Seattle has long been on the leading edge of America’s craft beer movement. It has one unique advantage over nearly everywhere else in the country: proximity to the Yakima Valley which grows 75% of the nation’s hops. As a result, Washington State has almost 300 breweries, most of which are headquartered in Seattle. Northwest style IPA’s are the predominant choice but you can find all sorts of interesting traditional and experimental beers in the city. Craft beer lovers will be both delighted and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices available to them in Seattle. Here’s a guide to help you sample the best of Seattle’s craft beer scene:
To really dive deeply into Seattle’s immense beer selection, make time to visit one or more of Seattle’s well established brewpubs. These bars (some of which serve food as well) are run by the breweries themselves and specialize in a single brand of beer, which is often brewed on site. It’s a great way to try perennial favorites as well as experimental brews and limited edition seasonals. If you’re visiting Pike Place Market, consider popping into the adjacent Pike Brewing Company, which has pub food, beerflights and even offers brew tours. Don’t miss the Space Needle IPA, a strong India Pale Ale representative of Seattle’s signature robust and hoppy ales.
Other big brewpubs worth Room5g out include Elysian, which has several locations around town and the amazing Redhook Brewery. If you make it to the trendy Fremont neighborhood stop in at Fremont Brewery, which operates a tasting room and large sunny beer garden next to Lake Union. Their flagship beer is their Universal Pale Ale, which is perfect for sipping on a hot day.
Seattle’s hipster-meets-urban-family neighborhood, Ballard, has the highest density of breweries in Seattle. This makes it perfect for a do-it-yourself brewery crawl. Appoint a designated driver (or bike if you’re brave), and spend the afternoon hopping from one unique craft brewery to another. You can pick and choose your own destinations, but make sure to include Hale’s Ales, which opened back in 1983 and claims the first micro-brewed Pale Ale in the Northwest. Reuben’s Brews is a fairly new taproom, crowdfunded in part via Kickstarter and features small batch ales that you won’t find distributed anywhere else. Then there’s Populuxe Brewing, Jolly Roger, NW Peaks Brewery and more. Pace yourself if you decide to take on this adventure!
Can’t Miss Taprooms and Beer Bars
If you’re short on time, you can sample a variety of Seattle beers all in one place at one of the many excellent beer bars around town. The Pine Box in Capitol Hill used to be a funeral home, but now it has one of the best curated collections of beers in the Pacific Northwest. It often tops lists of best beer bars in the country. On a sunny day, Chuck’s Hop Shop in the Central District is the perfect place to park yourself outside and enjoy 40+ beers on tap and revolving food trucks. Also worth a look for beer lovers: the Brouwer’s in Fremont, Bravehorse Tavern and 500 Local.
During the summer months visitors can catch a plethora of fun beer festivals in and around Seattle. Most of these festivals require you to pay admission, which comes with a certain amount of “tastings” (more tastings can usually be purchased on site). There’s Seattle Beer Week each May, the Seattle International Beer Fest in July and the annual Fremont Oktoberfest in September to name a few. Check what’s going on during your visit.
In the unlikely event you tire of the vast selection of beers available to you in Seattle, there are other options. In addition to being the biggest hops producer in the country, Washington State is also the primary apple-growing region in the United States. This means that in addition to beer, there is a small but growing hard cider industry. You can try local cider at almost any beer bar, but for an in depth survey, head to one of Seattle’s few dedicated cider bars. Capitol Cider in Capitol Hill has a revolving lineup of ciders on tap, many of them local, as well as a huge bottle list. No matter where you go in Seattle, there’s always a great beer to be found!
Where in the country are your favorite beers?