I drank my way through Seattle over Labor Day Weekend and it was a lot of fun; it seemed as if there was a welcoming pub or unique local brewery or distillery around ever corner. Perhaps this should be attributed to my generous host and unofficial tour guide, Justin, who was set on showing me as many colorful neighborhood watering holes as possible over the course of four days. But even without the steady influence of a native Las Vegan turned Emerald City resident, it’s clear Seattle is one of the best and most varied places on the planet in which to get your booze on.
Of course, I can’t help but compare it to Las Vegas. There are obvious differences; we don’t have anywhere near as many craft beer and spirit producers, and they’re running low on million-dollar casino cocktail lounges. The big Seattle advantage is the crawl factor, which is a really big deal. After all, why are Las Vegas carousers obsessed with Downtown’s Fremont East Entertainment District? Because it’s one of the few spots in our valley where you can truly bounce from bar to bar, mingling and drinking along the way. Seattle has tons of these. Check out its hip Capitol Hill and Ballard neighborhoods for proof.
One beautiful day was spent in Woodinville, about a half-hour northeast of downtown Seattle, touring and tasting the Red Hook Brewery, the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, and trying to stop myself from buying every bottle I could see at the amazing Woodinville Whiskey Company. (I did manage to return to Vegas with a tremendous bottle of rye, but I regret not picking up the growing distillery’s peerless Peabody Jones vodka—smooth, creamy, butterscotch-y bliss. I pray it shows up in the desert one day.) My most brilliant beer discovery in Seattle was at Reuben’s Brews, tasting artisan ales in a tiny garage-like taproom. This young beermaker has won all sorts of acclaim in a very short time, and after a few sips of its crisp, intense Imperial Rye IPA, I understand why.
I fell in love with at least one Seattle bar. The Pine Box is a true public house, opened last year in the converted former funeral home where Bruce Lee’s services were once held. The pew-style benches give it away. It’s just a cool, cozy spot with its own character, complemented by an extensive beer list full of local favorites and an events calendar packed with parties and tastings. Does a bar like this exist in Las Vegas? The friendly vibe and passion for great brews and spirits makes me think of the Freakin’ Frog. There are definitely more of these joints in Seattle, but we’re getting there.