Warren Peterson - Beer Czar for Tom Douglas' restaurants.

Tom Douglas venturing into the world of good beer

Last Thursday I went in for a haircut. As usual, my coiffeur asked if I had any big plans for the weekend. I mentioned that I was going to a Tom Douglas event. She had no idea who I was talking about. I explained that he was the local chef and restaurateur responsible for places like Etta’s, Palace Kitchen, Daliah Lounge and others. Nope. Not a clue.

I told her that Tom Douglas is kind of a big deal around here—he’s sort of like Seattle’s version of Bobby Flay, but not such a pompous ass. “Bobby who?” she said. “What a funny name.”

Tom Who?

I am assuming that readers of this blog are not so unaware. Even if you haven’t been to his restaurants, which is hard to imagine, you’ve heard of Tom Douglas. Right? As a beer lover, this is perhaps the most important thing for you to know about Tom Douglas: he will soon be opening a Tavern.

The Brave Horse Tavern opens early next month in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. There will be 26 beers on tap and a menu designed to complement the beer selection. By all indications, this will not be a restaurant branded as a tavern: it will be a tavern with excellent food. Too often good beer and good food are not part of the same conversation. The Brave Horse Tavern aims to change that.

Last Friday we attended a preview event. I hesitate to call it a sneak peek because we did not actually get to lay eyes upon the new Brave Horse Tavern; however, we did get to sample some of the food, listen to Tom Douglas and his crew talk about the concept, and take part in what they referred to as a test-kitchen session.

The Food

This is not merely going to be a restaurant labeled a tavern: it’s going to be a place where you can hang out, drink a tasty brew, and chomp on a burger. Of course, because this is a Tom Douglas joint, you won’t find stale pretzels poured out of 30 pound Costco bags. Instead, the Brave Horse will actually bake fresh pretzels in a wood-fired oven—the kind of oven usually reserved for pizza. Basically, they’ll offer Spring Hill quality at Red Robin prices. Local, natural, fresh. After all, Tom Douglas’ reputation is on the line.

We tasted some of the food and it was delicious. They served us a sample of the aforementioned pretzel with a smoked peanut butter and bacon spread and also a cheddar-pimento spread. Now do I have your attention? They plan to offer a number of different spreading and dipping options with the pretzel.

Along with the pretzel, we also sampled some of the house-made sausage.


They served us two different hamburger patty samples, asking us which ground beef we preferred. Next, they served us two slider-sized hamburgers, each on a different bun. Again, asking us which bun we preferred.

The Scene

At the test-kitchen event, they asked us questions about what we want to eat and drink, but also about what we want the scene to be like at the Brave Horse. Should they charge for shuffleboard and darts? Should they have live music? Sports on TV? Table service or walk-up?

Since the event, we’ve confirmed that they will offer table service. We look forward to the opening so we can see how the rest of it pans out. Everything we heard suggested that they recognize what it means to be a tavern and not a restaurant—that the food should be affordable, the beer should be good, and the atmosphere should welcome hanging out.

The Beer

The Brave Horse Tavern will have 26 beers on tap. Our understanding is that they will focus primarily on regional beers. Given Tom Douglas’ reputation for serving fresh, locally grown and raised food, we expect the beer to follow suit.

Warren Peterson, one of Tom’s sous chefs, happens to be a considerable beer geek. Some time ago, Tom Douglas named Warren his Beer Czar. Since then, the improved selection of beer at all of Douglas’ restaurants is palpable, but the Brave Horse is his baby. Warren explained that beer is going to be at the heart of the Brave Horse. In addition to 26 taps, the Brave Horse will host regular brewers night events, for example. (They even asked us what we wanted those events to look like.)

Warren Peterson - Beer Czar for Tom Douglas' restaurants.

Warren Peterson seems to get it. He’s one of us. After listening to him speak with passion and knowledge about beer, it is impossible to image that he will let distributors make his draft selections, as so many taverns do. No, it seems much more likely that he will doggedly work to make sure he has a thoughtful selection of great beer. We hope he will be able to ignore the pleas of the unenlightened as they clamor for things like Stella Artois and Blue Moon. We are certain he will try.

Tom Douglas’ people selected Schooner Exact Brewing to brew the inaugural house beer for the Brave Horse Tavern. Working with Warren, Schooner Exact developed a recipe for a Northwest Pale Ale. Not an IPA, but damn near as hoppy. We were fortunate enough to sample a bit of it off of the bright tank recently. It is delicious.

In my opinion, the Schooner Exact Brave Horse Northwest Pale Ale is a testament to the Brave Horse Tavern’s attitude. I suppose that remains to be seen. In commissioning a beer, many other establishments would have asked Schooner Exact to brew Amber Ale, Golden Ale, or something much more passive and accessible. Warren Peterson and the Brave Horse Tavern wanted something bold and true. The Schooner Exact Brave Horse Pale Ale tastes like something Northwest beer geeks can truly sink their teeth into. It is the kind of beer we drink: the kind of beer we like. Hopefully the Brave Horse Tavern will be the kind of place we like to drink it.

Overcoming Beer Apathy

One thing that needs to change when it comes to fine food and fine dining is the culinary world’s widespread ignorance of beer. So often the people who are passionate about food are apathetic about beer. When you visit a highfalutin restaurant you usually find nothing but the worst beer. The quality of the beer selection varies inversely with the size of the bill. I should point out that Tom Douglas’ restaurants, thanks in large part to Warren Peterson, are a notable exception in this regard.

Maybe Tom Douglas and the Brave Horse Tavern can help get good beer into the good food conversation. For now, I’m just looking forward to more of that cheddar-pimento spread, lovingly paired with a pint of finely crafted northwest ale.

Cheers to our sponsors, like...


  1. Hi Kyle – They’re hoping for the first week of April. Their new dumpling joint next door, Ting Momo, will open just before Brave Horse.

Comments are closed.