Seattle’s long beer history has blossomed into a restaurant scene where pairing beer and food isn’t just acceptable – it’s celebrated.
In most areas of the world, the wine-soaked dining experience often leaves little room for brew-bite pairings. Luckily, Seattle’s not most areas of the world.
Beer has long been part of our city’s culture. We can trace our hop-filled roots back to Seattle Brewing and Malting Company, where Rainier Beer was first brewed in 1884. Even if the white can’s yellow flow isn’t your shtick, most folks can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic at the sight of the big red R.
While the all-day drinking palate was satisfied early on, the full-bodied flavor lovers would have to wait a bit longer. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that Seattle’s beer scene exploded.
It happened in one of our most iconic locations – Pike Place Market. Charles Finkel’s passion for all things fermented led him to open the Pike Place Brewery. Positioned beneath the market, it was the country’s smallest brewery at the time. However, the flavor of the English inspired stouts were anything but small.
Beer – really good, full-flavored beer – began earning its place among the city’s locally-made luxuries. (We thank you Charles.)
Still, it took a couple decades for the roots of our strong brewing scene to yield what’s now been dubbed “gastrobup fare.” What began as an elevated spin on traditional bar food, took full form in 2007.
Chef Scott Staples opened Quinn’s and the menu was a far cry from dressed up wings and burgers. Suddenly, hop-loving patrons were able to find bites designed for their brews. And better yet, chef Staples cuisine was (and is) so tasty even those skipping the libations headed to this Capitol Hill hot spot.
The passion for food and brew grew steadily in the city. Today, a home brewing Seattleite seems nearly as common as a coffee drinking one. And, that’s saying something.
All those folks tinkering in their free time revealed quite a few with some impressive brewing skills. In the last few years, microbreweries have been popping up so fast around the city it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all – let alone visit them all.
The massive variety of flavor profiles these creative brewers brought to the scene feed perfectly into our city’s gastropub glory (pun intended). The folks at The Pine Box, another Capitol Hill hotspot, are topping their pizzas with mind-blowing combinations like oysters, mushrooms and shallots. They’re even serving up spicy meat pies topped with a poached duck egg, the yolk runny and primed to burst across your chewy crust.
Among the most unique of beer-foodie havens is Gastropod. Unlike Quinn’s and The Pine Box, where the beers are sourced from a variety of breweries, Gastropod was opened in partnership with Epic Ales. Home based in SoDo, this nanaobrewery is known for infusing beers with less than traditional flavors (think miso and tea).
In what Seattle Magazine refers to as casual brilliance, Gastropod chef Travis Kukull creates seasonal dishes inspired by what’s on tap. Whether you pick your food or your beer first, the intention is clear: pair them!
Closer to Kenmore Air’s Lake Union terminal, and to traditional pub food, you’ll find Tom Douglas’ Brave Horse Tavern. Though the noise level teeters around yell-to-hear-yourself-think , the food’s in keeping with what you’d expect from Seattle’s restaurant empire king – bold flavors, tons of texture and consistently good. Thinning it is not, malt-boiled pretzels are served with dips such as pimento cheese and smoked peanut butter and bacon. However, you can work off those extra calories during a game of shuffleboard.
Sure a few low-alcohol yellows will always be nice while floating on Lake Washington. But the continually growing trend of outstanding beer-and-food pairings gives Seattleites yet another reason to tout the city’s exceptional uniqueness.