New state alert! I want to mix in a few new state breweries in my reviews as I’m sure everyone is tired of me gushing about Bend breweries. On a trip to Seattle, Washington recently I managed to squeeze in a trip to a local craft brewery: Belltown Brewing. A relative newcomer that was founded in 2017, it can be found right in the heart of downtown Seattle in the Belltown neighborhood. After a long, hot day of wandering the city, I was ready for a beer or two before I had to catch the ferry back across the water. Grab a beer of your own and join me as I discuss my trip to one of the many breweries to be found on the Puget sound.
- Beer – First, the good: they have a large beer list, tapping (ha!) in to the local craft beer scene to feature over 20 guest brews, in addition to the five in-house beers available when I stopped in. They run the gamut from more traditional styles to sours and imperial ginger beers, giving you and your friends plenty of options to choose from. The less good: only five in house beers that stick to a limited variety (three of five were IPAs). While I understand that IPAs are one of the fastest growing beer styles and this is the Pacific Northwest and hops are king, I really like to see variety in what you brew. How can you grow and expand your skills without dabbling in other styles? To be fair, perhaps they do and I happened to visit at a time when they were on an IPA kick, as their Untappd profile suggests based on previous check ins and ratings. But what about those of us who sometimes want to drink local beer but need a break from the hops? On the brighter side, those beers they did have were well built, with my favorite being the Brut IPA. It was crisp, bubbly, and refreshing on a hot day and was the perfect drink to relax and cool down with while watching the busy city bustle outside. Score: 2.5/5
- Brewery – I can’t figure out what this place is supposed to be. Hip new spot to be at night in downtown Seattle? Grungy hipster bar? Fine dining? Event center? All of these elements can be found here, leaving one to wonder what their real focus is on. The taproom is spacious, with a large, well-appointed bar dominating the room and tables arrayed along the windows overlooking the busy streets. A spacious sidewalk seating area allows you to put your finger on the pulse of the Emerald City while sipping your beer, if it isn’t raining that is. The interior has lots of exposed mechanicals and ductwork in the ceiling, giving the whole place a roughened edge. Perhaps it was of the pall of smoke that hung over the city from nearby wildfires but despite full daylight and plenty of windows it was dark and oppressive inside, even in the face of the obligatory Edison lamps dotting the interior. The muted interior décor did not help with lightening up the place either. Staying true to the brewpub theme they have a full menu of the usual suspects, though as a bonus they do brunch on the weekends. A pint will run you about $6 and their food prices are standard for a large city on the west coast, with the average meal in the $10-15 range. Their hours of operation are decent, going from 3:30 (10 am on the weekends) to the pretentiously labeled “late”, so you can spend the entire night out on the town. Score: 2.5/5
- Ambiance – Events at the brewery seem to focus more on new beer releases as opposed to live music or trivia, though even these seem few and far between based on their website and Facebook page. Most of the “ambiance” for this place stems from being in the heart of the big city and the vibrant culture that offers, as opposed to creating their own. While they do have a few televisions to watch the various Seattle sports teams, I did not see much in the way of board/card games and there really was not much room for outdoor games. Overall, I was a bit disappointed with Belltown, more so when you compare all the other great breweries nearby. They did not offer much to stand out in a crowded craft brewing scene. Score: 2/5
- Location – Downtown Seattle, and one of the most desirable neighborhoods of the city to boot! Here you are in the heart of the city with all the other things that entails. With great views of sound just a short way down the hill, Pike’s Place market and the original Starbucks a short walk away, and the Space Needle looming overhead, I really felt like I was getting the big city experience here. As you would expect, there are dozens of shops, restaurants, and bars all around you. Parking, as with any other large metropolitan area, can be a bit of a nightmare. I would consider public transportation or your own feet to get around. I will commend them on picking a good location, a corner storefront on a busy street in one of the trendiest neighborhoods with lots of exposure and not many other breweries close by. Score: 3/5
- Customer Service – Showing up right at the open, we were seated quickly, and our orders were taken and delivered with alacrity. They do provide table service and our server was polite and friendly, checking in on us frequently. No major concerns to note here, this was probably the best part of the brewery. Score: 3.5/5
Total Score: 13.5/25
Final Thoughts: A lot of potential marred by a lack of identity and limited house beer options. I want to stress that I thought the beers they had on tap were solid, I just would have like to see more options and styles available. It is hard to get excited about a place that would prefer to be a restaurant and bar than truly a brewery, which is the impression I had here. While certainly worth a visit if you are in town, especially on a hot day where you want to sit and watch the city bustle by with beer in hand, I can’t say that I would stop in again with all the other options available in Seattle.