This is an adventure I particularly enjoy undertaking when I have the time. Join me, and lets roll down through Georgetown and over to the Green River Trail where we will first hit BJ’s Brewhouse in the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, then continue down the trail to Airway’s Brewing in Kent, and go all the way down to Trade Route Brewing in Pacific. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the miles of this ride are on a separated trail. Cool, eh? Now, I have only made the trek down to Trade Route once, and I don’t think I will again. There is just not enough about Trade Route Brewing’s beers or their tasting room that makes the long trip worth it. Well, the trip back is what gets you. Gets boring. So really this is about the adventure to BJ’s and Airways, but I wanted to chronicle the one time I added the trip down to Pacific, WA as well. Here we go:

Many of you may be saying “BJ’s? Why BJ’s? Isn’t that a chain brewery in a shopping mall?” Yes, it is. And I like it. It’s difficult to articulate why I like BJ’s. It is certainly quite different from many of the small, bare bones, industrial micro and nano breweries I visit. It is not housed in a warehouse. You are not sipping beer in the same open space in which it was brewed on equipment just feet away. It is not uniquely Seattle, and it’s not neighborhoody. I just have a place in my beery heart for this type of establishment. Hey, I don’t discriminate. Understand, however, that I have no use for the restaurant aspect of BJ’s. Nor do I particularly enjoy the slick, quasi-upscale atmosphere. In fact, I feel a bit uncomfortable walking in in my cargo shorts and tshirt (or bright yellow jacket) and setting down my helmet on the bar. I’m a bit underdressed, I feel. On the other hand, not every patron of BJ’s – many of them on a mall shopping trip at the time – is much better dressed than me. No, it’s not the restaurant I’m there for. I sit at the bar and I’m there for – surprise! – the beer. Perhaps I hold a fond association with BJ’s due to a pleasant experience my first time at their Tucson location. I don’t know. Basically, I make BJ’s about me. I make it what I want it to be, and that’s all that matters to me. Oh yeah, and I get good service there. More on that later.

Starting from the ferry terminal, we head south. Our target is Airport Way.

Prior to the bridge being out, I had a way of getting to Airport Way that involved going east on Jackson and turing right at 5th, which takes you over to an intersection at Dearborn and Seattle Blvd (I didn’t know the names of those roads until I google mapped them a minute ago. I just know this route to Airport Way). Turning left, you see the sign for Airport Way which veers off to the right.

BUT, since the bridge is out on Airport Way just before you get into the cool old main drag of Georgetown, I just use 1st Ave and take a straight shot south all the way to Lucile St where I make a left and head east over to Airport Way. Riding on 1st Ave here is not relaxing. You don’t have a bike lane or a shoulder, but you do have “sharrows” symbols in the lanes. It’s not bad, really. Most drivers seem to be expecting bikes here. The ride is pretty fast with opportunity to get up some good speed between stop lights.

It bears mentioning here that as you leave Pioneer Square (a district/neighborhood in the south Downtown area) you will pass Elysian Brewing’s location called Elysian Fields on the left. It’s easy to miss this place, as it occupies a section of a large old brick building with the name along the front, and maybe a sandwich board on the sidewalk. Those of you who live in the area know it is named so because of the two major sports fields nearby: Century Link Field (recently changed from Quest Field), and Safeco Field. The Seahawks and the Mariners play in these two stadiums. Elysian Brewing is one of the PNW’s most successful micro breweries, having three locations in Seattle, in addition to a newer production facility in the Georgetown neighborhood (we will pass right by this in a few minutes). Elysian distributes fairly widely and has an imaginative, mythological theme as well as a diverse, prolific array of creative mostly delicious beers. The problem? It’s hard to have a good experience at any of their three locations – at least that’s been my experience. They are almost always quite busy and the vibe is difficult unless you fit a certain mold. There’s not much that differentiates the employees from the clientele and as such you can expect a certain attitude. Let’s just say not a “how may I help you?” experience. What’s more, the Elysian Fields location, I learned after several experiences of finding them closed for business, has a variable closing time. If it’s not busy, they close up shop quite early. It’s most busy there when there is some sort of sporting event going on nearby. So I choose my visits to Elysian carefully, and I have not returned to their Tangletown location since a pathetic experience there my first time.

