20 West Coast Craft Breweries You Must Visit!
Here in the Pacific Northwest, September and October is fresh hop season, and it’s the perfect time of year to grab a pint at your local brewery. We get spoiled with great beer on the west coast, in part because 75% of all the hops grown in the United States come from Yakima Valley, WA. If you’re a travel nurse who also loves good craft beer, you have to experience the west coast brewery scene! There are literally hundreds of great west coast craft breweries throughout Washington, Oregon, and California, but we’ve narrowed it down to 20 of our favorites. Join us on a journey through west coast beervana!
1. Wander Brewing
Location: Bellingham, WA
We start our brewery tour in Bellingham, WA, an hour south of the Canadian border. Wander Brewing opened their doors in 2013, and quickly established themselves in a crowded field of Bellingham breweries. In 2018, Wander won Washington’s Large Brewery of the Year at the Washington Beer Awards. Wander has an eclectic menu of award-winning beers, including the Doglost Pilsner, which won a gold medal from the North American Brewers Association in 2018. Their IPAs are also quite popular, particularly the Shoe Toss IPA, and the coveted Boot Toss Triple IPA. They also specialize in barrel-aged beers such as the Wild Warehouse Barrel-Aged Farmhouse Ale, which earned multiple gold medals in recent years.
2. Chuckanut Brewery
Location: Bellingham, WA
One of Bellingham’s original brewpubs, Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen was founded in 2008, and helped put Bellingham on the craft beer map. It didn’t take long for Chuckanut to assert themselves nationally, winning Small Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival in 2009, and again in 2011. Since then, they’ve continued to rake in the awards. Their menu is stacked with gold medal winners like the Vienna Lager, the Chuckanut Kolsch, and the Chuckanut Pilsner. They also have a full service kitchen, which offers a diverse menu including house-made clam chowder, pizza, and calzones.
3. Kulshan Brewing Company
Location: Bellingham, WA
Rounding out the Bellingham breweries is Kulshan Brewing Company, which opened in 2012. Kulshan is definitely the place to go if you like IPAs, with 7 unique IPAs currently on tap. Some of their staple beers include the Bastard Kat IPA, which won a silver medal at the Australian International Beer Awards in 2016 and 2017, as well as the Sunnyland IPA, which won gold at the LA International Beer Awards in 2017. They’ve also won numerous awards for their Gose and Saison style beers. Their outdoor beer gardens are cherished by the Bellingham community, especially during the summer months.
4. Fremont Brewing
Location: Seattle, WA
Heading south to Seattle, our first pit stop is Fremont Brewing, a big part of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood since 2009. Fremont is known for their commitment to the local community and environmental sustainability. In 2018, they won the award for Green/Sustainable Business of the Year by the Greater Seattle Business Association. They tend to focus on using local organic hops, and their beer has had good success regionally. One of the crowd favorites is the Lush IPA, which won a certificate of excellence from the Brussels Beer Challenge in 2018. The brewery is one of the main attractions in the Fremont neighborhood, and you can see partial views of Lake Union from their urban beer garden.
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5. Georgetown Brewing Company
Location: Seattle, WA
The south Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown is where our next brewery calls home. Georgetown Brewing Company opened in 2002, with the dream of making a uniquely Washington Pale Ale. Since then, they have expanded from a small draft-only brewery into one of the largest independent breweries in the state. They are consistent medal winners, and you can find their beers in countless restaurants and bars throughout western Washington. Georgetown’s most popular beers include Manny’s Pale Ale, Roger’s Pilsner, and two iconic IPAs: the Lucille, and the gold-medal-winning Bodhizafa.
6. Elysian Brewing Company
Location: Seattle, WA
Our next brewery takes us into the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Elysian Brewing Company opened their doors in 1996, and have grown into one of the most successful breweries in the Seattle area. They’ve won Large Brewpub of the Year three times at the Great American Beer Festival, and opened up a bar/restaurant near Century Link Field, as well as a taproom at their production facility. Elysian is known for experimenting with new ingredients and unique flavors. One of their traditional beers is a seasonal pumpkin ale called Night Owl, and every year they host the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival. Other favorites include the Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale, and their hard hitting IPAs: The Immortal, and Space Dust.
