The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Brew Pubs
Washington

 

 

Seattle

Walla Walla

 

Laht Neppur Ale House
53 South Spokane Street
Walla Walla, WA 99361
(509) 529-2337

...bupwerb tseb s'allaW allaW
no doubt about it, is Laht Neppur (that is the owner's name spelled backwards).
My kind of place. The beermaid has an ivy tattoo all over her left forearm, I asked her if she knows who Poison Ivy is and she does!
Home bar. The decor is beer hall meets showroom meets industrial building. The floor is concrete, the tile has been torn up but the old adhesive has not. There are a half-dozen seats at a way too nice bar, picnic tables, barrel tables and old bar tables and chairs with outdoor seating. Industrial chic.

There are ten of their own beers on tap.
All Laht Neppur beers are brewed in Waitsburg, WA, about 20 minutes away.
There is IPA, Nut Brown, Blonde Ale, you get the picture.
Prices are usually $4.25 for 12 oz., $4.75 for 16 and $5.25 for 20 but not today when pints are $2.50. Kiss me.
I have a Hefeweizen-Peach and they make it work. A slight hint of peach introduces a strong American style Hefe. The peach is faint enough to be interesting without ever intruding. A good summer beer.
Blackmatt is a stout (9%) and it is named after Matt Black—do you see the devilishly clever scheme. Snap! The stout has a rich cola color, very consistent, slightly burned malts stop short of coffee and maintains a nice balance of flavor throughout. This beer sneaks up on you. I tasted the nut brown...throw that one away. Strawberry Cream was an American Pale Ale that tasted way too much like strawberry cream, I could not finish the sample.
My third beer was cleverly named IPA (why not API?). It was also nicely done with citrusy hops and a beautiful golden color. I'd rank them Blackmatt, Hefe, IPA...all repeatable and nicely done beers.

Here is the best part, however. For Only $495 you can become a lifetime member of the mug club. You get a mug, a t-shirt, a bottle opener, 10% off all merch and $.50 off any beer. That investment will pay for itself with the first 1000 beers you drink, then it is all profit. I bought one and hope I return to Walla Walla soon. If you get to Walla Walla, forget the wine bars and the Mill Creek; head to Laht Neppur. Peanut basket for $1.
Heaven.

 

 

 

Ice Harbor Brewing Company
350 Clover Island Dr  
Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 586-3181

I know my place. It is not a lounge, or a club, or a bistro. It's a joint, maybe a bar or tavern.
Once in awhile a brewpub makes the grade.
Ice Harbor Brewery in Kennewick, WA makes the grade.
Located in an industrial building is this pleasantly surprising and homey little joint.
They brew here. There is a home brewers store here. They sell merchandise and a few bottles.
You can buy a party pig (a pig-shaped growler).
This is a place for locals, a site that has burned out but never down, a place with character.

There are 8 seats at the bar, we claim two. Wooden tables and chairs dot the downstairs, nice tables outside but it is over 100 today, no one is in the loft. I see a sign for live music on weekends and the walls are decorated with a mix of farm, river and beer décor with the edge going to river-motif stuff.
Our beertender was friendly enough and attentive but he looked too much like a young Bill Cower, which unsettled this Ravens' fan.

The good news, they have 11 announced taps of their own beers available. Today they include Kolsch, Pale Ale, IPA, Warrior IPA, Red, Stout, Brown, Tangerine Hefe, Lighthouse Lager, Barleywine and a barrel aged stout on cask.. There is also a rogue blend of IPA and red called Rippa that is off the board but available. I have tangerine hefe, barleywine, IPA, and Hop Warrior. All are good and satisfying.
The tangerine is over the top and is hard to finish; the tangerine aroma is strong and the novel tastes wears thin before the glass is empty.
The barleywine is the best beer I had but the rippa is intriguing. I have noticed East Washington does not put too much energy into naming beers in these small breweries.

A native American is on the same bathroom schedule I am. Everyone else has been here before. It is not a “Let's stop there." place.
The food is surprisingly good. French fried pickle chips, a soft pretzel with beer cheese, and fried cod that is mighty good.
Lookit them French fried pickles! I asked the friendly beer tender to call Delta and request EMT's on the Salt Lake City flight tomorrow.

I liked this place and wished we had one like it at home.

 

 

Mill Creek Brewpub
11 S. Palouse
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Phone: 509-522-2440

Walla Walla is wine country. Who cares about beer?
The Mill Creek Brew Pub might but the jury is still out on that question.
This is a brew-on -premises pub that only had three of their beers on tap and as many guest taps. The bottle selection was a disappointing array of macro beers and lights. More on the beers later.

The building is nestled on a street corner that could have been from an episode of Leave It To Beaver...very small town appealing.
The inside is dark paneling with copper appointments on the bar and spread about the building in an oddly out-of-place fashion.
There are a dozen seats at the bar that features liquor more prominently than beer and many other seating choices—high tables, low tables and lots of dark booths behind the bar.
If it had not been 100 degrees the outside seating would have been a nice option.

