Learning the Ropes – Adventures of a Seattle Newbie

Sometimes it is valuable to step outside yourself and see the world through the eyes of someone else. Lance Trueb is a self-proclaimed newbie when it comes to craft beer. Having recently landed in Seattle to attend grad school at the UW, he quickly learned that good beer is more than a topic of conversation around here: it’s a way of life. Today he shares his adventures as a craft beer neophyte wandering the streets of Seattle.

New Guy In Seattle
by Lance Trueb

We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying a lively conversation among friends at the gym, co-workers after hours or family at the reunion and then it happens: they surface a topic you know nothing about. Depending on your courage, you have some options – nod and smile (classic choice), chime in cautiously (honorable, but potentially embarrassing choice), or maybe find a reason to duck out of the conversation for a few minutes (I’m running late, gotta go! Sorry, need to take this call. Is that Aunt Shelly over there?)

This conversational dilemma proved to be reoccurring for me around one particular topic. The culprit? Beer. I didn’t know where to go, what to order, or why!

I moved to Seattle just a few short months ago in preparation for Grad School at UW and decided the summer time would prove to be a perfect opportunity to get to know beer, but specifically Seattle beer. I wasn’t just interested in developing a deeper beer geek-ness (not that I had too much to begin with). Instead, I set out to answer the question “What makes the Seattle beer culture so special?”

I think I got in over my head.

During my first few weeks I asked each of my malt beverage loving friends about their favorite places around town. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to the WA Beer App (yep, there’s an app!) and found myself exploring locations way beyond my actual abilities to explore. I needed a new strategy so I decided to simply start close to home. After all, these would likely be the breweries I’d visit most often, the events I would bring family and friends to and, not to mention, my own community I could take pride in!.

From my home base in Queen Anne, here are 2 things I’ve come to love and appreciate about the Rain City beer culture so far this summer.

1. People who aren’t normally crazy over beer can get excited about Seattle beer.

The Seattle Times recently ran an article asking the question “Are Seattle drinkers losing their taste for Beer?” It’s a legitimate question when you consider “34 percent of drinkers under age 35 here say that beer is the alcohol they drink most often — an eight point drop in just five years, according to market data from Scarborough Research” While the older demographic happily favors beer, younger crowds have been upping their intake of creative cocktails. However, this local demograhic data is only one piece of the alchohol consumption pie. Turns out, “In the Seattle area, the number of adults under 35 who drink microbrews has increased by 20 percent since 2008. according to Scarborough data.” When us younger folk do drink, turns out we prefer the craft beer.

In my mission to find some of the best of this statistically spotlighted local craft beer, I ended up at the very closest brewery to my home: Fremont Brewing. Situated along N 34th Street in Fremont, the brewery and Urban Beer Garden straddle the Burke-Gilman trail luring in the athletically-minded commuters attempting to walk, bike or run home despite the tantalizing aromas wafting across the trail and beckoning them to pause for at least just one pint. On this busy Friday night, it was a normal packed house yet my wife and I were able to find a seat.  I gotta admit, I wondered what the crowd would be like. I had always seen lots of laughing and smiling as I jealously peered in as I drove past but maybe the scent of a rookie to Seattle beer throw off the vibe. Yet, as I snuggled in between complete strangers, the setting felt more like a backyard get together as we sat on the 18 foot long, rustic community table. Kids played (there’s even a mounted playground horse, c’mon!), while small dogs mirrored their owners and relaxed comfortably among friends.

One of the best $5 I’ve spent in a long time. The sampler left me longing for more! I’ve determined to soak up as much of the summer sunshine and their popular Fremont Summer Ale from the comfort of those cozy tables as a I can before classes start next month.

2. Seattle knows a thing or two about creative consumption.

Creativity and Seattle go hand in hand – in fact, I might go so far as saying that Seattle holds creativity with one hand while the other hand is busy holding a delicious craft beer.

A few months back, I had the chance to take in the famous tour of the Coors factory in Golden, CO. If you haven’t been, it’s easily worth the 30 minutes, not to mention, the price is right: free! Of course there are samples and plenty of fun facts (did you know that when Adolf Coors, the founder, arrived in Maryland in 1868 he had no money and didn’t even speak English?!). Learning a bit more of the history and story was an enriching experience but overall I was struck by how much the value of “quantity” was being celebrated. Look at ALL the hops, look at ALL the conveyor belts, look at ALL the beer.

As I learn about the beer culture of Seattle, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the way creativity is being celebrated. Whether it’s your friend who home brews a Hefe for his soccer buddies or a favorite neighborhood brewery IPA, this city embraces those who are willing to take the risk, and the creativity isn’t only surrounding the drink itself but actually the whole experience of enjoying a cold one.

Take Von Trapps located in Capitol Hill, for example. This Bavarian-inspired restaurant & beer hall takes great pride in their 3 staples: Beer, Brats, & Bocce. I’m a sucker for lawn games of any kind, so to be honest, they kinda had me at “bocce”. However, while I might have gone in for the bocce, I stayed for the overall beer experience. Each time I’ve been, a self-proclaimed beer nerd on staff has rightfully earned that title and helped me find just the right brew for my mood. One time it was a refreshing grapefruit based Radler and another time it was a German style Hefe.

Moreover, the creativity of our city’s perspective on beer carries over into festivals and events. There are far too many to list in this post, but one upcoming event has certainly caught my eye: Elysian Brewing’s 9th Annual Great Pumpkin Beer Festival. Before I say anything, take a gander at a portion of the event description:

“Over 60 pumpkin beers will be flowing at any given time, with surprise beer treats, three local food trucks + ice cream and fresh donuts on hand, along with professional pumpkin carving and of course – GIANT PUMPKINS FILLED WITH BEER! ”

In the hip-hop world I believe this is the point where a rapper would drop the mic and walk off stage victoriously. Has Seattle simply won the award for best craft beer culture or is it just this wide-eyed newbie? There’s so much more I am excited to experience – everything from seasonal brews to festivals and especially learning more about the rich history and relationship of Seattle to beer (this very topic was highlighted here in Beer West

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know the Seattle beer world far better than I do. I’d love to hear your favorite breweries, brews, events or festivals.

While I can’t wait to start grad school at UW this fall, I must admit, homework is not part of the reason for that excitement. However, if you leave tips in the comments below or find me on FB & Twitter, I’d be happy to hear what you think my “Beer Homework” should be: bring on the assignments!

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