The Northwest Brewing News has rolled out its annual Reader’s Choice Poll – its time to vote. The Brewing News is a national brewing publication, severed into seven regional publications. Our good friend Geoff Kaiser writes for the Northwest edition, when he’s not manning the ship at Seattle Beer News.
Every year, the Brewing News holds a poll asking its readers to select the very best in the Northwest. Categories for best brewery, brewpub, bar, beer store, home brew shop and perhaps the most heated category – best bartender – are divided state by state. You may vote on the best Northwest beer for each style, as well.
When going through this poll, we noticed that we hit a few stumbling blocks. How do you pick between Hair of the Dog & Cascade Brewing? Is Uber Tavern a better place to grab a beer than The Dray? What the heck is down in Northern California? Don’t be ashamed to have to Rate Beer yourself a group of candidates, as long as you have actually experienced the pub, brewery or beer you intend to choose. But, if you are stuck – let us recommend a few:
Best Imperial IPA
Even with heavyweights like Russian River, Hopworks, Walking Man and Midnight Sun in the mix, and with Washington rising stars Boundary Bay and Port Townsend making their own cases – there can still be only one choice for us. Black Raven’s Wisdom Seeker licked the competition at Brouwers Hopfest. We have no reservations about this choice.
Best Strong Ale
The Northwest has always somewhat lacked in the big beer categories. But, there is no doubt that one strong ale has dominated the Northwest for many year – Hair of the Dog’s Fred. Alan Sprints has been making this beer for ages. If you have a vintage bottle laying around, you know what makes this complex ale so special. Vote with confidence.
Best Sour Beer
For years, I would probably have said that Russian River had this category killed with Consecration. But after recently tasting Cascade Brewing’s Noyeaux, I have reservations. Noyeaux was recently described in a post by our very own Timperial Stout. Check this one out before you mark down one of Russian River’s excellent choices.
Best NorCal Brewpub
We pushed Russian River out of the competition above, but here they take the cake. Backed by unprecedented selection and incredible beer food – there is no better place to grab a collection of beer and a delicious meal.
Best Washington Brewery
Some would say Boundary Bay has the history and fanfare to deserve this award. Some would say that Black Raven is the young gun that should take the title. We don’t disagree, but lets consider a 3rd choice – Snipes Mountain Brewing? You might think we are crazy but the Sunnyside, Washington brewer has been turning heads. Just about everything that brewer Chris Miller has put out of late, has shocked and awed. Food for thought.
Best Washington Bartender
Wow, we have some great bartenders up here in Seattle. We have a ton of love for Rachel up at Naked City, Natasha at The Dray and certainly Amy, down at Collins Pub. These three wonderful ladies have excellent beer IQs and care about their patrons. This gives them serious consideration.
But, to find someone who can advise, entertain, and take excellent care of you, all without being a giant asshole – priceless. Chris Cavanaugh is that guy. Chris can be found at three, count them, three amazing beer spots in Seattle. Once a fixture at Brouwers Cafe, Chris had to leave to tackle cancer. Once he returned to the bar, Chris grabbed spots at Elysian Brewing (Capitol Hill), The Stumbling Monk, and time behind the bar at Brouwers Cafe. There is one reason that he is at these three places – everyone loves him! Chris will give you great attention, wonderful advice, and excellent entertainment. Not once have we ever heard one person dislike him. Vote for this man.
So take a stab at the poll and let your voice be heard! You can access the poll by following this link. Got any other suggestions for choices, please post them in the comments below.
Over the past three years, I have done my share of research on beer spots in Seattle. Every neighborhood has a beer bar, a bar with a decent tap list or a bottle shop to offer those that search the land for all that is fermented yeast. One of the things I love most about Seattle is the variety of neighborhoods (reminiscent of Manhattan) where you step out of one and into the next…almost immediately it becomes obvious that you’re in a whole new world.
Each hood offers distinct characteristics and charm. So in order to give each neighborhood their 15 minutes of fame, I will focus on one at a time.
Tonight: Phinney Ridge.
