Best Beers in Washington
Washington brewers produce a wide variety of delicious beers that span virtually all beer styles. Our favorite picks are from the styles that are most common around here and represent a range of beers—light, heavy, low alcohol, high alcohol, etc. For your drinking pleasure, we provide two or three suggested beers: one that is common, one that is less common, and one that is an exceptional representation of the style.
Based on a traditional English style, a style of ale that has been commonly brewed in Britain for more than 100 years, pale ale describes a broad spectrum of beers that can be sweet or dry, bitter or floral, or any combination of those characteristics. Pale ales range from 5.0 to 6.0 percent alcohol content and are usually dark gold or copper colored.
Expect to find: Manny’s Pale Ale, Georgetown Brewing
Crisp, clean and smooth, with a hint of citrus and a snappy hop finish
Take it up a notch: Dick’s Pale Ale, Dick’s Brewing
A mild, lightly hopped ale with a touch of residual sweetness
Impress your bartender: Universale Pale Ale, Fremont Brewing
A hop-centered pale ale with herbal qualities and a dry, drinkable finish
According to legend, brewers in late-18th-century England created a beer specifically to endure the long and tumultuous voyage to India, increasing the alcohol and hop content to help preserve the beer. Modern IPA is strong (6.5 to 7.5 percent alcohol content) and very aggressively hopped, but otherwise has nothing to do with the legend. There is wide variation within this very popular beer style.
Expect to find: Boundary Bay IPA, Boundary Bay Brewing
Balanced floral aromas and citrus overtones
Take it up a notch: Breakaway IPA, American Brewing
A malty IPA with plenty of dry hopped flavor to balance the sweetness
Impress your bartender: Trickster IPA, Black Raven Brewing
A light fruit, citrus and piney hop aroma with a full hop flavor
Don’t be afraid of the dark. Porter is a dark, rich and flavorful style of ale that is generally not as strong as it looks. The alcohol content is typically between 5.5 and 6 percent, putting it on par with many beers sporting a much lighter appearance. The use of darker grains, such as roasted barley and chocolate malt, lend porter its intimidating hue.
Expect to find: Profanity Hill Porter, Schooner Exact Brewing
Flavors of chocolate and walnuts, along with subtle fruity notes and a hint of cherry
Take it up a notch: Pacemaker Porter, Flyers Brewing
A robust porter with notes of roasted barley, coffee and bittersweet chocolate
Impress your bartender: Coal Creek Porter, Big Time Brewing
A light, malty porter with a slight sweetness and a higher alcohol content (6 percent)
Most beers are brewed using malted barley exclusively, but hefeweizen is brewed using malted wheat. This traditional German-style beer is typically lighter bodied, 4.5 to 5.5 percent alcohol, appears cloudy and features refreshing citrus notes that many people enhance with a lemon wedge.
Expect to find: Haystack Hefeweizen, Snoqualmie Falls Brewing
Citrus and spicy notes with a clean, mellow flavor
Take it up a notch: High-Five Hefe, Iron Horse Brewing
Clove and banana notes with a hint of orange citrus and ginger
Impress your bartender: Alpine hefeweizen, Alpine Brewing
Brewed by German brewmaster Bart Traubeck, this authentic Bavarian-style hefe has flavors of bananas and cloves
Stouts are not for the faint of heart. These very dark beers are rich, complex, bitter and strong. The alcohol content is usually above 7.0 percent. Many people think of Guinness when they think of stout, but American stout is much more robust and intense.
Expect to find: Pike XXXXX Stout, Pike Brewing Company
Chocolate, licorice and espresso are present along with a velvety texture in this full-bodied stout
Take it up a notch: Dragonstooth Stout, Elysian Brewing
Smooth with dark chocolate and coffee notes; satisfying without being heavy
Impress your bartender: Big Lebrewski Imperial Stout, Naked City Brewing
Imperial cream stout aged on Kahlúa-soaked oak. Big, creamy flavor with chocolate and coffee overtones
Extra special bitter is an English-style ale with a bit of extra hops for a nice bitterness, as opposed to the maltier porter or mild ales. This ale usually has an alcohol level of about 4.8 percent by volume or higher.
