True Brew

When It Comes to Craft Beers, Seattle’s Frosty Mug Runneth Over

By Anna Roth and Jessica Voelker December 19, 2008 Published in the October 2008 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Jun Park

IN THE 130 YEARS since brewers stirred that first batch of Oly, an ambitious set of ale makers have poured into our city’s suds scene—experimenting with casks and counter-pressure systems as well as exotic ingredients like purple yam and pomegranate. Here, Seattle Met has assembled everything you need to know about our homegrown grog, including six picks for the city’s best breweries and brewpubs and 11 other must-visit froth farms.

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LATE ONE NIGHT IN 1994, after polishing off three or four bottles of wine, Joe Bisacca, Dave Buhler, and Dick Cantwell finally settled on a name for their new brewery, when, on a whim, one of them looked up Elysian Fields in the encyclopedia and discovered that the Hoboken, New Jersey, park was named for the final resting place for heroes in Greek legend who battled all day and drank ale all night. “Not such a rosy connotation,” says Bisacca, “but it speaks to the healing powers of beer.”

Today, Bisacca, Buhler, and Cantwell serve their liquid therapy at three neighborhood venues: Elysian Brewing Company on Capitol Hill embodies the “shrug, whatever” spirit of the hood—the tattooed and mohawked mingle with Microsofties out on eHarmony dates. Pint-size Elysian Tangletown meanwhile attracts more families and older folks, and the massive Elysian Fields in Pioneer Square serves as a jovial holding pen for sports fans seeking some pre- and postgame flavor.

Drink Known for their assertive flavor, India pale ales were invented by the British, who added extra hops to their brews in order to mask the stale flavor that came on during long boat rides to the colonies. Northwest brewers have continued the hoppy tradition with punched-up ales like the Elysian’s Immortal IPA—a sweet, citrusy beverage with plenty of floral aroma.

Go Sign up for the mailing list to hear about events like this month’s Great Pumpkin Beer Festival, celebrating the autumnal return of spicy Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.

Know In the course of a year, Elysian makes about 35 different beers, many of which only get mixed once. If you want to try some of Cantwell’s most out-there experiments, Elysian Fields—the pub with the most taps—is your best bet.

Elysian Brewing Company, 1221 E Pike St, Capitol Hill, 206-860-1920. Elysian Tangletown, 2106 N 55th St, Wallingford, 206-547-5929. Elysian Fields, 542 First Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-382-4498;

EVERYONE LOVES A GREASY FEAST now and again, but Seattle’s bar fare didn’t earn much culinary cred until Todd Carden came along. The onetime nine-to-fiver fulfilled a lifelong dream when he quit the rat race to learn the brewery biz at Maritime Pacific. Five years later he opened West Seattle’s Elliott Bay Brewery and Pub (a second location, Elliott Bay Brewhouse and Pub, came to Burien last year). Today Carden’s two low-key locales, which he describes as comfortable for “everyone from two weeks to 98 years old,” boast impeccably wrought meals worthy of the tasty bevs on tap: ahi tuna sandwiches, clams and linguini, and the Shroomer—a fungus-topped, juicy burger for which many a downtowner crosses the bridge come dinnertime.

Drink Head brewer Doug Hindman is currently experimenting with Belgian styles, but we’re all about the malty Luna Weizen hefeweizen: an unfiltered wheat bier with a hint of lemon. Those who favor heavier suds savor the rich No Doubt Stout.

Go While beer is usually chilled and carbonated with carbon dioxide, casked suds are served flat and at room temperature in order to bring out subtler flavors. Try some at Elliott Bay Brewery every third Wednesday at 3pm, when a fresh keg of cask-conditioned ale is tapped at the bar. The same event occurs on the third Thursday of the month at the Burien location.

Know In 2005, Hindman started using organic malt, and the brewery is now one of only two in Washington certified organic by the USDA.

Elliott Bay Brewery and Pub, 4720 California Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-932-8695. Elliott Bay Brewhouse and Pub, 255 SW 152nd St, Burien, 206-246-4211;

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“I’LL HAVE A MANNY’S.” Emerald City bartenders hear that request so often these days, it’s hard to believe that Georgetown Brewing Company—makers of the city’s most popular pale ale—is just six years old. Manny is Manny Chao, who upon graduating college became the first employee at Redmond’s Mac and Jack’s Brewery. He didn’t seriously think about starting his own brewski business, however, until he shared a house with business-minded Roger Bialous (the man for whom the company’s earthy Roger’s Pilsner was named). In 2002, Chao and Bialous moved into the original Rainier Beer brewery on Georgetown’s Airport Way. Their ever—expanding operation will soon move to a larger location down the street.

If you haven’t visited Georgetown in a while, begin the neighborhood tour with a visit to this friendly factory, where denizens mill about the retail area refilling growlers. Then head over to the 9LB Hammer, the local watering hole where Georgetown suds are always on tap—including the 9LB Porter, named for the bar.

Drink Try the Chopper’s Red Ale, a very drinkable malty amber.

