Brew Five Three: Tacoma’s unofficial beer festival doesn’t disappoint

VIDEO: Beer and blues: Life's essentials

Sights and sounds from Tacoma's Brew Five Three beer and blues festival.
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Sights and sounds from Tacoma's Brew Five Three beer and blues festival.

An hour into Tacoma’s Brew Five Three beer and blues festival, Wet Coast Brewing Co. co-owners Aaron and April Johnson had hit their stride.

“We’re the third exit over the bridge in Gig Harbor,” the couple repeated, sometimes in unison.

“We have eight beers on tap,” Aaron Johnson answered, firing off the nano brewery’s tap list.

For a fledgling brewery like Wet Coast, being part of Saturday’s beer festival in downtown Tacoma was a big deal.

It was also only the second time the owners of the Gig Harbor brewery have participated in a beer festival where they were the ones pouring, not drinking.

“It’s a dream come true to be on this side of the table with some of these guys,” Aaron Johnson said of joining the 38 other breweries featured at the event.

It was also a little nerve-wracking.

“When you have a couple thousand people who are there just to drink craft beer, you really want to make sure you’re on your ‘A’ game,” said Bryan Copeland, Wet Coast co-owner.

That means having enough beer on hand to last the day, keeping it cold and making sure people walk away with a good impression.

Aaron Johnson joked that his job was to be the “king of shameless self-promotion.”

“For us it’s educating people as to who we are, where we are and what we do,” he said.

The brewery owners hope the exposure, along with good beer, will pay off.

Event sponsor Broadway Center for the Performing Arts estimated close to 2,000 people would attend the seven-hour event, which included live music and local food trucks. Most of the breweries were from the South Sound.

By 2:30 p.m. Broadway between south Ninth and 11th streets was bustling with beer lovers sipping from complimentary pint glasses.

Many attendees wore their favorite beer attire — including homemade pretzel necklaces for on-the-go snacking.

Back at stall 36 near Ninth Street, the Johnsons were trying to keep up with demand as people traded tokens for a 4-ounce pour.

“This is worthwhile enough to drive across the bridge and check them out to see what else they’ve got,” said Sheila Peach as she sipped the brewery’s Bottleman Brown Ale.

The Tacoma resident was at the festival with Lori James of Skyway. The two are seasoned beer festival attendees.

“We came here for something new,” James said of their strategy, which included trying new beers and stopping at unknown breweries.

As they meandered down Broadway, the women swapped beers, trading tasting notes as they walked.