What began as a slow ascent along dirt paths transitioned into loose, jagged rocks, constantly shifting underneath my feet. The white stone, broken and smoothed by years of Pacific Northwest weather, heeded a constant eye, but my attention was drawn upward to trees all around me, standing about 100 feet tall.
Was it the setting or the simply hop-like smell?
Five times I’ve traveled to Seattle, and every visit helps me feel more connected to the space, from the touristy Pike Place Market (for better or worse) to the mountains jutting out of the earth overlooking the Puget Sound and elsewhere. Like many cities I’ve come to know, what started as a place to find great beer has moved beyond its singular purpose. It’s become a destination to seek experiences and meet people.
It’s an important transition that we should feel lucky to have, even if it’s necessary to actively remind yourself the need to step away from a glass of beer and turn attention to what’s around you … like the shimmering water of the Snow Lake basin.
Beer is inherently social, grown from historic drinking halls and pubs to our local taprooms of today. But sometimes I fear I overlook that. While in some new locale I become stuck within myself, focusing on a beer or a book or – heaven forbid – my smartphone without looking at what’s around me.
But sometimes it’s better to ignore the beer (gasp!) and focus on everything else.
Like the atmosphere of Elysian Brewery’s Great Pumpkin Beer Festival, which served nearly 100 different pumpkin beers, but offered another slice of the personality of Seattle, even if that’s represented by a roughly 10-person marching band with lots of denim, sweat and a touch of body odor.
Like Zack, a Seattle native who’s lived in or around the city for all 27 years of his life. It’s easy to tell, with his friendly demeanor and authentic Seattle Seahawks jersey, complete with a patch indicating the team’s 2013 Super Bowl win. It’s a perk only allotted to those willing to fork out the extra money, charging an extra $150 just to show off one’s pride for a historic moment in the city’s sports memory.
“So when are you moving to Seattle?” he asked multiple times, in spite of confirmation I’m only there for a visit.
Or like Ashley, Zack’s friend who’s lived in the city for just one month by way of Washington, D.C. and Boston before that. It’s the first place she’s felt truly comfortable, she tells me.
“There’s just something about it being a city without it feeling that way,” she said.
We met while sipping Dark o’ the Moon pumpkin stout at the pumpkin beer event. Our conversation lasted about 10 minutes, but is somewhat indicative of what you’ll realize by experiencing the city.
People want you to enjoy Seattle, which means they also want you to enjoy their beer. From four-ounce samples at festivals to flights at a local brewery or customizable collections at Chuck’s Capital District Hop Shop, which I’m told is the newest, premiere spot for drinking Washington beer. This suggestion rings true at 5 p.m. on a Saturday, when the 3,100-square-feet space is packed with people at every table, sharing bottles or clinking glasses in celebration of their time together.
A beer is made all the better by company, but more complex when paired with a setting.
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac