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

February 11th, 2011 · 24 Comments · Bar Reviews

This is the 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 13 Washington beers, 24 craft beers from the rest of America, 19 Belgian beers, and 5 other European imports. Highlights included Silver City Fat Woody Scotch Ale, Walking Man Homo-Erectus Imperial IPA, De Dolle Oerbier, Russian River Consecration, Boulder Freshtrack Wet Hop, and quite a few more.

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 Hard Liver Barleywine Festival, coming up on March 12, features 60+ taps of barleywine and is a hell of a good time. Check out the list of barleywines from last year. Other festivals include Hopfest, 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.

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)


24 Comments so far ↓

  • Mikki

    This is my all time favorite bar in Seattle. Love the atmosphere, food, beer selection, location, music they play… need I say more.

    I am having trouble finding out who number one was? Can you please provide a link? Who can be better than Brouwers?

  • Ian

    Brouwers is one of the biggest things I miss about Seattle. Whenever I get back there, Brouwers is a must. Lamburger? Yes please!

    I’m really curious to see who’s better than Brouwers, can’t wait for #1.

  • Frank Belson

    While I love Brouwers, I feel you were remiss in not pointing the sometimes awful service. I’ve sat at the bar for 10 minutes (yes, I timed it, not my first visit), while the bartender talked to a friend. Not another customer, they were discussing where they were going out that night. Sadly, this is not an isolated case.

    I love the room, the food and the beer selection. I’ve had some excellent service while sitting at tables. But it’s playing bartender roulette when you sit at the bar.

  • patrick

    it’s beveridge place guys, com’on.

  • derkruk

    Think I have your number 1 pick figured out. Not many options left. It must be the Taphouse! 🙂
    I keed, I keed.

  • Erik Wood

    I’m guessing #1 is going to be Beverage Place

  • Ted

    I like Brouwer’s but do have to agree with Frank. One time saw a bartender draw a penis and balls in the condensation on the beer refrigerator window behind the taps. Having those kinds of people working doesn’t necessarily jive with the upscale image they’re trying to pull off. Stressing out about trying to find a place to sit and trying find someone to order a beer from always ends up ruining the experience for me.

  • Kuroda

    Wow, number one is really going to be The Dray? Really? Now, I like The Dray, but I can’t say it is the best in Seattle. It is a small place with just a hand full of taps. Yeah, a couple can be unique, but not really outstanding.

    By picking a small place like that as number one, you set yourself up as a hipster doofus. “This place is so small, it is cool and the best.”

    I’m sure you wear your PBR hat in there to be both ironic, and claim, “It really is a great beer when I want a lager.”

  • Pete

    Gotta agree with the service comments. The kids who work here make it feel like a closed minded, self centered social club that i’m not cool enough to join. Can I get a beer if I tell you how much I like your ironic Journey Escape beatle tat?

    The beer list can’t be beat, but the service and atmostphere almost ruin it.

    #1 will no doubt be the Baranof.

  • Kaiser

    Many people have had issues with service and attitude at Brouwer’s, no denying that. My wife and I had what still qualifies as my worst service experience ever while there with family about three years ago; that server no longer works there. Since then I have had close to no issues on a large volume of visits. Table service has been great, and service at the bar has never been an issue. Yes, some staff does have the cooler-than-thou attitude (some are also nice as can be). But, they get the job done and I don’t need to be best friends with the guy pouring my beer. I’m there to drink beer and hang out with friends.

    Frank: If you’re sitting at the bar needing a beer and are close enough to the bartenders to hear their conversation while they ignore you, why in God’s name would you not speak up and ask for 0ne? No, you shouldn’t have to. But, a little assertiveness can go a long way in getting service.

    Kuroda: I’m not sure where to even begin with your comment.

  • elvis

    brouwers is like your favorite airline. it takes you places you want to go, and when you get there it’s quite lovely, but you would glad go elsewhere if they had the number of flights and better quality service.

    horse brass is the best bar in the NW and brouwers doesn’t even come close. the death metal + the subterranean gothic look makes it a place i go only to taste a rare beer, not to soak in the environment. BPP is awesome, tho.

  • bierbum

    Please don’t make BPP #1 . Sometimes it’s great, sometimes there are way too many dogs in there and you can’t even enjoy a beer.

    And they make you get water yourself. I don’t even have to ask at Brouwers. Naked City and Uber are also good about this.

    Also, you can’t get an up-to-date tap list online. Uber, Naked City are great at this. Brouwers and Latona are acceptable at this as well.

