Where to Find Seattle's Best Breweries
What are the first few things you think of when you think of Seattle? Flannel shirts? Grunge music? Starbucks coffee? How about delicious craft beer?
Craft beer and Seattle go together like pizza and New York City. According to Seattle Magazine, “hippies, brew nerds, aficionados and accidental chemists,” spearheaded the craft brew movement in the Pacific Northwest, and Seattle was the place they called home.
It’s no secret that German beers were king in the 19th century, but many long-established breweries around the country, not just in Washington, had hard times in the 20th century either thanks to Prohibition or simply due to changes in management. Some old school local breweries in Seattle managed to hang on a little longer than most, but by the 1980s, the craft brewmaking scene was mostly quiet, according to Seattle Magazine, in favor of big corporate beer companies.
But in the mid-1980s, everything changed. Northwest-style beers became “cool again,” so to speak, and Seattle homebrewers were ready to make them, Seattle Magazine reported. The commonly accepted first microbrewery was Grant’s Brewery Pub in Yakima, founded in 1982, but it wasn’t long before breweries began to pop up within the city proper, like Red Hook Brewery, founded in 1981, and Pike Brewing Company, founded in 1989.
Since then, Seattleites have claimed a sense of ownership and pride over their beers, and it shows in the quality and taste of the brews you can find there.
Take a look at some of these amazing breweries we found in Seattle and be sure to grab a pint next time you’re in the Emerald City.
Methodology: We decided to take a sampling of some of the best and most recommended breweries from a number of expert and user-rated sites, including RateBeer, TripAdvisor, Beer Connoisseur, and Beervana. We also took into account breweries that have been featured in other publications and local beer forums as well. While the breweries listed below are not necessarily ranked, each one has a special feature, whether it’s an attached restaurant, awards and honors, tours and tastings, an interesting space, a unique method of brewing, or is famous for having a specialty. All breweries are established or headquartered in Seattle city limits, therefore some beloved spots like Black Raven Brewing and Postdoc Brewing from Redmond could not be included. Along a similar line, breweries like Georgetown Brewing, even though it’s in Seattle, could not be included since they do not offer pints and only growlers and bottles to go.
1. Fremont Brewing
Founded in 2009, this well-loved brewery is famous for its artisanal, barrel aged, small-batch beers. The company is dedicated to sustainability, using local and organic (when available) ingredients for its beers, and this dedication has certainly paid off. It won Best Brewery in the 2018 Seattle Refined So Northwest Awards, as well as the 2018 Best Local Brewery/Tasting Room and Best of Barrel Aged Beer from Seattle Magazine. Its Urban Tasting Room is right on the water, so you can enjoy the view while you enjoy your pint.
2. Ghostfish Brewing Company
Yes, good gluten-free beer exists, and Ghostfish Brewish Company has certainly mastered the art of it. Using some “unusual” grains like millet, brown rice and buckwheat, this company has been able to turn out some excellent IPA’s, Stouts and ales for beer lovers to try (even if they have a gluten intolerance). Considering that this brewery is less than five years old and is already making waves, that’s pretty impressive.
3. Old Stove Brewing
This staple Seattle brewery has the benefit of being inside Pike Place Market, which has an excellent view of the water and a Ferris wheel, in case you’re looking to have some family fun while you’re getting a pint of craft beer. It’s also a popular place to grab a nice, sit-down meal. The restaurant has tons of classic pub favorites, including a charcuterie board, wood oven pizzas, burgers, BLTs, fish and chips and even some tasty desserts. It was also awarded Best Taproom by Seattle Magazine in 2018.
4. Holy Mountain Brewing Company
If you’re looking for something new, seasonal, and fresh, Holy Mountain will never give you the old staples. With an ever-changing menu that never offers year-round beers, this company serves some of the most interesting and innovative brews for adventurous beer lovers. While it certainly has made some IPA’s in the past, this brewery is known for its Belgian beers, sours, saisons and basically anything aged in an oak barrel.
