I recently discovered that the University of Washington has a heart. At least it resembles one on a map. The ‘heart’ is a circular walk of 3.1 miles: it begins and ends at Montlake Triangle, on the Burke-Gilman Trail, and there is beer involved…
Starting from Montlake Triangle (Husky Stadium / UW Medical Center) join the nearby Burke-Gilman trail, then start walking counterclockwise. After passing underneath NE 45th Street, leave the trail at 24th Avenue (by UW Motor Pool parking), cross 25th Avenue to enter University Village, and seek out The Ram Restaurant and Big Horn Brewery.
After The Ram, retrace steps back the way you came along the Burke-Gilman, but this time cut across the UW campus to Seattle’s oldest brewpub: Big Time Brewery at 4133 University Way.
First up: The Ram; this University Village brewpub is part of a Washington-based chain with 17 locations, mostly in the Northwest. The Ram fits somewhere between the McMenamins and Rock Bottom chains – in fairness much closer to the latter than the former. The Ram is spacious and quite upscale; also, the restaurant and brewpub are completely separated, making this among the most kid-friendly brewpubs I have seen. Restaurant seating and interior decor is very similar to Rock Bottom.
I tried The Ram beer sampler – 8 different brews – which I would sum up with an OK, but nothing outstanding verdict. I do have to say the Pale Ale was pretty nasty to my taste (due to part barley, part wheat malt). The IPA, with all-barley malt though, was OK, but just ordinary by Seattle standards. The Ram’s amber, porter and stout, and their seasonal Oktoberfest Marzen were their best offerings. The Ram’s food selection and quality is comparable to other chains like McMenamins and Rock Bottom.
We now leave The Ram and retrace our steps to the Burke-Gilman Trail. After passing back under 45th Street, when the trail intersects with Pend Orielle Road (flashing STOP sign for the cyclists) turn right and follow the road up the hill. At Stevens Way, cross over and follow the pathways into the Quad. Continue to Denny Hall then head due west, exiting the campus at 15th Avenue and 42nd Street. Walk along 42nd to University Way, turn left, Big Time Brewery is across the street.
By all outward appearances Big Time looks like a simple campus bar. Apart from the sign above the door there is no indication that a brewery lies within. But a brewery there certainly is: the first one in Seattle, opened in 1988. There is also a kitchen serving very basic pub-grub for more than basic prices, and tables to sit and eat at, but this is a bar not a restaurant.
Want a beer – go to the bar. Want food – go to the kitchen counter to order and pick up. I give credit to Big Time for recently relaxing their minors policy, now allowing all ages until 8 pm, however this is not really a family-friendly brewpub experience – it’s a campus area watering hole – so I don’t think I’d want to take a preteen there.
During my visit I had 5 samplers: standard brews Atlas Amber, Coal Creek Porter and Bhagwan’s Best IPA; and special brews Scarlet Fire IPA and Nemesis Strong Ale. I found the Bhagwan’s lacking in hoppiness for an IPA – I’ve had hoppier Pale Ales – but Scarlet Fire and Nemesis were both good. I would put the Amber and Porter at just OK.
Where Big Time really shines in my view is in their very long list of special brews which they rotate on 2/3 of their taps (typically 4 standard, 8 special). I believe Big Time deserves to be included among the top 5 breweries in Seattle for this reason alone.
After visiting Big Time we still must complete our Heart of the University walk. Continue south on University Way until it reaches the Burke-Gilman trail. Turn left onto the trail and make your way back to where we started at Montlake Triangle.