EverGreen Escapes Brews & Views Tour
Every mountain culture is infused with the well-crafted tradition of post-adventure libations. Dark and smooth or light and crisp, good beer shared between friends keeps the day’s memories flowing long after the gear is put away. But how often do we stop to think about what we’re imbibing, where it came from, and how its delicate flavor tops off the experience?
That was the mission of this trip. It began on a rainy winter afternoon in Seattle, but we’d be warm in the luxury shuttle van, and then the pubs, on our beer adventure through the heart and history of the city.
I’d been invited on a Brews & Views trip with EverGreen Escapes, a Seattle-based “nature, adventure, and epicurean tour” outfitter with a green ethos and a savvy for exposing to guests the treasures of the Northwest—both urban and natural. As a founding member of the P.U.R.E. network, a group of tourism businesses with sustainable initiatives, EverGreen’s mission is to provide adventures across Cascadia that educate and inspire—and do so with a bit of luxury, unique itineraries and expert guides (often naturalists).
Brew & Views is a half-day excursion that takes guests into the pulse of Seattle’s beer scene. Stops at iconic and hole-in-the-wall micro-brew pubs are laced together by sightseeing drives through the city in a bio-diesel Mercedes van. The trip is narrated by a professional “escape artist.”
And they are artists. As I came to find, the day was smartly designed. We began at the brewery perhaps best representative of Seattle’s beat: Pike Brewing Company, not a block from the famous market.
Founded in 1989, Pike Brewing Company is an institution in Seattle and hosts a museum tracing the history of beer in the region. The walls of the bar and dining area are veneered with micro-brew memorabilia. The beers we sampled carry the character of the city with names like Naughty Nellie, Kilt Lifter and Dry Wit. Naughty Nellie, a smooth organic pale with hops from Centralia, Wash., is christened for Nellie Curtis, the madam of LaSalle Hotel where Pike was founded. Our guide, Kris, took us into Nellie’s little-known but influential role in helping shape the city’s school system.
As we sampled, Kris told us the composition of each beer, what ingredients lent what flavors, how it was all concocted.
The brew masher machine cuts through the core of the pub. Near it, we smelled jars of hops, and Kris explained the blue-collar roots of Seattle’s logging and fishing industries, and the booze and prostitution professions that sprang up around it. Today, Pike Brewing, in tandem with Seattle, is a sustainably conscious company.
Leaving Pike, we came out into Post Alley, the grimy but salacious corridor of Seattle’s nightlife.
Then, we zipped along the Viaduct, the suspended highway that shoots past the city’s famed architecture on one side, and magnificent Elliott Bay on the other, with views of the Cascades, Mt. Rainier, the Olympics, and urban landmarks that define this western outpost.
We headed to West Seattle across the bay and past the huge port—to a spot that marked the beginning of it all: Alki Point. There the Denny party had touched down on the schooner Exact and laid claim to this area, naming it… New York.
Yes, New York. And yes, they realized once they took a glance around that the name didn’t quite fit. So, they left it, Kris told us, as Alki, from the Duwamish Indians meaning “tomorrow” or “into the future,” and carried on with creating a city in the mudflats of Elliott Bay, what’s now Seattle’s Pioneer Square.
It was Elliott Bay Brewing Company, in the bustling center of West Seattle’s Admiral District, that we took warmth in the dark booths. Elliott’s award-winning crafts were probably the most intriguing of journey. Made with organic hops, the ale is bold but intricate in flavor. One line is blended—as in, a stout with a pale.
With a smaller group of strangers becoming friends over laughter and drink, we didn’t just ingest the beers, but also mused over each sample. In that way, Kris made sure we walked away with a deeper appreciation of each.
We concluded our mission at the Schooner Exact Brewing Company. Yes, named after the Denny party’s ship, the craft brew house is about as local as local gets. A tiny hole-in-the-wall oasis in Seattle’s industrial Georgetown district, the Schooner’s few tables and short bar were shadowed by the giant mashers and production facilities only feet away. Here too, beer names hark Seattle’s history. My favorite, the King Street Brown, recalls Seattle’s King Street Station, where, in the 1890s, Washington-grown hops were transported out to towns beyond.
By the end of the journey, which had taken us from iconic brew pub to local’s-only watering hole, words like roasted, double-hopped, floral and unfiltered translated to into distinguishable tastes. And the process for creating the crafts was no longer a mystery. Now a sip, is, well, more than just a sip. It’s understanding and appreciation.
So cheers to adventure, knowledge and a good glass of beer!