Sure, people visit Seattle for delicious coffee, but they move to Ballard for the craft beer. This maritime-rich Seattle neighborhood has more breweries than gas stations. Yup, there are 11 hoppin' craft breweries and taprooms in just a 1-mile radius, which makes for the perfect weekend activity. Each one of these establishments not only has mouth-watering brews, but also its own unique stories of all flavors, each harnessing a vibe and culture of its own while maintaining a bit of industrial Ballard's rugged past.
So, as a Ballard resident myself, I decided it was time to explore my big backyard and the epicenter of the Seattle craft brew scene on a glorious Sunday in March. Akanksha and I picked up a Ballard Brewery District Passport from NW Brewery and embarked on our LimeBike craft brew tour.
Grab Your Passport
The Ballard Brewery District Passport is your map to Ballard's finest brews. Once you purchase a pint or flight, you'll receive a stamp next to the corresponding brewery. Get six stamps from six different breweries and receive a bottle opener; all 11 and you get to walk away with the grand prize: a silicone Ballard Brewery District pint glass picked up from Hattie's Hat when you disclose your brag-worthy accomplishment. The best part is, it has NO EXPIRATION DATE! But, let's be honest, we're in it for the experience; the prize is just a happy bonus.
Pick one up at any of the participating Ballard breweries to get yours started! Each brewery or taproom features a short description, hours of operation, and amenities in the forms of icons so you can plan your visit accordingly. Want to make sure it has outdoor seating? Look for the picnic table. Food on site? The fork and knife icon is your best friend.
Note: PLEASE DON'T try to do all 11 breweries in one day. You'll die - I know I would - and there's simply not enough time to enjoy each one! I'd spread it out at least over two days or two sunny weekends, or with no expiration date, the course of the whole summer to get the most out of your brew tour experience.
Leave the car at home! Ballard is walkable and bikeable, so retire the risk of driving under the influence and get a little exercise in between each pint of ice cold beer. My advice? Employ a LimeBike to get you around the neighborhood. They're on almost every corner, they cost $1 to unlock and 10 cents a minute after that, and when you're at your final destination, slide the lock into place and leave it right where you stand! They're easy, efficient, and eliminate the worry of having your own bike taken or damaged.
That being said, let's start with a little LimeBike how-to, shall we?
How to Ride a LimeBike
Download the Lime app and allow camera access
Check the map to discover a LimeBike near you!
The lightning bolt means it's e-assisted, as in it'll give you a little push on those infamous Seattle hills.
The car symbol is a Lime Car that you can employ to drive yourself. Great for another time!
Walk to the symbol on the map and scan the barcode on either the handlebars or the box on the rear tire to unlock
You'll hear a little jingle, the bike lock will click open, and you're ready to ride!
When you've reached your destination, make sure to slide that red lock back into place to end your ride. Don't want any extra charges! Visit their website for more info.
We started our Sunday walking the Ballard Market before picking up a LimeBike to take us to our first stop: Lagunitas.
Lagunitas is a mainstay in my brew-filled life. Its spacious interior features a stage with live music every day and a back room filled with corn hole, pool, a massive Connect 4, and more. Out front is a resident food truck, and when it's warm, you can hop out there to enjoy a brew at their picnic tables and/or challenge someone to a game of corn hole.
Food: Resident food truck
A cup of pretzels and a beer later, we walked across the street to take in Peddler Brewing's heated tents.
Bikes and beer go hand in hand, and as it turns out, I'm not the only one that thinks so. Peddler was founded upon the combined passion of beer and bikes and they're constantly supporting Seattle's biking community. If you have a Cascade member card or your Bicycle Benefits sticker, you'll receive $1 off 32 oz growlettes or $2 off 64 oz growler fills. You can also park your bike indoors to keep it safe and secure while you're sipping on a draft, and while you're at it, you might as well keep up with a little maintenance using their air pump and bike parts vending machine. Make sure to check their events calendar for their Keep the Pint nights where local artists' designs are featured on a pint you can take home! If you think you're punny, sign up for a Pun Slam ($6) on the second Wednesday of every month or swing by on a Thursdays for a free outdoor movie.
Food: Cycle Dogs is their permanent food truck and Mean Sandwich shares their east wall.