Waiting tables in a brewpub is an art. The middle-aged blonde practiced it well, her 20-something replacement was annoyingly unartistic. She was a stalker.
Spencer was nowhere in sight, I missed him and his tree climbing equipment. Spencer was our stalker the last time we were here in 2000.

They brew on premises here but not often enough. The three beers were a hefe, an IPA and a stout. I finished each one and could easily resist the urge to yell, "Another round!" But they were drinkable. The hefe was a nice thirst quencher on a hot day.
I lied, the IPA was good enough to get a pitcher.
We arrived before happy hour, what do you call that time period? The food was disappointing, how do you screw up a club sandwhich? Wait. Mill Creek has the answer...three pieces of bread each half an inch thick!

If I found myself in Walla Walla come 2026 I might return; in 13 years one can forget a lot of things.
Say hi to Spencer for me.

 

 

Pike Brewing Company
1415 1st Avenue  
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 622-6044

The Pike Brewery is located in downtown Seattle and it is a tourist stop. It is a sprawling venue with levels and rooms all of which are over-decorated. My hopes were diminished by the honky tonk feel that signaled the beer would not be enough of a draw to hold people.
Well, good news, the owners are just incredibly tacky and the beer is not bad. The Barleywine and Tripel were tasty but we soon zeroed in on the XXXXX Extra Stout, and soon had gone through four pitchers of it. Therein lies a very nice treat...the beer was very reasonable for a tourist location.

Our waiter was friendly and naïve. When I asked him if the restaurant refilled and reused the mussel and clam shells—from a tasty beer-sauced appetizer—he very earnestly assured me they did not, instead of telling me to piss off, which is what the mean, mocking and small question deserved.
The appetizers were quite good but the food is not the reason to go there. If you are downtown and want a beer, this is a perfect nice reasonably-priced place to stop.
I wish I could sound more enthusiastic but I had already fallen in love with Two Beers.

 

 

 

Two Beers Brewing Company
4700 Ohio Ave. South
Seattle, WA 98134
phone: (206) 274-9353

There are many reasons to visit Seattle: the space needle, the monorail, the Seahawks, Sounders, and Mariners, Hendrix, Cobain, and on and on. But now it has a new one... Two Beers.
Two Beers is not a place you will drive by. It is buried in an industrial park near an old Ford factory-turned-Federal building and according to locals it has only recently adopted predictable operating hours.
It is a shiny new brewery with a canning and bottling operation and it has the best selection and quality of beers this intrepid reporter has ever found at a single microbrew location—and that includes Portland's best!
In an impossibly long row of corrugated tin-walled warehouse buildings, a yellow one sticks out. The left garage door leads to sacks of grain and a real warehouse; the double glass doors lead to a small tasting room where you'll find two eight-passenger wood tables and a small handful of smaller tables, and a bar that seats a dozen or so. A chalkboard with a dozen beers is centered over a clean functional bar with undistinguished tap handles protruding from a wall.
It is all very industrial looking.
A latter day free-spirited bartender/brewer hustles beers with giant silver silo-fermenters looming in the background. It is unusual and uninteresting and therein lies much of its appeal. The beer better be good here or ain't nobody coming back. The place was jammed on each of my three trips.
On my first visit, 12 beers graced the boards, one of them a cider - make it 11 beers. The sampler is your choice of any six beers in what amounts to two full pints of beer. I drank my way merrily down the list with two samplers and was not once disappointed.
Their website does not do credit to their selection of beers, which now go well beyond the beer list. The beers are remarkable for their body, their flavor and their consistency. The SoDo Brown, Immersion Amber, and Heart of Darkness ( a black IPA) stole my heart on the first visit. The second time I am ashamed to say a nitro Blonde entered my life and I stayed with her the entire visit. She was a thing of beauty...a beautiful blonde ale with a creamy Boddington head and a cloudy upper body that slowly stripped down to a clear ale. It was so creamy, smooth and good that I could not stay away. They were making a black and tan with her that was sinful to look at; the gentle merging of the two made a gentleman want to look away. I, however, stared at their union.
On m y third trip, I stayed away from the blonde albeit I wanted her desperately. It was Cinco de Day before Mayo, and the barkeep had three firkins of their beers flavored with chilis. Heart of Darkness with habanero and plum may have been the best damn beer I have ever had. It was so good I could not have another, I was not worthy. I followed it with an Immersion IPA with jalapenos, got up and walked out before I lost my soul and joined Seattle's homeless population just to be near Two Beers.
It is hard to find. It is crowded. The crowd is young and not interested in you. It is a tasting room, not a meet-up place. Hungry? Buy peanuts or pizza, or bring your own food.
If you find yourself in Seattle do yourself a favor...block out an afternoon, make the effort and seek out Two Beers. Go early to get a seat, I have a feeling this little brewery is on the verge of discovery.