after4ever (230) Brier, Washington | March 31, 2014
64 AMBIANCE 3/5 SERVICE 9/10 SELECTION 8/15 FOOD 4/10 VALUE 8/10 OVERALL 12/20
This is a small brewery with a tasting room that feels like it’s still kinda in the start-up phase. These guys have been around for almost a decade, but they’re changed their name twice--you might remember them as Laughing Buddha, or as Trade Route. They’ve always been interesting, and I don’t know the details about their latest incarnation as NW. But they’re still keepin’ on.
You have a bit of a drive ahead of you, depending where you’re coming from. They’re in Pacific, which is about as far south as Federal Way, though it’s down in the valley a couple miles from I-5. About 30 minutes from Seattle, total. You work your way into a series of low warehouses off one of the main cross-valley roads. Most of the warehouses appear to be light industrial or storage, but these kinds of buildings are great for production breweries--NW is certainly not the only one housed this way. There’s plenty of parking, especially on weekends (they seemed to be the only place open in the business park). You can’t really see the joint from the road, but there’s a huge flashing red OPEN sign in the window, which you can see from the parking lot. By this point, you probably know you’re on way here, but the giant sign is a nice confirmation.
Inside, there’s a long bar with plenty of stools, and a couple dozen tables with chairs. There are coolers in back with bottles to go, and there’s a single restroom with a huge utility sink in it. Across from the bar, there’s a low partition wall topped with glass. Though this, you can see half a dozen brite tanks and the rest of the brewhouse, right there. Presumably you could come here during the week and watch them work, right from your table.
Everything here is nice enough for sure, but there are plenty of reminders you’re in a working brewery. I love that, personally. You can bring anyone here, though--it’s not an industrial setting, even though they make the taproom just nice enough without overly investing in it. It’s a working setting.
They make their own lineup of beers, and they also tap and bottle the old Three Skulls line of beers. Baron used to make the Three Skulls stuff, but Three Skulls now seems to be a part of the NW beer family. You might have tried Hoppy Bitch on tap in Seattle from these guys, maybe seen the bottles. Joker and some of their other beers make it out of the valley sometimes too. The beers here are hit and miss, but they have some good ones--Hoppy is a solid PNW IPA, heavy on the resiny bitterness.
The food is minimal. Free popcorn, and they have chips and salsa. You can bring in outside food if you like. The service is super nice, they answer questions and make sure to give you full pours. Very charming staff. They do a fair bit of growler and to-go business, and have a flat screen tuned to the game if you want to hang out and tip a glass or two. For the beer hunter, I’d say come on in and have a sampler.