    And the dog thing, I just don’t get. I saw a guy almost get bit and the owner got mad at the customer for not approaching the dog in a more dog friendly way. This place is going to get sued someday for allowing this.

  • Frank Belson

    Geoff, I AM assertive. As a native east coaster, my NW friends always accuse me of being “aggressive”. I am also a larger than average sized human.

    Combine those 2 facts and for me to be ignored for 10 minutes took effort on that bartenders part. Clearly, he didn’t give a shit. As I said, it wasn’t my first visit to Brouwers (nor has it been my last, so I’m to blame for continuing to support a business with terrible employees), and not every server there is bad. But check out the “visiting Seattle” threads on Beeradvocate or Ratebeer. Every one has someone suggesting that a visitor absolutely hit up Brouwers. And to be prepared for the worst service possible. When folks who have visited Seattle reply how great their visit was, how much they enjoyed the food and beer at Brouwers, but how bad their service was, it can’t be isolated incidents.

    I wish it WAS just me.

  • Kaiser

    Bottom line seems to be that the service and attitude is enough of an issue that it pisses plenty of people off and keeps some from visiting very often.

    Even with that fact, I’m comfortable putting Brouwer’s at #2 on the list. To me, the positives heavily outweigh the negatives. It does sound like I haven’t had nearly the bad service experiences that others have had.

  • elvis

    if i had a choice between brouwers, collins, uber, and naked city, brouwers would be the last on the list, unless there was something really good on tap (which there sometimes is).

    welcome to dungeon drinking to speed metal.

  • bierbum

    Not sure what is going on with all the Brouwer Bashing. I never have a problem there. They always have something I want to try on tap and I never get really bad services there.

    Maybe it is the days I go in there?
    Maybe I don’t ask for an IPA during Sourfest?
    Maybe I don’t ask too many dumb questions. Like do you have Pabst?

    The only times I have trouble in there is when my friends are too drunk and they will not serve them.

    However, my favorite hang is Uber.

  • Pete


    It’s fine to defend Brouwers, I’m glad that you have consistantly good experiences there. I’m not sure why you feel the need to imply that people who don’t have the same experience are inadvertently stupid (IPA during Sourfest) or outright stupid (by asking stupid questions re: Pabst).

    Are you saying that people who ask for an IPA during sourfest deserve bad service? If I ask for a Pabst, what would the appropriate retribution be? Spit in my frites? Are you sure you don’t work at Brouwers? Because this is exactly the kind of attitude that I get first hand all the time there.

    I’ll give you a direct example of the kind of crap I’m talking about. About 4 months ago my wife and I stop in for a beer and some food. We ask for the mussels and are told they are out. 20 minutes later, 2 steaming orders of mussels are delivered to the table next to ours. I ask the waiter “I thought you were out of mussels?” and he says “she’s a friend of the cooks” pointing to the girl next to us.

    Did this happen because of the day I went? Because of my normal sized jeans? Was my hair not appropriately flat-ironed? Or could it be that the people who work at Brouwers have no concept of, or desire to provide, basic customer service?

    I get more respect at the DMV.

  • bierbum

    Pete. I have not experienced bad service there.

    If I had the experiences that you have had, I would not go back. Simple as that.

    There are plenty places in Seattle to get a good beer. Cantillions? Maybe not. But you have good options in Seattle.

    So stop wasting your energy at being angry and move on.

  • elvis

    ah, the ol’ “if you don’t like it don’t go” argument.

    whatever. if the place didn’t have good beer, nobody on here would give it a second thought. the ambiance sucks, the people that work there suck, and the food is just ok.

    as a matter of fact, i do go elsewhere 75-85% of the time. as stated, I go to Collins, Uber, Naked City, or BPP much more than I do Brouwers, but hey, that’s what they want, right? In reality, i don’t think they care about you coming back. I’ve met Ian, who I think runs the place, and he’s kind of a jackass. There. Rant over.

  • bierbum

    So Elvis. Are you Pete? Or are you just talking for him. I was not addressing you.

    I’m in Uber and/or Naked City almost every Friday if you want a shoulder to cry on about the love your NOT getting at Brouwers.

  • elvis

    “I was not addressing you.”


  • Pete

    Indeed. And by not addressing my statements at all about you justifying bad service, and then riding someone else for chiming in, I think you’ve pretty much played out your hand here bier.

    Welcome to the internet.

  • bierbum

    @ Pete”Welcome to the internet”

    What does that even mean?

    @ elvis funny

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