Seattle’s microbrewery scene is booming. Every time you look, there seems to be another home brewer making the leap from hobbyist to full-time beer maker. Still, most microbreweries are hole-in-the-wall joints solely focused on honoring hops; they’re rarely big enough to accommodate more than a few patrons at a time — let alone have a running kitchen. But a few have expanded to feed customers as well as pour craft beer. But rather than just slide a few peanuts down the bar, they’re serving some of the city’s best eats.
Beer expert Cody Morris brews some pretty strange stuff at his SODO (South of Downtown) microbrewery. Anything from wild yeast, to oysters, to beets or mushrooms can generally be found in your glass here. To make for a complete dining experience, however, Epic Ales built an adjacent tasting room/eatery called the Gastropod back in March. The menu changes constantly in the tiny rustic space (between the counter area and communal table, about 25 people can be seated), but you can bet it’s always delicious. Quirky creations range from sour cream tequila jalapeño ice cream to quail with a tomato dashi and Swiss chard hot pocket. The Gastropod also hosts dollar oyster nights and five-course dinners. And, of course, every bite is crafted with a beer pairing in mind.
Brewer Matt McClung also recently expanded his SODO microbrewery with a full kitchen in 2012. Patrons can sample six regular beers, including the popular Profanity Hill Porter, and two rotating taps. The Schooner EXACT restaurant is an indoor/outdoor setup that has a to-go menu, a brunch lineup and even options for kids. Waffles, mushroom scrambles and pulled pork sandwiches round out the brunch menu while dinnertime presents fun options such as beer-steamed clams, goat cheese gnocchi and steak melts.
Long the anchor of the downtown beer scene, Pike Brewing has created classic Seattle beers such as the Kilt Lifter, a ruby ale, and the Naughty Nellie, a golden ale. But beyond tasty pints, the sprawling, memorabilia-filled restaurant is always a sure-shot for great plates as well. Standout entrées include the wild salmon stuffed with a Dungeness crab cake and the mac and cheese spiked with the aforementioned Kilt Lifter. And as you’d probably expect from the folks who’ve brew peddled in the Emerald City since 1989, each entrée has a suggested beer pairing.
These hop lovers are known for their impressive list of envelope-pushing beer, like the Backstage Ale, a juniper pale ale, and the Haleakala, a hibiscus sour ale. The company also partners with other breweries to create fascinating “collabeerations” such as the tropical-flavored Down Under IPA concocted with New Belgium Brewing, a label out of Ft. Collins, Colorado. Not to be outdone by the malt’s magnetism, meals served at each of Elysian’s three pubs around town — items range from the Elysian burger and Mahi Mahi tacos to curry schnitzel and vegetarian barbecue sandwich — are also worthy of attention.
Naked City’s brewery and taphouse are open for lunch, dinner and happy hour. The impressive tap list includes a handful of housemade brews such as Betsy’s Mountain, a bright, summery amber, and the floral Brute Force IPA. The restaurant’s menu of elevated pub fare is equally as robust. With a thoughtful menu that features everything from pork short ribs and fried chicken to a beet burger and quinoa steak, the establishment keeps both its carnivorous clientele and vegetarian guests in mind. We’re guessing both sides appreciate the idea of enjoying their meals in Naked City’s Screening Room, a 75-seat theater that regularly hosts movie showings and other events.
Breweries and food trucks
Many other Seattle microbreweries (a few of which are so small they’re actually classified as nanobreweries) lack kitchens but partner with food trucks to provide folks with a complete epicurean experience. Down a beer and an artisan hot dog, fresh-shucked oysters or slow-smoked barbecue at popular spots all around the city, including Two Beers Brewing, Spinnaker Bay Brewing, Black Raven Brewing Company, Populuxe Brewing and Hilliard’s Beer.
Photo Courtesy of Heather McClung