CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> 2 Lake City Brewpubs
Hellbent Brewing Company, 13035 Lake City Way Northeast, Lake City, Seattle, Washington
Brother Barrel Brewing Company, 12535 Lake City Way Northeast, Lake City, Seattle, Washington
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic situation -- particularly the temporary closing of all pubs, bars, and restaurants in the UK and the US -- I’ve been putting off writing this review, not knowing quite what to say and feeling as if I should just give up for now. But as we are all restricted to our homes and urged, for the time being, to live our lives digitally, I have a good reason to continue with reviews, especially as I still have a backlog of notes on Pacific Coast and new Sheffield pubs which I’ve visited in the past six months. Since no one will be able to visit any of the pubs I refer to at this particular time, we can only hope that these good pubs all survive through this shutdown and will be able to reopen eventually -- "on the other side", as many businesses have been promising. So hopefully my reviews will serve as not only more digital stuff to read while lounging on your sofa with a couple cans of beer, but also as a bit of free advertising for future pub business.On that note, I shall return to Seattle last September, when my Bay Area friend Rick and I headed out of town one afternoon to visit an old friend of mine.
Located eight miles northeast of downtown Seattle, Lake City was established and developed by DH and RH Lee in 1906 and remained a remote suburb for years. During prohibition in the 1920s, Seattle’s city limits stopped at 85th Street, which was only a little over a mile from the southern end of Lake City’s main thoroughfare, Lake City Way. Because it was still unincorporated territory, it was an obvious location for roadhouses, speakeasies, and brothels, and the history of some of these establishments and how they operated is quite fascinating. Incorporating as a township in 1949, it wasn’t until 1954 that the city of Seattle finally decided to incorporate Lake City.
On a Friday afternoon we jumped on the 522 bus in downtown Seattle and rode up to the Hellbent Brewing Company. The minute ride passed by Gas Works Park where we could see Lake Union and the downtown skyline and the Space Needle just beyond, and passed through the U District and Ravenna, continuing up into the north suburbs. We got off the bus at Northeast 130th Street where we spotted the brewpub.
Located in the old building that once housed a fabricated structural metal company, Hellbent was opened in 2015 by four friends. When we walked into the pub I spotted Barb, my oldest friend, sitting at a table waiting for us. She joined us at the bar where we chatted with the barman about what was on the 20 taps. Barb lives within walking distance, so as she’s my legendary blue-eyed friend Barb she has got to know the gents behind the bar pretty well. We ended up having quite a few samples before deciding on our pints which we took out to the back patio.Rick and I decided to share two pints. The first was Strata Fresh Hop IPA (6.6% ABV), which was brewed with freshly harvested Strata Hops from Goschie Farms in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The beer was later dry hopped with Amarillo hops from Virgil Gamache Farms in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. There was also a touch of flaked oats, so it was a very pleasant brew, especially for the sunny day outside. Our other pint was Remix IPA (6.8% ABV), an American IPA with Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic hops. Hellbent has done several Remix IPAs, so this apparently was a remix of a remix or something like that. It was also quite pleasant. I can’t remember what Barb, who loves European lagers, actually had, but my memory suggests whatever Helles they had on at the time.
Considering it was late afternoon on a Friday, the pub was pretty quiet. But the day was very sunny and pleasant, and my talkative friend Barb and I had lots and lots of chat and catch-up to cover. Barb, who’s two years older than me, has literally known me for my entire life, having visited me with her mother -- my mom’s best friend -- in the hospital when I had just popped out of my mother's womb. Not many people can claim a friend like that, and we hadn’t seen each other for a few years. At the point where I was worried that my ever-patient good friend Rick would be getting quite bored, my equally loquacious Unkletom just happened to phone Rick's mobile. I can’t really estimate just how many words were uttered over those three pints, but I’m guessing it was quite a few.
After we finished our pints we headed down the road to another brewpub, Brother Barrel, which specialises in barrel-aged and sour beers. When we first walked in we were struck by how large and dark the interior was, but it was quite full of customers. At the long bar we had several tasters and finally decided on a 4-ounce flight. We sat at a table against the wall opposite the bar, under a big Flanders-style mural featuring a hilly area populated with lots of drunk pilgrims, Trappist monks, lochs, the Loch Ness Monster, and probably other beings and creatures we didn't even notice.
The first leg of our flight was Bramble On (6.5% ABV), a blackberry sour. Each batch is brewed with 15 pounds of sustainable black raspberry puree and then aged for 18 to 24 months in red wine barrels from De Voigne Cellars in Woodinville, Washington. Through this process the raspberry element faded from light red to a dark purple with a pink head. This was a really nice beer -- in fact, so nice that Barb had her own special glass of it.
Next on our flight was De Rode Duivels (Flanders Red, 6.5% ABV), the brewery’s house sour red which was modelled on the sour reds of Flanders. And this is a really, really nice sour, the way they should be, with a pleasant acidity and oak character from the ageing barrels. It was like drinking a gorgeous glass of red port.
Next was Spontaneous Montmorency (6.0% ABV), a spontaneous cherry sour. I considered the previous beer to be very sour, but this was so sour it was mouth-wateringly sour. Gold in colour, this beer was brewed with 50 pounds of Montmorency cherries from Yakima, Washington, which are traditionally used in the baking of sour cherry pies. Then the beer is aged for nine months in Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec barrels from Seattle’s Kerloo Cellars.
For our last taster we decided to choose something not quite so sour, perhaps as a strong-ABV dessert to the previous tasters. And Bourbon Barrel-Aged Fauntleroy (9.2% ABV) was indeed strong and sweet and tasted very much like whiskey. This beer started off with imperial stout that was then aged for up to 13 months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels from Bardstown, Kentucky. And this definitely has those popular stout flavours of chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. Barb and I decided we didn’t really like this, for each of our own reasons, so we left most of this taster to Rick.
When we finally said adieu to Barb and walked out to catch our bus back, the sun was just starting to fade and our heads were swimming with the pleasant jolliness of some very fine (and strong) beers. Considering this was my first visit to this far-northeastern part of Seattle, I left with a great impression of the area, if only for its wonderful miniature pub crawl that we’d just experienced, and of course experiencing it with a wonderful and enthusiastic friend helped.