Big Time Brewery: The Campus Bar For Grownups

In Seattle’s ever-changing brewery scene there’s one fixture that has stood the test of time like no other. And it occurred to me recently that I have never really given it the review it deserves. I speak of Big Time Brewery & Alehouse, a permanent fixture in the U-District since 1988…

My only meaningful review of Big Time was posted back in October 2010 as part of my Heart of the University Walk. Although I visited again in May 2011, during my overly ambitious 7/7/7 breweries/miles/hours Beer Trek, there is unfortunately a void in that post where Big Time should be; it reflects the void where my brain should have been at the time. 😉

So now I must confess to feeling somewhat remiss for not remedying this situation sooner. But better late than never I always say. Plus I could always claim that my neglect was by design: in the past year or so Big Time has experienced some pretty significant changes…

First of all, back in March 2011, Big Time’s long time head brewer Bill Jenkins, an icon in the Seattle brewing community, announced that he was leaving to ‘spend more time with family’.

Then, shortly after Bill’s announcement, his brother-in-law, Drew Cluley, who at the time was the head brewer and production manager at Pike Brewing, announced that he would be leaving Pike to fill Bill’s shoes at Big Time.

The Spouse and I had the good fortune to meet Drew at Caskfest 2012 and we learned during our conversation that Drew’s move to Big Time was a long anticipated homecoming of sorts because before his ten year stint at “The Pike” he had worked as an assistant to Bill Jenkins at Big Time.

So, when folks describe Seattle’s brewing community in terms such as: a small world; close-knit; or even incestuous family, they’re not kidding are they.

Incidentally, Bill Jenkins’ ‘retirement’ was short-lived: he soon emerged as the brewing guru hired by Elliott Bay Brewing for their new Lake City location. This is the brewpub I now hold in such high regard after visiting several times since it opened a couple months ago. You can read more about it in my post Sometimes The Best Things Come in Threes.

The Navy Son Enjoys Some Big Time

The Navy Son Enjoys Some Big Time

However, back to Big Time: with me curious to see how things might have changed, and with The Spouse, The Daughter, plus Navy Son & friend on leave for the Memorial Day weekend, we decided the time was right to revisit Big Time and this time do it justice.

I think it’s fair to say they haven’t missed a beat. The transition from Bill to Drew seems to have gone very smoothly: the flagship beers remain as solid as before and some really nice new brews are being produced; Big Time still ranks among the top five brewpubs in Seattle in my opinion.

Big Time Sample Tray

Big Time Sample Tray

We enjoyed a fine beer tasting lineup featuring all but two of the taps, plus the cask. Here’s our taplist from the day…


Kid Friendly Big Time – Rare Among Alehouses

Kid Friendly Big Time – Rare Among Alehouses

As I mentioned in my previous post, Big Time welcomes under-21s until 8:00 pm. However it should be recognized that this is first and foremost a college campus area bar, with all that entails. So I would think twice about taking a preteen.

Also, with so many good and inexpensive nearby dining options strung out along “The Ave”, I would not suggest Big Time as a place to go for a ‘gastropub’ experience. But as an unpretentious watering hole, Big Time is hard to beat.

Big Time’s Oldest Customer

Big Time’s Oldest Customer

For mature U-Dubb grad students and faculty, Big Time is the only place to go. While most other campus area bars cater to the age-21 student crowd (with or without legit ID), Big Time is where you go to drink some of Seattle’s best beer, munch on basic pub grub, and simply hang out. You won’t get deafened by cacophanous loud music; you should be able to enjoy a conversation with friends old or new.

For newbies at Big Time service can seem a little odd: the food and bar operations are run essentially as two businesses, with little or no table service. Want beer: you go to the bar; open tab; place order. Want food: you go to the food counter; place order; pay separately.

Being in the U-District, Big Time is easily reached by transit from anywhere in the greater Seattle area. As always I recommend using Sound Transit’s trip planner to figure your itinerary. Or use the Google map below…

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