This Sunday, August 5, Reuben’s Brews opens to the public in Ballard. It is one of the more highly anticipated brewery openings in recent memory. The scheduling is brilliant: host the grand opening of the tasting room at noon on Seafair Sunday. I still expect hordes of people to show up, but the hydro races, the airshow and the other Seafair hoopla should help moderate the blitz of thirsty Seattleites. Opening on a normal Saturday or Sunday might prove to be overwhelming.
This is more than a brewery opening; it is the christening of a brewery district.
Sometimes I think that Ballard needs another place to consume alcohol like Capitol Hill needs another button-snap flannel shirt, but the neighborhood’s willingness to support drinking establishments is a bit frightening. Downtown Ballard’s main drag (Ballard Avenue) might qualify as Seattle’s version of Bourbon Street, but just a few blocks east a brewery district is emerging. Ballard now offers four breweries in a five-block radius. I should note that if the folks at Urban Family Public House get their way Ballard Avenue also gets its own brewery soon.
The Redhook District
Reuben’s Brews joins Maritime Pacific Brewing, Northwest Peaks Brewery and Hilliard’s Beer in what we should now consider a brewery district. That is not even counting Hale’s Ale Brewery, which is just a few blocks farther east in that undetermined part of town referred to as FreLard. Even Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood cannot compare with East Ballard in terms of brewery density.
This new brewery district needs a name. My proposal: The Redhook District.
I am the first to admit that today’s Redhook Ale Brewery bears little resemblance to the brewery that opened in Ballard in 1982. Still, we should not forget that Redhook was one of the very first craft breweries to open in the United States, helping to ignite the craft beer revolution of the past 30 years. Say what you will, and I know many of you probably disagree with me, but Redhook was instrumental in changing the way Seattle and the rest of the country thinks about beer.
With breweries in Woodinville, WA and Portsmouth, NH, many of today’s beer lovers do not even know about the old brewery in Ballard. When Redhook founder Paul Shipman converted an old transmission shop on Leary Way into a brewery and began producing handcrafted ales, people must have thought he was out of his mind. He could not have imagined that the neighborhood would someday support so many breweries.
I don’t know if my proposed name, The Redhook District, will stick. I hope so. I think it makes perfect sense in a weird Seattle kind of way. Why not name our new brewery district after something that is no longer there? The next brewery district in Seattle will likely be in SoDo. You could argue SoDo already deserves to be recognized in those terms. SoDo stands for “South of the Dome.” For you newbies, there was once a dome stadium in Seattle.
Besides, if we call it The Redhook District, it will give us old-timers an opportunity to sound smart whenever somebody asks about the name.
1406 NW 53rd Street, Suite 1A
Seattle, WA 98107