Cheers to Quirky Northwest Breweries

Washington’s craft beer scene remains the second largest in the U.S. — and has unexpected ties to the English monarchy and rock aristocrats.

The Evergreen State prides itself on craft beers, and now that lineage has a drop of blue blood. When Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle wed, their commemorative brew relied on Simcoe hops from Toppenish, a town 22 miles southeast of Yakima. Windsor & Eton Brewery in the United Kingdom wove these earthy, fruity catkins — an anchor of the classic Northwest flavor — into a pale ale honoring the bride’s West Coast roots.

Celebrating a very different sort of royalty, Seattle’s Elysian Brewing Company launched Def Leppard Pale (6 percent ABV) a few days later in May. It marks the English rock band’s summer tour, co-headlined with Journey. The beer mixes the infamous malt body of British ales with the citrusy, piney hops of its former colony.

Thankfully, Washington keeps plenty of its bounty close to home, too. It now shelters 383 craft breweries — with more than two-thirds falling between Vancouver and Bellingham. That makes us the country’s second-biggest haven for artisanal, small-batch beer, outmuscled only by California.

Here are five hot spots to experience some of the best of Western Washington’s brewery scene.


Holy Mountain


One of the Emerald City’s most beloved breweries, this Interbay nook has no flagship beer. Instead, it constantly innovates from pilsners to milk stouts and hoppy pale ales.

Co-founders Mike Murphy and Colin Lenfesty hung out their shingle in 2014. They hitched their star to sours, just as the public’s palette awoke to the nuances of wild yeasts like Brettanomyces. They also focused on barrel aging and mixed fermentation, done in casks that once contained wine and spirits.

The brewery landed on the map with Midnight Still, an imperial stout aged on Sweetheart cherries from Chelan in rye barrels for 19 months. A variant infused this heady blend with Madagascar vanilla beans and 9 Swans coffee from Pioneer Square roaster Elm, which added notes of plum and cocoa. More recently, it tapped Batch 666, a.k.a. “The Great Beast.” The pale ale builds off organic Purple Karma barley, a variety native to the ancient Himalayas that Oregon State University revived. Holy Mountain, however, sources this nutty, toasty grain from Skagit Valley Malting just up the road.

While the industrial-chic taproom doesn’t serve food, it allows takeaway from its neighbor, one of Seattle’s best new Italian places: Windy City Pie, inside Batch 206 Distillery. Four hungry adults can fill up on a 12-inch Chicago-style pizza — bright tangy sauce cradled in brioche-style crust fringed in caramelized cheese. Go for the Brussels Snout, a white-sauce whopper topped with its namesake veggie and candied bacon, or the Popeye, which pairs spinach, mushrooms, and Kalamata olives with blue cheese.

Visit: Open daily; 1421 Elliott Ave. W., Seattle;


Black Raven

Black Raven

Photo by Ramiro Silva


This 15-barrel brewery draws inspiration from Northwest Coast mythology, specifically the powerful figure of the Raven, a trickster who also beneficially transforms the world. “We like to think we are creative, wise, playful, and a bit bird-brained, just like those wacky ravens,” its website declares.

The taps prove this amply with a mix of Old World styles and local flavors, like spring’s super-hoppy Wisdom Seeker Double IPA, which rouses hibernating taste buds with blasts of citrus. Another favorite remains the Tamerlane brown porter infused with toasted coconuts, which landed a 2017 Washington Beer Award Gold for vegetable flair. Aficionados flock to its more unusual offerings, aged in barrels that originally contained wine, cognac, bourbon, or rye whiskey. Curious? Swing by the taproom on the first Wednesdays, when Black Raven cracks open its special casks.

Line your stomach at the food trucks outside. Try kimchi mac and cheese from the Peasant Food Manifesto or Nacho Mama’s tortilla chips smothered in Cajun seasoning, Andouille sausage, and pickled red onions. Beanfish is another regular, dishing up taiyaki, a classic Japanese street snack. Chefs make each fish-shaped waffle fresh in cast iron, then add fillings from matcha tea custard to sautéed mushrooms with wasabi peas and Swiss cheese.

Visit: Open daily; 14679 N.E. 95th St., Redmond;


Odd Otter

Odd Otter


So, two physicians, two corporate middle-managers, and an openly gay Republican state House candidate/cavalry scout walk into a bar — well, actually a brewery — which they crowdfunded in 2014. To this day, it remains largely veteran-owned and -operated, and offers a 15 percent discount for their compatriots, plus first responders and active-duty military (along with their spouses). And for bonus points, its taproom occupies a late-1880s building that once housed a WWI Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Club and an integrated USO Center during WWII.

