In true Tacoma fashion, brewing a special-release beer for Tacoma Beer Week percolated over a pint (or three).
Two brewers invited another to help. Another brewer pitched in. And then another and another. The idea was to gather as many Tacoma brewers as possible to collaborate on a beer that would do something every Tacoma brewer wants: Get more people to drink Tacoma-brewed beer.
In all, brewers from seven Tacoma breweries — including one that isn’t yet open — collaborated on Tacoma Neo Noir, a Belgian-style black IPA brewed for Tacoma Beer Week, which begins Monday and includes events and special beer releases at Tacoma breweries and taverns known for their craft tap selections (find a partial schedule below, but more events are at facebook.com/tacomabeerweek).
Brewers from Engine House No. 9, Harmon Brewing Co., Narrows Brewing, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. (not yet open), The RAM, Tacoma Brewing Co. and Wingman Brewers collaborated on the black IPA. Only about 20 kegs have been produced of the collaboration brew, which means the kegs could blow early in the week.
The brew was conceptualized via brewer meetings and finalized through email back-and-forths. Joe Walts of Narrows Brewing, who brewers point to as the inspiration for a jointly brewed IPA, said the process was easy because, in his words, “none of us are divas.”
Tacoma tap takeovers also are planned at taprooms and taverns known for craft beer taps: The Red Hot, Doyle’s and Parkway Tavern.
Breweries outside Tacoma are getting in on Tacoma Beer Week: Puyallup River Brewing will debut a special-release beer for Tacoma Beer.
Read below for profiles and addresses for local breweries and taprooms. You’ll also find a list of Tacoma Beer Week Events. I also checked in with brewers about their thoughts on Tacoma’s future in brewing:
The future of Tacoma beer
Ken Thoburn, Wingman Brewers: “With a couple more breweries coming into town I think we’re reaching a critical mass. If the brewers in Tacoma can continue to band together we can make our town a mecca for beer. If you look at cities like Bend, Ore. for beer or Woodinville for wine you can see whats on the horizon for Tacoma. We’ve got loyal Tacoma drinkers and we’re making better beers everyday. If we can keep gaining speed then the future for Tacoma beer is an unstoppable creative and delicious force in the city.”
Jeff Carlson, Harmon Brewing Co.: “The biggest change is how many breweries that we have now. People ask me all the time if I think we have too many breweries around. I don’t think we do when you compare us to Seattle, Portland or even Bend, Ore. We definitely have room for more. The best thing about having more local breweries is the level of quality that it brings. When you have a bunch of brewers in (an) area it makes them up their game and stay on top of things. No sitting around making the same beers and recipes year after year. It forces you to evolve with the trends and to try and be a trend setter yourself.”
Shane Johns, Engine House No. 9: “Tacoma beer has really progressed in the last 10 years. We are no long a city with a couple brewpubs. We are going to be a force to be reckoned with. You have the Harmon, 7 seas and Narrows all with the capabilities to be huge regional breweries. Morgan at Tacoma Brewing and Ken at Wingman brewing (are) really pushing the limits. And the RAM (has) already outgrown their production facility. And that’s just the start. Pacific Brewing will be up and running soon and there (are) a couple others that I’ve heard are in the works. I think that you will continue to see more breweries, bottle shops and craft beer bars opening in the next few years. Really think the future looks bright for craft beer in Tacoma.”
Russ Heaton, owner of Doyle’s Public House: “As more breweries have opened it has allowed for brewers to work together and the competition has improved the quality. Nalley Valley could easily become a great brewery district with existing utility infrastructure and available commercial space.”
Tacoma Beer Week Events
Collaboration beer: You can find Tacoma Neo Noir at breweries participating in Tacoma Beer Week as well as on tap at Doyle’s, Maxwell’s, Meconi’s, Pacific Grill, The Parkway, Puget Sound Pizza, The Red Hot and The Swiss. A portion of proceeds from Tacoma Neo Noir sales will go to the Emergency Food Network, organizers said.
Monday March 3, 2014:
*The Red Hot (2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-779-0229) kicks off Tacoma Beer Week with a tap takeover featuring a beer from every Tacoma brewery. The tap list includes: Tacoma Neo Noir Belgian Black IPA; Harmon Brewing Cross Pollination Honey Coconut Porter; E9 Brewery Belgian Pale; Wingman Brewers Miss B’Haven Triple; Narrows Brewing 48 Oatmeal Stout; Tacoma Brewing Co. Coffee Infused IPA aged on Sugar Maple; RAM Tacoma Apollo Double IPA; 7 Seas Depth Finder IRA; M.T. Head Mr. Gravity Barley Wine
*Narrows Brewing (9007 S. 19th St., Tacoma; 253-327-1400) will have a tap takeover of dark beers from Tacoma-area breweries.