Also worth mentioning is that you will ride right past Pyramid Brewing soon after you ride past Elysian. It is directly across the street from Safeco Field. Here is another place you may want to avoid when there are games going on – especially Mariner’s games, when beers are served in plastic cups. You get the picture. I like Pyramid’s beers. They enjoy even broader success and distribution than does Elysian. In fact though Seattle is their original location, they now have a location in Portland and in Berkely. I could be wrong here, but I don’t think they brew beer any longer at this Seattle location, hence the name “Alehouse.” If you live in Western Washington, you probably know that Pyramid’s beers help form the foundation of the craft beer section in all grocery stores, quickie marts and drug stores. Due to their being one of the brands most often on sale, they also form the foundation of my beer stash at home. I do like their brews. I must say, however, (at the risk of dishing out too much criticism in one blog post – hey I just gotta be honest with you!) that I really never go in to Pyramid Alehouse anymore. Aside from the aforementioned busy-ness, their prices are a problem. We’re talking a starting price on pints of some $6. So Pyramid, I will keep buying your beer in the store, thanks.

We are continuing south on 1st St and entering the district known as SoDo (for south of downtown).

Not too far after you go under the West Seattle Bridge, and just before you go onto the overpass that takes you over all the railroad tracks, Schooner Exact Brewing is on the right. It is set back well off the roadway. If they’re open, you’ll see the growler-shaped sandwich boards out on both sides of 1st Ave. The only thing written on the sandwich boards: “beer.” Schooner has been one of my favorite places to visit, though that is changing a bit recently with their expansion into the “pub” business. This is essentially the addition of a kitchen and dining space. Their beer prices have increased slightly along with this change. This increase is seen mostly in their to-go sales. A growler fill during “Happy Days”, which used to be all day Thursday and Sunday, used to be an awesome $6, and is now a good $8. What’s more, Happy Days are no more, having been reduced to typical happy hours. Schooner, I still gotta love ya, I guess. Your IPA is a favorite of mine, as is your winter ale, Hoppy Holidays, and your holiday season release, Hoppy the Woodsman (whiskey barrel-aged Hoppy Holidays). The knowledge that the brewmaster and co-owner, Matt is into cycling, and his wife and co-owner is a nice lady also keep me making the often inconvenient trip down to Schooner. Oh, and there is also the long concrete ramp that leads up to their front doors, providing a pleasing experience as I roll glibly up, and a sort of launching ramp as I depart.

Today we keep rolling south on 1st and when near the base of that overpass, get onto the sidewalk. This is by far the safest thing to do here. The sidewalk is nice and wide on both sides, almost like it was intended to handle cyclists. It’s a bit of a climb up the overpass, then of course a descent. I rejoin the roadway once clear of the overpass.

Incidentally, once you reach Lucile Street and take a left, if you were to take a left at Denver Ave (shortly before you reach Airport Way) you’d go by Georgetown Brewing. Yes, the makers of one of the PNW’s most ubiquitous craft beers, Manny’s Pale Ale. Don’t confuse this with Georgetown Liquor Company near the corner of Lucile and Airport. This is a bar (which, like virtually all similar establishments in Western Washington, serves good local craft beer). As for Georgetown Brewing, I sometimes go there to fill growlers. They have a good price on fills, especially if you have one of their growlers. It’s a nice operation in a cool space. You bring in your empty Georgetown growler, set it on a rack, and step up and order a full one. They have a big cooler full of pre-filled growlers that have gotten a shot of CO2 or something like it. This is a more technical way of filling growlers that keeps the beer fresh and carbonated longer, and it is slowly becoming more common. You can also get tastes of their current lineup for free (well I don’t know how they would feel about you ordering a taste of each one), but they do not sell pints. It’s not a tasting room. It’s just a tasting room. Their Lucile IPA is near the top of my list of favorite IPAs. My one complaint with Georgetown, aside from the fact that they recently raised their prices a buck, is that the service is not very friendly or courteous. I guess they don’t have to be friendly. They’re Georgetown. And they’re in Georgetown. That’s almost as cool as being in Capitol Hill (a Hipster haven neighborhood in Seattle).

Back to our adventure.