In the same block is NW Peaks Brewery, which is my go-to spot for when work goes beyond office hours. It's relaxing, cozy, and has some killer nachos. Highly recommend for a night-in, but we wanted to continue our sunny day with a bike ride to a brewery we'd never been before.
Maritime Pacific Brewing Company is on the way to Hales Ales - our next destination - and truly encompasses Ballard's Northwest mariner vibe. Ales and lagers are their specialty and their Jolly Roger Taproom features a cozy pub atmosphere with a hint of piracy. Also a restaurant, the pub offers a full list of starters, sliders, salads, soups, entrees, desserts, and more.
Hale's Ales' favorite phrase is, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing," and that "main thing" is making great beer and serving great food. Since 1983, Hale's Ales has been serving fresh brews with locally sourced ingredients in their Frelard location. They have installed solar power and computer-controlled lighting to lessen their environmental impact, and is actively involved in their local community, frequently supporting around 20 local businesses and non profits. Stop in for a brew and a delicious taco from El Camion today, and come back after their full refit including a taproom makeover, brand new beers, and to take in local art and live music.
Food: El Camion
Bad Jimmy's is another awesome brewery founded by four guys with a collective love for beer, and is just across the street from Hale's Ales. Upstairs is a small arcade and the main area opens up on warmer days to a secluded alley via a sliding garage door. Check out their event calendar for Trivia nights!
Stoup is an enjoyable ride through Ballard's neighborhood north from Hale's Ales and Bad Jimmy's and is easily one of my favorite Ballard breweries. It was founded by "two scientists and a curious connoisseur," and the beer, the vibe, and the people are simply awesome. Park your bike, pick up a fresh pour, and choose your destination: at a table behind a massive garage door (open on warmer days), in the side garden complete with bamboo, a fire table, lawn chairs, and an additional tap-trailer for easy refills, or upstairs in the quieter section with its own bar and large tables (a great work space). An upstairs outdoor patio also overlooks the roofs of neighboring houses. Trivia friendly.
Food: Rotating food trucks on site. When there isn't one, you can bring in you're encouraged to bring your own sustenance.
Lucky Envelope and Populuxe are both on the way to Stoup from Hale's Ales. Lucky Envelope's thing is "culturally inspired beers" featuring a mix of historic and modern styles for an end result of an eclectic mix of craft brews. We're talking everything from traditional IPAs and lagers to a Peanut Butter Cream Stout and their Two Pepper Pale Ale (made with Habanero & Shishito peppers).
Populuxe hosts Ballard's largest beer garden with nine regularly rotated brews of all styles on draft at a time. The name combines "popular" and "deluxe," which are how they like to describe their suds. They started in a garage, and when their equipment eventually took that over, they moved to a slightly bigger garage in Ballard where they remain today. Check up on their website for their current pours and a full events list and food truck calendar.
Last on our itinerary and located just down the street from Stoup on the same block is Obec, which is the Czech word for "community," pronounced "O-betz," and that's what they're all about! We arrived at dusk, entering the taproom through a dark, wood-flanked hallway to find their brew tanks lit up with blue and red. Their playlist that evening was a calming genre I like to call "Mountain Music." Tables are scattered throughout and a garage door opens up to their wooden beer garden structure out front.
Food: Foodtruck on site
Across the street lies the award-winning Reuben's Brews. They always have a whopping 24 brews on tap and a different food truck every day of the week. Enjoy a beer on their street-level patio year-round (heated in the winter) at this family-run brewery. Highly recommend.
With a belly full of beer and a smile stretched ear-to-ear, we decided it was probably time to head home. We spent a crazy six hours this Sunday enjoying the bike tour, chatting with fellow beer lovers, and sipping on prime pours; it was time to rest (and sober up) for the work week that loomed ahead. My advice to you? Tackle this lengthy feat on a Saturday night - 'nuff said. But, it was a crazy awesome way to enjoy a beautiful Sunday in Seattle! If you end up doing the bike tour of Ballard's craft breweries, I'd love to know your experience!! Shoot me a message with your thoughts, your drafts, and your favorite Ballard breweries!
If you're keen to learn more, visit my go-to source for Ballard info and the founders of this awesome Passport, Visit Ballard at http://www.visitballard.com/ballardbrewed/. They cover everything from events, news, and history to how to food and drink recommendations and more!
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