The Twelve Breweries of Christmas

  • Here they are! The 2017 12 Breweries of Christmas!

DAY 1 – Hellbent Brewing

This huge, impressive brewery and taproom is on Lake City Way in the NE part of Seattle. Brian Young is the brewmaster. You may remember him from Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch and Redhook. He continues his mastery of the craft at Hellbent. Hellbent’s other principals are  Jack Guinn, Chris Giles and Randy Embernate – longtime friends and restaurant industry veterans.

I found several delicious brews on tap today, notably the release of the new Dunkel. I also recommend their Moon Tower Stout, Warm Fuzzies (a cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and peach glass of deliciousness), Mossback Monk Tripel and the All Spruced Up Winter Ale. For more information go to Hellbent Brewing. You can find several other really good breweries nearby, including Elliot Bay Brewing, Cairn Brewing, 192 Brewing, and 9 Yards Brewing.

Day 2 – Counterbalance Brewing

Counterbalance Brewing is the result of two former coffee geeks. Frank Lawrence and Jeff Howell, met in their previous careers with Seattle specialty coffee mainstay Caffe Ladro. A love of craft beer and some successful homebrewing adventures (mainly from Frank) planted the seed to enter the craft beer marketplace in a shop in south Seattle.

While all the beers are exceptional, I am a huge fan of the Kushetka Stout which may well be the best stout in the city. It’s a great place for groups or making new friends. Frank and Jeff are very hands on, both in the brewhouse and out front with the customers.

There are a multitude of good breweries nearby; Ghostfish (specializing in award-winning gluten-free beers), Seapine Brewing, Lowercase Brewing, Machine House Brewing, Tin Dog Brewing and Burdick Brewing. You can make a day of it.

Day 3 – Holy Mountain Brewing

Elegantly crafted beers abound at Holy Mountain Brewing. The three owners — Adam Paysse, Colin Lenfesty and Mike Murphy — are old hands, having worked in various jobs at Schooner Exact Brewing Co., Bainbridge Island Brewery and Westland Distillery. Their brewery in the Interbay area between Queen Anne Hill and Magnolia has generous hours of operation with ample parking.

Each time I visit here I find a variety of beers I do not think I’m going to like, but dutifully try an array of small pours only to find that I actually really like things I have never liked at other places. Some of them are so good you want to take them home. Dream on. The productions runs are so small they only bottle a few of them and limit the number you can purchase. Some are bottles you can only try while on premises. I had the Shadowlifter (milk stout) and the Ships Passing (hoppy brett). Ya. I know. Pretty wide range on the palate spectrum. But I can handle it. I’m a professional. Both were fantastic. Can’t wait to go back there again.

So just what kind of beers do they make there? They have been described as yeast-forward and include; saisons, bretts, barrel conditioned sours. If you think you don’t like those, go there anyway. You will be delightfully surprised.

Other worthy places in the vicinity are Figurehead Brewing, Urban Family Brewing, Rooftop Brewing, and just across the canal is that Seattle beer heaven called Ballard.

Day 4 – Triplehorn Brewing

Today we put Seattle in our rear-view mirror and venture East to one of the many fine breweries on the other side of Lake Washington. Triplehorn Brewing in Woodinville is dog and kid friendly with a wide array of exceptionally good beers. My personal favorite is N3M3Sis (pronounced Nem’-uh-sis), a 9.5% milk stout on nitro. This place is living proof that the best beers in Washington are not necessarily in Seattle.

Two brothers, Rich and Ray Nesheim made a substantial personal investment and commitment to becoming known as a unique Eastside brewery. If you are part of the Triplehorde you know what I am talking about. I have my N3M3Sis and got some other fine brews to take home; the Falcon Cloak blonde ale, Folkvang red ale and the Incinerator, a Julbock (Doppelbock) also coming in at 9.5%. Alas I had to pass on the Oatmeal Porter, the Blood Orange Wheat, and the Volksfest (hefe) today. The liver can only take so much punishment. For you hopheads, they have four IPAs on tap too.

They are in good company. Nearby is 20 Corners Brewing, Dirty Bucket Brewing (and a large number of wineries and distilleries) and if you go on a Saturday, Foggy Noggin’ Brewing (specializing in English style beers).

Day 5 – Four Generals Brewing – Renton

Ross Hudspeth and his family operate Four Generals Brewery in Renton. Another homebrewer whose hobby got way out of hand – in a good way. He has made the transition quite nicely and has already claimed his first Gold Medal from the Washington Brewers Guild competition for his English Bitter. You can often find Ross brewing a new batch in the back or joining his fans out in the taproom, with his mom and dad working the taps and taking care of the business side of things. Ross says 2018 will see a bit more consistency in his tap handles with many new styles, mostly German style lagers. His three newest creations are utterly fantastic; a milk stout, a winter warmer and a dark sour.

If you are headed that way be sure to include Airways Brewing in Kent as part of your day. Odin Brewing is close by in Tukwila near the Southcenter Mall, which also houses a very nice BJ’s Brewery and Restaurant, although no beers are brewed on premises. Odin not only sports a bevy of their original craft brews, but is continuing the line of Hilliard’s beers, and does some contract brewing for other local breweries.