Those are great selling points, but far from Odd Otter’s only ones. The brewery is winning Washington Beer Awards Gold hand-over-fist, most recently with Screeching Otter in the imperial/double IPA division. Odditea — brown ale infused with Tacoma’s Mad Hat coconut chai — also topped the herb and spices category. Head brewer Greer Hubbard likes to tweak traditional recipes, producing gems such as his crisp watermelon Hefeweizen and a boysenberry-cherry beer called “Respect,” which raised money for the Pierce County YWCA to help end domestic violence.

Beyond that, the funky, exposed-brick bar is family-friendly — to the point where it hosts what might be the only brewery kiddo karaoke. “My daughter was super-bummed I wouldn’t take her to the bar at 9 p.m. to sing,” said Carolyn Merling, Odd Otter’s event director and social media manager. “So, I selfishly created a monthly event for kids. It was a fluke that took off.” Youngsters — some as tiny as 2 — rock out to The Beatles and Lady Gaga, often while fundraising for school organizations.

While Odd Otter takes as many twists and turns (and yoga sessions) as its swift-diving namesake, it has no kitchen, and Tacoma limits food trucks to downtown. But patrons can bring in snacks or order delivery from The Forum. Expect fish tacos, fried ravioli, and Cajun-battered shrimp po boys.

Visit: Open daily; 716 Pacific Ave., Tacoma;


Well 80

Well 80

Courtesy Well 80


Opening this spring, the brewhouse sprang to life. It had lines out the door within a month, thanks to a great downtown site. The handful of unique collaborative beers — crafted with local companies like Triceratops and Three Magnets — sealed the deal.

“Our brew system wasn’t ready to build enough stock,” said co-owner Chris Knudson. “So, we reached out to friends in town with breweries. Some really great one-off beers were created, many of which people want us to brew again.”

Well 80 is now showcasing its solo efforts too, including IPAs, Belgian ales, and a strong lager catalog. All share the clear, pure water drawn from the brewery’s namesake artesian well. It taps into the vast Tumwater Sand aquifer, formed about 12,000 years ago, when the last ice age peeled back the Vashon Glacier. The company has modern bragging rights, too — head brewer Paul Pearson once captained the nearby Fish Tale Brewpub and has consulted with Paul Knight, Olympia Brewing Company’s master, from 1974-97. Together they crafted the refreshing Original Lager Year ’64 and Original Dark ’66, with its kiss of chocolate.

A robust menu rounds out the experience, ranging from poke salad to fried chicken with Belgian waffles. The Nor’easter pizza with clams — clams! — attracts much attention, as does the array of condiments, which include Gochujang sauce made with Korean chili paste.

Visit: Open daily; 514 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia;


No Boat


The original Twin Peaks put Snoqualmie Falls on the map in 1990; the world fell in love with the brooding mists of this 270-foot cascade. As the cult classic’s revival enters its second life, swing by the star of its opening credits and then refuel at No Boat Brewing, 3 miles west. Named for its location — in a warehouse for vessels and wakeboards — the brewpub remains a favorite among hikers, climbers, and day trippers headed home on I-90.

Gleaming, live-edge wood softens this industrial space draped in Edison bulbs. But the succulent-lined patio steals the show with jaw-dropping views of the Cascade Mountains, as does the open-door policy for kids and dogs. Locals love it.

Its flagships include Mozzie IPA and Bia Hoi Vietnamese lager, alongside seasonals such as Gose & Gander, a tart, tasty sour with a light 4.2 percent ABV. Guest taps also showcase nonalcoholic root beers and gluten-free ciders.

Food trucks rotate through the brewery’s lot. Marry your favorite pint to Texas beef brisket by J&J BBQ Company or lumpia with cilantro-chili dip from Swift & Savory. Another highlight remains the global comfort food served at Silver Spork, ranging from kalua pork sliders to Argentinian flank steak tacos… not to mention Greek Island fries, festooned with herbs, lemon, feta, olives, and roasted chicken.

Visit: Open Wednesday-Sunday; 35214 S.E. Center St., Snoqualmie;


When You’re in the Neighborhood:

Loowit Brewing Company, Vancouver

Matchless Brewing, Tumwater

Elk Head Brewing Company, Buckley

Powerhouse Restaurant and Brewery, Puyallup

Half Lion Brewery, Sumner

Airways Brewing, Kent

Cloudburst Brewing, Seattle

Chainline Brewing Company, Kirkland

Sumerian Brewing, Woodinville

Friday Harbor Brewing Company, Friday Harbor

Birdsview Brewery, Concrete

Aslan Brewing Co., Bellingham

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