Brother Barrel and The Growler Guys, both on Lake City Way a couple miles apart, boast tap lists worth exploring.
Happy hour this week is a twofer, in the Lake City area, beer bars with beer bud monikers: Brother Barrel and The Growler Guys.
The short review: you should hit both.
The long answer: see below.
Brother Barrel comes from two buddies behind the three Elliott Bay Brewing branches, only this is four times better.
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Brother Barrel is one of the most impressive bars to debut this year: a tightly focused bar program of sour and other barrel-aged beers, with smoked fish, charcuterie and other European-inspired beer pairings.
The décor — furnishing made from used barrels and staves — helps set the mood and hints that you’re in for something different from the usual pub experience.
Their own in-house beers are aged in barrels right below the bar.
You can tell these guys, Todd Carden and Brent Norton, have fun playing mad scientists. They blended two saisons and a tripel to create a citrusy, malty brew that picked up some juniper notes from being aged in a gin barrel. There were hints of cacao and roasted notes in the “Brewers’ Blend #3,” some stouts that rested in a bourbon barrel for 11 months.
You can taste through the whole range of aged beers by ordering them in 2-ounce pours or a flight.
The smoked fish spread, sausage and other snacks are salty, rich or creamy, well thought out to complement the robust brews.
12535 Lake City Way N.E., Seattle; closed Mondays (206-453-3155, brotherbarrel.com)
Along the same street, two miles south, sits The Growler Guys, in Wedgwood.
The 60-beer menu here is overwhelming enough, but The Growler Guys makes it worse by spreading the menu over five panels, so that you have to walk from one end of the bar to the other to see the entire beer list. On busy nights, you have to avoid running into other patrons going back and fourth.
But the staff allows you to sample as many beers as you like.
The beers turn over fast enough that it’s pointless to home in on any standout since the keg will likely be gone a few days later. You can expect at least a dozen hoppy beers every day. Craft brews from the Northwest and California make up most of the beer menu. There’s pizza and wings, though the better food option is the food truck out front, a rotating roster of them Wednesday-Sunday from 5-9 p.m.
The outdoor seating area wraps around the building. There are couples playing Battleship and board games and dudes playing cornhole. Others are slouching on the thrift-store chairs with their Labrador retrievers and Chihuahuas while they eye their kids.
This Bend, Ore., beer-chain pulls off what’s most challenging for many cookie-cutter franchise — it feels organic and intimate, not forced or superficial. The Growler Guys has become a good neighborhood drinking spot with a family atmosphere.
8500 Lake City Way N.E., Seattle (206-522-2337, thegrowlerguys.com)