From 1st, we have turned left onto Lucile St which takes you to Airport Way. Beware of some very very nasty potholes/cracks in the roadway on this stretch of Lucile. We’re talking hazards that surely could throw you from your bike. Since the bridge is out, it’s an unfettered right turn onto Airport. Hopefully you didn’t have to wait for a train at the crossing just before reaching Airport Way. Cruise on past the heart of Georgetown here on the main drag. Take in the historic buildings, including the original site of the Ranier Brewery on the left in the great brick building. On the right are all the shops, bars and restaurants.

Before long, you are through this hip little area and as you proceed straight at the intersection, staying on Airport Way, you begin a nice long stretch of open road. This is both a nice feature of this adventure, and one of its downsides. If you feel you will have the energy to give it a nice “straight blast”, to borrow a term from my MMA training, and put some pavement behind you fast, this is a great opportunity to do so. Just remember you will have to pedal each of these miles on the way back as well, unless you choose to catch a bus back (which I did one time from Kent back to downtown.) Fortunately, it seems that all buses around here are equipped with bike racks on the front. The other thing with this rather desolate stretch, (which appears to be about 3 1/2 miles on the map) with the railroad tracks on your left and a small airport and other aviation-type stuff on the right, is it gets boring – much more so on the return trip. Most of the times I have done this ride, traffic has been pretty light. There is no viable shoulder for much of it, but there are two lanes going each way, so most of the time, drivers move over and use the empty lane to pass you.

We are looking for the stop light at Norfolk St. You can begin to see it in the distance as you hammer along. Once there, turn right. This leads over to Marginal Way. A significant landmark at this intersection is Randy’s Diner with its big sign.

This is where the trip gets particularly neat. You go straight at the light. If there are no cars going your way at the intersection, you may need to dismount and go hit the walk button and simply walk/run across the intersection once the light changes. On the other side is apparently Boeing property. I have never encountered any problem using the property here. It’s a big parking lot with a road that leads through it. We are making our way to the Green River Trail. Though I don’t recall ever seeing another cyclist around as I make this journey, I imagine it’s known that cyclists use this route fairly often.

Take a left a the first little stop sign and then a right at the next one. Next you come to a bridge over some water. There is a covered sidewalk on the right here. Most times I stay on the roadway, as I don’t want to wait for pedestrians should some show up. I don’t expect any sort of safe driving on the part of drivers in here. I imagine those of them who are Boeing employees don’t appreciate having to share the road with cyclists. Fortunately, traffic has always been quite sparce in here in my experience. Proceed forward at the next stop sign.

The next intersection is a stop light. Once there, look diagonally across the the intersection and you see the entrance to the Green River Trail that we will be taking. Exercise caution in getting over to the trail, whether you choose to use the crosswalk, or remain in the road. There are “freeway entrance” signs and it looks like an offramp as well. So I am alert for speeding drivers coming at me, though as I said, traffic has always been light when I have happened to be here.

Congratulations! You have gotten onto the trail! Few things feel as good to me as this. It’s perhaps similar to the feeling I get when I put a kayak in to the water and sit down, push off, and feel the water initially buoy me up. Pleasing and relaxing.

The Green River Trail will take us all the way to Southcenter Mall in Tuklwila where BJ’s Brewhouse awaits. More soon!

December 11 update follows:

Cruise straight ahead on the trail. As this is a trail, you won’t need much direction or pointers except at several key spots, and believe me, there are some less than self-explanatory situations you’ll run into. So enjoy this neat route, or if you’re like me, take this chance to get some food in you if you need to. Maybe you don’t. I happen to burn food pretty fast when exercising. What’s more, I don’t eat meat besides fish, so I don’t get as much food that sticks to the ol’ ribs.

Before long, you go by a small park on the left (Marginal Way is beside you on the right, separated from you by some space and a chain link fence). Soon, the path curves left and you go over a bridge. Once off the bridge, take a right. You are now riding along right next to a large complex of Boeing office buildings and their parking lot.

Next you come to a busy roadway in front of you. Not to worry! The path takes a sharp right and parallels the road, taking you on a bridge over the water you have been riding along (the Green River perhaps?), then makes a tight circle to run underneath the road. You cruise along with business complexes on your right. Then you get to go under a big overpass. After this, it’s trail with a couple of road crossings.

The next big landmark is a bridge ahead (incidentally 42nd Ave S according to the map). Now, I got pretty off track at this spot the first time I did this route. I knew I needed to turn left near here, and there is a lack of signage directing you how to stay on the trail. The trail just disappears. Not good. So that day I thought I needed to get onto the bridge and go left. After doing so and riding along searching for clues, I turned around and decided to instead get myself out to the roadway that had been paralleling the trail (Interurban Ave. S) and ride the sidewalk along that road, as I knew that was the general direction I needed to go. In fact the next time I did this trip, I did the same. This will get you where you need to be, but let’s just say it’s not riding on a nice safe trail. Here’s what you need to do instead: Stay on the trail as it goes under that bridge, and when the trail disappears, turn left into the business complex, either riding on the sidewalk or in the parking lot. Yes, this is what passes for the Green River Trail here. After a fairly short distance, you see that the parking lot ends at some wooden posts – you know, the posts that say no more car traffic, only non-motorized past here. The obvious trail reappears. Sheesh.

Curve alongside the river for a while, then get ready for more pleasingness as you go under I-5. The trail then begins to parallel the interstate and you have a high concrete wall on your right. Kind of a cool spot to me. Shortly, you are next to the onramp and you most times see sandwich boards or other signs for the big piano store on your left. The trail comes right out to a major roadway and makes a left. Here the trail is abutted directly along side a sidewalk. Soon you cross over a stop light intersection. Continue on and soon you have a golf course and major club house/restaurant/whatever on the left.

The next landmark is a long building with its title sprawled out in individual letters along the front of it. The Riverside Casino. In fact, there appear to be like three casinos near here. Interesting.

Just after the casino is a stop light. Now, here, the first three or so times I did this adventure, I turned right at the light (58th Ave). Ladies and gentlemen, a big workout awaits you if you choose to go this way. The road goes steeply uphill, then goes uphill some more. Then some more as you weave through the neighborhood, keeping left. It’s a viable way to get to the mall. In fact as soon as you make your way through this residential neighborhood you are directly across the street from Southcenter Mall, and simply need to make a right at the major road in front of you (sidewalk!!) and you see a crosswalk soon that allows you to cross over onto the sidewalk on the other side. Note: there are two crosswalks near here that take you across the busy roadway, but if you haven’t followed my directions closely, and you take the wrong one, you will simply wind up at a bus stop with no way to proceed. This crosswalk runs across the street to the bus stop only. I confirmed this on more than one occasion. Go to the other crosswalk further to the right and closer to the mall entrance. You’ll find a sidewalk once you get to the other side of this crosswalk. Proceed on the sidewalk to the mall entrance. This may sound complicated, but I suggest you pull up Google maps street view and use it in conjunction with these directions as you make your plan. You’ll see what I mean. If all else fails, hey, you see the mall in front of you. You’re there. Once you make it across the busy road (Southcenter Blvd) you need to wait at the stop light intersection within the mall and cross over the busy road that runs around the mall perimeter. At that point, you go deeper into the mall and find BJ’s.

But…

Instead of doing the Ironman described in the above paragraph (Yes it includes, for me, walking, running and cycling. Hey, when I dismount and run up a hill, it saves wear and tear on my bike. Really!) one time, I finally had the time to explore the trail system further here and found a very viable – and pleasing! – way to safely arrive at the mall. It’s a slightly longer distance, but totally avoids the massive climbs. And did I mention it’s all on trail the rest of the way to the mall? Instead of turning right at the light, cut left onto the trail just beyond the casino parking lot.

Dec 12 update follows:

The trail here goes back toward the river and runs along it. You’re going a bit out of the way here and meandering, but not much. It’s worth it to be safe and sound on a trail. Besides, it’s peaceful and kind of pretty.

After just a bit you come to an interesting looking rusty metal bridge that takes you over the river. Next you ride along side a very large park – you know the kind with lots of sports fields for the tikes. It’s here that you can look to the right and across the road and see the elevation atop which you would have been if you had gone that old 58th Ave way I described above.

The trail then curves around the perimeter of the fields and a minor concrete overpass comes into view. You will go over this after riding under it then curving around to the left to go up it. There is a small brown sign reading “River Trail” that helps guide you. A second similar sign posted on the beginning part of the concrete overpass helps you know where to go. As you go across this overpass, it’s interesting because it’s quite narrow (you’re supposed to dismount and walk in fact) and there is a tall concrete wall on your right.