I’ll start with a nice wiki excerpt:
Phinney Ridge is a neighborhood in north central Seattle, Washington, USA. It is named after the ridge which runs north and south, separating Ballard from Green Lake, from approximately N. 45th to N. 85th Street.
I know for those of you who are not from Seattle or do not live in Seattle, the above quote means little to nothing. Phinney is a quaint neighborhood, very residential with your random spurts of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. Ballard’s subtly hip vibe seeps into Phinney, yet Phinney remains the more reserved, less frequented of the two. Here you will find beer.
If you read Beer Blotter, then you have heard of The Dray, located on NW 65th right off of 8th and across the street from a massive Goodwill. This bar has so much to offer on any given day. First off, their “brand” is a squirrel, so expect to see some taxidermy on the shelves next to epic and rare Hair of the Dog and Dogfish head bottles.
This tiny space is decked out in wood with slabs of polished tree trunks acting as your bar and table tops. On a cold winter’s night, you couldn’t be cozier. On a warm, sunny summer’s day you are guaranteed a breeze through the open garage doors/windows. The Dray molds to the weather outside; its like some kind of vortex.
Food options include some paninis, landjagers and pretzels with amazing stone ground mustard. I still haven’t figured out if you get charged for the pretzels, but I really doubt it.
But we also go here for beer- 12 taps at any given time. Yes, there are times I have stopped by here and been slightly disenchanted by their beer list, but 9 times out of 10, they will have something unique, something seasonal and something that your heart desires.
Off hand, Ommegang Zuur, New Belgium Love, Dogfish head Immortal Ale and Cascade Apricot come to mind as beers I enjoyed in the past. For that one time out of ten, The Dray has an impressive (and reasonably priced) bottle list, so be sure to check it out!
A gem of a bar, a comfort zone and a beer lovers day well spent.
Every time I walk up to Sully‘s it reminds me of a lodge at a mountain resort in the Alps. With a pitched roof and a Bavarian facade, it couldn’t be more welcoming. Inside, it is a dimly lit, eclectic place with quirky decorations, as well as your quintessential Irish pub signs regarding how drunk, humorous, silly and stupid people get. This is another venue where I can spend an entire afternoon shooting the shit over a few pints of beer.
Like The Dray, Sully’s offers limited menu options. The items they do have include grilled cheese sandwiches, random snacks and some damn good chili. Other than that, throw a buck in the box and grab a bowl of peanuts.
You can always count on Boundary Bay IPA to be served on cask here, as well as several Deschutes taps and a decent IPA selection. I wouldn’t go here if your looking for a unique or rare beer, but quality brews such as Victory Hop Devil and New Belgium Ranger IPA have graced the stage here at Sully’s.
I remember sitting at Sully’s, drinking Boundary Bay IPA with the other 2/3 of Beer Blotter – we were sitting in a booth by the window and it started to hail, hail the size of golf balls. Just a sign from the gods that it was time to order another pint.
Directly across the street from Sully’s, The Park Pub took much longer to get on our beer radar then the previously mentioned joints. This bar serves as a place to listen to live bands, play pool and grab some dinner.
Overall the ambiance is less comfortable and intimate but one glance at the tap list and all is well in the world. Arranged in a half circle, the taps glisten behind the bar.
Note worthy beers currently on tap here: Boundary Bay IPA, Avery ‘Maharaja’ Imperial IPA, Stone Smoked Porter, Lagunitas ‘Lil Sumpin Sumpin’, Laurelwood ‘Hop Monkey’ IPA, Deschutes Organic Amber, Double Mountain Kolsch, Big Time Black IPA
and Rodenbach Grand Cru.
I would recommend this place for a Friday or Saturday night hang out session with a group. Good beers, music, activities and once in awhile, the neighborhood magician will amaze you and stick a card to the ceiling. Take a look next time you are there.
So that’s Phinney Ridge’s beer scene in a nutshell. I have many fond memories and have drank damn good beer at all three of these places. If you have a place that you love in this neighborhood, leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up: Ballard.
Friday June 11th marks the first day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The ultimate competition in the world’s game. The pinnacle of all beautiful dances. The most watched sporting event on Earth. Yeah that’s right, we are talking about the month-long soccer tournament that happens only once every four years. 32 nations competing for a place in history.
