Craft beer lends itself to expansiveness. When there are 100 beers on tap at your local bar or, in the case of Seattle, more than 65 breweries within the city limits, you can develop an urge to try everything. I'm here to stop you from doing that—because in searching for everything, you'll likely miss a few things actually worth enjoying.
That's why instead of reciting a list of every great brewery, I've selected six beers that every beer drinker in Seattle should try. This doesn't include every great brewery in Seattle or every great beer made in Seattle. But getting to know these six beers will likely lead you to other lovely local beers and breweries along the way. So drink 'em up and enjoy.
Vesper by Holy Mountain Brewing
It's a fool's errand to argue over which brewery in Seattle is the best, but there's a strong argument for Holy Mountain holding the title. No other brewery seems to match Holy Mountain's ability to create delicious beers in nearly every style. Hoppy pilsner? Check. Hazy IPA? They make some of the best. Barrel-aged barley wine? Theirs are incredible. Cask ale? Holy Mountain can even do that. The Interbay brewery is fantastic, and one of the best entry points is Vesper, a table beer brewed with brett yeast that is a tour de force of craftsmanship. It's light—just 3.8 percent alcohol—and skillfully balanced between flavors of grass, lemon, funk, and a touch of oak. It's a simple, easy-drinking beer that is also a work of art. Pair it with grilled fish or vegetarian pasta, and it'll blow your mind. Find it at bottle shops around town or at the brewery.
Bodhizafa by Georgetown Brewing Company
In a city full of great IPAs, Bodhizafa is the most famous. This IPA tastes of bitter grapefruit peel and oranges, and it is a matriarch of sorts for modern hoppy beers. Georgetown’s Bodhi, as locals affectionately call it, was one of the first beers in the world made with a concentrated form of hops called Cryo Hops. Their success with this innovative product prompted brewers around the world to start using the new style of hops. Georgetown doesn’t use Cryo anymore for Bodhi, but the beer is still great. Bodhi beat out 311 other beers to win gold for American-style IPA at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival competition, one of the most respected beer competitions in America. Find Bodhi on tap just about anywhere good beer is served, or in your local grocery store.
Pike XXXXX Stout by Pike Brewing Company
Every Seattleite should know Pike Brewing Company, one of our state's oldest craft breweries. Charles and Rose Ann Finkel opened Pike Brewing in 1989, and then spent the next three decades convincing Americans that beer could be made on the local level and still taste good. They've also mentored dozens of brewers that have gone on to open or work at breweries across the city and country, and in doing so helped make craft beer a little bit better nationwide. And they've accomplished all of this by setting an example with really great beer. When you visit Pike, you should stick to the classics, like the Pike XXXXX Stout, a chocolaty-smooth beer they've been making since their inception. It's full-bodied, has a pleasant mix of black coffee bitterness and yeasty fruit notes, and is an absolute pleasure to drink. Find it at their pub by Pike Place Market, in bars around town, or at your local grocery store.
Happy Little Clouds by Cloudburst Brewing
Steve Luke is a hops whisperer. The founder and head brewer of Cloudburst is a virtuoso when it comes to showcasing the tasty flavors of Humulus lupulus. That's why his brewery has quickly become the go-to place for Seattleites to drink some of the best IPA in the city. But I'm not recommending an IPA; Happy Little Clouds is a pilsner. What gives? Well, it turns out pilsner is a perfect canvas for hops, and Luke and his team are just as good at lagers as they are at ales. Happy Little Clouds tastes like lightly toasted bread dipped in honey, smells like grassy and floral hops, and feels like a clean, clean beer that you could drink a full keg of. And it's one of the few beers that is on tap year-round at Cloudburst.
Dark Mild by Machine House Brewery
Mild was once one of the world's most popular beers. This malty, lightly hopped, and highly sessionable beer accounted for more than 75 percent of all beer brewed in Britain in the 1930s. That's not the case anymore—there's hardly any mild made even in its native England. Luckily for Seattle, we have Georgetown's Machine House Brewery, which makes authentic and delicious traditional cask ales like their Dark Mild. This one drinks with the full roasted flavor of a porter or a stout with hardly any perceived bitterness, and its body is surprisingly light and balanced given the beer's jet-black color. And at only 3.7 percent alcohol, you can keep drinking one pint after another. Find it on tap at Machine House, their pub in the Central District, and at quality beer bars around town.
B-Bomb by Fremont Brewing
In some ways, B-Bomb put Seattle beer on the map. This barrel-aged winter ale is by no means Seattle's first craft beer—it was first released in 2012, more than 30 years after Redhook opened Seattle's first modern craft brewery—but B-Bomb has come to signal a sort of second craft-beer renaissance in Seattle. When Fremont Brewing released this decadently rich barrel-aged beer, they showed the world that Seattle's beer scene had a new wave of young brewers capable of creating show-stopping flavors. B-Bomb, which comes in variants like coconut and coffee-cinnamon, is consistently considered one of Washington State's best and is hunted by beer nerds across the country. Each year's release of B-Bomb is different, but it usually clocks in at about 14 percent alcohol, has rich and smooth notes of cocoa, bourbon, and dried fruit, and is a charming beer to share with friends. It's not always easy to find, but look around at Seattle's better bottle shops or keep an eye on Fremont Brewing's tap list, and you'll eventually come across this whale of a beer.