5. Optimism Brewing Company
Optimism focuses on being a brewery rather than a brewpub. Even though they don’t have a kitchen, they do allow patrons to bring in take out, or to eat from the local food trucks that they host — making this company a brewery that isn’t just a bar, it’s part of the community. Not only do they host food trucks that serve all kinds of cuisines, but this company also claims they make beers for all kinds of beer lovers. They don’t necessarily specialize in any type of beer, but they do make many different tasty types of brews with clever names like Don’t Boo, Vote, Afraid of the Dark, and Unicorn.
6. Pike Brewing Company
Opening up in 1989, this Pike Place Market establishment is one of the older craft breweries in the city — making craft beer “before it was cool.” True to its Seattle heritage, it specializes in sustainability and organic ingredients, mainly brewing English- and American-style beers. The company not only has its flagship pub in Pike Place, but it also opened a brand new restaurant, Tankard and Tun, a seafood restaurant that offers the company’s craft brews and features its own fermentation room. Seattle Magazine named this company the Most Iconic Washington Beer Brand in 2018.
7. Cloudburst Brewing
You can probably assume what type of beer Cloudburst specializes in based on their name. Started by an experimental brewmaker from another Seattle company, Cloudburst is all about brightness and brews with a little extra “oomph.” You’ll certainly find IPA’s here, but they’re not exactly the traditional ones you’d find on any old tap. Their oatmeal brown ale is tinged with a toasted coconut, their nitro milk stout is cured for extra flavor, and all their brews have interesting names for you to explore. Sadly, they only sell pre-filled growlers.
8. Reuben’s Brews
You won’t find another brewery with more beers on tap. Nestled in the middle of a number of other breweries in the area, this may be the most comprehensive tap list you’ll be able to find in the city, and there isn’t a bad brew on tap. It usually has about 20 beers on offer at any given time, ranging many different styles, so there’s always something for everyone. And if you’re hungry, there’s usually some tasty food trucks outside selling excellent street food.
9. Rooftop Brewing Company
Nothing beats sipping on some brews outside in the summertime. And in Seattle, there’s no better place to do it than Rooftop. Now that this company has recently moved locations, they have a nice, big patio for lots of beer lovers to come, drink and soak up the sunshine. And if you’re hungry, there’s a special food truck schedule on their website that anyone can follow so they can grab a bite while having a pint.
10. Elliott Bay Brewery and Pub
Named the best brewpub by Seattle Magazine in 2018, Elliot Bay has been around since 1997 — making it a true Seattle gem. The beautiful, aged oak Seattle pub has about as much character as the city itself, and it’s famous for its certified organic ales. But just because it’s an older establishment doesn’t mean they’re set in their ways. They have a tasty menu of interesting fare like ahi tuna tacos, jambalaya and special “crack sauce” (chipotle aioli) for their herb seasoned fries.
11. Stoup Brewing
Started by “two thirsty science nerds,” Stoup is all about brewing high-quality beers with a keen focus on the chemistry of brewmaking. It’s located in Seattle’s burgeoning Ballard community, which is famous for being the “beer making” neighborhood of the city, so you can easily stop by Stoup and a bunch of other breweries while you’re visiting the city. The company is particularly lauded for its sours and its award-winning Robust Porter, which just won the 2018 Gold Medal at the North American Beer Awards.
12. Urban Family Brewing Co.
If you like sours, you’ve come to the right place. Sure, this company makes other brews too, but if your jam is in sour beer, you can’t do better than Urban Family. Combining fruits like raspberry, mango, passionfruit, blueberry, boysenberry, lemon and even some other puckering flavors like strawberry lemonade, this is the quintessential summer beer establishment.
13. Red Hook Brewery
Red Hook is considered the oldest brewery in Seattle’s city limits, and that legacy shows in their beer. After all, you can’t exist in a city with such stiff competition for almost 40 years without turning out a product that locals love. It’s well known for its classic IPAs and small-batch beers, but also for its seasonal brews like its My Oh My caramel macchiato milk stout and its Tangelic Halo tangerine IPA.