I don’t get to travel back home very often, but when I do make the trek up to the Seattle area, I’m always very excited to see how the beer scene is doing. I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy or explore the Pacific Northwest’s microbreweries growing up, so beer didn’t enter my drinking vocabulary until later in college. I was a pretty responsible kid. I do remember the Red Hook and Pyramid brands; both threw work at my Dad’s sign shop and I can vividly recall our house filled with tap handles from these, as well as Samuel Adams, but that was way back when.
Today, Washington is seeing the same sort of revitalization that the rest of the world is seeing, so there is no shortage of new-wave brew pubs, microbreweries, and beer bars. This time around I was able to visit two new spots and both were great…and neither of them were Elysian Brewing Co.
Hellbent Brewing in Lake City is located in the old Black Angus building across the street from a Fred Meyer. It came highly recommended to me by the Beeroness, Jackie Dodd, chef and author of Craft Beer Cookbook and Craft Beer Bites. Seeing a brewery like this with a full tap room and no food in a commercially zoned area would be a near impossibility in LA. The space is pretty large with an upstairs game lounge complete with pool table and arcade cabinets. The bar is modestly sized in the corner with the 15BBL brewhouse, behind glass, as a backdrop. The interior is industrial, modern lodge, with plenty space. All in all it reminded me of a nice comfortable lounge with leather couches and a variety of seating.
With 11 beers available along with some guest taps, including cider, there were plenty of options for a diverse group. As is the way of today’s craft beer, there was a heavy emphasis on hopped up beer styles, but there were a few creative outliers including a Jasmine Wheat beer and a nitro red. The fresh hopped pale was the star of the show, and that’s the beer that made it back to our house in a growler. If you’re in the area, this is a great spot to visit and if you’re hungry, there may even be a food truck outside.
Hellbent Brewing Company – 13035 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98125 –
Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery, Seattle’s first Coop brewery, opened in August of this year (2015). The idea of a co-operated member driven brewery is pretty unique and fresh. There are others in the US, but they are few and far between. Flying Bike started with a member drive, which offered a lifetime membership for a nominal fee of $150. I’m proud to say that I’m a member and have been for over 4 years. Membership gets you voting rights, the ability to help create beer recipes, and a beer discount during weekday/weekend happy hours. Hoorah!
The brewery, located in north western Seattle’s hip and happenin’ Greenwood district, can be easy to miss. Look out for the Flying Bike banner, open windows, corrugated metal, and chalkboard in front. Greenwood Ave is a busy commercial street dotted with restaurants, bars, and other breweries. It’s in stark contrast to Los Angeles where manufacturing breweries like this need to offer food to be in commercial zones. Flying Bike doesn’t have food, but nosh is in close proximity so you can order in. The interior is inviting, dog friendly, and open air. Paintings, subway tiles, and wooden tables offer drinkers plenty of places to hang out. The big colorful pilot mural adds a noticeable warmth to the space and the “Member Driven Beer” motto is prominently displayed facing the entrance.
Flying Bike beers are varied to say the least. One thing I really appreciated about the beer list is the author listing. Written on subway tiles in dry-erase, each beer is listed with ABV, price, and the homebrewer/member who designed it. As such, there were some pretty crazy beers available. Where is Amy Schroomer, was straight out of Randy Mosher’s Radical Brewing book. This mushroom beer was wacky and I’m guessing it was chanterelle lending its assertive flavor, but then again my non-yeast fungi knowledge is limited. I probably wouldn’t come back to this one, but it was worth the adventure. Also available were some fresh hoppy beers, a dark pumpkin ale, a lavender beer, and black currant cider. My favorite was a rye saison, which was pretty straight ahead with a mildl spiciness. The beers here are varied and I’m excited to come back at a later date to see how they develop. You’re going to get a very different experience depending on when you come because the tap list is bound to change regularly as members decide what goes up. This is pretty exciting actually and more than enough reason to warrant many return visits. It worth checking out if you are in the area and it’s even more worth supporting what they are trying to do. Hey, if you join up and become a member, you can even help drive some of the decisions and beer choices, which is an exciting offer if you ask me.
Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery – 8570 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 –
Craft Beer Everywhere
There is an overabundance of craft beer available right now. Traveling from city to city, state to state, and even country to country offers endless possibilities if beer is involved. I really enjoy visiting production facilities and tasting craft beer at its source. I’ll choose that over a traded bottle any day. Taking my infrequent trips back to Seattle always offers me a bit of perspective on my own craft beer experience back in Los Angeles. I find it fascinating to see how the laws differ and how people perceive this bubbly beverage. Washington for example has a fill any growler policy and it’s in full effect. This is something LA is still struggling with a bit, but good things take time. If you haven’t been to a brewery outside of your own bubble recently, I encourage you to change that. Travel to a city you’ve never been to before, visit the local brewery, and take pleasure in the fact that in today’s world, you can pretty much get craft beer everywhere.