Seattle Beer Week 2023

A Six-Pack of: Great Local Lagers

IPAs are great, but we're entering pilsner season.

By Allecia Vermillion May 24, 2023

Image: Amber Fouts

Seattle Met is celebrating Seattle Beer Week with a daily six-pack of brewery or beer recommendations.

These days it seems like every brewery is making a pilsner. A really good one. Maybe a kolsch, too. Places that once defined themselves by mega-imperial, triple, barrel-aged ABV-busting ales now also revel in lagers—lower-alcohol beers that carry the crispness of a spring morning, then finish clean on the palate.

It’s a refreshment rather than a trophy. You can have two or three without needing a bottle of Advil the next morning. Years ago, craft brewers scorned lager due to hard feelings toward mass-market cans of Coors and Miller Lite. As years went on, those very characteristics—light, easy-drinking—became the appeal. After all, this is a town that appreciates a tallboy of Rainier after a long shift.

Some places put out classic German pilsners, some are exploring under-appreciated styles. Others are bridging the gap between lager and IPA with dry-hopped pilsners that marry the most common lager style with our region’s love of hops. (Lager also stays in the tank longer than ale, so the breweries that do it right definitely prioritize product over profit.) Here are but a few stand-up examples currently available either on draft or in cans.

Chuck Light, Chuckanut Brewery

The region’s longtime champion of lager and German beer styles was into pilsner (and marzen, and doppelbock) before it became cool. Brewers’ more passionate embrace of lager has spawned an interesting subset: The craft version of ‘Murica staples like Bud Light. The official description, “made in the style of low calorie beer” doesn’t send you running for a glass, but Chuck Light reminds you why those beers became ubiquitous in the first place. Crisp lager flavor whispers, rather than shouts, and it’s dynamite with food and long conversations with friends at Chuck’s. This beer surfaces most often on draft at local beer bars.

Helles Lager, Lucky Envelope Brewing

Ray Kwan and Barry Chan honor their heritage with brews like a lychee sour or buddha’s hand citrus IPA. They also have a magic touch with cream stout, infused with everything from honey and cinnamon to peanut butter to gingerbread spices. Amid its many strengths, Lucky Envelope is a virtuoso when it comes to lager. The flagship Helles is soft and bready and channels summer Sunday afternoons. The rotating list also includes an amber Vienna-style lager, sturdy dry-hopped Italian pilsner, even a dark pilsner in winter.

Pilsner, Seapine Brewing Company

The SoDo brewery keeps a low profile, but its IPA has loomed large on local tap handles for the past decade. During the onset of Covid, Seapine started canning its beers, including this classic German-style pilsner. The hop profile is very German, but it's prominent enough to feel right at home in the Northwest.

Happy Little Clouds, Cloudburst Brewing

Cloudburst is, by definition, a place that leaps from imperial milk stout to rice lager to IPAs of all stripes. Steve Luke’s brewery has exactly one constant beer: this light, golden pilsner remade with modern hops. It’s a pilsner the most discerning hop fan can appreciate, and a worthy calling card for one of the town’s best breweries. The name is an homage to Bob Ross; so is the limited amount of cans, though you can also find this food-friendly creation on draft at various bars and restaurants.

NPFO, Future Primitive Brewing

Early on, Kevin Watson and Ian Roberts knew they wanted to make a German-style lager, brewed with all German ingredients. Watson wanted to call it Nazi Punks Fuck Off in honor of the Dead Kennedys song. Some partners at the brewery had concerns about selling a beer...with that name. So this superlative lager debuted under the name “12 Week Pilsner.” The response wasn’t what Future Primitive hoped, so Watson's more memorable name won the day. It's the White Center brewery's second-best seller (they also makes cans that simply say NPFO) but soon you can order one at Future Primitive's second taproom on Alki.

Roger's Pilsner, Georgetown Brewing

Bring up Washington’s largest independent brewery, and lager isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Maybe not even the third. But the operation that gave us Manny’s also puts out a standout pils. Roger’s is round and balanced, distinct from Seattle’s other great pilsners, perhaps because it uses less-common Sterling hops from Oregon. Roger’s is also one of the easiest Georgetown beers to get your hands on in stores.

Guide to Local Beer

Here's what's on tap for the rest of Seattle Beer Week

Best of the Beer Aisle | New Breweries | Local Lagers | Breweries with Food | Family-Friendly Taprooms

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