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Craft beer and spirits in the South Sound

Tacoma historical brewery district and more

E9 Taproom bottled selections. Photo credit: Dutch Randall

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It is no surprise that the South Sound, which was home to much of the micro-brew craze of the 1990s, continues to be a center for the craft beers of today. From Tacoma's historic brewery neighborhood to the community vibe of Olympia, you are sure to find a brew that fits your tastes.

Tacoma's historic brewery district is located just up the hill from the 21st Street bridge and Pacific Ave. Most importantly, this small area boasts three great breweries for all of us craft beer lovers out there and even a cider house for when you're not craving a beer.

Patrons have been enjoying beer from Engine House No. 9 -- Tacoma's first craft brewery -- for years, but the addition of the E9 Taproom has brought a whole new level of E9 beer lovers to Tacoma. Gone is the small space attached to the popular tavern off Sixth Ave., and as a replacement, an old radiator workshop has been transitioned into a state-of-the-art brewing facility. Whereas most places require you to bring a growler if you wish to take some home, E9 Taproom offers all the favorites in bottle form as well; but don't worry, they will fill your growlers, too. One favorite is the Rowdy and Dick Amber Ale, named after two of the horses from E9's historic firehouse that surely honors their memories. With a moderate sweetness and balanced malt and hoppy flavor, it's no wonder that you will see plenty of the amber ales at each table.

E9 TAPROOM, 2506 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.7707,

Blackfeet Brewery looks to bring food and craft beer together by fusing much of the menu items with the very beer you may have in your pint. The dark beer offerings are some of the best you may find. The Defiantly Tacoma Oatmeal Milk Stout is a decadent stout with flavors driven by plums, raisins, and molasses as well as hints of coffee and chocolate. Likewise, the Porter Starboard has hints of chocolate and toffee accompany a medium body dark beer that is versatile enough to go with nearly any dish you choose. Children are not only welcome here, they are encouraged, so much so that Blackfeet also offers house-made sodas.

BLACKFEET BREWERY, 2302 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma,

The 7 Seas Brewery is located in the old Heidelberg building in Tacoma which operated for nearly 80 years in that location as well as the original 7 Seas location in Gig Harbor. Its large wide-open space with views of the large casks makes this a popular location, and the large number of rotating taps is a large draw, as well. You can always count on a selection of 7 Seas year-round brews and seasonal selections together with other independently crafted beers. The spaces are a relaxed, casual space that welcomes families of all ages to come, sit, drink, and simply enjoy the company of others. I'm fond of the 253 Pilsner because it is crisp and refreshing, but a popular choice here is either the Rude Parrot IPA or the Ballz Deep Double IPA which both have an aggressive hoppy flavor.

7 SEAS BREWERY, 2101 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma, 253.572.7770,

7 SEAS BREWERY - GIG HARBOR, 3006 Judson St. #110, Gig Harbor, 253.514.8129,

Incline Cider House does not allow minors through the door, but you can bring outside food if you wish as the bar snacks here are limited. The cider selection, however, is not limiting with 16 taps serving up craft ciders to the thirsty Tacoma patrons: eight incline ciders and eight local selections. With the rotating taps, the flavors will change, but many of the popular choices are apple (of course), marionberry, or blood orange. When I popped in, they were serving up an award-winning Portland Cider Company Blueberry Bourbon Basil that has a rich, crisp flavor.

INCLINE CIDER HOUSE, 2115 South C St., Tacoma, 253.327.1923,

Great craft beer is not limited to Tacoma, Matchless Brewing in Tumwater is proof of this. Despite its location in an industrial park, the interior is casual and welcoming. Grab a seat on the couch and grab one of the unique brews served up. There are several IPA offerings, but the Wicked Hazy Bubblah combines the softer flavoring of barley, oats and wheat with a heavy hoppy flavor -- is a fan favorite. For those wanting a lighter, crisper finish, the Winter Helles is a smooth Pilsner that has a strong malt finish with a minimal hopped bitterness.

MATCHLESS BREWING, 8036 River Dr. SE #208, Tumwater, 360.584.9234,

Hoh River Brewery is family-owned and operated, and prides itself on using only local ingredients from Washington and Oregon to ensure the freshness of their craft brews. With a large selection of beers on tap, you are sure to find your favorite amongst the choices. Whether you prefer the Hawk Hefewizen, the High Divide Pilsner, or the Ruby Beach Red, your favorite beer is sure to be fresh, flavorful and made with craftmanship in mind. However, I like to stray from the norm, and I enjoy the creative side of Hoh River. The Elwha Espress is an espresso stout that any coffee lover is sure to place at the top of their craft beer list. Another creative endeavor is the Hoconut, which is a coconut-chocolate porter with a clean, crisp finish. Don't worry IPA drinkers, there are plenty of IPAs available here, too.

HOH RIVER BREWERY, 2442 Mottman Rd. SW, Tumwater,

Brown's Point is known more for its neighborhoods and beaches, but right in the heart of Brown's Point you'll find North 47 Brewing Company. Much like the surrounding community, they keep it simple here with only six flagship beers on tap and rotating guest ciders. In addition to a tap room, there is also a homebrew club where you can learn from professional brewers how to make your own unique beer flavors in the comfort and convenience of your own home. If you're not home making your beer, what's better than drinking and talking about beer? Pop by North 47 Brewing and find out.

NORTH 47 BREWING COMPANY, 1000 Town Center NE #160, Tacoma, 253.517.9865,

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