Would a local beer geek/blogger, who’s been to over 30 breweries in the Seattle area and published a Seattle Brewery Guide, find value in a guided brewery tour of 3 local breweries? I took the 2:30pm Road Dogs Seattle Brewery Tour yesterday to answer that question.
For the uninitiated, Road Dogs was started by Dustin Boast about a year ago. There are 3 tours daily, 10:30am, 2:30pm and 6:00pm, and each tour lasts 3 hours. You meet Dustin at one of two pickup locations, Pyramid Brewery or near Pike Brewing (location confirmed upon booking), and he provides transportation for the group to 3 different breweries. The $79 per person tour includes transportation, at least 3 beer samples at each brewery, a t-shirt and souvenir pint glass.
One of the best aspects of the tour is the convenience of fully enjoying visits to 3 breweries without worrying about transportation. For those of you not familiar with Seattle, aside from Pike Brewing, the breweries (especially the best ones) are not located in the touristy areas of town such as Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. You need to venture out to the neighborhoods – Fremont, Ballard, West Seattle, Georgetown, SODO, etc. for the best beer. This means you need to drive, which is impractical for tourists and potentially dangerous for locals. Enter Dustin’s trusty transportation: a white 12-person van. The van pulled into the Pyramid right on time and 7 of us loaded up (plus 2 who already were picked up at Pike).
Waivers, Bucket of shame and Intros
First, we all signed our life away on a disclaimer form. Dustin, our humorous and very knowledgeable guide, pointed out some important safety features of the van. First, there is a large cooler in the front should we want to purchase growlers at any of the breweries. (We all know how I feel about growlers). Secondly, Dustin pointed out the “bucket of shame”, should anyone imbibe a bit too much on the tour.
We then began to learn more about the strangers in the van. There was a couple vacationing from Alaska, a local couple that included a recent transplant from Chicago, a couple from Maine (Dustin quickly appointed one of the ladies with the “Miss Maine” moniker), and another couple formerly from Maine who now live in an apartment on Mercer Island. Who knew Mercer Island had apartments? See, I’m already learning stuff on the tour.
Road Dogs uses 25 breweries in its rotation, so the 3 you visit on any given tour are a surprise. Dustin announced our agenda for today: Hale’s Ales Brewery, Fremont Brewing, and Big Al Brewing. I was pleasantly surprised with the selections, both because Fremont Brewing is my #1 brewery in Seattle, and I was also expecting at least 1 of the breweries to be Pike or Pyramid.
We took in beautiful views of the Puget Sound as we drove along the viaduct toward Ballard and Fremont. We got to know each other and Dustin kept us entertained with tunes and some beer trivia.
Hale’s Ales Brewery
One great aspect of the tour is we didn’t have to mess with ordering. The Hale’s staff saw us arrive and shortly thereafter appeared with tasting glasses and pitchers.
We tried 6 different beers (Cream Ale, Cream HSB, Nitro Porter, El Jefe Weizen, Pale Ale and Supergoose IPA) while Dustin gave us an informative overview of the brewing process and the different styles. We also had an opportunity to view the brewing equipment and chat with a brewer, who was brewing a batch of El Jefe. Miss Maine promptly slammed her first beer. We may need that bucket of shame in a bit.
After spending about 45-minutes at Hale’s, we loaded up the van and headed towards Fremont. Along the way, Dustin pointed out our beloved Brouwer’s Café and the Fremont Troll. Fremont’s Urban Beer Garden was rocking … with kids. It looked like a goddamn KinderCare on this day. Beer Monger would have been appalled. I managed to not step on any babies crawling on the floor and enjoyed my 3 beer selections (we each got to choose our own 3 from the tap list): 77 Fremont Select Session IPA, The Brother Imperial IPA, and Dark Star Imperial Oatmeal Stout. The fantastic beer made up for the less than ideal crowd conditions.
Big Al Brewing
We then made our way down to Big Al Brewing in White Center. Again, Big Al was ready for Dustin and promptly gave us glasses and 3 full pitchers of Irish Red Ale, Winter Warmer and Hop Villain Black IPA. We checked out the brewing equipment in the back and chatted brewing for awhile, and then moved upstairs to relax on a huge leather sectional and play darts. While the official ending time of the tour was 5:30, our group stretched it out till around 6:30, as there was no Sunday evening tour booked this week. By the end, our group of strangers had become friends. Our pal from Chicago even bought another pitcher to share with the group.
On our way out, we all got a Big Al souvenir pint glass. Then we loaded up in our sweet ride and headed back to Pyramid. Um, we’re in the van, not the Porsche…
The bucket of shame went unused once again. Miss Maine was still coherent. The group had a great time. Dustin asked for sizes and handed everyone our Road Dogs t-shirt. I think we can call the tour a success.
Too often I visit brewery tasting rooms and geek out by taking tasting notes on my phone and looking at Twitter. I may end up with great tasting notes, but it’s really not that fun. The brewery tour, however, was all about the people and all about the fun. It was a great opportunity to meet and have fun with others while sampling great brews. And Dustin’s knowledge and humor make this tour a real winner. Road Dogs Seattle Brewery Tour is highly recommended for locals and an absolute must for tourists who enjoy beer. But please, don’t be that first guy who needs the bucket of shame.
Road Dogs Seattle Brewery Tour