Monday, April 29, 2013

Tacoma Beer Tour

(Tacoma, WA)

In Seattle we get something called "Fake Spring". Basically, it's a couple days of absolutely perfect weather around the first of April that Mother Nature teases us with before dropping 11 more weeks of clouds and rain. What a bitch.

Anyway, a few Saturdays ago Chris and I ventured south to enjoy this Fake Spring. We met in Downtown Seattle around 9:30am and grabbed a ride on the quick, comfortable (and cheap!) Sound Transit #594. The ride was smooth as could be and the view of Mt. Rainier from my window was brilliant:

We rolled into Tacoma around 10:30 and a few minutes later, we were westbound on a local bus. By 11:05, we had pints of Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz in our hands at Pint Defiance and the hike was underway.

Tacoma Beer Tour; just over 8 mi.
Pint Defiance / The Red Hot / Parkway Tavern / Peterson Bros. / Dorky's / Wingman Brewers

View Tacoma Beer Tour in a larger map

While discussing our plan for the day with the Beertenders and some locals at the bar, it quickly became obvious that we were leaving a lot of places out of our hike. Harmon Brewing Company, their HUB/Taproom, Engine House No. 9 Brewing (also known as, "E9"), The Swiss, Tacoma Brewing, Broken Spoke -- not to mention two handfuls of great-sounding little holes-in-the-wall... I furiously took notes and even though we hadn't even started walking yet, it was plainly obvious that we would have to return soon and do a different Tacoma UBH.

But it's stupid to think about all the places you're NOT going. You'll drive yourself mad. We had a great line-up ahead of us, the weather was perfect, and we could barely wait to get moving. We finished our pints, took some pictures, and hit the pavement.

It's a 3.5 mi. walk to The Red Hot from Pint Defiance -- by far the longest stretch of the day. We crossed over the freeway to the south entrance of Delong Park (in the NW corner of the Fred Meyer parking lot). Not surprisingly, the quiet trail that spans the length of the park and runs along a small creek had a few other sun-starved hikers on it. The surrounding vegetation was still pretty much dead and brown, but signs of spring were everywhere.

Leaving the park's north side, we continued to weave our way through a quaint little neighborhood toward 6th Ave. My black-clad cohort, Chris, moved like a shadow through the pink clouds of blossoming cherry trees (worst camouflage ever) and I spotted a guy washing his car just ahead of us. It crossed my mind how funny it would be to grab his hose and soak Chris. It would be a great story, but I probably wouldn't live to tell it.

We arrived at The Red Hot shortly before 1pm and it was already quite busy. Our timing was perfect, though, as two day drinkers were vacating their seats at the end of the bar. I ordered, the biggest, meanest sausage on the menu (K Street Kielbasa) and some Frito pie. Chris ordered a dog of his own and a pint of 8.1% Black Racer. He was not fucking around!

We sat there for a while and enjoyed the food and atmosphere, talking about the stupid shit we always talk about, when suddenly we spotted the beertender, Jeff, hauling a very familiar-looking Black Raven keg to the cooler under the bar. It could be only one thing: the Wisdom Seeker they were planning to tap at 2:53 (Tacoma's area code is 253). Had we been there for almost two hours already? Not surprising, actually. The Red Hot is our favorite hang-out in Tacoma and it's easy to lose a few hours there. It is a mandatory stop for all Tacoma beer hikes, but watch your time.

We stayed at The Red Hot for about an hour longer than we planned, but there was plenty of daylight left when we embarked on the next stretch of the hike. Rather than weave through the neighborhoods, we stuck to 6th and then Division. It was tough to ignore the temptation to get a malt at Frisko Freeze -- I'm usually a sucker for that sort of thing.

The Parkway Tavern is another Tacoma beer scene staple. I'm ashamed to say that this was only my first time visiting -- on all my previous trips to Tacoma, it was either too early in the day or I couldn't get up there. The small, house-like structure is very welcoming and rich with history (check out some of the pictures and articles on the wall). Clearly, this was another place where you could lose a whole afternoon before you knew it. We threw back a couple pints, checked out some of the beer memorabilia on the walls and the tap handles on the ceiling, and reluctantly headed out.

Happily, our next stop was only about a mile away, so we were there in no time. I had never heard of Peterson Bros. (aka: Eleven Eleven, named for its address, 1111 South 11th St.), but Chris was adamant that we make a stop here and I'm glad we did. 1111 became an instant favorite with its non-pretentious feel, great grub, and solid tap list. I look forward to coming here again and hopefully spending a little more time, maybe even sneaking in another ride on the safety shower:

I don't remember how we ended up at Dorky's -- it wasn't originally on the docket for this hike. I think we started trash talking about Galaga at some point (I wrongly insisted it was called, "Galga") and before I knew it, I was holding a tallboy of Vortex, watching Chris put on a clinic. Dorky's is really fucking cool. Just about every old school arcade game is here (and a fair amount of somewhat newer ones). There's also plenty of pinball and a really good selection of canned beer. It was a lot of fun to walk around with a 7% IPA and a pocket full of quarters. I haven't played seen some of those games in decades.

From Dorky's, it's a pretty straight shot to Wingman Brewers, our final stop of the hike. Wingman was the perfect place to end our beer hike as it is directly across the street from the bus stop (as of this posting, the last bus leaves at 10:23pm -- don't be late. It's a $100 cab ride back to Seattle.) It also has Galaga. Go figure.

Another long, successful beer hike in the books. While I look forward to visiting some (or all) of the places that we left out on a different hike, this route is just about perfect for an all-day tour. I'd do it again anytime, just the same way.

Thanks for reading. Here are some more stupid pictures:

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