After the overpass, take the path to the *right* instead of taking the left option. Well, this in fact takes you onto a sidewalk after passing through some low wooden posts. If you had gone left back there, the map shows that the trail simply meanders back along the river and brings you to where we are heading by leaving the trail briefly. I have not tried it though. Going our way is a time-saving measure. Ride the sidewalk around the outside of a circular drive here (Fort Dent Way). This is apparently the entrance to the “Starfire” sports park. The sidewalk takes you to where you see another set of wooden posts – which always indicate the start or end of a trail. I love to see these. Well, except when they are indicating that my trail is ending. Go through the posts to the left onto the trail, then immediately turn right. The trail soon goes under a big, low underpass (Interurban Ave). Yeah, baby! One more major road you don’t have to deal with! Trails, I want to marry you. After just a few yards, you go under another big low underpass. You go by some picnic tables on your left.

Then the trail comes to a Y. It’s pretty clear that the right hand option is taking you uphill toward a roadway, so we want to stay on the path by taking the left option. It is here that I had a major breakthrough and realized that I had successfully found a way to take the trail all the way to the mall. I took the left hand option at the Y. Then just ahead was another big underpass. It, however, had a big orange sign that read “trail closed.” Quite discouraged, I turned around and headed back figuring I was going to fail and have to probably wind up going out on the busy roadway or its sidewalk to reach the mall. Back at that Y, I went ahead and took the right path uphill to the roadway. But once up there, I realized where I was. I could see the mall ahead across the big nasty highway-like street! This made it very much worth ignoring the “trail closed” sign and seeing if it was open far enough to do the job for me. So I flipped it around and went back down and took the trail left which goes under said big nasty street (Southcenter Blvd).  The underpass that had the closed sign is especially low – almost freakily so. Weird to know that just a few feet above your head is I-405 traffic. I tend to ride fast under here – you know, in case it were to collapse.

Soon the path becomes a sidewalk and goes over some water. Though you soon have the option to leave the sidewalk and get back onto a trail, don’t. The mall is on your right and we need to stay on the sidewalk or get out on the road and head that direction. I have not seen much traffic here at all. It’s at the far corner of the mall. You’re on 68th Ave. Soon you come to the intersection with Baker Blvd. Turn right. Shortly ahead is the busy stop light intersection with Andover Park East. Go straight. After a little bit you come to another busy intersection: Andover Park West. Go straight. You are entering the mall now. The mall road curves slightly and brings you to another intersection. Once there, if you look up ahead, you can see the large, grand structure that is the front (or rear?) of the mall. It is here that you find BJ’s Brewhouse. You don’t, however, find it on Google street view. The map doesn’t take you in that far, and I think BJ’s hadn’t been built yet at the time the photos were taken.

I haven’t yet found any bike parking near BJ’s, so I always lock up to a light post just in front of BJ’s and across the roadway. A funny thing happened the first time I came here: I didn’t know where BJ’s was, so I was riding around on the sidewalk of the mall (cautiously and courteously as always) when a security guard in a mall security truck pulled up along side and quite seriously told me to stop riding on the sidewalk. I wasn’t in a great mood at the time (You’d have to know how my day had gone prior to this. Hint: I was out on business that day, actually, but the Green River Trail, I found, was closed and had large, black plastic-covered barriers all on it, preventing its use. So I missed my appointment. I had intended to hit BJ’s on the way back from my appointment, but after quite dangerously attempting to get to my destination on a roadway with signs that warned against drag racing, I had to abort and head back. So to BJ’s I went). Despite this, I simply said “okay” and got off the sidewalk and continued to search for BJ’s. Soon I found it. Each time I lock up to the light post, I wonder if a security guard is going to give me trouble for it.

Well, we have finally arrived at BJ’s Brewhouse and have been almost exclusively on trail since back at Boeing! Let’s celebrate with a beer.

December 17 update follows:

Walk in to BJ’s and you’re greeted by a smiling person ready to seat you for your meal (or if it was during a busy time, to take your name and give you one of those vibrating devices). Of course all we need to tell this friendly person is that we are heading to the bar. It’s my practice to try to avoid going out for a beer during busy times. As such, I have always gotten a seat at the BJ’s bar – strangely always at the same spot. This spot, right in front of the right hand bank of beer taps, allows me to survey their solid selection of guest taps. That is if I can focus with the gigantic screen over the bar that displays four different sporting events.

