Ship Canal Brew Trail - Revisited
A long time ago, I wrote a post about the Ship Canal Brew Trail. It may have been the first ever post written by the Cycling Cicerone. It’s a great trail and a lesser but still good post, and it's time for an update! There is a new bike path in town, one that connects the Ship Canal Trail to the Elliot Bay Trail. By combining the might of these two trails, it has unlocked more potential than either of the two trails that came before it! I present to you the Ellip Baynal Brew Trail! Ok, the name needs work. I guess I’ll keep calling it The Ship Canal Brew Trail.
Like the trail before it, it starts at Rooftop. It then proceeds through the series of 5 other breweries. If you did the route without stopping, it would likely take you about 40 minutes. With just enough burn to earn you a beer, maybe two, the new and improved Ship Canal Brew Trail is an easy, basically hill-less ride with serious brewery density. Almost all of the route is confined to beautiful waterfront and marine industrial adjacent trails, and for a while, you’ll even be riding along the train tracks (neat!). There is a short detour down Commodore way which feels like a foray into an alien industrial park, but fear not, Urban Family is near. There is also the briefest amount of city riding to find your way to Cloudburst at the end. Between bike trail, dedicated bike lanes, and easy low traffic industrial areas, this is a great baby’s first drinking bike ride, though if you’ve never done it before, I’d suggest starting at the other end of the route at Cloudburst and working your way north so you can ride the city leg of your journey at your most sober. As per usual, all these places are independent craft breweries! Down with Budweiser and so on!
BTW, This post was updated and republished in April since Cloudburst and Holy Mountain have been replaced by Mollusk, Belltown Brewery, and Old Stove in the new and improved bike n brew punch card route!
Remember, while drunk bike riding isn’t actually illegal in Seattle, getting drunk here isn’t the point and it isn’t safe. Don’t rush through it. Take the whole afternoon to visit these five breweries and limit yourself to a beer at each to keep yourself riding upright. Ok sorry about that, let’s move on.
Highlights: Patio, Drive Through Window
Beers: Standard leaning IPA
Rooftop is a patio with a brewery attached. Step outside the heated cover to get a glimpse of the ship canal and the Olympic mountains to the west (or so I suspect. Fool that I am, I’ve only been at night). Obviously a little better on nice days in the Seattle Summer than it is right now in the dead of winter, once you are posted up outside, you don’t even need to go in to get your beer: just stroll right up to the pickup window and speak directly to the bartender. Their beers lean towards the IPA side of the spectrum but include a good variety of “out there” beers including (at the time of this writing) Beer Trumps Hate Imp. Peach Mint IPA (clever) and an always coveted Nitro tap.
Highlights: New, Clean, Small
Beers: Standard leaning European
The youngest brewery on the route and the smallest too, it makes up for what it lacks in size with intimacy. The brewery equipment is tucked in the back ready to be gazed upon during your trip to the restroom (not gross, I promise). It’s got a nice little parking lot patio and if you want to park your bike, chaining up to the picket fence that surrounds it is your best bet. They have a good variety of beers that cover a pretty wide swath of styles but lean slightly towards Belgian and other European styles. Their imperial milk stout is a real trip to flavor town.
Highlights: Big, Projector
This brewery is tied with Holy Mountain for strangest beer in Seattle. Here they feature fruity and delicious sours. They run the gamut of the sour style with more of that type of beer than any other brewery in the city (citation needed) and a range of medium to strong, capping out for now at the 9% strawberry and rhubarb sour. You’ll still be able to grab an IPA here because of course, but you’d be missing the point of your trip. The brewery itself has a growing patio game and almost a total lack of bike parking (you reading this, Urban Family?) but makes up for that in the sheer awe you feel when you walk into the place. A massive warehouse with a wall made of stacked, aging barrels of beer to separate the perhaps, rustic feeling seating area with it's hanging Mumford and Sons lights from the active brewery behind. It is a real treat to behold.
Highlights: Probably actually in the Upside Down
Seattle’s home for all things Brett, Belgian and Barrel Aged. If you want a funky ass beer then this is your place, for they specialize in the hard to wrangle flavors of wild and crazy yeasts. This place has a feeling that is certain to generate vibrations in your soul. With its all-white modern-minimalist interior, strong smell of brewery, and beer names like Pale Messiah, Cursed Realm, and Sunless Year, you might not be completely sure you are still on this earthly plane of existence. It completes the illusion that unless you are a veteran of the styles served, the beers here also taste completely alien. Hopefully, they don’t begin to suspect that I am on to them and have me tossed into Cthulhu's gaping maw. Try them out for sure.
Beers: IPA Leaning
Brewed by an ex-brewer from Elysian before their tragic buyout, this brewery always represents to me spit on the face of ABinBev in the wake of their unfortunate wave of acquisitions. While the beers here bare little resemblance to those of Elysian and the taproom itself bares even less, it has its own style and charm. The tap room is all exposed concrete and support beams. Terse messages keep you from entering the wrong hallway on your way to the bar. “DON’T,” they say, pretty succinctly. As far as I know, this is the only brewery with a public glory hole, and if you don’t know what I mean by that I encourage you A) not to Google it and B) see it for yourself in the wall right near the front door. The beers here lean heavily towards IPAs and DIPAs, but at least now accommodate for the season by having a good number of dark beers.
There you have it. If you survive that whole lot then you are ready to graduate to longer and harder rides, but even with that, you may never find a better set of breweries that work together so cohesively to cover a wider range of styles and palates. The Ship Canal Brew Trail is a perfect storm of great trails and great breweries. Not to drum up hype prematurely, but I hear that someone is coming up with a prize for going to all of them, though you didn't hear it from me. Thanks for reading!