Drink beer that’s both giddy and great.
Beer doesn’t get more fun than this. From names (A$AP Hoppy, Swedish Prison Orgy IIIPA) to what issues from taps, Cloudburst is equal parts charm and chops. You can find it at certain bars and restaurants, but better to head to the Belltown taproom where owner and head brewer Steve Luke’s tap list, ever Sharpied on butcher paper, unreels like a hop-addled mixtape. That means lots of IPAs in aromatic technicolor, lots of playful excursions (wheat saison with guava, coriander, and jasmine, anyone?)—and with over 160 different brews in two years, just lots of great beer.
Impress visiting beer geeks.
Maybe it’s the merch—T-shirts feature a picture of British occultist Aleister Crowley—or the nods to old monastic brewing, or that lofty white taproom, or just beer that manages to be interesting while also approachable, but no major brewery in the city garners followers like Holy Mountain. Other local brewers credit it with pioneering saisons in the city, often oak aged and bumped with Brettanomyces (a wild yeast that adds tart funk), but these guys also knock out imperial stouts and hoppy pale ales with occult verve.
Knock back Big Beer—unironically.
One of Seattle’s original craft breweries, now part of a larger company, Redhook departed Woodinville to recreate its humble auto shop origins, albeit in swankier, renovated digs on Capitol Hill. Exposed brick, Edison lightbulbs, local muralist artwork—Redhook Brewlab can come off like a PBR-swilling hipster parody. And while many a dude in plaid is known to chill in an adirondack chair out back or at a polished wood bar top, the beer has unequivocal appeal; lead brewer Nick Crandall concocts all manner of styles from bright farmhouse ales to poundable, hazy IPAs to goblets of idiosyncratic amber ales made with applewood-smoked malt.
Say, “I liked them before they got huge.”
Trucks that bear the swooping cursive R logo transport bottles of Crikey IPA and cans of salty, sour gose to Washington’s farthest reaches, even Idaho and Portland. Reuben’s Brews is the state’s fastest-growing brewery, thanks to founder Adam Robbings’s endlessly creative cross-pollination of European beer styles and Northwest hop fervor. The tasting room’s whopping 25 taps might pour light Mexican lager next to imperial rye IPA next to imperial mole stout—and every last one will be excellent. A new sour program and plans for more production space signal Reuben’s growth is unlikely to slow anytime soon.
Compare and contrast IPAs.
Stoup Brewing’s Brad Benson and Robyn Schumacher, a pair of control freaks with respective chemistry and biology backgrounds, quietly produce a murderer’s row of beer styles, like an ubertraditional hefeweizen and maybe six IPAs at any given moment. Thanks to all that scientific rigor, the difference between Stoup’s signature sunshine-forward Citra IPA and, say, the more traditionally bitter Northwest IPA comes through with clarion certainty. Stoup’s beers are draft only, available at bars, restaurants, or the family- and dog-riffic Ballard taproom, with its oasis of a patio and an upstairs lounge “for 21 and over humans only.”
Take in sweeping views over a pint.
Old Stove Brewing expanded into Pike Place Market’s new MarketFront wing last summer, where tourists and urbanites alike now take in the Elliott Bay vista. The move from First Ave means patrons can grab something to drink from one of 16 taps that dispense the likes of blackberry sour ale, smoked porter, barleywine, or, eventually, something nonalcoholic for marketgoing kiddos, and watch behind-the-scenes brewing. Perhaps all of the beering begets much-needed biscuit consumption at Honest Biscuits next door. But, mostly, drinking in the view—along with the Amber Waves ale that crests and foams like Puget Sound—is a big, Olympic Mountain range–size perk.
Get down with some seriously rustic ales (even if your friends aren’t into the funky stuff).
An expansion transformed Standard Brewing from a minuscule brewery into one that’s merely small, but a new barrel-aging room offers myriad new ways to give beer sour, funky dimension. Drinkers who don’t dig these barnyard notes can lean into the light lagers, roasty stouts, and other impeccable ales. That expansion also outfitted the tiny Central District taproom with cocktails and unexpectedly refined sandwiches (and retained the heated, covered patio). Drafts with broad appeal show up around the neighborhood, and at discerning bars, but don’t look for sixers of IPA anytime soon, says owner Justin Gerardy. “We only bottle funky and sour.”
Enjoy some gluten-free beer that’s actually good.
Beer stripped of gluten’s heft usually has distinct flavor notes of “why bother.” But Ghostfish Brewing leans into the charms of malted rice, buckwheat, and especially millet to brew various IPAs, not to mention stout, saison, and gose. It’s all completely sans gluten, and yet tasty enough to please traditional beer drinkers. That’s probably why you’ll see Ghostfish beer all over town, even in stadiums, but the SoDo taproom serves limited releases (apricot sour, salted caramel–coconut brown ale…) plus a pub menu that is, of course, totally gluten free.
Throw your preschooler (or dog) a birthday party.
Optimism Brewing’s handsome window-lined quarters on Capitol Hill looks more minimalist art gallery than working brewhouse. The vast amount of seating plus a broad range of both beer and dogs adds up to a bona fide third place in a neighborhood filled with hangouts. The play area and liberal bring-your-own-food policy means Optimism sees almost as many stroller-aged visitors as actual beer drinkers; it’s not uncommon to witness toddlers blowing out birthday candles while parents toast the occasion (and the fact that they’re not at Chuck E. Cheese) with glasses of Belgian-style wit ale or Moxee IPA.