Do you deserve a beercation in Port Townsend?
Jefferson County, Washington has logged a total of just 33 cases and reported zero deaths due to COVID-19. How have they achieved those happy totals? Several weeks ago when retail businesses were allowed to start reopening, the county mandated some rules that exceeded the guidelines established by the state. Among those rules, masks were mandatory at all retail businesses. Everyone had to wear a mask. Staff, customers, everyone. No mask, no service, no exceptions. This included breweries, bars, and restaurants.
Before the announcement of Washington’s statewide mask mandate, Port Townsend was already masked up and felt very safe. From what I heard during my recent visit, the businesses of Port Townsend are not interested in your opinion on the matter. They do not want to argue with you about it. If you play by the rules, they’d love to see your smiling eyes and your masked-up face. Otherwise, they’re okay if you choose to stay away.
All that being said, and I promised them I’d say it, I have some recommendations and advice for your beercation in Port Townsend. My focus is on alfresco drinking and dining since the summer is now upon us. Note that things are still in a state of flux these days, so you’d best keep an eye on websites and social media channels to confirm things like hours of operation.
Calloused hands, sun-hardened faces, artisans, hippies, and white-collared retirees gather for tasty beers at this brewery, tasting room, and beer garden. The town’s namesake brewery is located right next to the boatyard, where there is never any shortage of activity as local boatbuilders, marine technicians, and tradespeople work on big, beautiful, dry-docked boats. Thus, there’s never been a shortage of thirsty after-work beer seekers at Port Townsend Brewing, which has been a beloved brewery and watering hole for over 20 years.
Though the interior may seem a bit cozy for these socially distant times, relax in the large, grassy beer garden as you sip on a Hop Diggidy IPA, a true Northwest classic. A local favorite, the Peeping Peater Scotch Ale never disappoints. Keep an eye on Facebook for live music in the beer garden.
From Port Townsend Brewing, stay off the main drag and take a slow drive (or walk) through the boatyard and past the marina to get a glimpse of the real, working side of Port Townsend. Located just east of all that, Propolis Brewing invites you to settle in for a taste of something refined and elegant. They call them seasonal, botanical farmhouse ales. I call them jaw-droppingly good. You will find your own superlatives to chronicle your beer tasting experience at this renowned saison-focused brewery.
Happy pollinators work busily on the flowers and herbs as you lovingly cuddle your exquisite beer. The beer garden wraps around one side of the building and includes an actual garden that is lovely, useful, and educational. Propolis Brewing is recognized for its inventive use of herbs, spices, and sometimes-foraged ingredients. Homeopathic information about your beer is available for the asking. The essence of their house pets, a variety of cultured and airborne microbes, bless each beer.
This is where you are most likely to run into other beer travelers who’ve crossed the counties to get their fix of things like Beltane, an elderflower saison brewed using Brettanomyces. There are always many beers from which to choose, but one of my all-time favorites is Spruce (yes, like the tree). Mixed-culture, wild ales, microbes, bugs. If those are beer terms that interest you, this is your place.
The Pourhouse Taproom and Bottleshop
(2231 Washington St, Port Townsend, WA 98368; Dogs welcome outside, beer only, some small snacks; Facebook.)
This craft-focused beer destination is located a block east of Propolis Brewing on the waterfront. The beer garden at The Pourhouse Taproom and Bottleshop might be the best beer garden in the state and I don’t say that lightly. Sprawling out the back of the building, the large, south-facing beer garden sits on the shore of Port Townsend Bay and even offers a peek-a-boo view of Mount Rainier in the distance. Endless, relaxation-inducing entertainment is provided by the near-constant stream of marine traffic, much of it wind-powered or people-powered. The beer garden has also been know to host live music, so keep an eye on The Pourhouse’s social channels.
In addition to being really nice people, the owners of The Pourhouse, Ned and Virginia, are devoted beer geeks and do not rely on local distributors alone to source the beer. They go get it! When I was there, the taplist included offerings from the likes of Best of Hands Barrelhouse, Cloudburst Brewing, and Ravenna Brewing, three breweries whose beers are rarely seen outside of Seattle.
Located in the boatyard, just a stone’s throw from Port Townsend Brewing, the Blue Moose Cafe is my top pick for a good breakfast. Nothing fancy, but everything good. Need relief for a vicious hangover? Order the biscuits and gravy with the corned beef hash sampler (a full portion of each) and feel your cholesterol rise with each decadent bite. The smoked salmon and mushroom scramble is another personal favorite.
Sirens Pub is located downtown on Water Street, upstairs in one of the town’s historic buildings. The menu offers plenty of expected pub grub: no surprises but no disappointments either. The deck offers a waterfront view of Port Townsend Bay. The beer menu is not vast, but it does include some good options.
Looking for something a bit fancier? Located at the far east end of town, near the Port Hudson Marina and RV Park, the first-level deck at Doc’s Marina Grill offers great views and a menu that is quite upscale for a small town like Port Townsend. (They have another location on Bainbridge Island.) The menu ranges from burgers and sandwiches to fancier fare like Dungeness crab risotto and smoked salmon mac-n-cheese. The reasonable beer selection offers a few good draft choices. Note that your view may be obscured by RVs; otherwise, you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the bay and Mount Rainier.
North Beach Park
It’s kind of a local secret, so be a courteous, no-impact visitor. Located just a few minutes from town, this north-facing beach is a great place for strolling and beachcombing any time of year. During the late spring and summer, the sunset over the Straits of Juan De Fuca is breathtaking. You never know, maybe some local minstrels and bubble-makers will magically appear.
It’s no secret, but Fort Worden State Park is just a couple minutes from town. It is huge. Stroll around the old barracks and other buildings or hike the bluff trail for some incredible views. If it looks familiar, know that this is where they filmed much of the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. Check out the Marine Science Center, which is particularly popular with the kiddos. If you’re looking to camp, Fort Worden offers both beach camping and forest camping.
There are plenty of lodging options in Port Townsend, including a lot of local Airbnb choices, which is the option I chose. It seemed like my safest, most comfortable choice during these pandemic-afflicted times. If you’re looking to stay downtown, I recommend The Swan, where the little cabins are particularly nice. Also of note, the Aladdin Motor Inn was recently renovated. My dogs and I have stayed there many times over the years. It’s affordable, not fancy, and conveniently located very close to both Propolis Brewing and Pourhouse.