If you ask Holy Mountain Brewery owner Adam Paysse, Seattle’s beer bars and bottle houses are helping lay the groundwork for local breweries. “We can exist now as a brewery in Seattle doing so many barrel-aged and fermented beers, as well as Brett and farmhouse beers, largely because of the people who have paved the way with the great beer bars pouring Belgian beer for the last decade plus,” he says.
In fact, there is such a proliferation of these styles that experts like Matt Vandenberghe, who owns beer bars Brouwer’s Cafe and Burgundian and the specialty bottleshop Bottleworks, is feeling challenged. “There’s just so many beers coming out, it’s actually—I won’t say overwhelming, but it’s a full-time job just trying to keep up,” he says.
Vandenberghe opened Brouwer’s, which stocks scores of otherwise hard-to-find American and European beers, in 2005. “That was a much simpler time,” he says. “The styles were very straightforward and kind of similar. Ambers and porters and pales and IPAs. It’s nice to see the breweries branching out and not just offering sort of the standard styles—which is wonderful if you do that well, to be able to offer really incredible IPA or really nice porter—but it’s nice to see the diversity. Now it’s just absolutely anything goes.”
As a co-founder of Seattle Beer Week and the owner of Capitol Hill’s beer-focused Pine Box bar, Ian Roberts knows this pattern of experimentation well. He’s been sourcing farmhouse ales and sours for Pine Box from other markets, but it seems that finally these styles are beginning to be brewed closer to home.
“IPA will always be king as far as sales go, at least in the Northwest,” he says, but they’re having to make room for sours and saisons in the tap lineup. “When I first opened Pine Box [in early 2012], I was really hoping to have five sours on at all times. Even just three years ago I couldn’t do that. Now it’s pretty easy, between domestic and imported. I’ve seen it change a lot over the years. It used to be that there were specific craft-beer bars, and it seems like every bar now is a craft-beer bar. You can walk into a shitty dive bar and they’re going to have a handle on of something amazing. They might even have a sour beer on.”
This new-found interest has also manifested itself in exponential crowd growth during Seattle Beer Week events. “The first year we did it, it was all the same people that we knew, the same beer nerds. You’d walk into an event and you’d recognize everyone in the room,” Roberts recalls. “Now the idea of a successful event is to go and see no one that you recognize among 200 or so faces.” He’s noticed, too, that the interest in Seattle Beer Week reaches well beyond locals; the event’s website gets hits from around the world, and beer drinkers from around the country plan their vacations around it.
“I think that this is something that will continue to grow,” Vandenberghe says. “I don’t think this is a bubble that will burst. The beer scene is totally wild and better than ever.”
The 7th Annual Seattle Beer Week takes over the city May 7-17. For more information, look
BEST SPOTS FOR UNCOMMON BREWS
Seasonal beers on tap now.
Engine House No. 9611 N. Pine St., Tacoma253-272-3435Notable beers to try now: E-9 Belgian White
Epic Ales3201 First Ave. S.351-3637, epicales.comNotable beers to try now: Party Time!!! with a seasonal syrup
Fremont Brewing3409 Woodland Park Ave. N.420-2407, fremontbrewing.comNotable beers to try now: Sour Weisse with cucumber and lime, and a gose, with sea salt and coriander.
Ghostfish Brewing Company2942 First Ave. S.397-3898, ghostfishbrewing.comNotable beers to try now: Watchstander Stout
Holy Mountain Brewing Company1421 Elliott Ave. W.blog.holymountainbrewing.comNotable beers to try now: Gose, or whatever is the special of the moment
Machine House Brewery5840 Airport Way S., #121402-6025, machinehousebrewery.comNotable beers to try now: Stinging nettle seasonal
Reuben’s Brews1406 N.W. 53rd St.784-2859, reubensbrews.comNotable beers to try now: Bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout
Schooner Exact3901 First Ave. S.432-9734, schoonerexact.comNotable beers to try now: Test Batch, a rotaing experimental beer
Standard Brewing2504 S. Jackson St.535-1584, standardbrew.comNotable beers to try now: Saison de Trouvaille
Stoup Brewing1108 N.W. 52nd St.457-5524, stoupbrewing.comNotable beers to try now: Berliner Weisse