Beer Trek: Veni, Vidi, Bibi!

It was an ambitious plan: hike the Burke-Gilman trail from Ballard to the University District and visit every brewery along the way. Mr Fueled by Beer blogger was joined by friend and co-worker Mike; we had talked about doing this for ages and now the time had come. Seven miles; seven breweries; in seven hours…

Our day began in Ballard at Maritime Pacific Brewing’s Jolly Roger Taproom as the doors opened at 11:30 a.m.

Using predetermined walk times, and allowing an average 30 minutes at each brewery, our schedule provided only one hour of leeway for the entire trek so there was no time to waste lining up our first sampler tray.

Mike had essentially the same taster selection as I blogged about at my first visit to Maritime. However, the brew that really won him over was a special cask-conditioned IPA; he considered it one of the best he had ever had.

I too took a sip and agreed it was truly a standout, but still I stuck with my alltime favorite Maritime brew – a pint of Bosun’s Black Porter – Yum.

Next up: Hales Ales (all ages welcome). We joined the Burke-Gilman trail two blocks from Maritime and arrived five minutes later at our next stop.

As the Trek progresses, I cannot stress enough how important it is to include food with the beer samples; order on arrival so you have time within the allotted 30 minutes to sample the brews and consume some munchies.

We had a lot of fun with our Hales bartender and soon found ourselves running short on time before we had finished our beers.

For me, the only brew I ever want at Hales is the ESB on nitro tap – always superb. But at the insistence of our server we had a larger than usual sampler and I took an extra taster of the Supergoose – a particularly potent double IPA.

I think we left Hales a few minutes behind schedule but we were able to make up time with a swift walk to our next stop; McMenamins Dad Watsons in Fremont (all ages welcome).

Now, in previous posts, I have made no secret of the fact that I find almost all McMenamins brews somewhat underwhelming. But I will say this: after visiting each of their Seattle-area pubs, I concluded that Dad Watsons was the only one I might return to.

Our visit as part of Beer Trek reinforced this feeling and I was pleasantly surprised by the beer list – more extensive than I remember. We sampled everything but the Ruby, the Wheat, and Gold Star. Most were typical McMenamins – none particularly bad, just nothing to write home about, except for one. Both Mike and I considered the Monkeywrench the standout brew. Eats were a basket of fried Cajun Tots – good and greasy to soak up the by now steadily accumulating alcohol.

This trek has two distinct halves (see map below): the first four stops are not very far apart so it is easy to slam down quite a lot of beer in a relatively short time – hence my earlier advice to eat as you go. Based on my schedule, the amount of beer consumed by the time you leave Fremont could easily reach 5 or 6 pints, with much of it high in ABV, and all downed in less than 3 hours. The last 3 stops are much farther apart but they also incur the greatest energy expenditure so be sure to take on fuel at Tangletown, Big Time, and Ram.

Anyway, let’s resume the trek where we left off: at Dad Watsons. Strictly speaking the route no longer follows the Burke-Gilman trail. We left the trail on the way to Dad Watsons; and the way to Fremont Brewing continues along 36th Street past the Troll, then turns right at Woodland Park Ave.

fremontSo here we were; we’d reached Fremont Brewing (all ages welcome), essentially the halfway point of the trek – if not in miles at least in brews.

We were joined by Mrs. Fueled by Beer and the daughter who together, as it turned out, would accompany Mike & I the rest of the way.


Fremont Brewing’s Urban Beer Garden

Fremont never disappoints; what they lack in quantity they more than make up for in quality, and there’s no getting away from the fact that the setting of Fremont’s Urban Beer Garden is a really cool way to hang out and sup some suds.

Mike & I both sampled the Oatmeal Stout; I don’t recall what Mike’s 2nd sample was, but I do recall mine being a glass of freshly tapped Solstice – which I loved so much last year.

We must have really enjoyed our time at Fremont Brewing, finding it hard to leave, because when our photo was taken we should have been at Tangletown already. By the time we left Fremont we were more than an hour behind schedule.

After leaving Fremont Brewing, if the option to bypass Tangletown is chosen, cross 34th Street to rejoin the Burke-Gilman trail and head directly to the University District.

My recollections get hazy from about the time we reached Tangletown (all ages welcome).

This, of course, being an Elysian pub, all the beer samples we tried would have been great – two trays I believe – 10 samples in all between Mike & I.

Plus Mrs. Fueled by Beer and the daughter sat in the restaurant section where I’m pretty sure a Jasmine IPA was the choice.

But what stands out clearly to me was the knock your socks off fantastic Bete Blanche Tripel Ale. I remember it wasn’t among our samples and when I saw it on the blackboard I had to have a pint. As good a Tripel as I’ve had anywhere. But here is where I believe the Trek really started to unravel time-wise – and I don’t recall eating anything at Tangletown either.

Now, as I think back, I have no clue how we were doing for time between leaving Tangletown in Wallingford and reaching Big Time (all ages welcome) in the University District. But we do have a photo timestamped at around 7pm while walking between Big Time and The Ram (all ages welcome) – which puts us more than two hours behind schedule.

Big Time is an almost total gap in time. Although Mike & I sat at the bar and drank samples, while Mrs. Fueled by Beer and the daughter sat in the restaurant section, I can’t recall what anyone had or what impressions might have been made.

I regret to say, my patient readers, that during our time at Big Time I entered a state of amnesia from which I didn’t recover until we had spent enough time at The Ram for me to drink what felt like several gallons of water – I recall trying but being unable to eat anything.

According to my companions, I ordered and paid for food at Big Time, but neglected to collect it when it was ready; according to Mike I was obsessing with our (now completely irrelevant) schedule and insisted on moving on – leading the way out of the brewpub at breakneck pace.

Our time at The Ram was mostly spent detoxing my system with copious amounts of water. We all ordered food, and I know I ordered a pint of the special Octohop IPA – after having one a week or two earlier – but I know I didn’t drink it.

Nevertheless I can report that this special Ram brew rivals Rock Bottom’s Hop Bomb – seriously.

And so we reach the end of Beer Trek. Seven miles, seven breweries, in seven, OK more like nine hours.

But we made it from end to end – I just don’t remember the last 2 hours.

If you’re a beer geek like me, I thoroughly recommend this trek – just don’t be stupid like me – eat at every stop and you’ll be OK.



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