TeKu Tavern fits seamlessly into South Lake Union. If TeKu lived in Green Lake or Georgetown it would feel overwrought, too proud of how fussy they treat beer. But in a neighborhood built by Microsoft money and full of Amazonians and Googlers it feels right. Why shouldn’t the neighborhood dedicated to finding out how you can get homewares delivered by drone also have a bar with 50 taps of beer that are hooked up to a specialized keg line cleaning system? This bar is even named after a glass, the TeKu, that was scientifically designed for optimal beer consumption. It's a bar built for the tech industry.
I’m no techie so TeKu Tavern isn’t really made for me. I get just as excited walking into a bar with five excellent beers on tap as I do having the option to choose between 50. I don’t need to know how often my favorite bars clean their keg lines, I only need to be able to trust that they serve clean beer. But I still consistently find myself going back to TeKu Tavern because they always seem to have outstanding beers on tap. It’s not just a lot of options, it’s a lot of good options. After only two years in business, they already are getting beer from the region’s best breweries. TeKu regularly has Pacific Northwest all-star breweries like Anchorage Brewing, Chuckanut Brewery, and Skookum Brewery on tap and their bottle list is even more extensive.
TeKu’s extensive list of great beers makes selecting a beer a difficult task, so I wanted to see what TeKu’s owner, Karrie Stewart, drinks when she gets a chance to enjoy a beer at her bar. Stewart moved to Seattle six years ago to take an engineering job at Boeing. Her husband, Rich Powell, followed her to Seattle and got a job at Amazon. The two decided to open a bar together, so Stewart left her job while Powell still works his day job at Amazon.
So what does Stewart choose when she orders from her own bar?
Orchard Road by Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
Stewart started with this mixed culture saison from the venerable Oregon brewery Logsdon. She poured me a sample and it tasted like funky fruit, almost like a pineapple, with a sour sharpness.
“This one was aged in a wine barrel, you can taste that,” Stewart said. “It’s a hint of vinegar on the nose but not much on the palate. It’s really vinous. I really like beers aged in wine barrels and they do a great job with this one. And this is a wine beer that we can actually get, because a lot of people that are doing this kind of stuff are mostly doing brewery-only releases.”
Fuzz by Structures Brewing
Stewart’s second pick was this hazy IPA from Bellingham’s Structures Brewing. It was hardly bitter at all and full of fresh fruit flavors like melon and orange.
“It’s not as bitter and it’s almost like a pillow on your mouth, it’s a lot easier to drink for people who don’t like super bitter beers,” Stewart said. “I think Fuzz is a good example of what Structures does well. I think it’s a pretty tasty beer, it’s easier to drink than a lot of other hazies. It’s still super flavorful but it’s not as heavy on your palette… like some of the milkshake hazies.”
The Prime Barrel Age by Garden Path Fermentation
For her last selection, Stewart grabbed this bottle of mixed culture beer from one of TeKu’s many refrigerators. Skagit Valley’s Garden Path Fermentation has had a following for longer than it’s been a brewery—its two owners come from the famous Jester King Brewery in Texas—and the ciders, meads, and beers they’ve been producing since opening last year have not been a disappointment.
"I think Garden Path is doing great stuff,” Stewart said. “They are fermenting all sorts of things and their approach to it is using only ingredients they can get locally, whether it’s the native yeast, the Skagit malt, the hops they can get. Their taproom is a beer geek mecca of bottles.”