Über Tavern's neon sign—a big brown bottle—promises to cure what ails you. The storefront on North 75th Street and Aurora Avenue North housed the Seattle Homeopathic Centre until last year; it now reads "KEGS TO GO" in several-thousand-point font. Inside, Über is tiny, cozy, and dead serious about beer. On a dark weeknight, those sitting at the bar earnestly discuss a certain brew's funky quality. One, wearing suspenders patterned with the smiling pink elephant logo of Delirium Tremens, an infamous Belgian blond, expresses with wonderment and gravity that he cannot pinpoint what gives this beer its specific character. Lined up in front of him: a tall, slim glass filled with what looks like liquid gold; a pint of water; a goblet of something deep ruby; and a half-eaten brownie on a paper plate. He's here for the long haul, oft consulted, helping Über put the cult in beer culture.
On the bartender's T-shirt: "In Seattle We ROCK OUT With Our BOCK OUT." She's just returned from the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, which prompts close questioning by various Übergoers. While she obviously knows her zymurgy, she terms the GABF "completely overwhelming"—one weekend, an enormous convention center, 2,000 beers administered in one-ounce pours. Men outnumbered women four to one, she estimates, which exactly mirrors the current gender breakdown at Über—me, her, and eight guys. (Über's website shows it's not always such a sausage party, with snapshots of all manner of attractive people taking their medicine and looking very happy about it.)
For the uninured, Über itself might be overwhelming: 20-plus über-specialty beers on tap, a wall of refrigerators fully loaded with billions more beers glowing alluringly in bottles, big ceramic steins, even bigger glass boots, 23 more vessels in various shapes for different kinds of beer, growlers for to-go purchases suspended from the joists of the low ceiling. In order to work here, you have to pass a written test; the bartender makes the clearly spurious claim that it's "pretty basic."
Current selections include the aforementioned Delirium Tremens with its own pink elephant–topped tap, a tripel from Belgium that translates as Mad Bitch, and New Old Lompoc Strong Draft (enabling the request "I'll try the LSD, please"). A glass of pretty much anything plus a seat around Über's amazing tabletop fireplace—gas flames flickering up through a pile of beach glass, a black cone hood overhead—is a prescription for pleasant stupefaction. A keg's wheeled out on a dolly, its new owner looking highly anticipatory. At the bar, someone says, "That's why you have your friends—so they can remember the portions of your life you don't."
Über Tavern, 7517 Aurora Ave N, 782-BEER