I am at BJ’s though, and it’s BJ’s beer that I wish to taste. Is this because I find BJ’s beer especially good or interesting? No. It’s good beer, but as I tried to explain earlier, I like BJ’s, and also, I have made the concerted effort to get to BJ’s so I am going to have BJ’s beer. Beer, by the way, that is served in their characteristic tall glasses that taper toward the bottom and sport BJ’s triumph of a logo. The 90’s are not calling – they don’t want their logo back.

Usually, you will be attended to fairly promptly by a friendly bartender. Why is he or she friendly? A look at one of their computer screens offers a hint. When those screens are inactive, they go to one of a couple screen savers that lay out BJ’s mission. Some of the things I have read are (approximately) “strive to be the very definition of the wow experience for our guests”, “always try to say yes to any request”, “personally engage each guest”, and perhaps most impressively of all, “we never lose a customer”. Thus far, I have seen them live up to those goals.

So, so what if BJ’s is a chain! I’ll take this customer-focused attitude any day over some of the piss poor behavior I’ve experienced from the employees of some of the beer places that are most revered! I recognize that employees don’t often feel like being friendly. They’re at work, and chances are they don’t really love their job. So when I get an employee who is courteous and friendly, it points directly to their management. Look, I have had plenty of jobs I hated and didn’t care about. But what I always have cared about is doing my job to the best of my ability, and being good at what I do. I don’t see why I don’t deserve to expect this of the establishments to which I am giving my money. Good job, BJ’s. I hope you keep it up. Those of you who don’t agree with me are part of the problem. You are the same people that tip cashiers for the honor of having them ring you up.

Several of the times I have visited BJ’s I have had the bartender let me know that I am welcome to sample some beers before ordering. This comes in handy when I want to find out if, for example, I like their Hop Storm IPA, or their Oktoberfest (kind of, and no). Much of their standard lineup is fine with me, but I don’t typically go for their PM Porter, their Harvest Hefewiezen, their Brewhouse Blonde, or their Nutty Brewnette. If I have time and especially if it’s summer, I like to cool off after my long ride with their Piranha Pale Ale. The two most worthy beers for me are the Jeremiah Red and the Tatonka Stout. I’m not sure why, but the Red is unusually strong – 7.3% ABV. I suppose it is described as an Irish-style strong ale. The stout is quite tasty and is always served on nitro. It is actually classified as an imperial stout and weighs in at 8.5%. I like to finish with this one.

On my most recent visit (I don’t make my BJ’s adventure but a couple times a year or so) I only ordered taster sizes, which are cute shrunken down versions of their tapered glasses, of the Red and of the stout. I don’t think they specifically offer single taster sized pours of the customer’s choosing, offering instead pre-chosen flights of tasters. However when I asked for just these two tasters, I saw my bartender hesitate just a bit, then say sure. Again, living up to their mission statement. I enjoyed my two tasters, ordered another, then set out for the rest of my journey.

Next we head further south to Airways Brewing.

December 19th update follows:

After retrieving the bike from my reserved parking spot at the light pole, I head directly away from BJ’s on the mall road (different direction from the way I came in). This brings me to the intersection with Strander Blvd. It’s a left turn here. I usually stay on the roadway with traffic at least until I get out of the mall. We are heading over to the Interurban Trail, a short distance away. Now on Strander, be on alert: traffic here is not bike-friendly. There is no shoulder and the drivers here seem to have little tolerance for cyclists. Not a good vibe. You may choose to use the sidewalk instead. Fortunately, it’s only about 3/4 of a mile until we get to the trail. Just keep going straight on Strander. You’ll go over a small overpass that takes you over the Green River Trail and the river. Shortly, you get to W Valley Hwy. Cross that intersection and, flanked by Taco Bell and Jack in the Box, you see the Interurban Trail directly ahead as the road ends.

