The first thing you’ll see when you walk into Vine Street Market in Belltown is a wall of beer. Turn to the left? Wall of beer. To the right? Another wall of beer. In fact, beer covers so many surfaces in this Fifth Avenue market that you get the sense the owners would put beer in front of the door if that didn’t prevent customers from getting in.
I don't get excited about vast quantities of beer. Menus with 100 beers on tap are boring. But there's something different about Vine Street's beer selection—it's both vast and meticulously curated.
This market is only 500 square feet yet manages to carry a collection of nearly 500 different types of beer that rivals the city’s other premier bottle shops like Chuck’s Hop Shop in the Central District or Bottleworks in Wallingford or Full Throttle Bottles in Georgetown. Vine Street is a fraction of those stores' size yet still carries the names that make people with good taste in beer raise their eyebrows, names like Holy Mountain, E9, Mirage, Matchless, Skookum, Urban Family, and many, many, many, more.
The beer curation is thanks to Vine Street’s owner Brennen Cohea. He’s quietly turned this shop near the shadow of the Space Needle into one of the best places to buy bottled beer in the city. And Cohea has managed to create a community around his store, despite the fact that his shop only comfortably holds about six people at any given time. Cohea has a handful of beer taps to fill growlers or crowlers, and every Thursday he brings in a brewery to do complimentary tastings.
I recently visited Vine Street on a Thursday evening and Dirty Couch Brewing, a new-ish Seattle brewery that is slowly building out a taproom in Magnolia, was pouring their collection of barrel-aged and sour beers. I tried a sour wheat ale aged on raspberries called Yearlong that had a sharp tartness with mellow notes of berry and funk. Then I tried Beautiful, a dark sour that had notes of chocolate, cherry, and orange. Both were good, but Dirty Couch’s best beer was Icarus, a mixed culture beer aged in gin barrels from Capitol Hill’s OOLA Distillery. Icarus is effervescent, easy and enjoyable to drink, and full of botanical flavors like dried orange and cucumber. It’s like someone took gin and turned it into something that’s enjoyable to drink.
“Sometimes I make bad choices, like are people going to want three cases of all the Crooked Stave stuff that’s available? When they first became available here I stocked up on it, but that was probably a mistake,” Cohea said.
He added that sometimes he thinks the customers are just totally missing beers they should be excited about.
“There’s stuff on the shelf right now even that I am like, ‘How are these not popular?’ Like Peche ‘n Brett by Logsdon, that beer is just incredible,” Cohea said.
When I said I was already a fan of Peche ‘n Brett, he told me about another beer I didn’t know about: Little Beast Brewing’s Golden Stone. Cohea said Little Beast was a new brewery from the same brewer who founded Logsdon and that Golden Stone is being billed as “the next Peche 'n Brett.” That’s the kind of exhaustive beer recommendation that can only come from a guy who knows how to fit 500 different types of amazing beer in a 500 square foot market.