In beer-obsessed Seattle, it seems every neighborhood has at least one brewery, with new outposts popping up across the city every month. The explosion in and around these parts makes sense, given the city’s affinity for high-quality food and drink and the massive amount of hops available from growers east of the Cascade Mountains, where Yakima Valley produces around 77 percent of the United States’ hop crop.
West of the mountains, Seattle’s beer masterminds brew top-notch suds of every style, from damn-near-perfect IPAs and lagers to cutting-edge experimental styles that challenge the palate. With plenty of options, this list counts down the top seven breweries with tasting rooms in and around Seattle.
7. MACHINE HOUSE BREWERY
Machine House Brewery has hidden in plain sight, managing to stay under the radar while brewing some of the best beer in the region. Located in the Georgetown neighborhood on the city’s South Side, the brewery concentrates on English-style ales like malty ESBs and the English Dark Mild. The sweetness of the beers’ malt balances their bitterness, resulting in incredibly palatable offerings. Their brews are also session ales that are low in alcohol, so you can try a whole bunch in one sitting and still have the presence of mind to taste what you’re drinking.
6. BLACK RAVEN BREWING
Black Raven launched in tech-happy Redmond in 2009 and quickly rose up the ranks of best breweries. Owner and brewmaster Beaux Bowman has many irons in the fire: He’s releasing old world styles and envelope-pushing originals that have made the brewery a cult favorite in the region. Among the best brews here are the Coco Jones Coconut Porter and the Bourbon Barrel Aged La Petite Mort, a deep, wintry beer that spends six months in casks. Other exciting experiments include a fresh hop saison, beers fermented with wild yeasts, and sours. Bowman doesn’t shy away from using bizarre ingredients like jerk seasoning, cocoa, acorn squash, catnip, and more in these boozy flavor bombs.
5. STOUP BREWING
Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is blowing up with breweries, with more than any other neighborhood in the city, currently featuring 10 within the town’s historically Scandinavian enclave. The competition is stiff, but Stoup is one of the best in the ‘hood—and the region. Stoup has earned high regard for its Robust Porter—a well-balanced beer that won silver medals in the 2014 World Beer Cup and the 2014 Washington Beer Awards. The brewery also rotates an impressive range of styles, including IPAs, pilsners, stouts, saisons, and an occasional off-the-wall sour beer with the option of adding a shot of flavored syrup.
4. FREMONT BREWING
Fremont Brewing’s huge beer garden welcomes drinkers on sunny days, and you’ll find the masses gathering here to knock back the myriad creations on tap. Owner and former home brewer Matt Lincecum founded Fremont in 2009, and it has grown steadily since. Now, the brewery’s canned beer is a fixture at picnics and barbecues around the region. The taproom offers flagship options like the hop-heavy Universal Pale Ale, Interurban IPA, and summer seasonal, along with a healthy dose of taps showcasing Lincecum’s latest experiments: Fresh hop beers, barrel-aged beauties, and sours. You’ll also find a randall or two each day: One type of beer is filtered through additional flavorings (like fresh fruit or herbs) for a fleeting flavor adventure.
3. REUBEN’S BREWS
Atop the Ballard brewery pile sits Reuben’s Brews, an oft-awarded brewery launched by Adam and Grace Robbings and named for their son Reuben. The brewery has only been open since 2012, but Adam (who won awards as a home brewer) and brewmaster Mike Pfeiffer are slaying the competition. Their diverse tap list features a range of styles that includes an American Rye, a rye hefeweizen, various takes on the IPA, an imperial oatmeal stout, and more. They’re also known for an exciting barrel-aging program that produces celebrated limited releases. You can bet that if these guys put out a limited edition barrel-aged beer, the beer nerds will duke it out to the last drop.
2. STANDARD BREWING
Brewer and founder Justin Gerardy has somehow managed to eke out an impressive range of styles in a tiny space on a miniscule, one-barrel system in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood. Gerardy’s beers generally showcase his love of hops, with the bitter, floral flavors leaping forward in brews that include a range of IPAs, Altbier, Cascadian Dark Ale, and Baltic Porter. Another surprise is his mainstay Bee’s Wine ginger beer, a slightly alcoholic brew and one of the few ginger beers in the world made with an ancient culture once thought to be extinct. Thankfully for Gerardy’s fervent fans, he’s planning to expand in the next year to a five-barrel system, offer food, and create cocktails that showcase his bartending background.
1. HOLY MOUNTAIN BREWING
Lauded among beer nerds—and somehow able to be so unintimidating and unpretentious that even casual drinkers feel welcome too—Holy Mountain is both the newest of the list and the best brewery in Seattle. It wins top Beer Nerdlandia honors for creatively and effectively executing on a range styles that are each as enticing as the next. Holy Mountain’s clean, white taproom looks like a laboratory, and behind the subway-tiled walls lies an extensive barrel-aging program and plenty of wild yeasts growing and gurgling in the murky depths of fermentation tanks. Though many view Holy Mountain’s beers as “out there,” it is actually resurrecting Old World styles like the German sour gose and various farmhouse ales. There’s an ever-changing cast of rare beers, some so fleeting they’re gone the same day they’re tapped. Unlike most breweries in Seattle, you won’t find an IPA on tap; instead, Holy Mountain has The Kiln and Cone, a flagship pale that glows with notes of fresh hops and beats the pants off any other pale out there. This is the closest thing you’ll find to a mainstream beer; the rest are just as adventurous as they are delicious.
HOW ABOUT SOME CHEESE WITH THAT BEER?