The lager from Seattle-Lite Brewing is so light that I had completely forgotten its flavor by the end of its polite little crisp finish. I couldn't even remember if it had any flavor. So I drank another sip and noticed it did, in fact, taste like something, just some light grain character and general beer funk, and then again the flavor quietly faded away after a moment passed.
This is what the majority of people look for in a beer, something that barely tastes like "beer" before dissipating into nothingness. But local craft brewers rarely deliver the light beer experience. Seattle-Lite is flipping that script by not only making a light beer, but dedicating their entire brewery to it. Seattle-Lite’s narrow three-beers-only roster (something I think some other brewers would do well imitating) is made up entirely of light beer. And the beers this six-month-old brewery makes aren't likely to get heavier anytime soon. Dan Martinez, one of the brewery's co-owners, said he has been searching for beers that are lighter in alcohol like mass-produced lagers, while still tasting good.
"I want more flavor than what is being offered on a large scale. I know there are craft light beers out there and that’s sort of what we want to piggy bank on, is doing more craft light beer instead of this mass produced tasteless flavored water," Martinez said.
Imagine a Bud Light, but instead of being faintly terrible, the beer is mildly pleasant. Those mass produced beers are often cheapened with adjunct ingredients like rice, sugar, and food additives, and then cut with a lot of filtering and water to make it taste like almost nothing. Seattle-Lite isn't playing that game.
"We’re still using only the good hops, the good grains," Huerta said. "Everything that your higher ABV beer has, we are still using all of that."
Huerta and Martinez opened their taproom in May in the South Park space formerly home to Burdick Brewing. They don't actually brew the beer themselves—they've contracted that out to John Marti at Lowercase Brewing one neighborhood away, in Georgetown. I didn't know Marti was responsible for making Seattle-Lite's beer until after I was already a fan of this new brewery, but it makes sense considering Marti is establishing himself as one of the city's best brewers of lager.
Martinez said their lighter takes on classic styles like IPA and pale ale have started to attract some people that don't think of themselves as beer drinkers.
"We do get people who tell us, I don’t like IPA. And then they try ours and say hey that’s pretty good, I actually like this," Martinez said. "We are trying to make easy drinking beer that appeals to everyone, even the nondrinkers. We’ve had non beer drinkers come in and say this is good, I can do this."
We all know those kinds of people, the "I don't like craft beer because it's too heavy" crowd. The common misconception that craft beer needs to be heavier than mass produced beer has taken root thanks to the craft beer industry's attraction to big flavors, brash beer, and high alcohol content. But there is, of course, no requirement that beer brewed with a commitment to flavor and local ownership needs to be heavier than a Bud Light. It should just taste better.
Seattle-Lite is showing us there's a market for breweries that are dedicated solely to the pursuit of light flavor. We'll see if Seattle is able to support its first modern light beer brewery. Who knows, maybe it will lead to more.