Saturday, May 4, 2013

Newbie UBH

(Seattle, WA)

A few weeks ago, Chris asked me to design a beer hike for a friend who was coming to visit Seattle for the first time and was interested in checking out some good bars and breweries. He wanted something fairly accessible: 3-5 miles, 3-4 stops, relatively flat, etc.

The Master Plan (always subject to change.)
My first inclination was to tell him to fucking do it himself -- Chris knows more than most people about the craft beer scene and is a seasoned urban hiker. If I think about it, half the shit on this dumb blog was his idea! But Chris is a good fellow and I assumed his out-of-town friend would be, too. So I agreed. (Truth be told: I was just happy to be included. I'm kind of a pain in the balls to be around sometimes.)

I needed to design a hike like this anyway. A local reporter with The Seattle Times had been hounding me for a few months about doing an article on these crazy adventures and I decided that the only way I would cooperate was if he actually came on a hike with us. A simple telephone interview would not be sufficient to capture what these things are really all about. You have to walk the walk and drink the beer (cursing, too. Lots of cursing.) I have to admit that I was surprised when he agreed to join us.


Since there would be a couple of newbies on this hike, I felt the route should hit some new beer places. I also had just got some new shoes, a new water bowl for Link, a new GPS tracking app, and was looking forward to drinking some new beer. So there it is: a lot of new shit.

Like so many routes in Seattle, the places we stopped at are not nearly the only ones we could have chosen. Brouwer's, Hale's, The Leary Traveler, Reuben's Brews, Hilliard's Brewing, and NW Peaks Brewery are all along this route -- and we're not even to Old Ballard yet (Noble Fir, Ballard Station, Kiss Cafe...)

Newbie UBH; 4.2 miles (5.8 mi. with optional stop)
Bottlworks / Fremont Brewing / Populuxe Brewing / Peddler Brewing / Urban Family Brewing / The Dray (optional)

View Newbie UBH in a larger map

BOTTLEWORKS
I got to Bottleworks about a half hour ahead of time. I don't beer hike with strangers very often and I was maybe a little nervous that my plan was lousy or they would think the whole thing is dumb or something, so I wanted to get a beer in me before anyone joined.  Chris and his visiting friend, Max arrived soon after, followed by Tan, the reporter for The Seattle Times. We had introductions, drank some beer, and reviewed the plan for the hike. The weather looked somewhat iffy, but everyone (including Link) was prepared for rain, so I wasn't too concerned.

Store Manager Shaughn on a good day

The walk from Bottleworks to Fremont Brewing's Urban Beer Garden is one that I've done many times. Taking the direct route (Stone Way) is fine, but I've always preferred to cut through the neighborhoods and admire some of the fine gardens and homes along the back streets. There's also a big playground to cut through (see map above), which is always a nice break from the sidewalk.

FREMONT BREWING
Good wood at Fremont Brewing
As usual, Fremont Brewing was in full swing when we arrived. I can't remember the last time I was here on a slow day. FBC is really firing on all cylinders right now. The new Beer Garden looks great, their barrel program is about to take off, and their newest pale ale is going to be the official beer of Seattle Beer Week 2013. Great to see that the hits just keep on coming for them as you will not meet finer people.

By now the weather had really changed for the better and I wished aloud that I had worn shorts. I performed my usual ritual of shedding sweaty layers and it wasn't long before Tan and I actually had to move inside from the beer garden because the sun was too much (Max and Chris -- both from Texas -- had no problem, of course.) At some point Greg Gilbert, a newspaper photographer, arrived to take our pictures. It was kind of embarrassing, but fun. Greg has been shooting for The Seattle Times since 1967! I can only imagine some of the amazing things he's seen in that time.

We made sure everyone peed before we left FBC because the next leg of the hike was the longest. We jaywalked across busy N. 34th Street from the brewery (don't do that) and hopped on The Burke-Gilman Trail toward Ballard. Just past Hale's Ales, we broke off and headed north on 8th Ave. NW toward...

POPULUXE BREWING
If you live in Seattle and enjoy craft beer, you already know how much the brewery scene in Ballard has blown up in the past few years. There are almost 10 within walking distance and a few more new ones in the works. Populuxe had just opened it's doors a couple weeks prior to a grand reception. We arrived on a good day: they had beer for us to drink. The beertender told me that the response has been so good that some days they've actually run out of their own stuff and had to rely on guest taps. That's fantastic. (NOTE: Since we did this hike, I've returned twice. They have ramped up production and are keeping up just fine.)



We took our pints to their little back lot beer garden and found a picnic table and a homemade Cornhole set. Chris, fresh of a tournament victory the previous week at a National Corn Dog Day party, challenged Max to a game while Tan and I discussed the finer points of urban beer hiking for his article. He asked me all kinds of questions about how often we do these, how we decide where to go, what the longest hikes were, etc. while I struggled to form answers. Maybe because a lot of putting together these hikes is second nature to me now and I don't really think about it that much (except when I'm planning hikes in an unfamiliar city.) It was good exercise, though, and I guess part of me was flattered that someone was so curious about it.

Afternoon was vanishing and evening was right on its heels. It began to get cold on our short walk to the next stop, reminding us all that it was still March in Seattle.

PEDDLER BREWING
Another new Ballard brewery, Peddler is located in a neat old industrial space almost right under Ballard Bridge. It used to be home to Maritime Pacific Brewery, which moved and expanded shortly after I started this site in 2009 (no correlation). Peddler opened at just about the same time as Populuxe, with an equally rousing reception.


It's obvious by their logo and the decor of the tasting room that the owners have an affection for bicycles.  Check out the brake handles on the bathroom sink. Cool!


I look forward to visiting Peddler again soon because I need to ask them something regarding peddler vs. pedaler: with their obvious love of bicycles displayed all around the shop, shouldn't the name be "Pedaler", as in, "one who pedals?" They probably get that question all the time.

From Peddler, it's a short walk over to the row of countless shops, bars and restaurants that is Ballard Ave. Here, we arrived at our next stop, another new place:

URBAN FAMILY PUB & BREWERY
Urban Family opened it's doors about 18 months ago, but they only recently got their small, in-house brewery up and running. What was already a great place became even better. It's always tough to decide what to have here, especially when you only have time for one beer. There's always plenty of good guest taps and their in-house brews get better and better each time I visit.

I don't remember what beer I had this time (I think it was the Chocolate Hans Gruber spiced porter), but I do remember some asshole at a table near the bar telling me to be careful with Link because his dog wasn't good with other dogs. "Really, genius?" I wanted to reply. "Maybe you should be careful and not bring a poorly socialized animal into a fucking public house." That dude can kiss Link's ass:


Although this was the last planned stop of the hike, some of us continued on to The Dray (it's right near my home, so I had to walk that way anyway.) That got us up to almost 6 miles for the day so I decided that a celebration was in order. Max mentioned that after Seattle, he was headed down to Portland for a visit, so I decided to give him a little taste of what to expect with a bottle of Cascade's Blueberry Sour. It turned out to be a perfect beer to end the night on.

It was good to be out and about in my neighborhood again. I've been doing a lot of shit from other cities on this blog lately and missed the simple pleasure of drinking beer brewed only a couple short miles from my door. It's going to be interesting to watch all of these new Ballard Breweries in the coming months and years. There will surely be some winners and losers, but right now it's just too soon to tell, so all I can do is do my part -- drink. As much as possible.

Enjoy some more of my excellent camera phone pics:
























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