7. Pike Brewing Company
Location: Seattle, WA
Our last brewery in Seattle takes us to the iconic Pike Place Market. Pike Brewing Company celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2019, and have remained competitive in the growing Seattle craft beer market. The founder, Charles Finkel, wanted to focus on brewing with the European flavors he had come to love while traveling abroad in places like England, Belgium, and Germany. As a result, some of the best brews at Pike are European styled beers, like the Belgian-inspired Monk’s Uncle Tripel, and the Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale. The brewery also has two restaurants and a microbrewery museum all under one roof.
8. Bale Breaker Brewing Company
Location: Yakima, WA
We head east over the Cascade Mountains to Yakima, where most of Washington State’s hops are grown. Bale Breaker Brewing Company was established in 2013, but the family who started the brewery has been harvesting hops on their farm since 1932. Bale Breaker prides themselves on being a family run brewery, and their goal is to provide a “farm-to-glass” experience for their patrons. All of the hops used in Bale Breaker’s beers are from the family farm, and they’re involved in the entire process, from planting to distribution. You can find their beers throughout Western Washington and Northern Oregon. Their menu staples include the Field 41 Pale Ale, Bottumcutter Imperial IPA, and the flagship Topcutter IPA.
9. 7 Seas Brewing
Location: Gig Harbor, WA
Our last brewery in Washington State brings us to Gig Harbor, WA, which is west of Tacoma across Puget Sound. 7 Seas Brewing was founded in 2009 by two guys who love the outdoors, and their local community. They don’t focus on winning awards, or brewing cookie-cutter styles of beer. Instead, they like to innovate and put their own spin on their recipes. They have a knack for brewing hazy beers, offering a hazy IPA, and an imperial hazy IPA as part of their main lineup. If you stop by the original taproom, or the Tacoma taproom located in a historic brewery, there’s a good chance they’ll have something completely new for you to try.
10. Breakside Brewery
Location: Portland, OR
For our next brewery, we’re crossing the Columbia River and heading into Oregon. Breakside Brewery opened in 2010, and in a city with over 50 craft breweries, they’ve become one of Portland’s most beloved. Breakside is known for their portfolio of award-winning beers, and they’ve won brewery of the year two years in a row at the Oregon Beer Awards. Virtually every beer they serve has won an award at some point in the last 10 years, but some of the best of the bunch are the Breakside IPA and the Wanderlust IPA, with 14 gold medals between the two! They’ve expanded to three locations in the Portland metro area, and two of their locations have a full kitchen.
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11. Pelican Brewing Company
Location: Pacific City, OR
We head out to Pacific City for our next stop, located on the Oregon Coast about 2 hours from Portland. Pelican Brewing Company was founded in 1996, and they’re the only brewery on this list with beach access. This brewery is all about the beach life, and their love of the sea is reflected in their beer. They’re passionate about providing quality craft beer to the coastal towns they call home, with three locations dispersed along the Oregon Coast. Some of the crowd favorites from their menu include the Updrift IPA, the Kiwanda Cream Ale, and Beak Breaker Double IPA.
12. Deschutes Brewery
Location: Bend, OR
From Pacific City, we head southeast to Bend, OR, another city that has established themselves as a craft brew mecca. There’s not a lot of places on the west coast where you have so many highly regarded breweries all within 2 miles of each other. Deschutes Brewery started the craft beer revolution in Bend when they opened their public house in 1988. Back then, many people in Bend thought opening a brewpub was a crazy idea, but founder Gary Fish persevered. Today, they’ve grown into one of Oregon’s largest craft breweries and their beer can be found in 32 states. Chances are you’ve already tried one of their heavily marketed beers, such as the Mirror Pond Pale Ale, the Black Butte Porter, or the popular Fresh Squeezed IPA.
13. Boneyard Brewing
Location: Bend, OR
Less than a mile from Deschutes, Boneyard Brewing has been serving up quality pints since 2010. Boneyard Brewing was born when the founder started collecting old brewing equipment from various places. They used this “boneyard” of second hand equipment to brew the first batch of Boneyard beer, and haven’t looked back since. They’ve developed a loyal cult following here in Bend, and are continuing to expand. They just opened a new brewpub with a full food menu, in addition to their taproom at their brewery. Hop heads will certainly enjoy Boneyard, as they tend to brew beers with high IBUs. The RPM IPA and the Hop Venom Double IPA are a must-try for any IPA lovers.
