Many consider Portland to be America’s craft beer capital, but nowadays Seattle has its own collection of noteworthy breweries. One of the first in Washington, Pike Brewing Company in Pike Place Market, still brews commendable beers, and enthusiasts can tour its Microbrewery Museum. We also tried some newer operations, including several clustered within walking distance of the Hotel Ballard. I found no shortage of stylish, lively taprooms and thoroughly delicious, character-filled brews.
Photo by Andrew Harper
When we visited, Obec’s chic taproom had been open just three weeks, and its owner, Wayne Jehlik, served our beers himself. “My brewing style is more European,” he told us. “I’m a big fan of getting some of that residual sugar out of there, to give me an easier morning after.” I’m quite fond of his beers, particularly the classy Belgian Singel; the Inaugural India Red Rye, a bitter, fresh and floral beer with notes of berry; and the Inaugural Porter, redolent of bacon and coffee, with prickly bubbles keeping it in balance. Obec (pronounced “OH-betz”), which means “community” in Czech, is my new favorite microbrewery in Seattle.
1144 NW 52nd Street. Tel. (206) 659-0082
Just down the block from Obec, Stoup also offered an array of excellent beers in an industrial setting, poured by a friendly bartender. The Bavarian Hefeweizen took me right back to Germany with its yeasty depth, and I appreciated the savory undertone in the otherwise hoppy and floral Northwest IPA. The meaty Porter, like Obec’s, had enough lift from the carbonation to keep it from being ponderous, and the Barrel Aged Flemish Red also exhibited fine balance, with sour, fruity, bitter and yeasty flavors. Each beer at Stoup had a low note, a depth, that I found quite beguiling.
1108 NW 52nd Street. Tel. (206) 457-5524
Lagunitas Brewing Company
Although Lagunitas is an invader from California (with additional breweries in Chicago and Charleston), I put its new Seattle taproom on my itinerary because Lagunitas beers are invariably high quality. Some of those on tap are available only in Seattle, such as the citrusy and bitter Beard and Bine, and the menu had 14 other limited-release options. My favorites of these were the refreshing Fusion 2000 and the Willett Whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, aged in bourbon and rye barrels, with enticing woodsy notes, tiny bubbles and a whopping 11.7 percent alcohol. The airy space regularly hosts live music performances, and though onerous Seattle regulations prevent Lagunitas from opening a proper kitchen, a food truck is on-site.
Lagunitas Brewing Company
1550 NW 49th Street. Tel. (206) 784-2230
An easy walk from Pike Place Market, this brewery opened in 2016 and has a strong IPA selection. Owner and brewer Steve Luke developed a following during his time at Elysian Brewing, and his new no-frills space draws crowds of locals. We found seats at the bar and ordered from the menu above it, handwritten on butcher paper. The Lip Sync Apology IPA had an appealing grapefruit note and a graceful bitter finish, and the unique Everything’s Pine IPA moved from creaminess to bitterness to an aromatic, eucalyptus-like finish. We happened to visit during hops season — the Yakima Valley is a major producer — and Cloudburst had recently released its A$AP Hoppy, brewed with fresh hops instead of the usual dried variety. It tasted fresh and melony, with an undertone of dark citrus. All three beers were complex and delightful.
2116 Western Avenue. Tel. (206) 602-6061
Old Stove Brewing Co.
Locals seem to avoid Old Stove Brewing, a cheerful taproom adjacent to Pike Place Market. Everyone seemed to have a camera out. But just because something is touristy doesn’t mean it’s bad. I felt momentarily annoyed by the televisions mounted on the wall, until I noticed that instead of news or sports, they were showing old black-and-white beer commercials. The beer too was quite good, notably the dry and wheaty Belgian Blonde; the Zagernezzer Hoppy Brown, which moved from a coffee note to an IPA-like bitterness; and the savory and surprisingly light-on-its-feet Smoked Porter. Everyone here seemed to be having a good time, but don’t expect to chat too much with the bartenders or meet the owner.
Old Stove Brewing Co.
1525 First Avenue. Tel. (206) 829-4800
Rachel’s Ginger Beer
Nondrinkers and cocktail connoisseurs can also enjoy a visit to a brewery of a different sort in Pike Place Market. Rachel’s, or RGB, had multiple flavors of ginger beer available, which you can order unadulterated, with alcohol or with soft-serve ice cream to make a float. We tried the sharply spicy Original, which didn’t seem worth the money, considering it lacked the floral note I treasure in homemade ginger beer. Better was the Cucumber-Tarragon, in which the cool cucumber balanced the spiciness of the ginger (the tarragon appeared only as a whisper on the finish). I also liked the juicy White Peach, which tempered the spicy heat with fruitiness.
Rachel's Ginger Beer
1530 Post Alley