Brouwer's Cafe in Fremont has beer favorites from Russian River Brewery and Beer Valley Brewing Co. — plus Belgian pub grub.

Share story

Happy hour |

Brouwer’s Cafe debuted five years ago this month, and the beer-belly crowd soon followed its every tap — checking its blog regularly to see what exotic brews this Fremont bar brought in every week.

This isn’t just another beer joint. Its cavernous two-story cellarlike barroom hints this experience might be different. There’s a rotating lineup of 63 microbrews on tap and 300 different bottled beers behind those taps.

Is that … ? Yes it is, beers from the cultish Russian River Brewery in California, even offered during happy hour. And that list of bottled beers that seems to stretch into infinity includes the best bitter beer I’ve tasted in years — Leafer Madness from Beer Valley Brewing Co. in Oregon.

The average Joe might get sensory overload here. Here’s one way to narrow the choices. Ten local breweries recently made special batches of IPAs to honor Brouwer’s on its fifth anniversary. Those special brews are available during happy hour for as cheap as $2.50.

No frosted mugs here. In fact, your beer won’t taste as cold as those served in your local pub. Beers get served at 45 degrees to better accentuate the different flavors and aromas.

The bar menu features some game meat, Belgian grub and other beer food. Not bad, just not as tasty as the menu sounds. Like the Rock Cornish hen stuffed with smoked sheep’s-milk cheese, herbs and bacon, wrapped in prosciutto, served with mushroom hen demi. It’s dry and overcooked.

Keep it simple. Order some crunchy, deep-fried Great Lakes smelts, and follow that with a $3 plate of crisp golden Belgian frites.

Brouwer’s Café, 400 N. 35th St., offers happy hour daily 3-6 p.m. with $1 off on any of the 63 beers on tap and bar-food specials. Also features a large Scotch selection (206 267-2437

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or