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52 Weeks: Buckaroo Tavern (The Buck), Seattle, Washington

The famous sign donning the front of the Buck.

Week 26 of 52

Buckaroo Tavern (The Buck)

4201 Fremont Avenue North

Seattle, WA 98103-7221

(but not for long; look for their new address on N 36th Street starting in late September!)

(206) 634-3161

Rank: 4/5

Type of Establishment: Straight up – bar. no fancy stuff.

Visit: Wednesday evening from 9:00 PM-12:00 AM.

BEERS ON TAP

Wow. I was quite surprised to see the bevy of beers. As I will explain below, it used to not be this way. They have really stepped it up.

Diamond Knot IPA

Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale

Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Elysian Immortal IPA

New Belgium Fat Tire Ale

….and plenty of others. We would estimate that there are a total of 25 taps.

Beers are either 3.50 or 4.25 – yep even the good ones.

BOTTLED/CANNED BEER:

Again,  I was surprised to see the bottle options. Nothing rare or shocking, but a lot of good options. Specifically, Chimay Red  & White, Stone Arrogant Bastard, Duvel, & Unibroue Trois Pistoles.

If you are going – stick to the tap list, though. Its damn good.

FOOD OPTIONS:

HA! You wish I would just say: “none.” But alas, I cannot. The Buck has a monstrous jar of hot pepper pickled eggs behind the bar. This is a necessity for any bar, in my mind. If you don’t have a jar of something pickled back there – you might as well be a bistro. Try these guys out.

They also have some snack items, including free popcorn!

BAR OPINION:

Out of nowhere last night, my buddy decided we should walk down to the Buck. Now, I have to give full disclosure: I have been here before. Unfortunately, I do not really remember my visit and it had been quite some time. Based upon my new perspective, it really fit the mold for discussion here on 52 Weeks.

The Buck is a legendary institution. If a friend says: “lets go to the Buck,” you should freaking go. It has a similar aged luster to it that can make you feel at home, comfortable in your inebriation.

The Buck first staked its ground over 72 years ago! This truly makes it one of the oldest bars in all of Seattle, and certainly the most aged in Fremont (we believe).

The remains of nights gone awry are visible on the Buck’s walls, booths and wooden bar back. They have not changed it; they have not improved it. It remains the same wondrous place it was many years ago.

The Buck is a place where locals remain and ponder their days. This is the quintessential “regulars” bar. If you were to take a time-lapsing photo of the movement at the front door, you’re quite certain to catch the same case going in and out each day. This is how the bar has thrived for over 7 centuries.

So, when I woke up today and saw that even Voracious had caught wind of the sad news that I am about to report – I knew it was time for a write up here on Beer Blotter. Wait for it: The Buck is closing. Relax: it will return.

The Buck has lost its lease, after two rich kids decided to use family money to purchase the building and turn it into – an Eastern European Restaurant!?!? The concept alone boggles my mind. Have these owners actually been inside of the Buck? No building could personify the term “bar” better than the spot on Fremond Ave N. But alas – they made up their mind and the Buck is being booted in mid-September.

One of the worst parts of the article that was run today on Voracious is that it omits the uplifting news: The Buck is returning.

Part of the bar.

What’s best is that its returning in full force, complete with all of the booths, wooden wall coverings, and bar back. In fact, it appears that much of what makes the Buck so wonderful will actually be transported to the new venue. The new location is rumored to be on N 36th Street, somewhere between Stone Way and Fremont Ave N. Can’t wait to check the new digs.

But for now, the Buck is rolling on, serving cocktails, great beer and amazing service. We had an excellent time at the Buck last night. Our bartender went above and beyond to serve us; he even poured us a few on the house.

One of the troubling parts of the Buck is that its cash only (don’t forget that!). What makes it a bit more of an issue is the fact that the ATM was broken and there is not another one for a few blocks. But do not despair – our wonderful bartender let us relax, order beers, have a pickled egg, and enjoy our surroundings – all while not getting paid. I love a bartender who trusts his clients. A good bartender can spot the guys who will pay and the guys who will be a problem. We weren’t the latter, and he gave us a great honor.

