Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ballard to Belltown & Beyond

I mapped this one out with the intention of having a few beers and a nice leisurely walk, but it ended up being a full afternoon and evening of beer drinking, goofing off, and maybe my longest hike to date.  You could probably break this up into two or three hikes and many of the places are either dog-friendly or have a visible place to hitch them up outside (except Brouwer's, unless their patio is open.)

Ballard to Belltown & Beyond
The Dray / Leary Traveler / Hilltop Alehouse / Belltown Pub / Whisky Bar / Stumbling Monk / Summit Public House / Brouwer's; about 13 miles

View Ballard to Belltown & Beyond in a larger map

I elected to leave Link behind on this one, though.  It was the first hike in quite a while that he wouldn't join me on and I really missed his company.  It turned out that I could have brought him with little problem, but I wasn't sure about the layout of some of the places so I had to err on the side of caution.

Some friends and I agreed that we would go check out the new Belltown Pub for happy hour, so I decided to make a beer hike out of it.  It was a spectacular day to walk and after a full week of work, I was really looking forward to having this day off to enjoy it. 

I once again began at The Dray where I sat alone and drank an Imperial Berliner Weiss from New Belgium while the biertender rearranged the keg cooler.  I took this quiet time to look over my maps to make sure I knew where I was going up and over Queen Anne hill.  Coming up the back side (north side) on foot is not very familiar territory for me, but it will be soon enough.  I plan on hiking variations of this route a few more times as training for my upcoming visit to San Francisco, which will undoubtedly have some mean hills.

From The Dray, it's about a mile south to my home-away-from-home, The Leary Traveler.  I had a bit of catching up to do with the boss and a bit of Ninkasi's Tricerahops helped me get through his droning and mewling.  I'm rarely at the Traveler as a customer during the day and I found myself noticing new things about the space I've become so familiar with over the past few months.  It really is a bright, welcoming place.  I have no doubt that I'd be there regularly even if I didn't work there 3-4 days a week.  The Tricerahops served as fine fuel for both body and mind.  I grabbed my pack and headed out the door, ready for the march over the Fremont Bridge and up the hill.

As I passed near Brouwer's on the way to the bridge, I momentarily considered popping in for a quick one and to say hello to the wife, who was working the day shift.  I somehow resisted the temptation though, and continued past.  Little did I know that I would end up there about 10 hours and 12.5 miles of urban hiking later.

I always enjoy walking around Queen Anne, even though I don't get up there that often.  The neighborhoods are charming and there are some spectacular views around just about every corner.  By the time I got to the top and arrived at the Hilltop Ale House, I'd broken a good sweat and was more than ready for some liquid refreshment.  The Seattle Neighborhood Alehouses (Columbia City, 74th Street, and Hilltop) almost always have the same beers, with the exception of their one rotating tap. One of those regular beers is one of my favorites, Diamond Knot IPA, which I made quick work of (always imperial pints, too), along with a huge glass of ice water.  It was here that I really began to miss having Link along as company.  He wouldn't have been allowed inside, but they have a few small tables outside where I could have sat and kept an eye on him. 

After a second pint of water, I was ready to push on down the hill to Belltown, where I would meet up with some fellow hikers and finally have someone to talk to.  I made a quick detour over to Kerry Park to take in the quintessential view of Seattle and then eased on down Queen Anne Ave. to First Ave. and the new Belltown Pub, which had just opened a couple of weeks prior.  I'd only been to this place once, several years ago, when it was the Blu-water Bistro.  It's a very cool old building and the Pub is quite large inside, but we sat out front, in the large sidewalk seating area.  BP's beer selection is decent enough and the happy hour food specials were a real bargain.  I had a couple pints of Chopper's while we devoured Buffalo wings, crab cakes, stuffed mushrooms, fried mac-n-cheese balls, and frites.  Delicious.

Our group was four strong now and we decided to pay a visit to the Stumbling Monk, but not before stopping into the Whisky Bar, a place that isn't on a lot of beer geeks' radar, but should be.  I've been meaning to stop in for too long, so it was a no-brainer.  Their taplist was really great this day and it was not easy to decide on a beer.  I ended up going with a Rodenbach Grand Cru -- the first sour beer I ever had so many years ago and still one of my favorites.  I looked over the impressive bottle list while two of my cohorts got talking to some crazy, tightly wound dude at the bar.  They really took one for the team there.  Thanks guys!

The Monk was calling our name, so it was one and done at The Whisky Bar.  I was feeling pretty good now and the second hill of the day, Capitol Hill, posed no problem.  The Stumbling Monk was already busy by the time we arrived, just after they opened at 6pm.  Still feeling in the mood for sour beer, I took a Zuur by Brewery Ommegang and then another after that.  (I might have even had a third, now that I think of it...)  One thing I love about the Monk is that there are no TVs and there is rarely music playing.  You're all but forced to engage your company (or strangers if you've come alone) in conversation and that feels like it's getting to be a rare thing these days.

After a second (or third?) round, we decided that we could do one more, but not before some delicious $2 tacos from Tacos Gringos, just around the corner from the Monk.  I think I had one with beef tongue in it.  Yummy.  (The vegetarian option was tremendous as well.  Keep up the great work amigos!)

Summit Public House was to be our final stop of the evening.  We took a picnic table out in the sidewalk seating area and sipped on pints of Korstritzer.  As I researched where and when to get on the bus back to Ballard, I took note of how good I felt and what a gorgeous night it had turned into.  It was clear and cool and just perfect for walking.  So I decided, "Fuck it.  I'm going to walk home."  It was about 11pm by now.  It would proabably take about an hour and a half to get home.  Easy.

And so I bid my fellows good night and took off down the hill toward South Lake Union.  I walked up Westlake, and back over the Fremont Bridge, just the way I'd come almost 12 hours before.  As I walked by Brouwer's this time, I couldn't resist one last nightcap.  I was suddenly struck with the urge to have an Orval.   And so it was.

By the time I got home, I was beat, but exhilarated.  My little GPS tracker told me that I'd hiked about 13.4 miles, which I think is a new personal best for me on an urban beer hike.   I decided that it was probably best that Link stayed behind on this one.  He'd have gotten a good day of exercise, but he'd probably also have been bored shitless with all of our inane drivel about...whatever we talked about the whole time.

Thanks for reading another boring blog entry.  Coming up next:  Port Angeles, WA

I know.  Seriously.  Port Angeles.


  1. Great read, as always. I look forward to the Port Angeles post. We haven't been there for 10 years or so.

  2. Port Angeles was a blast! Thanks Dave! Several great brews to be had - and the only person that didn't have a great time was Link... and that was more than made up for by a shot of Diesel to finish off his night... I bet he was a tired puppy!