With all the angst over some bigger microbreweries selling off all or parts of their breweries to megacorpbreweries, it is refreshing to revisit some of the favorite small breweries around the area. This reminds me that the craft beer revolution is less about having Sam Adams beers on lots of taps around Boston, and whether Widmer, Ommegang, Goose Island and Boulevard are still considered “craft breweries”, and more how it is about small nano sized breweries making their mark and generating a local, almost neighborhood following.
Some are weekend only garage brewers, and some actually pay for retail space. Most do not have food – and that is fine by me – because that makes them able to be dog-friendly.
Here are a few that have had a couple anniversaries and are well worth going back to if you are out and about.
Odin Brewing (Tukwila) – Dog Friendly if not serving food
Odin is in the midst of a transition. They now have a taproom/pub in Tukwila near the Southcenter Mall. Over the next year they will be moving their brewing equipment from the current 5,000 sq ft brewhouse to this new location. This will give them some 12,000 feet of expansion room for their brewing operations. Norse themed goodness in a dozen different offerings. My favorites are the Freya’s Gold (Kolsch), Northern Darkness (Baltic Porter) and the spiced Abbey Ale.
Counterbalance Brewing (South Park) – No dogs
A couple of coffee shop employees from Queen Anne Hill decided to start a new brewery in town. Head brewer and owner Frank Lawrence had been brewing beers at home for seven years. His Caffe Ladro colleague co-owner Jeff Howell, also is a homebrewer and craft beer lover. It turns out Frank had quite the knack for crafting consistently tastey and creative beers. After several years of a lot of “we should start our own brewery” chit-chat at local taprooms, they bit the proverbial bullet and DID IT.
The “counterbalance theme” has many iterations as explained on their web site. Basically it comes down to balance – and a balanced beer is what you get there. The tap room opened in late January, 2015. They are already “packing them in” thanks to some beer tour buses and a thirsty local workforce.
I had the Abigale Blonde Ale, Counterbalance IPA, Bad Wolf Dark Ale and the Kushetka Russian Imperial Stout. I particularly liked the stout.
Brickyard Brewing (Woodinville) – Dog Friendly
Santa was good to me this year and gave me a coupon for a flight of eight Brickyard tastes and a growler fill. I had not been up that a way for quite some time, so it was good to visit again and see what was new. I run into brewer/owner/beer server extraordinaire Joe Montero at various festivals and other breweries from time to time. Their Masonry Oatmeal is top notch, especially with the stout flavored ice cream. Stout floats! Yummm.
Flycaster Brewing (Totem Lake) – dog friendly
Now that Jeremy Eubanks has his Flycaster Brewing operation open and generating decent traffic, he is expanding hours and turning much of the brewing operations over to other brewers while he concentrates on – well if you go solely off his Facebook posts – fly fishing trips, vacations with the family and a love of TJack (Seahawk backup QB). He still sandwiches a MSFT BI job in there somehow. Usually, his beers are on the lighter side (blonde, ipa, pale, red) but on this visit they had a winter ale that was good, and a coffee porter that was really good.
Twelve Bar Brews (Woodinville) – Dog Friendly
The last time I was in owner/brewer Kirk Hilse’s music themed fine establishment, it was just him and me, separated by a counter. His side had a few taps. My side had a cement floor right next to the front door. Not even a chair. His hours were like blink and you missed it, but I enjoyed his beers at several local festivals. He celebrated his third year in operation this past October.
What a difference today. He took over a couple offices next door and has a beautiful cozy, dare I say intimate, taproom with guitars, and other musical instruments serving as an integral part of the decor. I had the Turnaround Red Northwest Ale. At 40 IBUs I was expecting a bit of a bite, but somehow he has tamed his hops. They were very flavorful and aromatic. He bottles his bigger sellers and uses a distributor to expand his reach throughout Washington and Idaho.
Big Block Brewing (Sammammish)
Located in a residential cul-de-sac on the Sammammish plateau, tucked inside a large, two-car garage, is yet another Eastside nanobrewery named Big Block Brewing, in honor of the big block car engines.
Owner John Julum has been producing beer at home for about 20 years. Julum and his wife, Michele, operate Big Block Brewery, the only licensed brewery in the city of Sammamish. It’s considered a nanobrewery because of its 15-keg-per-week capacity. But bigger tanks are on the way.
The brewery and taproom take up most of the Julums’ two-car garage, although the business’s namesake, a 1967 Ford Galaxie with a big-block engine, sits out in the driveway. The Julums often have 11 beers on tap, and sell beer in growlers, kegs and pints out of their taproom. You may see them on local taps around town soon.