* Harmon Tap Room (204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma; 253-212-2725) will have an IPA going on the Randall at 5 p.m. and will also have IPAs and pale ales on tap through day and night. Beers from Engine House No. 9, Wingman, Tacoma Brewing, 7 Seas and Puyallup River will be on tap. Also tapped will be the Harmon’s second annual 11th Street IPA, which also will appear at other locations around town.
Engine House No. 9 (611 N. Pine St., Tacoma; 253-272-3435) will have a Tacoma-beer tap takeover.
Parkway Tavern (313 N. I St., Tacoma; 253-383-8748) will have a Tacoma-beer tap takeover.
Meet Tacoma Brewers
Here are Tacoma brewer bios and the special release beers that will be tapped during Tacoma Beer Week.
Engine House No. 9: Shane Johns has been head brewer here for five years. He collaborates with brewer Sean Jackson. The brewery operates with an on-site restaurant in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood. 611 N. Pine St., Tacoma; 253-272-3435, ehouse9.com. Special release: Belgian Pale.
Harmon Brewing Co.: Jeff Carlson has been with Harmon Brewing Co. for six years, taking the head brewer position two years ago. He learned to brew from former Harmon head brewer Mike Davis. Harmon Brewing Co. operates a family of brewery-restaurants: Harmon Brewing in downtown Tacoma; The Hub and Harmon Taproom in Tacoma’s St. Helens neighborhood; and The Hub Gig Harbor. Find location addresses at harmonbrewingco.com. Special release: Cross-Pollination Coconut Honey Porter.
Narrows Brewing: Joe Walts is a newcomer to South Sound brewing. He joined the new Narrows Brewing in 2013, when the brewery and taproom opened adjacent to Boathouse 19 at the Narrows Marina. Walts relocated to Tacoma from a craft brewery in Madison, Wis. Narrows Brewing is at 9007 S. 19th St., Tacoma; 253-327-1400, narrowsbrewing.com. Special release: XLVIII Oatmeal Stout.
Tacoma Brewing Co.: Tacoman Morgan Alexander sprouted his nano brewery from Amocat Cafe, a coffee house he ran in the St. Helens neighborhood until he converted it to a brewery with help from his brother, Tristan Litke. Alexander is a 1986 graduate of Stadium High School. 625 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma; 253-242-3370; facebook.com/TacomaBrewing. Special release: Coffee, Hibiscus and/or Orange Creamsicle IPAs.
The RAM: Dave Leonard is head of brew operations for The RAM, a locally sprouted business that has locations in Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup and elsewhere (check theram.com for locations). Leonard started at Mac and Jack’s as night brewer before moving to RAM. Special release from South Hill RAM: Cask Belgian Blonde with peaches.
Wingman Brewers: Ken Thoburn is brewer of Wingman Brewers, which he founded with friends who all grew up in Tacoma. The brewery is named with a nod to Thoburn’s grandfather, who painted planes in World War II. The brewery operates a taproom in the Dome District neighborhood. 509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma; 253-256-5240, wingmanbrewers.com. Special release: Something Crazy Tacoma.
Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.: Brewer Steve Navarro is in the home stretch of establishing Pacific Brewing & Malting Co., set to open on Pacific Avenue. The name harkens to the original Pacific Brewing and Malting, which operated more than 100 years ago in Tacoma. 610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-442-0596, pacificbrewingandmalting.com
More Pierce County breweries to visit
7 Seas Brewing Co.: 3006 Judson St., Gig Harbor; 253-514-8129, 7seasbrewing.com. The brewery from Mike Runion and Travis Guterson recently moved to a larger brewery in Gig Harbor. The taproom features about a half dozen brews at any time. Recently, the brewery has expanded its offerings, distributing its brews to a number of local bars and restaurants.
Elk Head Brewing: 28120 State Route 410, Buckley; 360-829-2739. This warehouse location features a brewing operation adjacent to a tasting room with communal and high-top tables. A dozen brews on tap.
M.T. Head: 27307 159th Ave E., Graham; 253-208-8999, mtheadbrewingco.com. This Graham brewery and taproom also has its beers on tap at local restaurants and taverns.
Puyallup River Brewing and Alehouse: 120 S. Meridian, Puyallup; 253-268-0955, puyallupriverbrewing.com. Eric Akeson started his Puyallup River Brewing as a backyard hobby in 2012 and built his business so quickly, he opened a taproom in downtown Puyallup in 2013. Find a menu of hot dogs and a tap selection that includes Puyallup River brews and a number of Washington craft beers.
Station U-Brew: 211 W. Stewart, Puyallup; 253-466-3721, Facebook page. Brewer Steve Samples features a half dozen rotating taps of house-brewed beer at his downtown Puyallup taproom that opened in 2010. He’s about to tap an oatmeal molasses stout and a serrano pepper pale. Attention home brewers – beer can be brewed at Station U-Brew using the equipment on site.