This article appears in print in the July 2018 issue as the cover story. Click here to subscribe.
Washington is now home to nearly 400 breweries. The Washington Beer Commission says that over the past year about 1.2 new breweries opened each month, so it seemed reasonable to confine our search for the tastiest beers to just those brewed in the Evergreen State.
We broke things down into two categories:
We started the quest for the best beers by asking a group of 40 local beer experts—bar owners, bottle shop owners, nationally accredited beer judges, beer writers and so on—to anonymously nominate three beers in each of nine different style categories: pilsner, amber, saison, pale ale, IPA, Imperial IPA, Northeast IPA, porter and stout. We only considered reasonably obtainable beers brewed in Washington, to avoid directing readers to one-off, small-batch or otherwise unobtainable beers. In each of the nine categories, the most highly nominated beers advanced to the finals.
The judges scored the beers blindly, without knowing which beers they were drinking, based on criteria such as aroma, appearance, flavor and overall impression, with each beer earning a total possible score of 20 points from each judge. Those scores were tallied, and we crowned the highest-scoring beer in each category as the champion. The nominees and winners are independent of whether they advertise with Seattle magazine or the Washington Beer Blog.
Brewery of the Year winner was selected by beer expert and story writer Kendall Jones, also author of the Washington Beer Blog. His selection was based on the brewery’s performance in this year’s Best of Beer judging, overall consistency and quality of beer, popularity and reputation. He also oversaw the entire beer judging process but his opinions had no bearing on the nominations or the final results.
Marley Rall (owner, The Brewmaster’s Taproom, Renton)
Jon Olken (owner, Full Throttle Bottles, Georgetown)
Mark Krukar (organizer, Phinney Neighborhood Association beer events, nationally accredited beer judge)
Paul Orchard (beer blogger, Northwest Beer Guide, and a nationally accredited beer judge)
Michael Dieterle (beer blogger, Craft Beer Monger, and a nationally accredited beer judge)
Tommy Brooks (beverage director, Zeeks Pizza)
Brooks Riendl (beer research coordinator, Zeeks Pizza, multiple locations)
Ellen Kelly (owner, The Noble Fir, Ballard)
Annie Johnson (master brewer, PicoBrew, Wallingford)