA was one of my go-to beers at games this year). I have a better selection of beer at my local grocery store than some cities have in any retailer. It’s just normal. My closest local bar, Tippe & Drague, has become one of my favorites. They have around 20 taps of constantly rotating beers and they’ve never served anything brewed outside of WA or OR (for now…), but it is completely off the radar of most Seattle “beer geeks”. That’s just how it is.
– We may not have the country’s largest beer festival like you do in Denver, but Seattle has a seemingly never-ending slate of festivals on the calendar. Many focus on local beer, like this weekend’s Belgianfest. The night before the Super Bowl, myself and hundreds of my best beer drinking friends (okay, mostly people I don’t know) will be partaking in more than 100 Belgian-style beers all brewed by Washington breweries. That’s just one festival out of many throughout the year. Other favorites of mine include Cask Festival (100+ WA cask beers), Brouwer’s Hard Liver Festival (one of the largest barleywine fests in the country) and the Seattle International Beer Festival (beers from all over the world; strong ones). There are many others.
– Fresh Hops. Yes, breweries across the country brew fresh hop beers these days. But, it seems like almost every brewery here makes one during the hop harvest season (August/September). After all, 75% of our country’s hops are grown right here in Washington’s Yakima Valley. Even the smallest of nanobrewery can just haul a pickup truck of fresh hops back to the brewery. The Yakima Fresh Hop Ale Festival is an experience like no other, and here in Seattle I’ve helped put on the Fresh Hop Throwdown the past few years. If you are looking to visit Seattle and check out the beer scene, I’d highly encourage coming when it is fresh hop beer season (they typically pour late September to October). Oh yeah, those nice people down in OR send us many of their fresh hop beers, too.
I could keep going, but you’ve probably stopped reading by now anyways. If you can’t tell, I love the Seattle beer scene. Hell, I just love Seattle. Despite the fact that one of us will be cursing the other’s name come Monday, I hope you’ll come visit and see what I mean.
Cheers to what I hope will be a great game on Sunday. Go Seahawks.