I wanted to compare three national or regional brewpub chains with locations in Seattle that share the characteristic of building glitzy new premises in malls or the like (unlike McMenamins). An additional tidbit of interest is that Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom have quite recently merged or somehow come under common corporate ownership.
First, the Ram Brewery and Restaurant. They started out as a restaurant in Lakewood, Wash. in 1971, more than a decade before microbrewing started taking off. Their site indicates that they have eight locations here in Wash., two each in Idaho, Oregon, and Indiana, and three in Illinois. Having stopped by their pubs in Lacey and Northgate Mall in Seattle, and judging by pictures of the others, it is easy to see that the mall is their preferred environment. In Northgate, they are on the outer edge of the mall, next to a Barnes and Noble.
I seldom go to our malls in Bellingham or Burlington, but when I have to, I would think the experience would be better if they had a brewpub like this. (Visited 11/5/10).
Second, the Gordon Biersch brewpub downtown. They are in Pacific Place, one of those downtown mall concepts; four stories of shops, restaurants, and a cineplex, across the street from the Norstrom mother store. They started out in Palo Alto in 1988 and have quickly grown coast-to-coast. The brewpub is on the top floor next to the cineplex. The entrance, seen from the atrium:
The restaurant area is huge, seating for 500, and the large capacity kettles are used just to brew for consumption on the premises. The site indicates that they do bottle and distribute bottled beer in a number of states, but not in Washington. (Visited 10/24/10).
Third, the Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant is on the third floor of the Rainier Bank Tower, a skyscraper that lists as a 40-story building. (Visited 2/14/10, 11/5/10) Their parent company, out of Louisville, KY, operates 43 brewpubs around the country, mostly under the Rock Bottom name, and 102 Old Chicago restaurants.
They have two in Washington, one in Bellevue and this one downtown, two blocks from the Biersch site.
Plainly, there are some real differences in the approach to brewing at Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom. How this shakes out in a merger will be interesting to watch.