So the progress went like this – Union Jack, Diamond Knot IPA, Old Rasputin (at this point we think we are leaving). Then some great conversation with the bartender about the Buck’s future, and another Union Jack (at this point, I’ve told my wife on heading home). Additional great conversation ensues – and its met with a Union Jack on the house (thanks guys).

The Buck at night. Pretty ladies lined up.

The atmosphere was great, filled with oodles of kickballers, fresh from another game. The bartender could not have been better and the price was impeccable. We love it.

Take some time in the next 6 weeks and get over to the Buck before it moves. You will need to get a glimpse of the greatness before its replaced with a heartbreaker.

The Buck will be having a big going away party lasting 3 days. The party will likely center around the September 17th “move out” date. So keep your eyes peeled and chat up the bartender. Hope to see you there.

52 Weeks: Columbia City Alehouse

The list at Columbia City Alehouse doesn't disappoint

Wow we need to catch up. With the trip to Belgium, we started slacking a bit on this end. But alas, the 52 Weeks articles return.

By my count we have missed the past three weeks. But, we certainly visited countless new places over that time. For weeks 9 and 10, we will have some Belgium venues to review in the coming week. Stay tuned.

For week 11, which was last week, I visited the Columbia City Alehouse in, believe it or not, Columbia City, Seattle, WA……..

11 of 52

Columbia City Alehouse

4914 Rainier Ave S.
Seattle, WA
(206) 723-5123

Part of the Seattle Alehouses trio that includes 74th St. Alehouse in Phinney Ridge and Hilltop Alehouse in Queen Anne

Rank: #9 of 11 (only because i know the two Belgium spots are better)

Type of Establishment:  English Alehouse/Pub

BEERS ON TAP (at time of visit) —>Columbia City Alehouse has about 20 taps to choose from:

Diamond Knot IPA

Odin Brewery Freya Kolsch

Pike Tandem Dubbel

Snoqualmie Steam Train Porter

Maritime Pacific Old Seattle Lager

Georgetown Manny’s Pale Ale

Ninkasi Oatis (Oatmeal Stout)

Boundary Bay IPA

Various other lagers, pilsners, and ambers…..

A 20 oz pour of Diamond Knot's IPA, does you a good Sunday.

BOTTLE OPTIONS: Columbia City has a few bottles, including some of the usual business.

But, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had bottles of New Belgium Ranger IPA and Port Brewing Panzer Imperial Pilsner. Both are very good ales.

FOOD OPTIONS:  A large number of pub items. Actually, the menu is incredibly appetizing for those of us with bar food brains.

You can check the menu online by visiting this link. However, I must say that I saw someone’s Cod Tacos and the Gumbo and almost wet myself. They both look great.

Having our New Orleans connection, we always get excited to see Gumbo on the menu. Aside from nice places (Kingfish Cafe & Steelhead Diner – two of the best places in Seattle) and a few bars (Frontier Room), you just do not see it on the menu.

STAFF & BAR OPINION:  Extremely casual and low concern. Bartender was essentially just “hanging out” and reading a newspaper. Not much, if any, of a beer atmosphere to the crew here.

However, the bartender was incredibly attentive and kind. Being a Sunday afternoon – you never need to expect to much liveliness and activity out of any bar folk. This is a day for decompression and hair of the dog.

I was thrust into Columbia City because the wife had a day of volunteering at the NW African-American Museum, where she assists with administration. So, we grabbed a bus and meandered through the neighborhoods of Seattle’s south region.

