Return to Georgetown for Two Beers

Among Seattle beer aficionados the Georgetown neighborhood enjoys almost mythical status. It was here, in 1893, that Seattle’s iconic Rainier Beer brand was born from the merger of three south Seattle brewing companies. By 1904 the Georgetown plant had become the largest brewery west of the Mississippi, and sixth largest in the world.

Georgetown incorporated itself in 1904 to protect its brewery from the expanding city of Seattle. Annexation would have shut down Georgetown’s largest employer, as well as cut off the lucrative revenue streams flowing from all the saloons, brothels, and gambling houses that had sprung up outside the Seattle city limits.

Rainier beer production in Georgetown, together with the city’s errant ways, continued until 1916 when Washington state’s prohibition laws took effect.

Anyone who is familiar with my home town of Reading and the history of its “Three-Bs” (beer, bulbs & biscuits) will appreciate why Georgetown Brewery’s history is of interest: it evokes memories of Reading’s Simonds Brewery and Huntley & Palmers biscuit factory. Read more about Georgetown’s colorful past here and here.

After national prohibition was repealed in 1933 brewing of Rainier Beer resumed in Seattle but not in the by then outdated Georgetown plant. Instead, the former Bay View Brewery, which had been relegated to Rainier’s bottling plant before prohibition, was enlarged and modernized: it would serve as Rainier Beer’s brewery until new owners shuttered the plant in 1999. Here is an excellent Illustrated History of Rainier Beer.

All is not lost, however, because in 2002 suds began to flow again in a portion of the old Rainier brewery in Georgetown with the opening of Georgetown Brewing, the producer of Manny’s Pale Ale.

I wrote in an earlier post about my visit (to Georgetown’s new larger premises) and my purchase of two growlers of Manny’s. I also promised I would return to sample Georgetown’s upcoming Lucille’s IPA.

The title of this post refers not only to my recent return to Georgetown-the-place and Georgetown-the-brewery, but also to two beers, literally Two Beers. I set out last Wednesday with two empty growlers intending to fill them both.

The first I assumed would be Georgetown’s Lucille IPA, the second: something from Two Beers Brewing Company; a welcome addition to Georgetown’s brewery scene. Like Georgetown, Two Beers is a keg-only production brewery – with a tasting room but no brewpub.

My reaction to Lucille’s IPA? Well, based on this first taste, Lucille frankly didn’t impress me. It’s malt and hop character was too close to Manny’s for my liking – I was expecting a much hoppier presence. There are several IPAs I can name that I prefer; all can be clearly differentiated from their brewer’s flagship pale ale.

In fairness while Lucille is being offered at the brewery, it is still not yet in production, so I’ll reserve final judgment until I see Lucille taps next to Manny’s at local bars and restaurants, which I understand should be sometime between now and the end of the year.

But take heart Georgetown fans, I did not come home empty-handed. And this actually leads me into a wider topic – seasonal and specialty brews – that I will cover in a separate post. Anyway, while I wasn’t so impressed with my Lucille IPA tasting experience I was pleasantly surprised by Georgetown’s seasonal offering Tomtoberfest, styled after the classic Bavarian Märzenbiers of Oktoberfest.

Ordinarily I’m not a lager drinker but it took only two sips and I was sold – I took home a growler full of the stuff. Then off I went for my second beer tasting at appropriately named Two Beers Brewing.

According to Two Beers’ website their tasting room is open 3-7 pm Thursdays and Fridays; however I went on Wednesday and the tasting room was opening just as I arrived a few minutes shy of 3:00 pm – so it’s worth calling ahead on any given day to see if they’ll be there for you.

It was a good experience. All five year-round brews were available for tasting but I chose instead to try some of the special offerings: Evolutionary IPA and the Fresh Hop to name two. Evo is a San Diego style IPA (basically emulating Stone’s IPA), more subtle than most NW IPAs, and very nice. But the Fresh Hop was knock your socks off good – and as with all fresh hop ales available for only a short time – so it came home with me in growler #2.

One more thing: I mentioned earlier how all is not lost. Georgetown Brewing outgrew its space in the old Rainier Brewery, but when it came time to relocate, they decided to stay in Georgetown.

Two Beers Brewing completed their move from their start-up space in Fremont and are also now well established in Georgetown.

And this past weekend we saw the opening of Emerald City Brewing; they have taken a small portion of the the former Bay View Brewery to set up a brewery and brewpub. Bay View was the brewery relegated to being Rainier Beer’s bottling plant before prohibition. After prohibition roles were reversed: Georgetown became the bottling and cold storage plant while Bay View became the brewery once again, and remained so from 1933 to 1999.  Either way, the great thing is that beer is flowing again at the Old Rainier Brewery – like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

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