Expect to find: ESB, Redhook
A traditional medium-bodied British extra special bitter with a red apple fruitiness and good floral hop finish
Take it up a notch: Best Bitter, Boundary Bay
Clean and fresh with a balance of moderate hop character against a rich, smooth maltiness
Impress your bartender: The Wise, Elysian
Well balanced with caramel, honey and citrus against a strong malt backbone
These beers are typically low in alcohol (4 to 5 percent) and reddish in color. Amber ales are usually mild, smooth and malt-forward offering little hop bitterness. These beers are a favorite choice of chefs looking to create beer-and-food pairings because they are flavorful but not overpowering.
Expect to find: African Amber, Mac & Jack’s Brewing
Floral, hoppy taste is followed by a malty middle. Finishes with an unfiltered organic hop flavor
Take it up a notch: Scuttlebutt Amber Ale, Scuttlebutt Brewing
Medium bodied with a caramel flavor and herbal hop finish
Impress your bartender: Lazy Boy Amber, Lazy Boy Brewing
Subtle sweetness and slight biscuit notes with a light floral aroma
When the days get short, strong ale can warm you from the inside out. There is wild variation in winter beers, but by definition, they are all brewed exclusively for the winter months. Most winter beers are spiced with ginger, clove, nutmeg or cinnamon; they are rich in flavor and high in alcohol (6.0–9.0 percent).
Expect to find: Jolly Roger Christmas ale, Maritime Pacific Brewing
An English strong ale with rich malt character, a blend of hops and a flavorful yet smooth finish
Take it up a notch: Abominable Winter Ale, Fremont Brewing
Dark, roasty, chocolaty, malt flavors balanced by hop aroma and subtle hoppy spice
Impress your bartender: Hoppy the Woodsman, Schooner Exact Brewing
A bourbon-barrel-aged beer and a malty winter warmer with roasted oak and bourbon flavors
Lagers are different than ales because of the way they are brewed. Within the category of lager, there are dozens of different styles, ranging from very light beers like pilsner to darker beers like bock. The beers that you see advertised during football games are all lagers; however, the lagers our local breweries produce have very little in common with those brewed by the huge, nationally recognized brands. The big-box lagers are brewed in extremely large batches using adjuncts and fillers, while our locally brewed lagers rely on pure, natural ingredients and are brewed on a much smaller scale. Our favorite local lagers:
Chuckanut Kolsch, Chuckanut Brewery
Gentle and slightly fruity; wild hops add an accent to this easy drinker
Alpine Marzen, Alpine Brewing
A faint hop aroma complements the slightly sweet flavor and the rounded finish
Roger’s Pilsner, Georgetown Brewing
A refreshing pilsner with a spicy, earthy hop aroma
Dottie Seattle Lager, Emerald City Beer Company
A crisp, refreshing and biscuit-y amber lager, balanced with spice
Belgian-style beers, which, by definition, imitate a broad array of traditional styles brewed in Belgium, have become increasingly popular around Seattle in recent years as our collective beer palate has grown more sophisticated and learned to enjoy more intense flavor profiles. Some Belgian-style beers are lagers, but our favorites are ales. There is no single descriptor to define Belgian-style beers except to say that they provide brewers with a lot of room for creativity. Our favorite Belgian-style beers range from dry to sweet, from sour to bitter, and from light to dark.
Triple 7 Belgian-style Ale, Scuttlebutt Brewing
Tart clove and banana flavor is complemented by a high alcohol content that creates a warming sensation
Double Entendre Abbey-style Ale, Sound Brewing
Chocolate malt and dark toffee with a hint of banana and stone fruit
Crooked Wit Belgian-style Wit Ale, Two Beers Brewing
Spicy, sweet and bitter with orange peel and coriander notes
Hop von Boorian Belgian-style IPA, Elliott Bay Brewing
Strongly bitter Belgian IPA with a slightly sour finish