People don’t come down here much. This is not the travel and visit hub of Seattle. Its an incredibly ethnic neighborhood that some classify as dangerous. Dangerous how? Looks great to me. In fact, Columbia City is essentially the best place to see culture in the City of Seattle. This is the one place where I can grab a bowl of gumbo at about 5 different places – at 5 different prices. I can also grab some of the best BBQ (Jones BBQ), best Ethiopian (Tagla Cafe), and some damn good Caribbean cuisine (Island Soul).

The fact is Columbia City has grown into a hot piping bowl of eclecticism. Many of the city’s youth have moved in for affordable housing and cheap entertainment. Plus – maybe they just wanted to get away from the “Seattle freeze” because it really does not exist down there.

In any event, I was left to stumble around the town looking for a beer to cure my Sunday blues. I was left with nary a choice – Columbia City Alehouse.

Really, the owners did a good job of sniffing this place out. There isn’t another decent beer within spitting distance (unless you count Verve Wine Bar where I once enjoyed a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA). This is my beer stop. done.

Upon entry, nothing fancy. Its simply a pub with light decor and moderate lighting. The tap lineup is immediately in your face and a sense of delight crossing my slowly operating brain as I see Ninkasi Oatis, Diamond Head IPA and Boundary Bay IPA. Today, I will settle for a Diamond Head – been awhile since I have tasted that fruity pulp they call an IPA. (thats a good review by the way)

I saddle up at the bar, right in front of a TV playing the Michigan State v. Tennessee game (go Big Ten). I order my sugary goodness and it arrives in a wide-mouthed English-styled 20 0z glass – HALLELUJAH! This is the way of Seattle Alehouses. All three pubs serve their pints in imperial pint glasses – 20 oz for $5.00. I’ll take it. This way my malty wonder can warm up and I can taste it open up all the way to the last drop.

As I sit there, I notice the climate. A couple of locals popping in to catch the game and quick bite. Nothing spectacular, but again notice the Sunday 2-3 PM time period.

The food smells amazing. But, I am hung over and thus most things smell amazing today (except vomit, feces, or urine). I bypass the food today, because I have big plans with the wife for later on.

In any event, I hunker down, sip my beer and take in the newest Stranger to check the music scene. Its been so long since I could commit an hour to sitting at a bar and reading through an entertainment piece. In recent months, my busy meter is off the deep end. Trying to start a business is taking a toll, but I relish in my saturated in hops peace and quiet. I take it all in.

As I wrap up, Michigan State wins and half the bar top is pissed – the other half ecstatic. This is purely due to the bracket system, not actual fandom. I appreciate that, though I like to see a fan every once in a while.

In all, the bar does what its supposed to do: serve beer, where we cannot find beer. On top of that it does it with good food and a peaceful demeanor. Nothing to complain about.

That being said, the bar just does not stand out. Though the offerings are good, they aren’t noteworthy. The menu is not epic, the bottle list pedestrian and the decor non-existent. These items do not kill a bar, they just hurt its chances for high marks.

The conclusion: If you are in Columbia City, go here for a beer. There really is nothing else in its category and it will treat you well on a cold, rainy day.

52 Weeks, 52 Places: 8 of 52 – The Copper Gate, Seattle, WA

The Copper Gate entryway in Seattle's Ballard Neighborhood

8 of 52

Copper Gate

6301 24th Avenue Northwest

Seattle, WA 98107

Rank: #4 of 8

Type of Establishment:  Scandinavian Cocktail Lounge/Restaurant

BEERS ON TAP (at time of visit) —> Copper Gate has no (0) beers on tap; however, they do have 13 bottles available, 11 beers, 1 non-alcoholic beer, and 1 cider.

Clausthaler – Germany, non-alcoholic

Amstel Light – Holland

Carlsberg – Denmark

Heineken – Holland

Maritime Pacific Islander Pale Ale – Ballard

Full Sail Amber – Oregon

Grimbergen Abbey Blonde Ale – Belgium

Orkney Skullsplitter Ale – Scotland

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde – Canada

Sinebrychoff Porter – Finland

D. Carnegie Porter – Sweden

Cidre Bouce Fermier E Dupont Cider – France

Kostriker Schwarzbier – Germany (Seasonal Selection)

FOOD OPTIONS:  A large number of “small” plates with Scandinavian names that I can’t pronounce.

