There are more than 60 breweries within Seattle city limits, including a few that people across the country view as world-class. Our metropolitan area has more than 170 breweries, which, at last count, was the most of any metro area in the country. Mix in our town's incredible beer bars and you'll find that there is entirely too much good beer to be had.
That's where I come in.
I've tasted my way across Seattle's tap lists to find the breweries and bars that any self-respecting beer drinker should visit. There are more worthwhile spots than I can fit on this list, but drinking your way through the ones included here will give you a crash course in what Seattle's beer scene has to offer.
Some breweries focus on a certain style, like Machine House in Georgetown, which only makes English cask ales, or Floodland Brewery in Fremont, which produces barrel-aged wild beers. But at Interbay's Holy Mountain Brewing, the only thing all their beers have in common is that they are absolutely fucking fantastic. You can find Holy Mountain on tap around town, but the best place to try the gamut of their beers is their taproom.
I suggest starting with something low in alcohol. Holy Mountain's brewers handle sub-4-percent beers with deftness—take their Servant's Table, a light Belgian pale ale that is a perfect balance of lemon zest, light-toasted biscuits, and mellow tang.
Next, order something wild and acidic. The brewers here are masters at coercing farmhouse flavors out of wild yeasts to create deeply nuanced beers.
Finish with something hugely alcoholic, dark, and barrel-aged. Holy Mountain has a way of brewing decadently rich beers that are over 10 percent alcohol, but are so balanced you can accidentally chug them like a Rainier.
Drinking beer in Ballard is a formulaic process. It basically involves nursing IPAs in cold warehouses while fighting with babies and dogs for a place to sit. It's a redundant formula, but when the IPAs are good, all of those babies suddenly seem worth it. And the hoppy beers at Rueben's are not only good, they're prestigiously good.
Since opening six years ago, Reuben's has won dozens of national and international awards for their beers, including three gold medals in the last three years at North America's premier beer competition, the Great American Beer Festival. This year's gold-medal winner was Reuben's Triumvirate IPA, which is fruit-forward, crisp, light, and all about the hops. With its clear body, Triumvirate is Seattle's middle finger to the beer nerds of New England who demand their fruity IPAs be as murky as Boston's Charles River.
Outlander Brewery & Pub in downtown Fremont is located in a three-story house that has been lightly converted into a brewery and pub with a spacious deck and back patio. I say "lightly" because the space still very much resembles a home, complete with upstairs bedrooms where drinkers can play video games and plug spare aux cables into their phones to DJ their own party.
And the beer made in Outlander's basement is usually great and always interesting. Don't miss the refreshing Holy Basil Pale Ale. It's made with tulsi, a medicinal form of basil from India that gives it a very light clove and herbal flavor.
I know West Seattle is horribly far away from everything other than West Seattle, but don't wait 40 years for light rail to reach over there to enjoy the offerings of Beveridge Place Pub. Its taproom has been regularly featured in national news outlets as one of the best in America—and it's worthy of all the hype.
Beveridge Place Pub has an impeccably curated tap list—ordering a beer here almost always involves some difficult decisions—and the pub itself is one of the more comfortable places to drink excellent beer in this city. Cozy couches that somehow avoid smelling like they've been dipped in beer for a decade join a scattering of tables that can easily accommodate large groups.
This California Avenue pub also seems to host a beer festival nearly every week—another reason to make the trip across Elliott Bay to the lower left side of our city.
One does not go to Chuck's Hop Shop for the ambience. Both locations of Chuck Shin's Seattle beer empire are crammed with incredible amounts of beer and lack any sort of interior design. The Greenwood location still very much resembles the convenience store it once was, and "cafeteria-like" is a generous description of the Central District location.
One goes to Chuck's for the tap list, which is so deep that it must be displayed across multiple big-screen TVs, and includes an exhaustive spread of local beers plus a splattering of hard-to-find imports. And the refrigerators and shelves lined with bottles are among the best places to find packaged beer in the city.
Chuck does a good job of keeping high-quality food trucks at both of his locations as well, meaning you can drink your way through a dozen Seattle-brewed beers while eating tasty, affordable food.
There's a lot of irony in how Americans consume Belgian beer. In their native land, many of the most vaunted Belgian beers are produced either by monks who have taken vows of poverty or by fairly plebian brewers who, up until this decade, were frequently bankrupt and poor. In America, we elevate the price and status of these beers to the point of exclusivity and reserve them for the rich.
Stumbling Monk on Capitol Hill's Olive Way cuts through the bullshit, serving classic sour and wild beers at fair price points in a bar that would make even a farmer feel at ease, while the creaky benches and dilapidated refrigerators give it the feel of a communist meeting hall in Brussels. Try the Duchesse De Bourgogne, a red ale with a wonderful mix of sweet, tart, and savory flavors, like a balsamic reduction mixed with sweet cherries. Drink up, comrade.
TeKu Tavern is named after a type of beer glass that was designed to perfectly deliver a beer's aromas and flavor; the South Lake Union taproom takes this dedication to precise functionality to heart. The bar claims to clean its tap lines every time they change a keg (most bars in Seattle probably clean their lines once a month, if that), and they take a lot of care in how they serve and educate customers about their beers.
The ethos at TeKu can feel overwrought, especially if you're new to the world of quality beer, but it fits in well amongst its techie neighbors—and the 50 beers on tap are consistently fantastic. The bar's long, communal tables also get busy with people who are serious about their beer, which makes it a fun place to geek out about what's in your glass.
The Masonry might be Seattle's coolest beer spot. On a recent visit, the bar was lined with beautiful people who were dressed well and drinking interesting beer while a vinyl record played in the background. The original location in Lower Queen Anne is an intimate space off Roy Street with graffiti art on the walls and built around a wood-fired pizza oven, while the Fremont location is an expansive light-filled space with a long bar and plenty of seating. Both have impressive beer lists.
The Masonry is the type of place where you can throw a dart at the beer menu and still end up with an amazing beer. Their ability to get kegs from some of the most sought-after breweries in the Pacific Northwest—and the world—is seriously impressive, with frequent pours from breweries like De Garde, E9, Cantillon, Jolly Pumpkin, and Jester King.
They serve good pizza and food as well, somewhat of a rarity in Seattle's best taprooms.