Better Late Than Never: Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery

During most harvests involving manual labour there is a natural tendancy to concentrate on the low-hanging fruit. Over the past year and a half my quest for Puget’s Perfect Pint on foot and via transit was certainly conducted, metaphorically speaking, in this way…

In my apple orchard, standing in the center, is one huge tree: Seattle. This tree has so many branches, bearing so much low-hanging fruit, that you don’t even have to reach up: you’ll get hit on the head by falling apples just by being there. Surrounding my huge Seattle tree, many so close as to be in the shade of its branches, are numerous smaller trees each bearing easily reachable fruit.

Far off in the northwest of my orchard, right at its very edge, stands one of my smallest trees: Poulsbo. It doesn’t have any other trees in its immediate vicinity yet it bears many times the low-hanging fruit of all the other similarly sized trees, which makes the long trip to the edge of the orchard so worthwhile.

Equally far off, near the opposite edge of my orchard, is another small tree: Puyallup. It’s bigger than Poulsbo, but it’s nowhere near as large as Seattle, or even Tacoma, and it only bears one apple – a variety known as Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery.

Until recently, due to this tree’s isolation, I couldn’t see the point of expending the effort of harvesting it for such meager pickings, even though previous harvests suggested that Puyallup’s lone apple might be one of the finest in my entire orchard. Last week I changed my mind, and – wow – am I glad I made the trip.

I’ll begin with the boring part: Puyallup presents much the same challenge as Poulsbo when it comes to getting there from Seattle or Bellevue by transit – allow up to 2 hours each way. It’s a one-bus ride from Seattle on Sound Transit’s 578 Express; from Bellevue ride the 566 to Auburn Station and transfer there to the 578. For the return trip, use the same bus routes or, on weekday afternoons, northbound Sounder train departures provide the fastest option back to Seattle. To get up to date transit directions use this Google Map.

Nice space

Powerhouse Reastaurant

After arriving in Puyallup the Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery is located a short walk along Main Street from the transit station. As its name suggests the brewpub occupies what used to be a power substation originally built in 1906 for the Puget Sound Electric Railway. The substation supplied power to the railway until it’s demise in 1928, and later to Puyallup valley electric customers until 1957.

For decades the beautiful old brick building lay abandoned and decaying until it was acquired in 1994, gutted, and refurbished for its present use by the same architect who performed the renovation and conversion at Tacoma’s Engine House #9 – the brewpub that so impressed me a few weeks ago. I suspect the connections between the Powerhouse and E9 go more than skin deep.

Yes, that's Mt Rainier in the background

Yes, that’s Mt Rainier in the background

One of the saddest things I have discovered about Pierce County, compared to Seattle’s King Co., is that it is nowhere near as richly endowed with great family-friendly brewpubs. With the exception of Tacoma’s Harmon pubs, the aforementioned E9, plus Puyallup’s Powerhouse, the county is dominated by chains, specifically Ram and BJ’s.

That being said, I can now safely say that Powerhouse has hands down the best beer in the county. I would go further and say that the Powerhouse’s superb brews make it a serious challenger to Seattle’s Elysian and Elliott Bay for my Puget’s Perfect Pint accolade.

Food is very good too. A cut above generic brewpub. I was there at lunchtime so I went simple: a Muffaletta sandwich that is easily screwed up – mine was great. I hope I can go back avec la famille to try a dinner entree – they look good.

Excellent taplist all in-house brews

Excellent taplist all in-house brews

On the day of my visit Powerhouse was pouring nine of its ten taps, all with house brews. In addition there was cider and root beer (Snoqualmie’s – so popular with The Daughter). There was not a dud brew among them, even the Hef which I’m not normally partial to was tasty.

Like I said before, to find this many really good house-made beers in one place you’d have to go to Elysian or Elliott Bay in Seattle, or somewhere like Deschutes in Portland. As a compliment to the Powerhouse I don’t know of a better one than that.

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