Bruce "Dr. of Beer" Davis
|The DOCTOR is in.
BeerNexus is proud to
present the acclaimed beer
savant "Strange Bru""
a.k.a. "Dr. of Beer"
Bruce is an award winning
writer, beer PhD, and
I gotta say, if I had to move, I mean really had to move,
like say I was being sought by the cops or an ex-wife, I’d
move to Seattle! And not just anywhere in Seattle but the
Ballard neighborhood. Why Ballard? Beer, with a capital B.
Before a recent visit to the Northwest, I sought opinions
on where to go for good craft beer. I asked the guru, Vince
Capano. I asked the Junior guru, Jay Eichberger. I
consulted the internet (Yes, I can Google!) I left the Beast
Coast with a long list of beers and breweries the length of
my arm. It was a daunting task to find them all but I was
willing to try!
It must have been serendipity that I started in Ballard,
at Stoup’s Brewery. An open air, roomy, casual place with
both a side and rooftop deck, this place offered as many as
fifteen fine craft beer selections. Housed in an old
warehouse, the atmosphere is very casual, with kids and
dogs welcome. High tops and picnic tables and did I mention
beer! First, I sampled their Other Side of the Pillow IPA, a
light, refreshing choice at 6.8%. That was followed by a
glass of Vic Secret, (My companion was convinced it had
something to do with Victory’s secret. Can’t imagine why?) a
worthy IPA at 7.4% with a deep golden hue and fruit notes.
Very tasty. Open every day of the week with no “Let’s take
a tour of the brewery” requirement, it’s a great and popular
place to hang out and enjoy good beer. There’s even a food truck parked out front.
Walk less than one hundred feet up the street and there’s another brewery, Obec. Twelve
taps give you plenty of choices here as well. Another open, airy, industrial looking place, it’
s a bit less crowded than Stoup’s, maybe because the beers aren’t as great. I tried their
Session IPA, called L’il Juice Box. At only 4.6%, it probably should have been my started
for the afternoon but who knew! Then I had their The Word, an India Red Rye IPA with a
rich, foamy head that was very flavorful.
Onward and upward, you need walk only another couple hundred feet to find another
very popular spot, Rueben’s Brews. Another twenty plus taps of various concoctions awaits
you there. Like Stoup’s, it’s an open, airy warehouse feeling place where kids and dogs
are welcome and there is a food truck. Oh yeah, and the beers are great. I started with
their Summer IPA, a 6.8% beer with orange and grapefruit notes. Next was their
collaboration with local brewer Adroit Theory, a hazy IPA with guava and citrus, called
From The Shadows. And finally, their imperial black IPA, non-confusingly called Imperial
Black IPA. A bit stronger at 8.1%, it was dark with malt flavors enhancing the citrus hops. It
was tough to leave this place, but there were other places on the list and it was still
Walking south another block, my compadre and I passed a sign for the Lucky
Envelope brewery. We didn’t stop but I was later told by a local that we missed a gem. By
the way, if you’re counting, that’s four breweries within three and a half short blocks! And
we weren’t done counting!
Two more blocks south and we spied Peddlers Brewery a half block to the west, so
named for the many bikes decorating the place and, apparently, the chosen sport of the
brewers/owners. A popular spot because of the huge backyard gazebo, and the beers, we
only had one of their Tropic Thunder IPAs, a nice choice at 5.8%. An additional plus were
the food trucks with something to offer for everybody.
In that same neighborhood, within a few blocks, we missed a few other breweries.
Lagunitas is two and half blocks north of Peddlers, NW Peaks two blocks west, and
Maritime Pacific three or four southeast. Two blocks east of Lost Envelope is Populuxe
Brewing and another six blocks south is Bad Jimmy’s! That’s ten craft breweries within a
half mile radius, all easily walkable, well at least until you have trouble walking!