Roll onto the trail, take a right, and a relaxing breath as you leave all the drivers to their driving. The Interurban Trail is interesting. Just a long straight trail that runs under big power lines. Simple. Very useful. It’s only a couple miles or so to 196th St where you leave the trail and head to the right. Take the paved path – the one you arrive at before the underpass, so you wind up on the correct side of the road – and you’ll then be on 196th St. This is the road on which Airways Brewing is found. You essentially wind up on the sidewalk at the intersection with 72nd Ave. It’s just up at the next light, 68th Ave, aka W Valley Hwy, where you find the business park that holds Airways. Cross the intersection and turn right on the sidewalk. Soon, you will enter the parking lot, making a left, and head down a sidewalk to find Airways. I forget if they have a sandwich board out, but it’s just ahead. The address is 6644 S 196th St, #T-100.

This is the Airways Brewing Brewery and Taproom. They recently opened up the “bistro” which is in downtown Kent. I have yet to visit that location. The brewery and taproom is more my style. I tie up to a tree just outside, as there is no bike parking. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more bikes here given its proximity to the trail.

Alex, The owner/brewer at Airways Brewing has quite an affinity for airplanes. As I understand it, he used to be involved with air travel for a living. Not sure at the moment if he was a pilot or engineer or what, but the airplane is the theme here. I absolutely despise air travel, airports, airlines the TSA and anything else related to the torture that is traveling by air – especially these days. It’s becoming closer and closer to the experience of riding a Greyhound. Only on a Greyhound, you don’t (that I know of) face a threat like being held prisoner inside the airplane for hours on the tarmac at the airline’s whim. Or facing federal charges if you don’t do exactly what any airline employee says. Or being cavity searched if you look at a TSA agent the wrong way.

But I enjoy visiting Airways Brewing. The beer is good, and the atmosphere is not bad. Like most places, a strong local contingent seems to dominate the place. The place enjoys a pretty well-respected and fairly widespread reputation though, so I think folks come visit from all over, which is nice. In true small brewery style, the taproom’s hours are quite limited – approximately Wed – Sat 3–8. In “nice” weather, there is some outdoor seating available. On my first couple of visits, they were selling some personal-sized pizzas that they would heat up for you behind the bar. I don’t recall if they still do this, nor do I know if this is one of the breweries that allows you to bring in outside food.

My favorite beers here are the Midnight Departure CDA, the Sky Hag IPA and the Uber Hag double IPA. The CDA is true to the style – like a roasty IPA. The Sky Hag is an interesting IPA. Having more malt flavor, it’s not as dominated by hops as most. There’s more to it than this. It’s an interesting, satisfying beer and unusually strong – 7.8% ABV. I recommend it. In addition, the artwork for Sky Hag is some of the most original around. Their tap handle is instantly recognizable. (It seems to always be present at BJ’s Brewhouse by the way). It has a picture of some angry airline stewardess. Sky Hag, by the way, is being produced in bottles now according to the website. As for Uber Hag? Different artwork (now the stewardess looks like a Nazi?) and stronger beer. Good stuff.

Next, follow me on that probably one and only trek down to Pacific, WA as I visit Trade Route Brewing.

January 2nd update follows: 

Leaving Airways, get yourself back out to the sidewalk and over to the intersection. Stay on this side of the road and cross over, getting yourself back onto the onramp/offramp that leads back down to the trail. Once at the trail, turn right and head south. It’s about 13 1/2 miles down to Trade Route Brewing. I should mention here that Trade Route Brewing has undergone some name changing. It started out as Laughing Buddha Brewing, then became Trade Route Brewing, and is now called Northwest Brewing Company. When I was there, it was still called Trade Route, but I also saw a big sign on the wall that read Northwest Brewing.

The trail carries you along, fairly straight, somewhat desolate, and vastly preferable to being on the road hoping drivers share the road.

You have a number of road crossings to deal with. Some of them have pedestrian signals, others just have crosswalks.

At James St, interestingly, ShoWare Center is on the left. I have never been there, but I’ve heard about it as a venue for fairly large concerts, etc.

After a ways, you will come to a point where you see a chain link fence directly ahead and yellow signs with arrows directing you to turn right. This is a little jog to the right then you go left through a wide opening in the fence with wooden posts in the ground and proceed to the intersection where you cross over and continue on the trail.

Between 262nd St and 277th St, the trail actually crosses over the railroad tracks then back again.

Shortly after the little 29th St crossing you will see Emerald Downs race track on the left. Some pretty interesting stuff we see on this trip, actually.

At 15th St you go under an overpass.

