Day Trippin’: Olympia and Tacoma

March 19th, 2010 · 11 Comments · Beer Travels, Washington Breweries

With so many fine places in Seattle to get your craft beer fix, it can be tough to sell yourself on heading down south in search of beer. But, as I reported on my last trip a few months ago down to Tacoma, some of the Puget Sound area’s finer establishments are located just a short drive down the I-5 corridor. Both Olympia and Tacoma have numerous options to explore, and a few friends and I decided to take a last minute day trip and pointed the car in that direction this past Saturday. After fighting traffic in Seattle from the Mobile Chowdown III, ComiCon, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, our thirst was building and we were on the prowl for good beer.

Our first move was a quick stop off the highway at 99 Bottles in Federal Way. This well-regarded bottle shop has been open for a couple of years now, but with so many local options around Seattle I had yet to make the trip. 99 Bottles’ core selection is pretty much on par with several of the great Seattle shops, and I can understand why the place was so busy when we visited on early Saturday afternoon. Many cities much larger than Tacoma don’t have a place to buy beer that measures up to half of what 99 Bottles offers, and anyone living in the vicinity of 99 Bottles should consider themselves lucky. As a bonus to us Seattleites, we scored some bottles from Walla Walla Brewers Yakima Craft Brewing (including their IPA), which I don’t think have made it up to the Seattle market, yet.

Another 20 or 30 miles down the road brought us to the Gravity Beer Market in Olympia. While I question our decision to start off with two destinations where we can’t actually drink beer, Gravity was yet another shop that local residents should be excited to have available to them. It has a smaller overall selection than some bottle shops, but there is plenty to keep local drinkers happy and the woman behind the counter was friendly and knowledgeable, or so it seemed in our short visit. We were all itching for a beer at this point, so we scattered out of there pretty quickly in search of something to quench our thirst.

Next up was the Eastside Club Tavern, which has been doing its part in keeping Olympians happy since opening in 1942. I’d heard great things about the Eastside, and it didn’t disappoint on our unfortunately short visit. I’ve heard some refer to the Eastside as a bit of a dive, but others might just say it’s retained much of its original character. Either way, it’s my type of place. The taps are full of enticing beers at what seemed like insanely cheap prices (all beers were $3.50 or something?). The back room was huge and had several pool tables, a ping pong table, pin-ball, and other assorted games. The vibe was laid-back and friendly, and they even had several flat screens with customers fixated on the day’s NCAA action; I sadly caught a little bit of my Boilers putting on one of the most embarrassing performances ever seen in the Big Ten tourney. I enjoyed my pint of Harmon Point Defiance IPA (from Tacoma), but there were quite a few other beers from their 35 taps that I would have loved to have tried. Just a few highlights included Iron Horse Imperial IPA, Deschutes Hop Henge, Green Flash Hop Head Red, Russian River Pliny the Elder, and Ommegang Saison. If we didn’t have plans to go elsewhere (and someone didn’t have to drive us home), we would have all been happy to park our butts on a stool and sit down for an hour or six. Even though I managed to snap a few photos, I felt way out of place pulling out my camera here. This is the type of place where you should just sit there and enjoy your beer. No rating beers, no discussing the type of hops or lack of balance in your beer, and no being a picky customer. I love a place that has such a good selection of beer but can still manage to come across as your average punch palace/watering hole. Another bonus is that there is an attached laundromat, so that you can put your clothes in the wash and then come grab a beer. The Eastside is also where we heard the best quote of the trip: “I’m gonna slap the taste out of your mouth.” Overheard from one customer to another at the Eastside Tavern in Olympia, right before the person mumbling that sentence was booted out with the bartender commenting to him, “And you wonder why you aren’t allowed to drink in here…”

While it was tempting to stop by the Fish Tale Brewpub, which was just around the corner from the Eastside, we wanted to get up to the Parkway in Tacoma in order to watch the majority of the UW game. After that, it was on to the Red Hot. I visited both of these stops on our last trip and wrote them up, so I’ll send you back there to read about them. To sum it up, they both kick some serious ass. Of note though, was of course the beers we sampled this time. The Parkway had the outstanding Big Black Homo from Walking Man Brewing, and I also really enjoyed a small glass of the 7 Seas Brewing Port Royal Foreign Stout. I haven’t had a chance to try 7 Seas beers very often since their launch last summer, and I was pleasantly surprised by this one (side note: check out news about cans of 7 Seas beer coming soon). The rest of the tap list at the Parkway was outstanding, as usual. At the Red Hot, I snagged a glass of the new batch of the Pike Double IPA, which was also known as the first annual Seattle Beer Week commemorative beer last year. Pike brewer Drew Cluley mentioned that they used even more hops in this year’s batch, and it is tasting pretty outstanding right now. It’s hard to compare it to last year’s batch, but I really enjoyed my glass.

After filling up on food and beer at the Red Hot, we headed to a place near the Tacoma Dome called the Top of Tacoma. This neighborhood bar doesn’t have 30 taps of beer or anything rare, but it’s a solid place to get a good pint and shoot some pool. We enjoyed $3.25 pints of Lagunitas IPA, which was tasting pretty fantastic. They also had Diamond Knot IPA, which sadly wasn’t living up to its usual level of enjoyment (butter…). The place was filling up quickly as we headed out the door and back to the big city with another successful beer trip in the books.

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • craig

    Thank you for the kind words.

  • Kim Sharpe Jones

    Porterhouse West Seattle has Yakima Craft IPA on tap right now.

  • Devlin

    Sorry to get all nitpicky, but we were drinking the Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale at the Top.

    Good day down South…I just wish we hadn’t gone to the Beacon Pub at the end. Those last couple beers sealed my fate as a couch zombie on Sunday.

  • Alex

    Next time you’re down this way, keep going to Centralia and visit Dick’s Brewing!

  • Pat

    7 seas Cutt’s Ale is a world class beer…unreal

  • Dan Olson

    You should drive another 20 miles on into Shelton and try out the GROVE STREET BREWHOUSE. Less than a year old and brewing some really great beer.

  • Alexis

    New rule, every “review” needs to contain a couple negatives or at least suggestions. Nothing against a praisefest, but it’s not a review if you don’t point out the pros and cons of selection, service, and of course, what you drank.

  • joe

    Next trip down, check out World Beers @ Tacoma Pipe and Tobacco. We have 850 bottles to choose from, right here in South Tacoma! Hop off the 56th st exit off of I-5 and head west we’re on the left just after Lawrence st!

  • Andy

    Someday, cross the pond to Silverdale and check out Silver City, great beer and paired foods.

  • Kaiser

    Hey Andy – We went to Silver City sometime last year and loved it. Here is the writeup:

  • Bill

    Steilacoom has a great selection of brews from all over. Jakes also has a killer view of the sound on the deck. Never dissapointing, you have to make it a mandatory stop next time south!

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