South Sound’s craft beverage scene shows no sign of stagnation.
I keep thinking it will. We’ve got to reach saturation point, right?
Since the summer of 2015, the opening tally, by my count, has been: One cidery. One meadery. One winery. Two distilleries. Five breweries. That’s not including expansions, such as the winery and cidery that opened tasting rooms, or the other meadery still working on licensing.
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This fall brings more openings.
In October, the area’s first Greek distillery opened in a business park in Lakewood. This month, Dystopian State opened in one of Tacoma’s funky old buildings in the St. Helens neighborhood. And there’s one more to add to your list: Peaks and Pints. The taproom is an ode to South Sound and Northwest craft beer built into an old theater in the Proctor neighborhood.
Looking ahead, three more breweries are on the way in 2017 and one more is on the move.
What’s next? I’ll be sure to let you know. I’m keeping tabs.
DYSTOPIAN STATE BREWING CO.
Where: 611 S. Baker St., Tacoma; 253-302-3466; dystopianstate.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.
Note: Food trucks often serve outside the brewery. Beers are $2 for 5-ounce tastes; $5.25-$6 for a 14-ounce pour and $6-$7 for a 16-ounce pour. Growler fills available. All ages welcome, although the brewery advises some of the artwork might not appeal to kids.
Heading through a rolled-up garage door and down the ramp at Dystopian State Brewing Co., I had a thought. “Am I cool enough to be in here?” On first glance, it was wall-to-wall 20-something guys with beards. Metal music grumbled in the background.
On second glance, it felt more Tacoma than I thought. A couple of senior-ish folks — one wearing another brewery’s T-shirt — hung out at a standing table. A mom with a toddler ambled by.
OK, this is Tacoma. Where everyone belongs.
To the right of the front entry is the 15-barrel brewing operation that’s the project of owner/brewer Shane McElwrath, along with brewing partner Chris Jones, brewer/business partner Chris Bradley and business partner Lana Adzhigirey. The brewery opened Nov. 4.
On tap were nine Dystopian brews (two were offered with or without nitro) and guest ciders from Puyallup’s Cockrell Hard Ciders. Three India pale ales — a triple black, a double and red rye — dominated the list that included an American stout, Belgian dubbel, coconut cream ale and imperial honey wheat.
The deep, drafty space once was a car dealership and still carries the look of an old Tacoma industrial building, from the well-worn wood floors to the open-beam ceiling. Expansive windows show a slice of Tacoma’s working waterfront. Custom-made tables were festooned with metal cut-outs of the brewery’s imposing avian crest. Ornate metal chandeliers — in the shape of 20-sided gaming dice — held Edison bulbs.
An L-shaped bar wrapped around a tasting room with one corner reserved for games, the other filled with couches and a giant projection screen. That projector flipped through a screen saver on my visit, but McElwrath said about once a week he’ll screen science fiction flicks with dystopian themes, a hat tip to the brewery’s theme, which McElwrath described as an imaginary playground of things gone wrong “without ever experiencing it yourself.”
McElwrath has big plans for next year, including the release of a series of bottled beer sporting artwork from Vancouver, Washington, artist Kyle Shold that continue the dystopian feel. “We’re trying to build this concept album theme. The beers are all related to the theme and the characters,” said McElwrath.
PEAKS AND PINTS
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays.
Note: No customers younger than 21. Beer offerings vary in size and price, ranging from $2.75 for a pint of Rainier to $10 for a 10-ounce glass of barrel-aged brew.
Glassware in the wine world is an oft discussed concept, but I don’t know yet how many beer drinkers care if their brew is served in a plastic keg cup or a snifter.
That’s something Peaks and Pints co-owner Ron Swarner wants to change. He’s letting his craft beer geek flag fly high at his new 100-seat taproom, beer store and sandwich emporium that opened Nov. 1 in the Proctor neighborhood.
He’s onto something. The high-octane barleywine I ordered was an easy sipper from the tulip glass. Nonic is a style of glassware I had to research last month after talking to Swarner, the former publisher of the Weekly Volcano (his brother Ken runs the paper now) and a longtime craft beer columnist. With a bulging edge at the top, the glass “enhances the aroma of the beer, so when you’re drinking it, you’ll get the full flavor and taste,” said Swarner. I enjoyed the heck out of the Scuttlebutt Hoptopia served in that glass.
The taproom lists about 20 craft beers on tap, plus a gamut of other beverages on tap: kombucha, wine, cold brew coffee and cider. The list reads like a Who’s Who of South Sound Business Directory, with appearances from Wingman Brewers, 7 Seas Brewing, Puyallup River Brewing, Top Rung Brewing, Pacific Brewing and Malting, Bluebeard Coffee Roasters and Cockrell Hard Ciders.
Head to the back of the long, narrow space, the former home of a five-and-dime store and a movie theater, to find coolers with 700 craft domestic and international beers (for takeout or drinking in).
Tacoma tavern royalty are behind the bar with Swarner. The Peterson twins — Robby and Justin — are co-owners who co-own The Valley Tavern with X-Group restaurants and solely own the Eleven Eleven Tavern in Tacoma’s Hilltop.
