Brouwer’s Cafe – Seattle

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Brouwer's CafeAn arcane reference for a bar, to be sure, being named for a fixed-point theorem. But Brouwer’s formulation does apply to, for example, stirring a cocktail or beer in a glass: when the liquid comes to rest, some point in the liquid will land in the exact same spot where it started. And hey, it’s a better name for a bar than the hairy ball theorem¹. The owners must be esoteric mathematicians, or, since I didn’t see Möbius strips hanging from the rafters but rather Jan van Eyck style paintings on the walls, it must be a craft beer destination featuring Belgian cuisine. Thankfully for Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, the latter is the case, featuring 64 beers on draft and over 400 bottles in the cellar, not to mention Scotch and American whiskeys.

The stone facing on two walls makes the dark interior almost cavelike, while the wood bar, tables arranged in the center, and the I-beam supported second floor balconies on either side make it feel almost as cloistered as a library. You’d expect to see a ladder sliding along the rails to reach inaccessible books or, in this case, bottles. I found it an inviting nightlife spot, as opposed to the more daytime appeal of the large windows and comfortable furniture at Beveridge Place. Brouwer’s would also make a cozy warren on a cold and rainy Seattle night. Flying solo, I bellied up to the bar and perused the menu.

Brouwer's CafeSuch Belgian classics as moules frites immediately beckon, and the stoofvlees, a Belgian beef stew over pommes frites with a thyme crème fraîche, is a hearty dish for those cold nights and better than you have any right to expect at a bar. But don’t worry, you can go lighter with a beet and endive salad if you wish. I had to go with the mussels, and hankering for an aperitif, made the perhaps unconventional order of an old fashioned, with its bouquet of bitters. But a beer soon followed, creature of habit that I am, an IPA from a Washington brewery so close to the border it might as well be Oregon, Stevenson’s Walking Man Brewing. Homo Erectus is the double version of the brewery’s flagship IPA, double both in hops and malt. A stronger, bready backbone than you typically find in NW IPA, but the piney hops still asserted themselves enough to come off like a hoppy strong ale or something and, at 9% ABV, that’s probably a fair assessment.

By day, as the sun sets in the West, beams of light stream in through the small windows as through a castle’s embrasures, highlighting the bottle selection on refrigerated display behind the bar, like the headpiece of the Staff of Ra showing Indiana Jones the location of the Ark. Brouwer’s cafe brings a beer hall aesthetic from the old world to the new and makes for a craft beer landmark in Seattle.

¹“Whenever one attempts to comb a hairy ball flat, there will always be at least one tuft of hair at one point on the ball.” Seriously.

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