On July 11th, after finishing in the top two of the group stage, then going unbeaten through the knockout stage, the best soccer team in the world will raise the World Cup Trophy, and along the way, we will raise our glasses and cheer along.
For the biggest soccer fans out there, like myself, nothing else will matter from June 11 to July 11. All normal activities, sleep included, will cease. To borrow from one of Seattle’s greatest soccer pubs, The George and Dragon, “Please do not plan weddings, births or vacations June 11 to July 11”. The Olympics is really the only other sporting event that would rival it for supremacy, but in this writers opinion, it’s not even in the same ballpark, or should I say pitch.
For all of us lucky West Coasters, the first game of the day, at least during the group stages, begins at 4:30 am. The second game is at 7:00 am, and the last, 11:30 am. My plan is to watch the first, and a large majority of the second each weekday before leaving for work. Of course, this will require either a large bit of rearranging of my evening schedule to accommodate an earlier bedtime, or, more likely, a pretty serious lack of sleep. A small price to pay for the love of the game.
Yeah, the soccer is going to be great, but here at Beer Blotter, we need beer too. Believe it or not, some local bars will be opening in time for the 4:30 and/or 7:00 games. For those opening for the 4:30 matches, alcohol cannot be served legally until 6:00 am.
Having a drink before noon is sometimes considered bad form, something reserved for the problem drinkers. How about 6 hours before noon? At that point it’s almost as though you are still drinking from the previous day! OK, maybe that’s a stretch. Call me a hooligan, but it sounds like a blast to me!
I think you get the point. We love the beer, we love the soccer, we love the combo. We also love enriching the community, and if you have ever been in a bar packed with fans, of any sport really, where everyone has their eyes on the screen, waiting on the edge of their seat for the next great flash of athletic brilliance, you know just how powerful that sense of community feels. With that in mind, we would like to offer our thoughts on where to enjoy the World Cup in Seattle, with pint in hand.
I must state, for the record, that one should expect that all of these bars will be extremely packed for any and all games. For the biggest games, especially those involving U.S.A, England, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Italy, etc, it is highly recommended that you attempt to arrive early and be prepared to wait in line. Also, do not expect to be accommodated as though you were in your own recliner next to the kegerator at home.
The big draw here is the atmosphere. The people. The elation that comes with every Christiano Ronaldo crossover, every Robinho spin move, every picture perfect pass from Cesc Fabregas, and every brilliant finish from Didier Drogba. Don’t be afraid to offer high fives and joyous hugs to people you have never met before when the U.S. pummels England on June 12. Then buy your Brit buddies a few pints of good American craft beer to rub it in.
As always, we strongly encourage dialogue. If you know of a great place to watch that we missed, let us know about it.
The Soccer Bars:
The George and Dragon Pub in Fremont: We might as well start at that great English pub that I have already mentioned, “The George” as it is often referred to as, is a Mecca for soccer fans.
Though I was not living in Seattle at the time of the previous WC, I was here to experience the Euro Championship. I would imagine that the atmosphere in The George was very similar. It will give you goose bumps. I promise. From their site…
2 PATIOS WITH TELLYS ON THEM…. FOR BIG GAMES THE PARKING LOT BECOMES A FENCED IN BEER GARDEN WITH PORTA POTTIES REFRIGERATED MOBILE BEER TRAILER & OF COURSE TELLYS …
A few extra tidbits that we shouldn’t glaze over when discussing The George: They are hosting a World Cup Eve celebration on Thursday after the Sounders game. They have been listed in the top 10 places to watch soccer in the U.S. by the U.S. Soccer Federation and GQ Magazine.
The owners are opening up a second location in Ballard called The Market Arms at 24th and Market. They are hoping to have it up and running in time for the start of the tournament.
Fado downtown: Though this is a chain, the Seattle pub was named the “Best Soccer Bar in the Country” last year by the U.S. Soccer Federation. It’s an Irish themed place, but since the Irish failed to qualify for the tourney, expect most to favor the only U.K. team in it, England.
What to drink: You are in Ireland town, grab a Guinness.
