I Want To Like McMenamins, I Really Do

There we were; Saturday night, just returned from grocery shopping, and no dinner plan. Path of least resistance: Forecasters Pub at Redhook Brewery; where on arrival we learn “can’t guarantee you a table before 9 pm” – YGBK, it’s not yet 7:30. So Paul says; “hey, we’re almost in Snohomish County, let’s go check out McMenamins pub in Mill Creek and complete the set.” Spouse and daughter – none the wiser – “OK” – they just want to get fed…

To be honest I thought Mill Creek was ‘just up the road a bit’ from Redhook’s Woodinville location, but no – it’s 12 miles along a busy highway.

It’s dark, and it’s raining. Twice we feel lost and pull off the road to fire up Google Maps and GPS – they’re not helping!

Spouse takes control and does what wise spouses everywhere always do – she calls the brewpub for directions. Now why couldn’t I, the techie, think of that?

Mill Creek Entry

So what’s McMenamins Mill Creek like? Well, at least in beer terms, I’ll sum up by saying that if my quest was to find Puget’s Poorest Pint then this place, right now, is the leading contender.

The basic layout is very similar to the Queen Anne pub in Seattle. All ages seating to the right of the bar after you enter – space to the left is reserved for the 21+ crowd.

Dad Watsons Building

The Mill Creek bar area is surrounded by metal railings making it easier to see where kids can go and where they can’t.

This feature is also prominent at Dad Watsons and Six Arms, less so at Queen Anne, so this is one of the nicer aspects of Mill Creek.

However, while Queen Anne isn’t housed in old-world brick like Dad Watsons and Six Arms, at least its building has a certain industrial chic quality to it.

Mill Creek Storefront

The suburban strip-mall storefront housing Mill Creek is not very appealing.

Now that I have visited all four Seattle-area McMenamins brewpubs, I would have to say that Dad Watsons gets my vote as best of the bunch, while Mill Creek is my least favorite.

So, to the beer: spouse and I shared the standard McMenamins taster tray; 6 small glasses each containing around 4 oz.

McMenamins Ruby Ale

We asked our server to leave off the Ruby Raspberry Ale and the Wheat Ale and to his credit he obliged. I previously described Ruby as akin to Kool Aid after tasting then sending it back at McMenamins Six Arms.

Our sampling of year-round brews – the Hammerhead Pale, IPA, Porter, and Stout – was supplemented by our server with two seasonals; Nut Brown Ale and the Altbier.

Now I’m afraid I must give some of the harshest criticism of any microbrew I have sampled since I started this blog.

Unfortunately all of the McMenamins Mill Creek brews seemed very weak and watery, severely lacking any of the malt or hop flavor characteristics you associate with each beer style. You know how it is when you make a cup of tea and you take the teabag out too early – this is how all the Mill Creek beers were.

Spouse and I were debating whether these were worse even than the abysmal sampling we had at Bridgeport in Portland. We concluded they were not quite that bad. But by the same token, Pyramid is no longer ‘bottom of the barrel’ among Puget brewers – that honor, I regret to say, now goes to McMenamins Mill Creek.

In fairness to the other Seattle-area McMenamins pubs, I don’t remember being this disappointed following my visits. One thing I can say with certainty – my experience of the Altbier at Queen Anne was far superior – in fact probably the best brew I have ever tasted at a McMenamins – sadly the Mill Creek Alt had no redeeming quality whatsoever. In the end I had a pint of Nut Brown with my food – the least offensive brew.

Food is typical McMenamins – uninspriring and overpriced for what you get. Spouse had the Brewer’s Salad – she loved it, and I must say from the taste I had, it was very good. But everything else was substandard.

My Turkey Sandwich was nothing special and the side of fries were luke-warm and soggy. The similarly priced ham & cheese sandwich I had at Naked City – which I felt at the time was overpriced – was gourmet by comparison – a gastronomic delight.

Daughter’s Mac & Cheese was tasty – in an Knorr packaged Alfredo sauce kind of way – it certainly won’t be giving Rock Bottom any cause for concern about their Mac & Cheese dish.

The final verdict: not worth the trip. There is no compelling reason for me to ever return. And even if I lived up in Snohomish county, I think I would find better brewpubs to visit than McMenamins.

Mill Creek is the most northerly of McMenamins Washington pubs, and it’s about as far north as you can go in Mill Creek too. It’s situated in a mundane strip mall anchored by a Safeway grocery store located at the intersection of Bothell-Everett Highway (route 527) and 132nd St SE (route 96). Cross route 96; you’ll be inside Everett city limits – it’s quite a ways up there in God’s country. Having now been there I would say that most people will find I-5 to exit 186 then east on route 96 the easiest way to go.

As a Fueled by Beer destination from the Seattle area, McMenamins Mill Creek is served by Community Transit’s route 105 bus which starts just inside King County at the UW Campus in Bothell then heads north along highway 527 to Mill Creek – about a 30 minute ride.

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