They’re the offspring of a Swiss Tavern co-owner, and Swarner calls them the McMenamin brothers of Tacoma because of their penchant for turning old Tacoma buildings into terrific beer palaces. Both acted as contractors in the rehab of the old building with sloping wood floors, wood-wrapped talls, a deep taproom, tall ceiling, big windows that fling open to the street and funky artwork from the personal collection of the Peterson brothers. The theme is Northwest lodge meets the coolest brew-centric base camp you’ll ever stumble upon in the mountains.
Aside from the dizzying choices of beer — the tap list is transmitted on a screen above the bar — there’s a list of 10 tasty grilled sandwiches served with chips (plus a menu of appetizers and salads). The reuben ($9.99) was brisket pastrami, havarti and sauerkraut squished between grilled rye. The Orleans ($9.99) was a pressed version of a muffaletta, with an olive tapenade and melted provolone layered with ham, pepperoni and salami. Beef and Beecher’s ($9.99) was just that: layers of roast beef with Beecher’s aged white cheddar on French bread.
Coming soon: The opening of a 40-seat glass atrium adjacent to the taproom.
Hours: Noon-5 Saturdays only. Grappa release is this week. Ouzo bottles are around $38; grappa around $28.
There’s no sign on the building, the tasting room is so small it fills up fast with more than four visitors, and the distillery is tucked into a part of Lakewood you probably never have seen.
Welcome to Mastrogiannis Distillery, a small-batch craft distillery making something new to the region: ouzo. The anise-flavored spirit is a mainstay in the Greek spirit world, although those who aren’t fans of the strong spirit might call it licorice-flavored rocket fuel.
Ouzo was the first spirit released when the distillery opened Oct. 1 by Ilias Mastrogiannis, who learned the nuance of grapes from growing up on his family’s winery in Greece that carries the family name.
Coming soon from Mastrogiannis is something new to the region: grappa. Mastrogiannis has forged a business partnership with nearby Stina’s Cellars, which provides pomace (the remnants of pressed grapes from Stina’s winemaking process), which he’ll distill into grappa. He’ll release a new line of grappa — with a limited run of about 50 bottles — about every month using a range of grapes, including merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo.
While this year is all about ouzo and grappa, Mastrogiannis does have his eye on producing brandy, as well as other spirits featuring Washington’s stone fruits.
Finding the distillery can be quite a chore, but here’s a tip: Look for the distillery directly behind the B & I shopping center. It’s in suite B-10 next to a window tinting business. When Mastrogiannis is on site, he’ll have the garage door flung open and the entire distillery operation on display. Mastrogiannis is a hands-on tour guide with answers to any distilling question.
TACOMA BREWING CO.
Four-year-old Tacoma Brewing Co. from Morgan Alexander will be on the move in 2017. Alexander is moving his two-barrel system from his small space at 625 St. Helens Ave. to a larger 7,000-square-foot home that will allow him to increase his capacity to a 15-barrel system. He’ll keep the taps the same — about a dozen — to begin with, but after he adds another cooler, he can increase his taps to 24. The space will allow him to pursue an ancillary business. He plans to open the Bone Dry Cider Co. and he’ll continue experimenting with his ginger beers. Don’t expect an opening before the end of the first quarter of 2017, but when he does open, Tacoma Brewing Co. will be at 1116 Court E., Tacoma. For updates, check facebook.com/ TacomaBrewing.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE BREWING CO.
Jared Wharton’s brewery will be DuPont’s first homegrown brew operation. The veteran who spent eight years in the Army has a business plant that makes the brewery well positioned considering its proximity to the gates of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He’ll focus his taproom’s theme and cater his service to members of the military. He’ll partner with other veteran-owned businesses. Said Wharton, “Our list of beers will honor them and hit on the military sense of humor. We haven’t partnered with a charity yet, but a portion of our sales will go to charities for veterans.” His five-barrel brewery will focus on on-site sales and will be family friendly. He expects a long build-out process, so don’t expect an opening until the end of the first quarter of 2017. Find updates at facebook.com/ FOBbrewing.
LOST WOODS BREWERY
If all goes as planned, Luke Weipert will operate his nano brewery, Lost Woods Brewery, in his Bonney Lake garage. His vision is a small garage tasting room with three taps devoted to his beers along with a guest tap. The tasting room will have limited seating and no food beyond prepackaged snacks. All that depends on licensing, of course. If licensing won’t allow the public to visit his brew space, he’ll keep it production only with two flagship beers to start — a Belgian blonde and pale ale with plans for an IPA after he’s licensed. He intends to get his beers on tap at local restaurants and taprooms. Eventually, his idea is to open a taproom something like the former Puyallup River Brewing Alehouse in downtown Puyallup. “We’re starting in the garage as a one-barrel nano. We’re hoping to generate enough revenue so we can get a retail location in Sumner or Bonney Lake.” He hopes early 2017 will bring licensing approval. For updates, check facebook.com/ lostwoodsbrewery.