All Nations Soccer Bar in Bitter Lake: This place is kind of in no man’s land up north of Northgate, but it’s worth a visit. All Nations is a South American themed soccer bar, so check this place out for the big Brazil or Argentina matches.
What to drink: Grab a Xingu from the bottle. It’s a delicious dark lager from Brazil.
Azzurri Vino Bar in Fremont: This is a fairly new Italian themed soccer centric bar nearly directly across the street from The George. The Center of the Universe is going to be hopping with soccer junkies.
What to drink: When in Rome… a Peroni.
Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub downtown: This is another Irish pub with a strong reputation for taking care of the soccer fans. Eat, drink, cheer, get rowdy and take the party into the alleys of Pike Place Market.
What to drink: Can’t go wrong with a good old Smithwick’s
The Attic in Madison Park: A quick click over to their homepage will surely give you a strong inclination of just how excited they are for the WC. Here’s hoping that the folks over in Madison know how to get down.
What to drink: Boundary Bay IPA is on the draft list online right now. That’s a damn good IPA!
Atlantic Crossing in Roosevelt: Yet another Irish pub with soccer on the mind. It looks like they are only opening in time for the 7:00 games when the U.S. is involved, but they will be showing the replays each night on taped delay.
What to drink: Start up your session with a Harp.
Cafe Presse in Capitol Hill: This is a small, French themed joint. If you are looking to get out of the house to catch a game but want a more laid back atmosphere, this is your place.
What to drink: How about something French. Tilt back a Kronenbourg 1664.
The Beer Bars:
The Dray in Phinney: If you read our site, you know we love the Dray with all of our hearts. If you want a great beer selection, hot espresso, soccer, and a cozy atmosphere, this is your place.
What to drink: One of the best parts about The Dray is that, though the draft selection is fairly small, it’s one of the most cleaver in the city. Close your eyes and point at the board behind the bar, you won’t be disappointed.
Brouwer’s in Fremont: The great Belgian Cafe of Fremont is pretty much beer heaven. As it turns out, they like soccer too. Their site states that they will be playing several of the games with the sound on during normal business hours.
What to drink: Are you kidding me? You don’t need help with this one.
Die BierStube in Roosevelt, Prost! in Phinney and West Seattle, Feierabend in South Lake Union: These German pubs are all owned by the same folks and are pretty similar in a lot of ways. Two of those ways come in the form of good German beer and a strong love of soccer. Germany games should be a blast here.
What to drink: Paulaner Salvator, by the liter.
Elysian Fields in Pioneer Square: With its proximity to the stadiums, this place is a great pre-Sounders/Mariners/Seahawks game stop. But you know what, it’s a decent place to watch a game as well. It’s an even better place to get a beer. Their site has a calendar of what games will be played when. It looks like they will be opening at 6:30 am for select games.
What to drink: Ask about what’s new and exciting. There is always something new and exciting at Elysian.
The Sports Bars:
Kangaroo and Kiwi in Green Lake: Quite obviously, this is an Australian bar. Aussie football and rugby are normally the main attractions here, but the Soccerroos made the tourney, so you can expect a wild scene for any of their games. New Zealand games have the potential to be interesting as well. If things go sour, you can always walk up the street to either Duck Island, Uber, or the next destination on our list for a tasty bit of boozy relief.
What to drink: Tilt back a Cooper’s and make like you are down under.
St. Andrew’s in Green Lake: This is a Scottish haunt. Though Scotland is not in the WC this year, there is a note on their calendar that says…
World Cup starts tomorrow. You win a free shot for every goal Scotland scores or any goal scored against England. Good luck.
This is quite humorous. With English defender Rio Ferdinand out with an injury, I’m inclined to catch an England match here and sip up some free shots.
What to drink: St. Andrew’s has one of Seattle’s biggest scotch selections. Order one and drink slow.
And finally, filed under “miscellaneous”, Nord Alley near Occidental Park has the potential to offer some interesting outdoor viewing experiences. Check out this link for more details.
Enjoy the world’s greatest sporting event while it lasts, for it will come and go before you know it, and then it’s another grueling 4 years of waiting.