Go Public tours—featuring generous free samples—take place on the last Monday of every month but fill up fast; call ahead to get on the list.

Know Georgetown Brewing uses a special counter-pressure system that removes the oxygen in the bottles, allowing unopened containers to last up to six weeks in the fridge.

Georgetown Brewing Company, 5840 Airport Way, Ste 201, Georgetown, 206-766-8055;

WAY BACK IN 1986, Mac (Malcolm Rankin) was working construction and Jack (Jack Schropp) was restoring antique wooden boats. Mac built Jack a house, and the rest, as they say, is beer history. Both dreamed of starting a small business, and shared a passion for the sudsy stuff, so in the early 1990s, they decided to start a brewery in Jack’s garage. “It was a 20-hour-a-day thing. They’d make beer by day and sell it by night,” says Mac and Jack’s Brewing Company general manager Jim Hardesty. “They’re kind of shocked that it’s done as well as it has. We’re doing all we can to keep up.”

While their flagship ale African Amber—most people simply call it Mac and Jack’s—is in a dead heat with Manny’s for the title of Seattle’s Favorite Beer, the brewery also makes Serengeti Wheat, a hefeweizen, as well as the incredibly smooth Black Cat Porter.

Drink The Serengeti Wheat may be the world’s best way to wash down spicy foods.

Go Tours of the Redmond brewery start every Sunday at 3pm.

Know African Amber and Serengeti Wheat, originally developed as house brews for the Park Pub in Phinney Ridge, were inspired by the pub’s proximity to the exotic creatures at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Mac and Jack’s Brewery, North Sammamish Center, 17825 NE 65th St, Ste B110, Redmond, 425-558-9697;

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IN 1989, Charles and Rose Ann Finkel opened the Pike Brewing Company in the old La Salle Hotel on Western Avenue, later moving it to Pike Place Market. In 1997 they sold the place only to buy it back in 2006, dismayed over the neglect it endured in their absence. Since then, the prodigal publicans have been nipping and tucking the suds and the food menu, and Pike is once again a festive spot to enjoy a simple meal alongside traditional British-style on-tap offerings.

“Our beers are designed to go with food,” says Rose Anne, who recommends pairing the pub’s Monk’s Uncle Tripel Ale with mussels, its Pike IPA with salmon and crab. Charles says the pub has always aimed to make classic English brews such as the Kilt Lifter, a smoky Scottish ale; and Naughty Nellie, an organic golden ale named for the legendary proprietress of La Salle Hotel.

Drink Be sure to try the Old Bawdy, a barley wine (the U.K. term for beer with exceptionally high alcohol content) that will knock you right off your bar stool.

Go Pitchers for $11.50 and apps at half price make Pike one of downtown’s best bargains during happy hour (weekdays from four to six o’clock).

Know The pub is designed to allow self-guided tours of the brew house and the kitsch-tastic backroom “museum,” where Charles Finkel displays his enormous collection of beer memorabilia.

Pike Brewing Company, 1415 First Ave, Downtown, 206-622-6044;

PROPRIETORS GEORGE AND JANE HANCOCK were living on a sailboat in Shilshole when, in 1990, they opened Maritime Pacific Brewing Company on an unremarkable corner of Leary Way in Ballard. “I wanted to make beers I wanted to drink, I didn’t care about anyone else,” says George Hancock. Fortunately Jane has a knack for business. The company’s Jolly Roger Taproom looks a little like a Red Lobster, but one bite of a freshly fried Po’ Lil’ Oyster sandwich shows that’s where the similarity ends. The Lil’ Jolly sliders are a treat, too: The magic is in the briochelike buns, made by a secret mom-and-pop bakery in town.

Drink Maritime is best known for Jolly Roger Christmas Ale, a strong (9 percent alcohol), lightly spiced beast of a beer, but the brewery also turns out the dependable Islander Pale Ale, European-style Imperial IPA, and the rich Nightwatch Dark Amber Ale.

Go Every other Friday is Firkin Friday, when pints are drawn from a quarter barrel of ale (also known as a “firkin”) and sold for $3.25 each. The fun starts at 5pm, but come early—casks have sold out in less than 45 minutes.

Know The Hancocks claim the pirate theme in the pub was fairly accidental, perhaps inspired by their home on the water. Once they decided to name their Christmas ale “Jolly Roger,” however, there was no turning back.

Maritime Pacific Brewing Company, 1514 Leary Way NW, Ballard, 206-782-6181;

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Baron Brewing
1605 S 93rd St, Ste E-L

South Park


Number of Beers on Tap: 5*
We’re Hopped Up On…The way Baron’s light-as-a-feather pilsner keeps us buzzed but not bloated.
Tours? Yes
The Brewer Suggests: Owner Jeff Smiley says, “ Prost ”! with an Oktoberfest, his “amberish” seasonal lager.
Pub Grub? There’s no food at this German-style brewery’s tiny tap house. Wash down their beers with snacks at the Pub at Pipers Creek on Greenwood Avenue.


