CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> Three Seattle Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - November 4, 2007

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Elysian Fields, 542 1st Avenue South, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA, USA

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74th Street Ale House, 7401 Greenwood Avenue North, Greenwood, Seattle, WA, USA

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Red Door, 3401 Evanston Avenue North, Fremont, Seattle, WA, USA

I know what you might be wondering: what is JC doing in Seattle, Washington when she was just in the >Orkney Islands above the Scottish mainland? Of course, you may not be wondering this because you've got far more important things to wonder about. But if you are in fact wondering this, join the crowd, because I'm a bit confused myself. There I was, earlier this summer, exploring Neolithic sites and hiking miles to see puffins. And then suddenly there I am, admiring the Seattle skyline from a Lower Queen Anne balcony while contemplating a 3-day road trip to Southern California with my Bay Area friend Mistah Rick. I suppose I've just been a busy traveler this summer, which naturally means I've got a wide geographical selection of pubs to write about over the next few columns. So enough said: let's get on with the beer.

On my first visit to Seattle since I moved away in 1999, there were several things I was looking forward to: good pizza, good Mexican food, the luxury of good espresso every few steps and, of course, that uniquely spicy character of Pacific Northwest microbrews. On my first day in the Emerald City, rattled with so much jet lag I had inadvertently dressed half backwards, I walked through downtown Seattle with my friend Celia, taking in Pike Place Market, the Hammering Man, and other sights. Working up a mighty thirst we found ourselves at the intersection of 1st Street and King Street at the newest Elysian pub, Elysian Fields. Because of its proximity to the Safeco baseball stadium, the pub was named after Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, where the first baseball game was played in 1845.

But there the resemblance ends: as you might expect, this Elysian Fields bears absolutely no resemblance to a baseball stadium. The bar is in a big industrial room with a large fish tank in the back. There is a cool little room tucked away on the side featuring 2 more aquariums in the wall which are shared by the restaurant area. There are some fascinating creatures in the aquariums including bright yellow fish (presumably yellow tangs) and a variety of plantlike beings that wiggle and flail their plantlike appendages.

Celia and I sat at the bar which, although it sadly has no handpumps, features a wide selection of the Elysian's own brews. My first pint was an Elysian guest, Prometheus IPA (6.7% ABV or 5.5% ABW, a starting gravity of 16.3, and Plato 1.065, if any of this is of interest). YES!!! Hop-hop-op-op-op! Even with fresh jetlag I knew I was in the Northwest. This beer is flavourful, fruity, bitter, and hoppy, with Chinook, Centennial, and whole-flower Cascade hops. It's a nice golden hoppy creation -- and for a moment I nearly thought I was back in Sheffield at the Cask & Cutler.

Celia had a pint of Elysian Fields Pale Ale (4.8% ABV), which is very nice with a wide malt flavour and Simcoe and Amarillo hops. It has a nice citrus character with a nuttily bitter (yes, that's what I mean), and it's available all year round.

My second pint was Avatar Jasmine IPA (6.2% ABV), and wow! On my first sip of this summer seasonal I thought I was entering an incense shop. Brewed with German Northern hops and finished with Glacier and Amarillo hops, this unique brew has dried jasmine flowers added to the boil and hopback. But it doesn't taste like the taste of jasmine as in tea -- it tastes like jasmine incense smells. It's a very nice relaxing brew which soon changed from exotic to very drinkable as our afternoon progressed without us noticing. The food seems typically Elysian as well, as my Portobello mushroom panini was very tasty.

A few days later, when my Bay Area friend Mistah Rick had joined me, we were staying at his cousin's house in Ballard. As I had business to attend to in Greenwood we stopped in on the way back at the 74th Street Ale House. I first came to this pub back in the early 1990s before its sister pub, the Hilltop Ale House, had opened in Queen Anne. I remember enjoying the guest micros and the excellent food; but as the Hilltop was so much closer to home I never bothered making the trek up here to Greenwood.

On this recent visit Rick and I sat at the bar where I talked him into a pint of Elysian's Avatar Jasmine IPA. I had a taste of Brutal Bitter (6.5% ABV, Rogue Ales, Newport, Oregon) a typical Rogue beer with a complicated mixture of several malts and several hops. It had real character, but I had the feeling it would be a tad too alcoholic for lunchtime on such a chore-filled day. So I had a pint of Diamond Knot IPA (6.0% ABV, Diamond Knot Brewery, Mukilteo, Washington). Was I tasting Cascade hops again? No, it's Galena and Columbus hops, and the latter also used in the generous dry-hopping. It's so lovely and so spicy, and it went perfectly with my blackened salmon sandwich. As Rick and I were both happily hopped we found ourselves talking about hops and hops festivals, because there seem to be so many new hops varieties that have emerged in the past decade.

Later that day we had a spare couple of hours, so we took a bus to the Artists' Republic of Fremont. Although the banks of the Ship Canal have changed quite a bit since I lived in Seattle, other aspects of Fremont happily haven't: Lenin still stands majestically in front of the equally famous Taco Del Mar, with the Fremont Rocket just across the road. We walked around in search of a watering hole and found ourselves in front of a pub new since I'd last been here in 1999. I couldn't recall what had existed on this particular corner, but I did remember that just across the way was Lenin's original home when he was first shipped over to Seattle from a former Soviet republic. And down the road was the Redhook Brewery's Trolleyman Pub.

So we walked inside the pub and I had a strange sense of deja-vu. Wait a minute -- I stepped back outside in search of the name of the pub. I was surprised to discover it was the Red Door, which used to be located two streets away on Fremont Avenue by the bridge! And the reason it seemed so familiar is because it's the same exact Red Door.

The Red Door -- this Red Door -- dates from the early 1900s. It was originally built in a marsh which later became the Ship Canal. When construction of the canal began it was decided that instead of demolishing the pub it should be moved. So the Red Door was uprooted, set on rollers, and dragged by horses to 34th and Fremont Avenue. Ten years later, as the Fremont Bridge was being built, the building was raised on stilts. By 2001 the stilts had badly rotted, so the pub was moved again, this time to its current location at 34th and Evanston. It has a new patio supposedly rated one of the top outdoor bars in Seattle, but as it's quite airy but no smoking is allowed we found it a bit off-putting. So Rick and I sat in the familiar interior and had pints of Kiltlifter (6.5% ABV, Pike Brewing Company, Seattle) on the handpump. This is a red-red malty beer, oak-aged. It seemed interesting but would more suit a winter's day rather than this balmy summer day.

So we drank up, said farewell to Fremont, and prepared for our 1100-mile road trip to California the next morning, with more pubs to discover along the way.