14. Crux Fermentation Project
Location: Bend, OR
Five minutes away from Boneyard, Crux Fermentation Project opened in 2012. They’re not your typical brewery, as evidenced by their unique name. Crux believes in non-traditional brewing methods like decoction mashing, open fermentation, and barrel aging. Several beers on their menu are experimental concoctions like the Hybrid Milk Stout, or the Rhymes with Rita Salted Lime Gose. They’ve also released numerous barrel aged varieties over the years including a wheatwine, a blackberry sour, and a rustic saison. If you visit the brewery, you’ll likely see something on the menu completely foreign to you. Plus, you’ll see stunning views of the Cascades on a clear day.
15. Ninkasi Brewing Company
Location: Eugene, OR
Our last brewery in Oregon takes us south to Eugene, OR. Ninkasi Brewing Company was established in 2006, and named after the ancient Sumerian god of fermentation. Since then, they’ve grown from a 15 barrel brewhouse in a German restaurant, to become the 35th largest craft brewer in the United States. The first batch of beer they brewed was the Total Domination IPA, which became their flagship recipe. In 2011, Total Domination was the top selling IPA in Oregon, and today, you can find it in countless stores and restaurants throughout the West Coast. Other favorites include the Prismatic Juicy IPA, the Tricerahops Double IPA, and the Dawn of the Red IPA.
16. Bear Republic Brewing Company
Location: Cloverdale, CA
Our journey continues south into California’s wine country, to the small town of Cloverdale, CA. In this region, breweries are often overshadowed by wineries, but Bear Republic Brewing Company has managed to make a name for themselves. Opened in 1995, they are currently ranked as the 42nd largest craft brewery in the nation, and their beer is among the most highly regarded in the country. The Racer 5 IPA has become their signature beer, winning numerous gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival. They’ve also recently opened a brewpub on Roberts Lake in Rohnert Park, with nice lakeside patio seating.
17. Russian River Brewing Company
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Just 30 minutes south in the city of Santa Rosa, Russian River Brewing Company was founded in 1997, and they focus on super hoppy and Belgian-inspired brews. Brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo was the company’s first employee. and is still with the brewery today. Vinnie won Brewmaster of the Year twice at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup, and Russian River continues to stay ahead of the curve. Their most popular beer would have to be the coveted Pliny The Elder Double IPA. First brewed in 1999, it was one of the first commercially brewed Double IPAs in America, and has won countless awards.
18. Anchor Brewing Company
Location: San Francisco, CA
We head south to San Fran where the oldest brewery on our list is located. Anchor Brewing Company started in 1896, when a German brewer and his son-in-law purchased a saloon in San Francisco’s booming wharf district. Sadly, the original owner and his son-in-law died within 10 years. Over the next 100 years, the brewery went through several owners and location changes, surviving major challenges like Prohibition and The Great Depression. Today, the brewery is considered a pioneer of the craft beer revolution, and they continue to be one of San Francisco’s favorites. Lagers are their specialty, such as the Steam Beer, or the California Lager.
19. Stone Brewing
Location: Escondido, CA
We leave the Bay Area and venture to Southern California for our next stop on the brewery tour. Stone Brewing has grown immensely since they were founded in 1996. Today, Stone is the 9th largest craft beer producer in the U.S., and their beer can be found in all 50 states, and 40 countries around the world. A pioneer of the West Coast IPA, it’s no surprise that IPA’s are their bread and butter. Their original IPA, and the Delicious IPA are always in high demand. The secret to Stone’s success is their attention-to-detail, and using only the finest ingredients for their beers. They’ve also retooled their business model, expanding into restaurants and distribution for other brands under their umbrella. Currently, they have two full service pubs, seven taprooms, and a second production facility in Richmond, VA.
20. Ballast Point Brewing Company
Location: San Diego, CA
We’ve reached the end of our west coast craft breweries tour, and our final brewery calls San Diego home. Ballast Point Brewing Company started as a collection of San Diego home brewers in 1996, and they’ve quickly become one of So. Cal’s premier breweries. In 2010, they won Best Small Brewery at the World Beer Cup, and they’re flagship Sculpin IPA has won 34 medals. Today, they’ve expanded from San Diego to Los Angeles, and even as far away as Chicago! Ballast Point also takes great pride in the artwork they use for their labels and packaging. Local artist Paul Elder has been designing artwork almost since the beginning, and his art adds a unique flair to the labels and packaging.
So go on, have a pint…or two! 🙂
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