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Beering It Up in Ballard

The Seattle neighborhood with 11 breweries in a day's walk



s is to be expected in this region, Seattle has approximately eight hundred million breweries, give or take a few, ranging from the old and well-established, such as Pike Brewing's pub in the middle of the famous Pike Place Market downtown, to the brand-spanking new, including the hip and industrial-looking Cloudburst Brewing a few blocks down from the Pike.

In terms of sheer density, however, the Ballard neighborhood on Seattle's west side is definitely the local version of the Pearl in Portland, or perhaps Galveston Avenue here in Bend. It was where the first Red Hook brewery was started in 1982, and it's now home to 11 different breweries and a Lagunitas taproom, all an easy walk from each other, guaranteeing a pleasant afternoon for visitors. (Bonus: Nearly all of them are dog friendly, and there are tons of food trucks and local joints for dinner.)

Some of the names around Ballard will be familiar, such as Hale's Ales and the semi-nearby Fremont Brewing, whose fresh-hop creations this year have turned heads across greater Cascadia. Do a little hunting, however, and there are lots of hidden gems for the tourist to find. A few of the highlights:

Reuben's Brews: Launched from a Kickstarter in 2012 by Adam Robbings (and named after his son), Reuben's is in a wide-open warehouse building that offers a constantly-shifting variety of 24 taps. They've begun distributing in Central Oregon a bit, starting with the "r & R" pilsner they collaborated with Rainier on, but their stock in trade these days is in lagers, IPAs and fresh-hop beers. The Crikey IPA is their Fresh Squeezed, basically, while Home From Home, a hazier IPA with coffee and lactose, is one for the adventurous.

Stoup Brewing: "The Art and Science of Beer" is their tagline, and it shows in Stoup's selections, which include things such as the citrusy and experimental hop-laden Psycho-Tropic IPA. It's also worth picking up a bottle of their barrel-aged Flemish Red, brewed as a team with beloved northeast-Seattle establishment Latona Pub—aged for eight months and providing sweet, smooth Belgian-ness.

Obec Brewing: Newest to the neighborhood (just launched in September) is Obec, whose name means "community" in the Czech language. Founder Wayne Jehlik is serious about Old World-style beers, and his Czech pilsner is to die for—light, bursting with flavor and drinkable the entire evening through. This being the Northwest, they have to produce an IPA, too, but Obec's take is darker, sweeter and pleasantly out of the norm. This dark space is a great spot to escape the weekend crowds elsewhere, too.

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