Since Washington became a state in 1889, breweries have been an important part of life here in Grays Harbor County. In 1889, the city of Aberdeen had just one brewery pumping suds to the loggers, dockworkers and locals, known as Harbor Brewery & Bottling Works. This small brewery was our region’s first and while it only lasted a year, it set the stage for more breweries in the future.
A decade later, Grays Harbor Brewing opened in Aberdeen, lasting just two years, closing its doors when Aberdeen Brewing opened up in 1902. For 13 years, Aberdeen Brewing Company became a local favorite until it closed its doors in 1915. It wasn’t until 1934 that another brewery opened in Aberdeen, lasting a decade: Pioneer Brewing Company, which closed its doors in 1944.
Today, there are still just a handful of breweries in the county, each hoping to be the next destination to quench your thirst. This new generation of brewers is hoping to put Grays Harbor on the map for incredible beer. Connected to the hop-filled wonderland of eastern Washington, our region is slowly but surely emerging as a leader in quality, refreshing and delicious beer. Competing with the distilleries and wineries of the area, the breweries in Grays Harbor today focus on craft beers, catering to those who love a well made brew.
The Elk Head Brewing Company is technically from under the shadow of Mount Rainier in Buckley, Washington, but thankfully we have a local location in the Elk Head Taproom along the sandy beaches of Ocean Shores. The taproom is open Thursday through Sunday but has a steady crowd of locals and tourists who consider this the best place to get craft beers in the county.
The beer selection, while less than at the home brewery in Buckley, includes seven delicious options. The Liberty Cap IPA is a thirst quencher and downright delicious while the Gold Blond Ale will leave you drooling for more. However, the beers that seems to have everyone raving are their spicy beers or their stouts. If you can visit when they have the huckleberry stout, you might never leave. Sitting on your stump stool, celebrating the logging history and forests of the Pacific Northwest, the atmosphere and vibe of the Elk Head Brewing Company’s Taproom in Ocean Shores is exactly what you want after a long day enjoying the coastal beauty of Ocean Shores.
Across the Harbor in Westport, two breweries are vying to be the object of beer drinkers’ affections. The first is Bog Water Brewing Company which is connected to Cranberry Road Winery. After a devastating fire in November 2015, the owners rebuilt and opened a new, beautiful space last summer. The family-friendly venue features gorgeous local wood slab tables, a sophisticated dinner menu and is open seven days a week.
Known initially for their unique wines, the brewery is never-the-less solid, providing a rotating selection of brews and incredible wine, letting all styles of fermented aficionados find joy for their tastebuds. With 13 beers to choose from, including a few locally brewed options, this is an ideal place to come, hang out and unwind after a day exploring all that Westport has to offer.
One of the more popular beers is the Bog Fresh Belgium, offering a delicious yet subtle blend of banana and clove flavors. The drink is crisp and perfect for all types of weather. However, to truly appreciate the skill and style of the Bog Water Brewing Company, you have to taste the Bog Water Brown. The brown ale is well put together and always the perfect darker ale for those windy, rainy Pacific coast days. This watering hole is a fantastic stop for beer and wine lovers. Thanks to the cranberry bogs along the southern stretches of Grays Harbor, the winery offers delicious and unique wines, perfectly paired with the history of the region.
Finally, if beer and pizza is what you crave, head into the town of Westport and check out Blackbeard’s Brewing Company. Home to incredible ales, a private themed restaurant and what some consider to be the best pizza in the Harbor, Blackbeard’s Brewing is quickly becoming a Pacific Northwest cornerstone of the brewery scene. With classic offerings like the Set Sail IPA and the Strawberry Blonde, a stop here will inspire more trips to try all of their incredible beers. Almost all the beers brewed at Blackbeard have nautical themed names, helping transform this rustic building into a modern day pirate hangout. Whether you order the Rowdy Rascal, the Pieces of Eight Pale Ale or savor in the tastiness of the Ahoy! Amber, you won’t be disappointed.
The brewery scene in Grays Harbor ebbs and flows like the tides, with some breweries closing down after just a few years. Like the beer makers of the past, the current wave of craft brewers is hoping to make a slash in the ever-growing Pacific Northwest beer market. Come out to these three establishments, grab a beer or two and support the small businesses that keep in touch with the brewing past of Grays Harbor. You never know, you might be sitting at the bar sipping the next great American beer.