I was still technically in recovery from hernia surgery and not quite 100%, so I thought that a nice short 4-mile or so walk and a few beers would be a good idea. There are quite a few good places in and around this route that we just couldn't get to this time around, but I fully intend to do more Ballard beer hikes in the future.
The Dray / The Viking / Market Arms / Hazlewood / Smoke Shop / The Noble Fir / The Shelter
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I won't go into too much detail here. I've written about this place before and there are ample reviews out there that have all you need to know. It's steps from my home, so I'm here a lot and often use it as a launch for urban beer hikes. The sun was out, the windows were open, and I sucked down a Full Sail Spotless IPA. My companions had Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA and Link looked on in wonder at the dog that was allowed to roam around the place off-leash.
Link sporting some new threads at The Dray
I lived a block away from The storied Viking Tavern (est. 1950) when I first moved to Ballard in 1998. I'm a little ashamed that I didn't really visit much back then. I remembered their food being pretty damn good, but we didn't eat this time around. We had a round of Black Butte Porters (the Beer Retard settled for a can of PBR) and looked around at all the old pictures on the wall. This place can tell some stories. I'll let the Retard tell you more about it at Every Bar in Seattle (EBIS) -- Viking write-up coming soon I'm sure. It's worth mentioning that we ran into some friends here and picked up three more people for the hike, making six, plus Link. I love that!
The walk down 24th Ave NW passes several places that I intend to visit on later hikes, including The Cooper Gate, Stepping Stone, and Wingmasters. Half of our faction skipped ahead to the Ballard Smoke Shop, while Link and the rest of us decided to stop at...
THE MARKET ARMS
I've heard some insane things about how much beer these guys poured during the World Cup games this year. I've enjoyed the few visits I've made to the sister bar The George and Dragon in Fremont, so I've been looking forward to checking this place out. We arrived to find a full house as there was a Sounders game on the telly. The crowd was boisterous as you'd expect and the Stoli Citros girls were flitting around in their yellow minis and high heels doing... whatever it is that they do. We were content to grab pints of Veltins Pilsner and sit outside on one of the many picnic tables. The Market Arms sits directly on the corner of busy intersection and it was a gorgeous evening to sit and watch the world go by during rush hour.
Since the Beer Retard doesn't get over this way too much we made a last second audible call to check out Hazlewood, which is a very cool little bar about 800 feet away on Market St. They don't have beer here, but the cocktails and atmosphere are worthy of a visit. Plus, they were happy to let Link join us inside. I had a Dark and Stormy, the others sipped on a scratch Bloody Mary and a Horse's Neck. Be sure to take a look through the peep hole in the upstairs lounge.
By this time, we needed food, so I suggested we walk a little bit out of our way and check out the brand-spanking-new Mr. Gyros (opened the day before). I've been to their flagship location in Greenwood many times and love the food. I'm happy to report that the food is every bit as good and plentiful at the new shop. It's a lot more roomy, too, and that's good because they get BUSY. Plan on waiting in line, but it's worth it. No doubt.
THE BALLARD SMOKE SHOP
The rest of the group was still at the Smoke Shop waiting for us and they were having a lot of fun when we arrived. This is another classic Ballard haunt that's got a diner attached, lots of fishing boat pictures on the walls and a bartender that has no doubt been working there since before you ever knew where or what Ballard was. Most of us drank Rainier in the bottle (that should tell you all you need to know) and someone had the good sense to order a round of chocolate cake shots. That's good thinking right there. ...Or at least it seemed so at the time.
THE NOBLE FIR
About a block down the street is one of Seattle's coolest new beer bars, The Noble Fir. I'm quite enamored with this place, not just because of the fantastic selection of beers on tap, but also for their vast library of hiking and travel books and huge file of trail and topo maps. (Unfortunately they won't allow dogs inside, but like the Smoke Shop, there are big windows so you can hitch up outside and keep watch without a problem.) It was here that a couple of us began forming a plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), from Mexico to Canada. Our confidence in our ability to take on such a voyage was high. I have no idea what I committed to. I can't remember what I drank -- I think it was Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA.
At this point we were feeling just fine and ready to hit the final stop on the hike -- another old-time Ballard place that's been around longer than just about everything around it:
MIKE'S CHILI PARLOR
They were closed by the time we got there (11 pm already? Damn.) Too bad, but good thing that Maritime Pacific's Jolly Roger taproom is just down the street.
JOLLY ROGER TAPROOM (MARITIME PACIFIC)
Closed also! WTF? I took no small amount of shit from everybody for not doing my homework. Maybe they were right, but I was still feeling good and determined to have one more beer before everyone had to split, so someone suggested...
A fairly new place on Leary Way with a comfy open-air set-up, fireplaces, and really good late night food, The Shelter's beer selection is so-so, but I spotted a Big Al Brewing tap handle and that's all I needed to see. The bartender couldn't tell me which brew it was, but I didn't care. As long as it wasn't any of that other macro crap. (Think it doesn't matter by this point in the night? Wrong. It ALWAYS matters.) We ordered a bunch of deep-fried appetizers, giggled about the bartender's Daisy Duke shorts and hairy legs, and further theorized on what a hike up the PCT would be like.
Back Bar at The Shelter
At this point half the group had to call it a hike and catch the bus to Capitol Hill. Mandy, Link, and I were half-way home when our buddy Ben called and said he was on headed to The Dray. It was right on our way so we decided to have one more with ol' Benny. Mandy and I had the Bear Republic Big Bear Stout, but I don't remember what Ben had. Who cares anyway?
And so ended another hugely fun and mildly strenuous urban beer hike. What was to be a 4-mile, 6-stop trot, became a 5.7 mile, 8-stop loop. That's the way it often goes.
As I mentioned, I definitely plan to do several more hikes in and around Ballard. There are so many places that we missed this time around. Stay tuned.
Under the Ballard Bridge