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Tacoma’s new brewery comes with enormous taproom and sci-fi theme

Tacoma’s newest brewery is opening next week in the St. Helens neighborhood.

Shane McElwrath plans to open his Dystopian State Brewing Co. on Nov. 4 in a multistory building that was a car showroom in the mid-20th century.

The bones of the building still convey its former life as a dealership. “The floors are connected by an old car elevator,” explained McElwrath.

He plans to use that giant, car-sized elevator to transport beer back-and-forth from the barrel aging room below the production area and taproom on the top floor. In all, his 15-barrel brewhouse will take up about 10,000 square feet. The entrance will be off South Baker Street.

Half of that real estate is dedicated to a combination taproom and production area.

“It’s striking when you walk in there. It’s all exposed beams and trusses. It’s all very rich honey-colored wood,” said McElwrath, who described the taproom as quite large.

“When you walk in, it’s very, very immense. You’re walking down a big ramp into the main floor. When you walk in, everything is very open. You’ll be able to see the brewhouse/production area to the right as you walk in. Everything in production is surrounded by a pony wall.” That means everything is open and viewable from the taproom. There’s no glass wall or separation barrier.

He described seating for 80 (with room for up to 100) with areas ranging from a 12-seat tasting bar to a series of tables crafted from repurposed industrial-size electrical spools. There are lounge areas with couches and a small theater section with a drop-down projector screen.

The projector will play into the counterculture theme of the brewery with showings of movies with dystopian landscapes (a la “Soylent Green,” “1984,” “A Clockwork Orange” and the like). That dystopian theme will be carried into the artwork, which comes from Vancouver, Washington, artist Kyle Shold, who has designed brewery artwork for Loowit Brewing Co. Shold’s artwork will carry a dystopian theme from the sci-fi genre, said McElwrath.

The taproom does not come with a restaurant attached at this time, but McElwrath has plans to have a food truck or another food vendor serve food from an adjacent lot belonging to the brewery.

The taproom will carry a total of 18 taps featuring Dystopian State brews, but eventually a few will be dedicated to guest taps. The opening lineup will include four flagship beers: Helmet Breaker, an American double India pale ale; Entropy Cascadian Dark, a beer made with hemp seed and served on a nitro tap (that creates a smoother, richer pour); Red Queen, an India red rye ale; and The Gold Sigil, a wheat beer made with coriander honey. Rotating through the taps, as they are available, will be a coconut cream ale on nitro, a Belgian dubbel and an imperial stout. A number of other seasonals and special brews will be on tap as the beer becomes available. McElwrath plans to open with eight beers.

For now, the brewery will stick to production and taproom sales, but eventually will expand into distribution, said McElwrath. He expects to be producing 60,000 barrels within the first year.

McElwrath is the brewer-owner and has help from brewing partners, Chris Jones and Chris Bradley. Bradley also is a business partner along with Lana Adzhigirey.

Dystopian State Brewing Co.

Where: 611 S. Baker St., Tacoma.

Information: 253-302-3466,