One Foot in Front of the Other
You couldn’t drink at every brewery in Seattle if you tried — please do not challenge this assertion — and walking between even half of them would wear out an endurance athlete.
But in less than 5 miles between Interbay and the “Ballard Brewery District,” you can connect a constellation of 15 breweries on an urban hike featuring public art, views of Salmon Bay and Queen Anne Hill, boats bobbing in the marinas and more.
These businesses have adapted their taprooms and beer gardens to facilitate social distancing — every spot on this list has (limited) covered outdoor/semi-outdoor seating space, mask requirements and capacity limits, etc. — but to-go suds are a great idea if you want to walk the walk without stopping to sip.
Some ground rules: You cannot and should not drink at all of these breweries in one afternoon. Get a ride home unless you live nearby and plan to walk. And, as always, buddy up and bring a mask.
Holy Mountain Brewing Company to Cloudburst on Shilshole
One-way distance: About 2.9 miles
Seattle brewing powerhouse Holy Mountain is nestled next to Batch 206 Distillery on Elliott Avenue West in Interbay. Reservations are required for the little beer garden out front, a tented, plant-lined space with six tables.
If you’re romantic about the city, the drone of cars on Elliott will remind you of the sound of the sea. (Squawking gulls and the breeze off Elliott Bay add to the effect). If you aren’t, just have a drink and relax, pal. After a juicy, tropical pour of Cone & Cone, an IPA made with fresh hops, I was ready to stretch my legs.
Stick to the sidewalk and head northwest on Elliott Avenue, which turns into 15th Avenue West after the Magnolia Bridge. Businesses line both sides of the street; more apartments and houses are perched on Queen Anne Hill, which rises above the eastern side of 15th. I didn’t have to fight for sidewalk space, but the Whole Foods shopping center keeps the thoroughfare busy.
About a half-mile after winding Magnolia Bridge, you’ll find the Interbay P-Patch on the west side of 15th. The lush community garden makes a great detour, especially at sunset, when pinks and oranges settle atop Magnolia. Headed northbound from the garden alongside Interbay Golf Center, you’ll be shaded almost all the way to the Ballard Bridge.
The crosswalk at West Dravus Street, just after the golf complex, is the last safe spot to cross the street before the Ballard Bridge (about a half-mile away). The west sidewalk leads to the (unofficial) Henry art gallery: The Seattle muralist turned an old carwash there into a Warhol-esque collection of his vibrant, surreal portraits.
And if you walk for detours, not destinations, the Fishermen’s Terminal is the spot for fresh fish on weekends. (Head to the west wall from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are signs everywhere.) There are also two more breweries, Figurehead and Dirty Couch, about a mile west of our route … but I digress.
On the east side of 15th: more beer. If a mile of walking has you ready for a drink, check out Rooftop Brewing Company on West Nickerson Street. The outdoor patio’s view over the Lake Washington Ship Canal is extremely hard to beat.
The Ballard Bridge can be tight for pedestrians, but pause for a break when the bridge widens in the middle. The panorama from Salmon Bay to the Fremont Cut captures greenery on Magnolia and Queen Anne Hill, yachts and commercial fishing ships, barges and the occasional kayaker sharing the water.
Staircases descend to Shilshole Avenue on both sides after crossing the bridge. This is part of the missing link of the Burke-Gilman Trail, so cross to stay on the sidewalk as needed. Industrial driveways line Shilshole, providing a fitting juxtaposition between Ballard’s history of maritime culture and its contemporary reputation for beer, shopping and food.
Cloudburst is less than a mile down the road, on your right. Look across the street for the Pacific Fishermen Shipyard for confirmation you made it.
Cloudburst on Shilshole to Hale’s Ales via the Ballard Brewery District
One-way distance: About 1.9 miles
At Cloudburst’s Ballard outpost — which also requires reservations — the employee checking IDs at the door made sure I knew the COVID-era rules before stepping “inside” the small, covered outdoor beer garden (namely: unless drinking, mask up). This midpoint is a great place to catch your breath; with more than half of the walk done, the challenge now becomes choosing your own brewery adventure.
Instead of backtracking on Shilshole, round the corner at Market Street and walk to Ballard Avenue, lined with a mix of outdoor dining and some boarded-up, muraled-over windows. You’ll run into 22nd Avenue at Marvin’s Garden, where the small bell tower marks the center of the Ballard Farmers Market on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (You can pass through, but be cognizant of the market’s capacity limit.)
At 22nd, cross the brick plaza and continue on Ballard Avenue. Less than a mile down the road, Northwest 48th Street leads to Northwest Leary Way and the front porch of Peddler Brewing Company. Literally around the corner is Lagunitas’ Seattle brewhouse, and both spots have copious, covered outdoor seating space.
And also lots of beer.
Leary Way eastbound leads directly to 14th Avenue Northwest, which shoots north to heavyweight taproom Reuben’s, between Northwest 50th and 51st streets. This is the heart of the Ballard Brewery District: From Reuben’s, Russell Wilson could likely peg Obec, Stoup, Urban Family, Fair Isle and maybe even Lucky Envelope, if the wind was with him.
It’s a worthy time to remind readers that you physically cannot drink at all of these breweries. Excellent options abound, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating to go around. We’re spoiled with suds in Seattle — go where the crowds aren’t.
To that point, the route forks in Ballard. South of Reuben’s is Maritime Pacific, while Obec, Stoup and Urban Family form brewery row on Northwest 52nd Street. At the eastern edge of 52nd, just beyond relative newcomer Urban Family, 11th Avenue gets you to Fair Isle, Lucky Envelope and Populuxe, which boasts the biggest beer garden in Ballard.
That trio is spread across 49th and 50th, with Ninth Avenue Northwest separating Populuxe and Lucky Envelope. Ninth leads south to Leary Way, where the Fremont Brewery production facility looms jealously over the scene. Walk another half-mile and you’ll find your final destinations: Bad Jimmy’s and Hale’s Ales.
Sit down and have a drink — you’ve earned it. And you’ve already walked it off.