I’m a beer lover to my bones. I brew with friends, always seek out new and interesting beers, and frequent regional beer festivals. So, shortly after moving to Seattle, I resolved to get acquainted with the city’s microbrew scene. Part of that effort involved taking Road Dog’s Seattle Brewery Tour, which includes transportation to — and tours of — three local breweries in three hours.
Several weeks ago, my friend Lauren pointed out a LivingSocial deal for Road Dog’s and volunteered to tag along. We took the tour on Sunday and had a delightful time. Instead of offering a blow-by-blow recap of our three hours, here is a rundown of the Road Dog’s experience.
The trip includes transportation. This is a phenomenal benefit for so many reasons, the most of obvious of which is that we got drunk along the way. Our friendly tour guide Adam picked us up, navigated Seattle’s confusing layout, and dropped us off at the locations of our choosing (within reason).
Every tour is different. Adam asked the four of us taking the tour what interested us most, offering suggestions based on our feedback. He didn’t come with a set itinerary, instead letting us choose our destinations. Two of us on the tour brew our own beer, so Adam suggested a trio of smaller breweries. On this soggy Sunday, the tour included:
Hilliard’s Beer: The year-old brewery in Ballard, which opened in a converted mechanics’ garage, started us with a handful of its tasty brews. We learned about how Hilliard’s got started — the list of co-founders includes a former furniture salesman and an astrophysicist — and toured its burgeoning brewery. The tour itself took no more than 10 minutes, but we found out along the way that Hilliard’s has doubled its business — twice! — in the past year. With a solid stout and a refreshing ESB on draft, it’s easy to see why.
Hale’s Ales: From one of Seattle’s newest breweries to one of its oldest. The second brewery on our tour, just a few minutes away in Ballard, is the longest-running independent brewery in the Pacific Northwest. We tried a wide variety of brews, including a smooth, cask-aged IPA and three creamy, nitrogen-carbonated ales. It was refreshing to talk about the beers with another home brewer and a knowledgeable guide, especially since Hale’s offered a handful of unusual offerings.
Outlander Brewery & Pub: Outlander might be Seattle’s newest brewery, having opened about four months ago in the Fremont neighborhood. This brewery offered a stark contrast to the comparatively hulking operations at Hilliard’s; all of Outlander’s brewing takes place in a basement no larger than a one-bedroom apartment. Because of its smaller, more nimble operations, Outlander can offer more inventive beers. In our time at the brewery, we tried a a strawberry wheat beer, a mushroom stout (!!!), and a peanut butter stout (!!!!!). I would love to describe these brews in detail, but my palate was pretty much shot by this point. No worries, though; it gives me a good excuse to return another time.
And that was just our experience. I could take the tour again and wind up at three completely different breweries. That’s what makes Road Dog’s so great; it’s not a one-size-fits-all experience. It’s tailored to the interests, experiences, and curiosities of the people taking the tour.
The tour offers a sense of Seattle brew history. Obviously, we visited one of Seattle’s oldest breweries and one of its newest. We saw three very different outfits with unique places in the local brewing community. But, in between stops, Adam talked about the history of the Seattle brew scene and the craft brew movement of the past 30 years. He also told stories about each of the breweries we visited. Those were nice touches that helped us understand Seattle’s close-knit relationship with brewing a little better.
Oh yeah. There’s plenty of booze. If Adam saw me with an empty glass, he filled it. If we asked for samples of beers that weren’t included, we received them. The beer flowed freely over the three hours, and no one complained — either about getting enough or a lack of variety. In fact, the apprentice at Hilliard’s, realizing that we didn’t have time to try the brewery’s Saison, gave us each a can to try later.
We bonded. Lauren and I took the tour with two friends/co-workers traveling from the East Coast. One lived in Germany for three years but doesn’t consider himself a beer nut, and the other brews beer at home. (This home brewer prepared 22 beers for his Independence Day cook-out last year. A true American patriot.) We talked about our favorite beers, dissected the various flavors, and shared our own experiences with craft brews. By the end of the three hours, we had bonded over the unique experience we had just enjoyed — and over the great beers we’d tried along the way, too.