This Saturday, Big Time Brewery marks a milestone in Seattle beer history

roy and rick mclaughlin, big time brewery.


This Saturday, Big Time Brewery and Alehouse marks its 33rd anniversary. You’re invited to join the celebration by enjoying a special, commemorative beer.

Whenever Big Time Brewery marks a milestone, it packs some historical significance. Roll the clock back to 1932 and you’d find beer lovers around Seattle celebrating the end of Washington state’s Prohibition laws. Happy days were here again, but it would take another 56 years for a brewpub to open in Seattle. In 1988, Big Time Brewery and Alehouse opened in the University District, the first brewpub to operate in Seattle since the enactment of Washington state’s Prohibition in 1916*.

big time brewery owner, rick.
Rick, the owner, welcomes you to Seattle’s original brewpub. Images swiped from social media.

Big Time Brewery and Alehouse endures as the city’s oldest brewpub and longest-running independent brewery. A lot has changed –the menu, the staff, the regulars, the beers, the owners– but the pub is now exactly what it has always been: a friendly and convivial place to enjoy a meal and a great, house-brewed beer.


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Today, the Big Time is helmed by the McLaughlin brothers (pictured at top). Roy brews the beer and Rick runs the show. When the opportunity arose seven years ago, a former Big Time bartender, Rick McLaughlin, cobbled together the funds and financing needed to purchase the brewpub. Seattle’s most-venerated beer institution could not be in more capable hands. The place is looking better than ever, they’ve added a beer garden out front, and Roy’s beers are outstanding.

This Saturday, Big Time Brewery and Alehouse celebrates its 33rd anniversary. This milestone is certainly worthy of celebration. “It’s our anniversary, We are turning 33 years old!” said a statement on social media. “Come help us celebrate and have a glass or bottle to go of our anniversary beer! It’s called “RWBOWB” which stands for, Rye Whiskey Barrel aged Old Wooly Barleywine.”


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big time brewery old wooly.

The beer will be on tap at the brewpub and available to go in bottles. (Limited supply of bottles; you know what to do.) Who knows what other gems might find their way out of the cellar?

“It is both humbling and amazing that we have had the privilege of serving you all amazing beers and delicious food for so long. Please join us on December 11th from noon to midnight and cheers with us. There will be a couple of surprise kegs of beer from our cellar on tap as well.”


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From My Own Perspective

Rarely do I possess a clear, precise recollection of exactly where I was so many years ago. Big Time Brewery opened on December 8, 1988. I was a much younger man, but I was at the Big Time on December 9th. One-third of a century later, I still lament missing opening day.

Here’s something I wrote that was published in Seattle magazine back in 2015.

“By 1988, Seattle had secured a reputation as one of the nation’s first hotbeds for craft beer, but the city curiously lacked a brewpub (a pub that brews its own beer). This oversight inspired brothers John and Reid Martin, who owned a brewpub in Berkeley, California, to open one here: Big Time Brewery and Alehouse on University Avenue was Seattle’s first post-Prohibition brewpub. Since that time, the venerable watering hole has witnessed a continuous cycle of matriculation and graduation, with patrons, staff and even the owners changing as the semesters and years rolled by. What remains immutable is the pub itself.”

Happy Anniversary to Big Time Brewery and Alehouse. Seattle would not be the same without you. Here’s to another 33 years, at least!

*In Washington, Prohibition was enacted in 1916 and the laws were repealed in 1932. You’ll find more info about the history of Prohibition in Washington state here.



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7 thoughts on “This Saturday, Big Time Brewery marks a milestone in Seattle beer history

  1. My first brewpub! I was living in the U. District when it opened. The College Inn Pub down the hill was my first ale experience and then the Big Time was my first really fresh brewed beer experience ! My life was never the same again.

  2. From the source that I cited in the story:

    “In January 1932, State Initiative Measure No. 61, to repeal all Washington’s liquor laws except the prohibition of sale to minors, was filed in Olympia. Before the end of that month, more than 20,000 voters had signed petitions supporting the initiative’s place on the ballot. On November 8, 1932, voters passed Initiative No. 61 by a 62 percent margin (341,450 for, 208,211 against), sending Washington’s Congressional Representatives a clear mandate to support the repeal of the Volstead Act.”

    1. Ah, so by celebrating the end of beer laws you didn’t mean actually drinking any beer (which didn’t happen until the following year). Thanks for the clarification.

  3. We feel so privileged to have a big time alumni as our head brewer here. Kevin Forhan still reminisces fondly about his days there, and our two breweries have traded back and forth essentials over the years in the spirit of Seattle craft beer culture. 🍺

  4. I turned 21 in August of 1989 and then discovered Full Sail Amber Ale and I suddenly realized what I had been searching for during all of my formative beer-drinking years. By the end of 1990, I had “discovered” Big Time Brewery (Full Sail was too far away for my $200 car) and started going on weekends pretty regularly. I had known about barleywine by that time – having had some imported ones from Larry’s Market (R.I.P.) and once my friends and I tried “Old Wooly” we were hooked! We’d spend a Saturday night playing shuffleboard (one of the very few in the city at that time!) and having pitchers of Old Wooly (yes, they sold it in pitchers!) and Atlas Amber. Happy Anniversary, Big Time Brewing and I’ll be up soon for a barrel-aged O.W.!

  5. Started having lunch there every Saturday in ‘90. Mark Burr was behind the bar in his crisp, white shirt and tie. I can still see all the clipped off pieces of his ties tacked to the bar!

  6. Congratulations! I’m glad it’s still going strong. I was there opening day all those years ago – Hell, Rick Warner and I made the beer. If I was a little closer I’d pop in for one.

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