Seattle’s Brouwer’s Cafe announces that it is closing

A view of Brouwer's Cafe from the balcony.
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June 29th will mark the end of an era when Brouwer’s Cafe pours its final pint.

In March 2005, a new beer-focused bar and restaurant opened in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Brouwer’s Cafe was instantly recognized as a beer mecca earning accolades from local beer lovers and eventually gaining wider recognition as one of the top beer bars in the USA. Yesterday, Brouwer’s Cafe announced that after 19 years it was shutting down. The official last day is Saturday, June 29th.

For many beer lovers around Seattle, the memories are thick. Hardliver, Big Wood, Sour Fest, and the other annual beer events are legendary. And then, the special events and more personal moments: birthday parties, celebrations of life, the happy and sad moments spent celebrating and mourning with friends. Brouwer’s was there with the community for the joy and the heartache, nurturing the crowd with an amazing beer selection.

Ad for a brewery auction.
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When Brouwer’s Cafe opened in 2005 craft beer was still gaining traction. Even in an early-adopting beer city like Seattle, it was among the city’s first truly craft-focused beer bars offering a menu dedicated to local and regional beers served alongside some of the best beers from around the world, with a special bend toward Belgian beers. The menu was deep: 64 craft beers on tap and over 400 in bottles.

“In the early years, we had days with people three deep at the bar because they just had to have that special release beer, and our festivals caused lines around the block. The energy was high, we were at the forefront of the beer scene, and it was a lot of fun for our customers and our staff. The friendships we created will last forever!” – Nat Pellman, General Manager, Brouwer’s Cafe.


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Brouwer’s Cafe regularly collaborated with local breweries to help introduce those breweries to the world and to express a shared love of beer. It also worked to help turn peoples’ love of beer into support for artists and non-profits. For example, most recently, its Drunk Herstory event featured some amazing women from the beer industry in an entertaining show that raised money for Planned Parenthood.

Group of women on stage.
Drunk Herstory cast.

Beyond the beer, Brouwer’s Cafe was also recognized for its food. Head Chef Bob Tague spent the last 17 years creating elevated pub food to pair with all that beer. For many diners, Brouwer’s Cafe introduced Belgian-style classics such as pommes frites (true Belgian fried potatoes), and stoofvlees (a thick Belgian stew served on Frites).


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The press release announcing the closure did not mention any specific reasons. Every restaurant and bar is facing challenges these days. Those challenges are well-documented. Some folks seem convinced that the challenges are unique to Seattle. While the city does present some unique hurdles, the idea that only restaurants and bars in Seattle are struggling is not true.

For craft beer specifically, there are additional challenges. Those challenges involve the changing demographics of beer drinkers, for instance, and the decreasing number of craft beer drinkers who view craft beer as something worthy of a special occasion. The “energy” that Nat Pellman mentions in the quote above has faded. Fewer beer drinkers focus their attention exclusively on beer. More consumers abstain from alcohol entirely. Younger beer consumers are a new breed; the craft beer industry needs to figure out how to pique their interest, capture their attention, and retain them as loyal customers.

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None of these things were cited specifically as the reason for the closure of Brouwer’s Cafe, but it is easy to imagine how any or all of those factors might have contributed to the decision. It was a hell of a run. Brouwer’s Cafe will be sorely missed and very fondly remembered. For many, it’s hard to imagine Seattle without Brouwer’s. (Images above from social media.)

“We would like to thank all the Breweries, the Washington Brewers Guild, the good people of Fremont, and all our guests near and far, the P.N.C. and most of all our staff from past and present for your dedication to the pursuit of fine beer and bringing joy to others. Love and respect” – Matt VandenBerghe, Owner, Brouwer’s Cafe.

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