Redhook’s name is polarizing in the beer world, as many turned against it after it sold to a corporation. But its new Brewlab in Capitol Hill’s Pike Motorworks building is impressive.
Welcome to Redhook 2.0. Come inside. Pay no attention to that feeling of déjà vu. Yes, of course you know this space. It was a garage in a Seattle that once was. But that was a long time ago. Now, it’s surrounded and even topped with new apartment buildings. Now, that grease-stained garage is occupied by Redhook!
You didn’t know? How could you? The iconic Redhook name is hiding in small letters. Instead, “Brewlab” screams at you in giant font.
The new pub Brewlab is Redhook’s second act. Once, Redhook was the king of beer in Seattle, a vanguard in the country’s craft-beer movement.
Then it sold to a corporation; Anheuser Busch bought a stake in 1994. And the beer community just about lost it. That went against every independent ethos of the close-knit craft-beer community.
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Scores of folks vowed never to let their lips touch another pint of Redhook again. Others griped Redhook stopped making interesting beers and started catering to its parent company, Craft Brew Alliance.
I’ve never encountered such hostility toward a local brand. Every Redhook misstep reported in The Seattle Times — Redhook closes its Woodinville brewery, Redhook lays off employees, Craft Brew calls Redhook “our least profitable brand” — were met with much glee and reactions of good riddance in our comment section and in my inbox and voicemail.
Take a deep breath, people. Redhook is back.
The Seattle brewery that started out of a converted Ballard auto shop in 1981 opened Brewlab last month in the Pike Motorworks building on Capitol Hill.
Let me tell you, it’s a beauty. It’s like Redhook ditched its pinstripe suit for hipster clothing and started hanging with the cool kids.
It partnered with several microbrews to do “collaboration beers,” including an IPA with the brewers behind the iconic Manny’s beer.
It aged an ale in a whiskey barrel that came from the acclaimed Westland Distillery.
It joined forces with the cult ice-cream brand Salt & Straw to make a grapefruit sherbet IPA.
It commissioned Sub Pop Records Art Director Sasha Barr to paint two giant murals and consulted with folks behind some of the city’s grandest bars (Rhein Haus, Bastille) on the design.
Located in the hip Pike/Pine corridor, Brewlab can seat 258. It feels like three subdivisions under one roof. The front patio with rows of communal tables near the mural channels some hip, urban enclave in Portland. The interior, anchored by two giant horseshoe bars with 16 taps each, looks like a sleek, industrial-themed beer hall.
But the prime real estate is the back patio with two fire pits; it seamlessly meshes into the courtyard and public space.
The cheap skates grumble that the bar food — many dishes costing $10-$16 — is pricey, but they’re substantial and a good value, especially the rotating $10 happy-hour pizza that can feed two. The best bar bite? The four-piece fried chicken thighs ($10), done like sticky Korean wings, though a handful of beers couldn’t stand up to the pronounced spicy, sour and sweet flavors.
It’s pointless to single out any sud since Brewlab’s small batches and experimental beers will likely rotate every few days. But you can expect at least a third of its lineup to be big, hoppy brews. Many I sampled over the past two weeks were better than average, and the few that fell flat were at least balanced with exotic profiles.
Brewlab is an impressive pub. But it’s never simple when the project is tied to Redhook, is it?
The haters likely will look at Brewlab as a corporate shill posing as a microbrew to win back Seattle. I’m sure the trolls will be out — as they are for every story about Redhook, once they read this. Operators are standing by.
Redhook Brewpub, 714 E. Pike St., Seattle, offers happy hour weekdays 3-6 p.m. with select $4 pints, rotating pizzas for $10 and other snacks for about $5 (206-823-3026, redhook.com).