DAY 6 – The Pike Pub – Pike Brewing – Pike Place Market

It’s easy to settle into this iconic downtown Seattle brewery and stay awhile. Charles and Rose Finkle have created a legacy, and provided opportunities for a countless number of top rung brewer’s that helped Seattle dominate the craft beer explosion. The beers are still top notch. My particular favorites are Kilt Lifter and the XXXXX Stout, although Monk’s Uncle, Naughty Nellie and Auld Acquaintance are right up there. And now with the addition of the Tankard and Tun you can double your pleasure.

Other worthy breweries nearby include Old Stove Brewing, also within the Market proper, and Cloudburst Brewing just north of the Market.

DAY 7 –  Geaux Brewing – Auburn

Brewer/Owner Jeremy Hubbell started out homebrewing in a garage. Little pots soon gave way to big tanks and the first incarnation of Geaux opened in Bellevue just off SR520. Billed as A Brewery for Homebrewers, Geaux offered classes in brewing as part of the business plan. Fast forward to a few months ago and the opening of a new location in south Auburn, complete with Cajun cuisine (the  jambalaya is fantastic) and a stage for live jazz performances. In fact the whole Auburn venue is ripe with artifacts from Jeremy’s Louisiana roots. Perfect place to root for the Saints.

I actually found three favorite beers there; Gris Gris (an ESB), Poydras (robust porter) and Satchmo (nitro stout). There are more I will be trying on my next visit.

Most of what you see in the tap room is from the deep south. The bar, actually in two parts, is constructed from old cypress—part from an old church in Louisiana and part from the swamps. The doors and shutters that line the walls of the tap room are salvaged from an old plantation. They are over 100 years old and even have the original hardware on them. Even the paint scheme used in the tap room was based off of intense research of French Quarter architecture and colors.

The main bar is built from a single 1000 year old cypress log reclaimed from the swamps in Louisiana. It’s a beautiful 55ft long bar that was built by a master craftsman down near the bayou and shipped up to us. It arcs around with the curvature of the balcony above and features a live edge. This bar alone is worth a visit!

DAY 8 – Reubens Brews – Ballard

Since opening in 2012, Reuben’s has won awards for its beers around the world including at the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, the US Open and was named Mid-Sized Brewery of the Year at the 2015 Washington Beer Awards. Adam arrived here from the UK in 2004 and became a fan of the local craft beer scene. Then somebody suggested that he start brewing his own beer and he got a kit from a local homebrew store. Once again, the homebrew hobby became an obsession that could only be mete with bigger and better tanks and ingredients. Adam and Grace Robbings embarked on a mission to brew bloody good beer, naming the business after their first-born son, Reuben.

First of all, they have a massive list of beers that they brew there. All of them are very good. Today my favorite beers were the Holiday Gose, the Dry Nitro Stout and the Reuben Claus.

Reubens wasn’t the first brewery in Ballard, but is now definitely the most iconic. You can find other good breweries within an easy walk (recommended because parking is limited throughout the area); Lucky Envelope, Stoup, Obec, Populuxe, Peddler, Maritime Pacific, NW Peaks, Hales Ales, Bad Jimmy’s and the other big dog on the greater Ballard block, Fremont Brewing,

DAY 9 – Mollusk Brewing – SLU

Okay. So the best brewery/pub in Seattle is, without a doubt, Dexter Brewhouse/Mollusk Brewing. Surprising? Only because you haven’t been there.

I say so because the variety of beers offered and the exceptional food choices available are second to none in the whole of Seattle. Doubt me? Have a Bog Monster and the steamed clams and tell me you didn’t love it. Find something better and I’ll take you up on your challenge.

Seriously, Cody Morris has been brewing interesting and often eclectic beers since his first effort in SODO with Epic Ales and The Gastropod. Then came a nearly disastrous move to South Lake Union and some controversial local reaction to its avant garde food offerings. Branding issues and market positioning kind of bit this effort in the butt for a while. It was a struggle but it looks like he is sharpening his vision.

It is a beautiful place with a very inviting ambiance. The beers are a bit more mainstream than what you might remember from Epic Ales, and remarkably well crafted. My favorites on my visit today were the double imperial stout, called the Bog Monster and Soggy Shoes, the winter ale.

The new chef, Bainbridge Island native Jon Langley, joined Dexter Brewhouse as Executive Chef and Director of Kitchen Operations after spending the past 8 years working for Heavy Restaurant Group where he was an executive chef in three of their restaurants. Reviews of the new menu by local food bloggers are generally positive, describing it a more on the comfort food side of things. I had the steamed clams. They were fantastic.

DAY 10 – Flying Lion Brewery – Columbia City

Sixteen dark beers on tap. My four are the Chocolate Milk Stout, Flying Water Monster Agave Stout, LionBridge Scottish Wee Heavy, and the English Brown Porter. What were yours?

Second four are Rye Stout, Smoked Brown, Barrel-aged Belgian Quaddamnit (12.4% ABV) and the Chipotle Chocolate Porter.


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DAY 12 –


Bob Shoemaker

Grew up in Renton, WA. Writer. Photographer. Homebrewer. Woodworker. Beer lover. UW grad. - 14 years in Marketing and Advertising communications - 16 years in technical product support, quality, loyalty, support analyst - 12 years as communications business owner