Big Al Brewing
9832 14th Ave SW

White Center

Number of Beers on Tap: 2-5
We’re Hopped Up On...Big Al’s inclusive approach: The staff loves it when homebrewers stop by to talk shop.
Tours? Yes
The Brewer Suggests: Alejandro Brown (aka Big Al) has no mixed feelings about his Abbey Wheat, a hybrid of Belgian- and wheat-style beers.
Pub Grub? The tasting room is suds only, but Al’s ales are already on tap at 10 local eateries, including Bison Creek Pizza in Burien.


Big Time Brewery and Alehouse

4133 University Way NE

University District

Number of Beers on Tap: 11
We’re Hopped Up On…Hours-long shuffleboard matches on the antique table in the bar’s back room.
Tours? No
The Brewer Suggests: Big Time beer man Bill Jenkins suggests taking on the Nemesis Strong Ale, a barrel-aged brew.
Pub Grub? Tasty nachos, veggie chili, and stacked sammys, all designed with suds in mind.


Hale’s Brewery and Pub

4301 Leary Way NW



Number of Beers on Tap:12
We’re Hopped Up On…Growler refills for $10.24 and a friendly bar with plenty of elbow room.
Tours? Yes
The Brewer Suggests: Head brewer Rudyard J. Kipling (yes, that’s his real name) welcomes autumn with O’Brien’s Harvest Ale, a hoppy amber.
Pub Grub? There’s a full menu of so-so culinary offerings, but they pale in comparison to the ales.


Laughing Buddha Brewing Company

9320 15th Ave S, Ste CE2

South Park 


Number of Beers on Tap: 4*
We’re Hopped Up On…Sipping samples in this Asian-style brewery’s Tiki Tasting Room with co-owners Chris Castillo and Joe Valvo, who were college roomies before becoming business partners. Awww.
Tours? Yes
The Brewer Suggests: Purple Yam Porter is Chris Castillo’s Asian-fusion answer to autumn pumpkin ales. (His Filipino mom makes a yam pie every Thanskgiving).
Pub Grub? No food at HQ, but try some Buddha with sushi at Wasabi Bistro in Belltown.


Naked City Taphouse

8564 Greenwood Ave N


Number of Beers on Tap: 24*
We’re Hopped Up On…Naked City’s experimental spirit: It’s the city’s first serious barrel-aging brewery.
The Brewer Suggests: Naked City dons Donald Averill and Don Webb are all about the City Series, four Belgian style brews.
Pub Grub? The taproom (set to open later this fall) will feature sandwiches and such, but beer will take center stage.


Pyramid Alehouse

1201 First Ave S

Pioneer Square


Number of Beers on Tap: 18
We’re Hopped Up On…The way this big old bar for big old sports fans is also kid-friendly (note the Thomas Kemper sodas on tap).
Tours? Yes
The Brewer Suggests: Pyramid’s Mark House couldn’t decide on one beer, so try the Brewer’s Rack, a revolving sampler of whatever’s on tap.
Pub Grub? A predictable list of chicken wings and whatnot, but food is fresh and tasty.


Redhook Forecaster’s Pub

14300 NE 145th St

Number of Beers on Tap: 8 (all their own)
We’re Hopped Up On…Schwag! The $1 factory tour includes four samples plus a free tasting glass.
Tours? Yes
The Brewer Suggests: Brewmaster Greg Deuhs perks up when you mention Double Black Stout, a coffee-laced concoction.
Pub Grub? The cozy fireplace is more memorable than the salads and sandwiches up for order.


Rogue Issaquah Brewhouse

35 W Sunset Way


Number of Beers on Tap: 36
We’re Hopped Up On… The keg of Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout that the bar keeps on nitrous.
Tours? Yes
The Brewer Suggests: Dave Hutchinson says hopheads jump for Frog Rye IPA, a recent winner at the World Beer Cup.
Pub Grub? Delectable kobe-beef “haute dogs” give ballpark wieners a run for their money.


Schooner Exact Brewing Co.

3400 Harbor Ave SW, Ste 115

West Seattle

Number of Beers on Tap: 4*
We’re Hopped Up On…Schooner Exact’s tap at West 5 Lounge, our pick for West Seattle’s best bar.
Tours? No
The Brewer Suggests: Matt McClung loves 3-Grid IPA, the lead ship in the Schooner fleet.
Pub Grub? McClung’s mooring is so tiny, even the brewer eats elsewhere. Have a slosh of Schooner with your noshes at Brouwer’s in Fremont.


Two Beers Brewing

819 N 49th St, Ste 107


Number of Beers on Tap: 0
We’re Hopped Up On…The Mini Beer Fest, an August event when Two Beers joins the other pint-size suds makers—Laughing Buddha, Schooner Exact, and Baron—for a wee tasting party.
Tours? No
The Brewer Suggests: Brewer Joel VandenBrink suggests two beers: the Immersion Amber and new Echo IPA.
Pub Grub? Find VandenBrink’s beer at two of his fave food hangouts—Nana’s Soup House in Fremont and Phinney Ridge’s Park Pub.

* Brewery offers samples but is not licensed to sell beer.

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