At Hwy 18 you cruise on under the highway overpass. Shortly after that, there is something called the Super Mall on your right. Could be useful in case you didn’t get enough mall back at Southcenter.

At Ellingson Rd, it’s odd, but you are instructed not to cross. You are instructed by signs to go up to the light and cross there, then come back down to the trail and continue. Perhaps the trail crossing is too close to the light to have installed a crosswalk. At any rate, it’s annoying.

After maybe 3/4 mile farther, you reach the end. The end of the Interurban Trail that is. From here to Trade Route Brewing, it is on-street. The street you exit the trail and turn left onto is 3rd Ave SW which actually has a bike lane. When you get to Milwaukee Blvd, turn right. A little more than half way down your stint on Milwaukee Blvd, you come to a sort of roundabout with no cross street. There is, however, a crosswalk here as a very short trail crosses the roadway and a park playground is found on the right. This, along with some of the nice houses present here belie what is reported on the news to be a city in turmoil, calling on its mayor to step down as he digs in his heels. Don’t get used to the nice scenery though. Pacific mostly looks pretty unappealing to me, and I would find myself soon on a long stretch of no-shoulder road with trucking yards and warehouses all around.

I missed Trade Route Brewing and rolled on by it, riding way out of my way to the south on a desolate road, wisely pulling over at one point as I heard an 18-wheeler coming up behind me. Little did I know the place is set back off the roadway. I didn’t see any signs for it.

Okay, we were on Milwaukee Blvd at the roundabout with the crosswalk. Continue until the road ends, and turn left. After a short distance you’ll find Valentine Ave SE. Turn right. Trade Route is about 1/2 a mile or so farther and is located on your left before the stop light intersection with Stewart Rd (also called 8th St on the map). You turn in a driveway into a parking lot and ahead and to the right is the big metal warehouse-type building that is your destination.

I only found the place after, as mentioned, pedaling too far south and finally turning around which allowed me to approach the intersection from the south. I saw the name of the place painted on the south side of the building. A lot of good that does folks coming from the north. Well, it was extra exercise.

Well, we made it to Trade Route Brewing.

January 9th update follows: 

I leaned my bike up against the metal building (of course no bike rack) and walked on in, finding a seat at the bar. I saw familiar beer names on their tap handles such as Ginger Pale Ale, Mango Weizen and – the beer that I liked best – Hoppy Bitch IPA. Tastes of a few of their offerings that day were just okay to me. It was the IPA that I settled on, ordering a full pint.

It was nice to arrive there for the first time, having completed the long trip. I relaxed and enjoyed my beer, feeling a bit confused as to the identity of the place. It felt like they had moved away from their original identity of Laughing Buddha, having retained some of it in the forms of the two first beers mentioned above. The atmosphere was something rather Hood Canal Brewery-esque – clientele about 100% more likely to arrive by pickup truck or Harley than by bike, and a beer called Hoppy Bitch quite at home here. Yet, as mentioned, I saw the sign on the wall that read Northwest Brewing. Now, two steps away from its original identity, I wonder if they will retain the Asian-themed beers.

I understand they have live music there on weekend nights, so I made sure to wrap things up and set out on my return trip before the crowd started arriving.

The return trip to downtown Seattle is simply a reversal of your outgoing trip. When you arrive back at Southcenter Mall (Hopefully you’ll get an idea of when you are back there. You are able to see the Jack In The Box and the Taco Bell from the trail.) leave the Interurban Trail and turn left onto Strander Blvd. If you eat meat and fast food, this would be a very convenient area to load up on some grub. Cross over West Valley Hwy and continue on Strander toward the mall. Go over the bridge that takes you over the river, then take the first right after the bridge (68th Ave S / Christensen Rd) which leads you back in essentially a parking lot at the back of some buildings and past Baker Blvd (where you turned to head into the Mall and to BJ’s). Continue on to near where the road ends and jump over on to the Green River Trail which is running along side you on the right.

From here, just go back to downtown the way you came, and enjoy the exercise.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure down south. As I said, I may not choose to hit Trade Route (Northwest Brewing) again. It’s not that I really have anything against them. It’s just kind of far and the return trip gets boring. But hey, maybe you have a group of friends with whom you can form a pace line and put the pavement behind you fast. At any rate, it’s great to know you can get all the way down there from Tukwila all on separated multi-use path!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

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