STAFF OPINION:  Very serious and business like, but knowledge of the offerings that approaches encyclopedic.

A mere 2 to 3 neighborhoods north of the Beer Blotter Headquarters, within the confines of Seattle’s Nordic center, Ballard, lies an establishment that its members had never before set foot in.  This day, that was changed.

Reasons to go to Copper Gate:

- The bar is a freaking Viking Ship!

- There are boobs everywhere!

- It’s practically a museum!  I imagine one could visit on many occasions and still         find new nooks and crannies each time full of trinkets of wonder and delight.

- It smells nice and clean

- The copper bar top is pretty and feels nice

- They have a private room through a magical door that appears to be an entrance to an elf’s quarters (open on Tuesdays to the public with Jazz music!).  Red light peaks out through the cracks like some strange séance is being performed behind the door, or the Wizard of Oz is hard at work just a room away.

- Strange cocktails, namely, Aquavit!

Reasons not to go to Copper Gate:

-       To drink beer

24th Ave in Ballard has a few hidden gems of dive-i-tude.  Both The Viking and Wingmasters are within stumbling distance from each other.  If fancy cocktails are a sign of class, then the Copper Gate is a small, respectable blip on the radar on this seedy strip.  Expensive cocktails and foreign named dishes may just be where the classiness ends though, for flagrant nudity, Viking grittiness and fantastical, cinematic kitsch rounds out the Copper Gate experience, and in my humble opinion, that’s awesome!

This place has serious personality.  It’s Ballard to the core.  I want to just…be there all the time.  I want to get to know all of those intriguing artifacts personally.  If I have to settle with a Maritime Pale Ale in a bottle while I do it, life could be much worse.

Hell, if I’m feeling a bit fancy and loose with my wallet, I might even sip on some not-so-commonly mixed cocktails.  There are 6 aquavit-based drinks on the menu.  Aquavit means “water of life” and is a Scandinavian schnapps like liquor distilled from mainly grain or potatoes and spiced with caraway seeds (the spice of rye bread).  We didn’t try it on this visit, but we are determined to venture back and give it a whack, along with some food items that looked really appetizing.

Our conversations with the bartender told of the determined stance of Copper Gate to not reproduce the “shitty dive” feel of the address’s previous occupant.  This being one key reason to the “no beer taps” stance.  That, the fact that they are a self proclaimed “cocktail bar”, and the fact that they couldn’t get the Scandinavian specialty beer that they would like to serve in kegs.  Click Wholesale Distributing helps them out with the more rare bottled offerings, which, according to my research, are mainly Calsberg products.

One of which, the Sinebrychoff Porter, was sampled this evening.  It was a bit steep in price, $8 for a 12oz bottle, but I don’t believe I have ever seen it before, and at the time, a Finish dark beer seemed ever so appropriate.  The Sinebrychoff website (Calsberg Group) is actually quite informative when it comes to this beer’s stats.  They call it an imperial stout, at 7.2% abv, brewed with pilsner, Munich, brown and caramel malts and Saazer hops.  It was enjoyable.  Dark, roasty, toasty, chocolaty goodness, though clearly a non-craft, European imperial stout if you like to call it as such.

Though I did not question the bartender for fear of being perceived as hatefully pretentious, I cant help but wonder how such a place could go without nary a Mikkeller (Denmark), Nogne-O (Norway), Nørrebro Bryghus (Denmark), nor Bryggeriet Ølfabrikken (Denmark) offering on the menu, all of which are highly respected Scandinavian craft breweries and available in bottles here in Seattle.

Maybe Beer Blotter should open their own Scandinavian Beer Bar in Ballard…nah, you can’t compete with Viking ship bar and boobies.

Part of the very cool decor inside is this crazy carpentry

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