Baron Brewing / Three Skulls Ales

In a city that is so well endowed with microbreweries in almost every neighborhood, the north side of Seattle is strangely devoid of suds production. Get beyond what I call “the pearl necklace” : the eight brewpubs strung out from west to east through Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, and the University District; and you will find a noticeable absence of breweries. However, as our expeditions to the Greenwood neighborhood recently revealed, this situation appears to be changing for the better…

Prior to our recent visit, I was under the impression that Naked City Brewery was single handedly leading the charge into the north side’s uncharted territory. But as we stepped back out onto the street last Saturday night, I found myself staring across at an elusive watering hole: one that has been on my bucket list since the beginning; Pillager’s Pub.

Pillagers Pub is the home of Baron Biers & Three Skulls Ales and no question about it: we had to extend our visit to Greenwood and immediately go check out some Hop The Plank.

A little background is in order: I learned a while back that Baron Brewing took over the former Lunar Brewery in the downtrodden south Seattle neighborhood of South Park; a small brewery with a tiny tasting room described as a closet.

Baron was founded in 2003 with the idea of being Seattle’s first brewery dedicated to producing German beer in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot purity laws, using all-German ingredients.

In this ale-dominated town, I’m not sure if this was gutsy or foolhardy. But assuming enough lager fans exist here, there could be an untapped market; however the higher production cost might make Baron Biers uncompetitive.

Six years on and it appears the German beer strategy wasn’t going so well; in 2009 Baron Brewing established Three Skulls Ales, and at that time launched a line of pirate-themed ales (hey, it works for Maritime Pacific).

To showcase their new beers they took over a former Tully’s coffee shop in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle’s north side, turned it into Pillager’s Pub, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There’s an interesting comment printed on the front of Pillagers Pub’s menu explaining their rationale for the pub – goes something like this: “South Park was a great place to brew beer but it is a lousy place to drink it” so we looked for a place to open a pub.

I’ll sum up this post by saying that if you go to Naked City with the primary goal of consuming high quality, reasonably priced local brew, then you owe it to yourself to allow time to visit Pillagers Pub.

Due to the tiny 3 ½ bbl brewhouse capacity, your choice of Naked City house brews will be strictly limited. No such limitation at Pillagers Pub. During our visit they had 10 house beers on tap, all Three Skulls Ales (although I suspect Blackbeard’s Dark Lager is really Baron’s Schwarzbier in Three Skulls’ pirate theme).

As with Naked City, Pillagers Pub does not offer a sample tray, but they do offer a 2 oz glass of anything on tap for $1. Like Naked City, Pillagers Pub has guest taps as well as house beers.

We sampled Hop the Plank IPA, Cutthroat Red, Black Bonney Porter, Three Skulls Amber, Buccaneer Bacon, and Blackbeard’s Dark Lager.

The IPA, the Red, and the Amber were all very good to excellent; the Bacon is so unusual, but good. You smell the bacon as much as taste it in the brew. It rivals the 5-Star Chili IPA I sampled at Big Al’s a while back as one of the weirdest brews I have tried.

The Dark Lager wasn’t my cup of tea but overall I was very impressed with Three Skulls Ales. And I also like the neighborhood a lot – I’d like to return soon.

As a kid-friendly brewpub, Pillagers Pub has the edge over Naked City. The seating ratios are reversed: whereas at Naked City all-ages seating is limited, with maybe 90% of the space being 21+, Pillagers Pub seating is almost entirely given over to all-ages.

Pillagers Pub food choices are basic pub fare and very limited compared to Naked City, but their prices are much more reasonable.

Pillagers Pub is located on the southwest corner of Greenwood Ave and NW 87th St, across from Naked City Brewery & Taphouse. Take the #5 bus from downtown Seattle to Greenwood & 85th.

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