Cocktails are the alcoholic beverage of the moment, but it wasn't so long ago that drink geeks were all about beer. And at the city's best brewpubs, it's easy to see why: These taverns are distinguished by tremendously diverse beer lists, knowledgeable staffers and rooms in which you'd like to spend time with a pint.
Here, our picks for Seattle's top brewpubs. As always, Erin Thompson did the compiling. And the pubs aren't in any particular order from numbers ten through two, but we've saved the number one slot for our category winner. Cheers.
Two Beers Brewing Company was the first craft brewery in Washington State to release its ales in 12-ounce cans, which you can try at their tasting room, located inside the same 4800 square-feet SoDo warehouse where the beer's made. You might as well go for the full pints though--they're only $3, and you'll want to sample as many of the unique varieties as you can manage. Five of the beers are available year-round, including your standard IPA, blonde, and amber ales, and there's a rotating cast of seasonal brews. During the colder months, there's the Heart of Darkness Cascadian Dark Ale and the Jive Espresso Stout, which uses locally roasted beans, and during the sunshine months there's a citrusy Panorama Wheat and a spicy Crooked Belgian Wit.
9. Redhook Ale Brewery
It's easy to get lost trying to find the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, built to resemble the traditional alehouses of Bavaria. Most signs in town guide you to Chateau Ste. Michelle--follow the signs anyway. The mythic brewery is about 100 yards down the road. Visitors should take advantage of the legendary public tours, where you'll get a walk around the brew tanks, a lesson in brewing history, a souvenir tasting glass, and five beer samples--all for a mere dollar.
Owners Charles and Rose Ann Finkel helped catalyze the craft-beer movement in the late 1970s, and they've still got the passion. Their friendly, rambling Pike Pub, located in the lower levels of the market, attracts beer geeks of both the local and tourist species. Get a killer burger (it's grass-fed and local) with your pint of Kilt Lifter or Naughty Nellie (named for Seattle's infamous madam Nellie Curtis, a woman whose beloved brothel once had sailors lining up down the block). For dessert, another cult favorite: the XXXXX Stout float.
Beer enthusiasts gather by the flock at Greenwood's Naked City Taphouse for a taste of the award-winning local brews on tap. (There are 24 varieties to choose from.) Naked City looks like a man's bar on the inside - steel casks of beer sit on the bar, blown-up photos of scantily-clad women straddling kegs adorn the walls. But the inviting space and the frequent special events like new brew release parties signal fun for groups of any gender.
The home pub of Maritime Pacific Brewing, the Jolly Roger has two particularly standout qualities. One is its floor, which has been intricately painted as an aged-looking treasure map (it matches the rest of the bar's nautical pirate decor). The other is, of course, the fresh beer that's brewed in the same building. There are 14 beers on draft-Bosun's Black Porter is usually in demand-and if you can't decide on one, go for the sampler tray of five varieties. Come happy hour, it's tough to find a seat among all of Ballard's fine wenches and gentlemen o' fortune, so walk these planks early.
Fremont Brewing Company, on Woodland Park Avenue North, has been quietly making appearances on well-thought-out drink menus all over town, though you still might not recognize its name. Fremont Brewing Company makes small-batch artisan beers, with barley from the Okanogan, Yakima Valley hops, and water from the Cedar River watershed. Their best brew is their first, Universale Ale: both light and full-bodied, this hop-rich pale ale is smooth, well-balanced, and touched with a hit of malted sweetness.
This roomy Capitol Hill brewpub, which houses enormous steel brewing equipment right next to the tables and bar, reels in customers with its casual food as much as for its beers. The burgers and sandwiches, some stacked with locally made field roast, are obviously popular favorites. The big, golden fillets and steak fries on the fish-and-chips plate are hearty, as are the nachos, baked crisp and served with spicy salsa, sour cream, and a peanut-chile salsa. Everything washes down nicely with a seasonal Elysian beer (the Great Pumpkin Ale in the fall, the Bete Blanche Tripel in the spring), brewed feet away from where you're sitting.
Elliott Bay's brewing team regularly wins awards for their boutique brews that feature only organic barley. Seattle through and through, the Brewery recycles its waste oil for biodiesel, has entirely compostable to-go packaging, and buys wind-power credits to offset its energy use. You can watch the game at the bar or settle into a booth for burgers, sandwiches, and specialties like the IPA fish and chips and fajita salad. The homemade daily soups and chili are hearty and well spiced, and the fries are great (great fries being, of course, essential to any great brewpub).
While it might not be the most popular bar among The Ave's student patrons, Big Time has the longevity (twenty plus years and counting) and knowledge to lure in any beer enthusiast. The bar is a turn-of-the-century Brunswick surrounded by a collection of brewery-related memorabilia, jukebox, and shuffleboard table. There's a long array of sandwiches, salads, and other typical bar selections at Big Time, but the pizza-with its gorgeous crust and just-right amount of sauce-stands out. Order a pie with your beer (made on premises), check out the fresh collegiate types, and play some shuffleboard.
Alejandro "Big Al" Brown was a homebrewing fanatic when Pacific Rim Brewery in White Center went under at the end of 2007. Brown thought his own beer good enough to emerge from his rec room, and soon Big Al Brewing was born. Brown's brews aren't just good for a homebrewer, they're good for any brewer. In fact, they're not just good, they're fantastic--Al's smoked porter is about as clean a rendering of that dark, underappreciated genre as has ever been produced. Brown could serve his beer out of a stained pup tent and we'd be happy; that he maintains a tasting room and multipurpose loft (which frequently exhibits work by local artists) is just ice around the keg.
Find the best Seattle has to offer on-the-go with our 'Best Of' Mobile App