But we were getting hungry for some real food at this point, so we Uberred our way
down to Pike’s Pier, home of the flying fish (market, not the NJ beer), where you can watch
the fish mongers toss your selected salmon or other game fish across the market. Lucky
for us, there’s also a brewery nearby, coincidentally called Pike’s Brewery. And since they
have a full dinner menu, we sampled some of their wares as well. Their Space Needle
Golden IPA is a dry-hopped West Coast IPA at 6.5%, with a nice, light golden color and
clean finish. I followed this with their Monk’s Uncle, as the name implies, a golden colored
Belgian style tripel at 9.0%. On a return visit several nights later, I also had the Kilt Lifter, a
smoky Scottish ale with caramel and toffee at 6.5%. I finished the night with a Naughty
Nellie, an artisan ale that they describe as “a golden color with a nutty, cracker-like malt
flavor in front ending with a sight grapefruit and lemon wave to the palette.” I can’t argue.
Alas, that ended our sojourn for the day. We were there, after all, to referee for the
Special Olympics USA Games the next day and wanted to be at least ambulatory. But it
didn’t mean we were done trying new and/or only distributed beers. It seems that every bar
and restaurant has ten or twenty taps offering choice Northwest beers. Over the next
several days, we worked our way around the city, trying new beers at every stop.
We ate at The Ram one night and had some excellent beers. Their 71 Pale Ale, Big
Red’s IPA, and Rugger’s Delight were all excellent. Another night found us in a dive
brewery called Big Time Brewery, where we tried the Coast to Coast, a hazy, New England
style IPA, and the Cascade Effect, a slightly stronger IPA worth the price of admission, and
the risk of the funky neighborhood! We were joined by several other refs on another
evening in a cellar bar called the College Inn Pub, where I had Georgetown’s Bodizafa, a
worthy tribute to Steely Dan, Ten Barrels’ Apocalypse IPA, and Bale Breaker’s Top Cutter
IPA! My traveling companion had a few of Hellbent’s Northwest Pilsner. I attempted to
return to The Ram later in the week for a gathering of all the referees but due to extremely
poor service retreated to another restaurant nearby, Eureka, and eureka, they had some
great beers on tap, including Silver City’s Scotch ale called Magnificent Bastard and Stone’
s Idolatrous, a seasonal release IPA.
I finished my visit to Seattle with a trip to the maker of one of my favorite ales, Elysian’
s Space Dust. They actually have several locations throughout the city so I selected the
one in the Capital Hill neighborhood. It comes off as a funky, open, breezy brewpub where
dogs and kids are welcome and the food is good. They offer at least sixteen distinct
choices here at their original location. I tried several, well, seven, of these. I started with
their Dayglow, a nice IPA with Mosaic, El Dorado, and Centennial hops. A flight of four
followed with The Noise, a nice pale ale, Glitteris, a raspberry blackberry cream ale (and
their tribute to the LGBTQ community), The Wise, their ESB style, and The Immortal, their
Northwest version of a classic English ale. The afternoon was young, and beautiful, so I
tried my old standby, Space Dust, an IPA with Chinook, Citra and Amarillo hops. I finished
my afternoon with the limited release Dust Is Dead, a wonderful Brett IPA they refer to as
“an undead iteration of Space Dust.”
Unfortunately, my time in Seattle was limited so I left a long list of breweries
unattended. I didn’t get to Fremont, Urban Family, Rooftop, Mollusk, Holy Mountain,
Cloudburst, Ghostfish, Dexter’s, and the aforementioned Lagunitas and Populace. As I’ve
often been known mutter in my local liquor store, “so many beers, so little time!”
So folks, if you’re looking for a destination wedding, of beer lovers and great beers
that is, try Seattle. There’s a lot to offer besides the brew; the Pike’s Market, the Post Alley
Gum Wall, the Jimi Hendrix statue, the whaling boats, the islands, Mt. Rainier, and many
other sites and sounds. Go in the summer (after July 5th said the locals) and enjoy the
pleasant weather and outdoor beer gardens. But enjoy the brews first and foremost.
And I’m told it’s only a three hour drive to Portland!