Life's Great Questions
Why Are So Many Breweries Opening in Ballard?
Meet the eight new breweries (and two stalwarts) driving the beering of Ballard.
It’s not exactly news that a ton of breweries are opening in Ballard. By my count, seven beermaking establishments have taken up residence in the area since 2011 (NW Peaks arrived in 2010), joining stalwarts Hale’s Ales and Maritime Pacific. Most of them are sprinkled east and west of 15th Avenue, an area full of warehouse-type spaces suitable for such enterprises. But that can't be the only reason...right?
“What makes Ballard special is the relatively affordable industrial space that is immediately surrounded by dense residential areas,” says Dave Keller, who cofounded bicycle-celebrating Peddler Brewing earlier this year. For smaller breweries, it’s nigh impossible to compete with the big guys on a wholesale level, so having people come buy beer at the taproom is important. That’s why Reuben’s Brews owner Adam Robbings opted for Ballard rather than similarly industrial SoDo, despite the higher rent: “We wanted people to be able to walk to the brewery, so that we’re part of a neighborhood.” Having other brewers nearby also comes in handy, he says, should one run out of hops or malt or need equipment.
Here, for those of you keeping track, are the breweries operating (or about to open) in Ballard. Am I missing any?
The opening is still four or six weeks away, but this newcomer at 4358 Leary Way is planning a slate of brews that mix classics (IPA, reds, etc.) with some bold flavors (the current online taplist calls out a habanero amber and strawberry-mango hefeweizen).
It could be the natty cans, could be their enjoyable contents, but the boys at Hilliard's have built up quite a presence since opening in 2011. The taproom at 1550 NW 49th Street is a mellow, stylish place to hang out, and there's usually a food truck or two, plus some taps pouring beers that aren't available in the can (though the saison, blonde, amber, and pils are). I'm partial to the Chrome Satan, a coppery, bubbly beer fermented at high temps with a lager yeast. It's a California common ale, similiar to a highly trademarked beer with a name that rhymes with "wanker dream."
Visiting owner Kevin Klein's tiny garage-turned-brewery (4912 17th Ave NW) always feels like an adventure. Even though these days he's added more seating and an actual counter. Though Klein likes to experiment, most of his creations are less than 5 percent alcohol, but all are flavorful and named for a peak he has personally scaled.
Bicycle devotees Dave Keller and Haley Woods have turned the former Maritime Pacific Brewing site into a comfortable place to hang out and drink their own creations, like a caramel ESB, coffee saison, or the summery tangerine wheat beer. There's generally a food truck outside and inside you can play cornhole! Just don't beanbag-smack anyone headed for the bathroom—the restroom door is right next to the cornhole boards.
Two neighbors and homebrewers decided to go pro at 826 NW 49th Street, where they now dispense IPAs, saisons, porters, and other classic styles. Again, they coordinate with some great local food trucks.
Owner and brewer Adam Robbings won some pretty impressive brewing awards even when he was homebrewing back in his garage; his eco-industrial space at 1406 NW 53rd and its German-leaning creations have fast become a favorite of local beer geeks since opening last year. Reuben's Brews (named for Robbings's son) is now bottling and you can find it in Whole Foods, but I love visiting the taproom for pours of imperial rye IPA, roggenbier, the kolsch-style Balsch, and the American brown.
Robyn Schumacher, Marination's resident beer expert and a certified Cicerone, is assistant brewer at this new brewery, readying itself at 1108 NW 52nd Street. Schumacher told Eater Seattle that she and head brewer Brad Benson both have science background and want to inject an elemetn of beer education into the taproom. Follow Stoup's progress on Facebook.
This is technically a bit of an outlier in the Ballard brewing boom, since it's located in the thick of Ballard Ave and is best known as a kickass Belgian-leaning beer bar. But Urban Family now brews its own beers as well; you can find the house wit, IPA, and Belgian pale commingling with other hard-to-find creations on the 25 taps.
The venerable brewery and pub on the border of Fremont and Ballard hosts events and beer festivals aplenty and makes an enormous range of beers, including relative rarities like a Kolsch style and a cream ale.
Maritime Pacific Brewing Company/Jolly Roger Taproom
Ballard's other brewery stalwart produces standup, often hoppy beers (this time of year I'm partial to the Old Seattle Lager). Unlike some of the area's nascent beer enterprises, the big-boy breweries in the neighborhood serve a full pub menu along with their beers.