5 Favorites: Cruise-in Breweries

This is the third in an ongoing series called “5 Favorites” in which we’ll explore a range of topics such as memorable anchorages, marina showers, fun things to do, ports, beautiful places, days of sailing, meals to make aboard and much more. The aim is not to make a list of “bests” or to rank things, but rather to provide an entertaining and insightful look at what we’ve enjoyed while cruising the Pacific Northwest. And since every boater has their favorites, we invite you to share yours in the comments below. 

One of our favorite parts of cruising Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, among many other things, is stopping in port for a pint beer at one of the many local breweries and taking a full growler home with us.

Our trusty growler adorned in stickers from many breweries.

Our trusty growler adorned in stickers from many breweries.

But because our region is so rich in delicious breweries to visit, this list was quite difficult to put together. How could I choose just five? Do I include breweries in Astoria and other stops during our voyage up the Columbia River? What about Seattle?

Well, I intentionally left out Seattle because from any marina in the city you can walk to five different favorite breweries or more. And I decided to just stick with the greater Puget Sound/Salish Sea basin instead of delving into the Columbia River … yet.

In no particular order, here are five of our favorite walkable breweries from a marina or anchorage.

Tofino Brewing Company — Tofino, British Columbia: Tofino itself is a paradise of sorts. Gateway to beautiful and wild Clayoquot Sound, its beaches are stunning and the backdrop of green mountains is awe-inspiring. We loved our stop there last summer, and between the surfing and ice cream tasting, we didn’t want to leave. But Tofino Brewing also ticked a notch in our belt as a great place to stop for a pint and to fill our growler.

Tofino Brewing is an easy walk from Fourth Street Public Dock.

Tofino Brewing is an easy walk from Fourth Street Public Dock.

Located off Pacific Rim Highway about a 20 minute walk from the public marina, the stroll to Tofino Brewing is easily done on a multi-use path for bikers, walkers and skateboarders. There is also a bus that runs every 20 minutes. From town, hang a right on Industrial Way and the brewery is on your left. The tasting room is small yet accommodating and the staff is exceptionally welcoming. Dog and kid friendly, you can snack on pub mix while you sample tasters of lager, stout, porter, IPAs and more. Tip: Try the tasty Kelp Stout.

7 Seas Brewing — Gig Harbor, Washington: One of the best protected harbors in the Pacific Northwest accompanied by one of the most quaint harbor towns, Gig Harbor is a favorite year-round stop of ours. Walk the waterfront, stroll through shops and then make sure to take the short trek up to Judson Street and 7 Seas Brewing for a few delicious beers.

7 Seas Brewing is also conveniently located across the street from West Marine.

7 Seas Brewing is also conveniently located across the street from West Marine.

The 7 Seas tap room is a large, open indoor/outdoor space that is a family-friendly and relaxing place to meet friends or make new ones. You can bring your own food to enjoy with your beer or try 7 Seas’ food truck, The Galley (Thurs-Sun). We also have a special place in our heart for this one because our son, Porter (not named after the beer), took his first steps here. Tip: Arrive early on a sunny day, grab a 253 Pilsner and have a seat on the patio.

Chuckanut Brewery — Bellingham, Washington: Good old B-Ham is home to some of our favorite breweries in the PNW, but Chuckanut Brewery is the one we frequent most when mooring at Squalicum Harbor Marina. An easy 10 to 15 walk from the guest moorage and you’re in Old Town Bellingham, sitting at a table ready to taste their award winning brews and scrumptious, locally sourced food.

If you need anything for the boat, you'll pass Redden Marine on your way to and from Chuckanut Brewing.

If you need anything for the boat, you’ll pass Redden Marine on your way to and from Chuckanut Brewing.

What makes Chuckanut unique in the local beer scene is their quality selection of European style craft brews. Owners Mari and Will Kemper have a varied international brewing background and it shows in their beer and food. Combine those key staples with an amiable staff and neighborhood feel, and there’s a lot to like about this spot. Tip: Get an order of the German Beer Pretzels and wash it down with a refreshing Kolsch.

Valholl Brewing — Poulsbo, Washington: Valholl Brewing has been one of our favorite cruise-in breweries since they were located outside of Poulsbo in a small commercial space. But since moving into their location in downtown “Little Norway”, they’ve really come into their own. A short walk from the dinghy dock or transient moorage at the Port of Poulsbo will get you up to their 3rd Ave tasting room and, similar to Gig Harbor, there are a lot of shops to peruse along the way.

Valholl Brewing is centrally located in the heart of Poulsbo.

Valholl Brewing is centrally located in the heart of Poulsbo.

A no frills brewery, this is the type of place where you can watch a Seahawks game on Sunday, eat peanuts and toss the shells on the floor, and sit outside on a nice day. Their beer selection is always superb and the wooden, homey ambiance of the tap room fits perfectly with the folks who drink here. Tip: Grab a cup of peanuts and an IPA and enjoy!

4 Mile Brewing Company — Victoria, British Columbia: Anchored in Victoria’s Esquimalt Harbour, we landed the kayak at Portage Park and meandered our way through leafy trails. Just outside the northwest corner of the park we happened upon a building that seemed half English home, half restaurant. It turns out, the top section is a restaurant and the bottom is a pub and brewery — 4 Mile Brewing.

Several anchoring options are available in the harbor.

Several anchoring options are available in the harbor.

Mouthwatering appetizers and entrees greet you at the restaurant and the authentic English pub below gives off an aura that harkens to days gone by — which makes sense, as the Four Mile House claims to have been serving pints of beer since the late 1800’s. Not many cruisers anchor in Esquimalt Harbour and even fewer take the trip to the brewery, but the beer is worth the minimal effort. Tip: The flower-lined patio is the perfect place to have a brew and some food on a nice day. And if it’s rainy, belly up to the bar.

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