The Northshore area has a long history of thirsty patrons and entrepreneurs willing to roll the dice to try and satisfy them, a tradition which dates back to prohibition.
Sitting in the 192 Brewing taproom along the Burke-Gilman Trail in Kenmore last Friday, owner Derek Wyckoff said this part of the area’s history helped inspired him to set up shop.
“I just started looking and knew I wanted to stay in Kenmore,” Wyckoff said. “The customers were so emphatic that we must pour beer at a tap room owned by us.”
Wyckoff started brewing in 2006 out of his garage before eventually building a small, 192 square foot shed which still houses his brewing operation where he makes around 500 gallons, or only 15 barrels, a year. He joined only a handful of local breweries in 2007 and opening the taproom a couple years later, joining long-time area brewers Red Hook who have been operating out of Redmond since 1994.
The 192 Brewing taproom serves only Washington-produced beer and wine, with local promotion an issue Wyckoff said he feels strongly about in a highly competitive market.
He relies on contracting with Lazy Boy in Everett for mass production while brewing the test batches on his own, but with large amounts of unused space in his current location, he’s looking toward the future brewing whiskey.
“We’ll be expanding as soon as we can afford to with the distillery,” he said.
Craft brewing has taken off in Washington over the past few years, with the national Brewer’s Association in 2014 listing 256 small breweries in the state, second in number only to California.
“It’s happening all over, in Spokane, Bellingham and Central Washington,” Washington Beer Commission Executive Director Eric Radovich said. “People are buying craft beer, it’s growing leaps and bounds and it’s mostly small breweries making small batches.”
Radovich has a theory on craft beer’s popularity in Washington.
“It just plain tastes better. It’s more complex and I think given the Northwest, we have kind of a palate for something beyond the mainstream,” he said. “There’s a lot of foodies and coffee junkies, and I think craft beer kind of fits that mood.”
The Kenmore City Council took note of this trend years ago, including it in their 2009 economic development strategy making the creation of a micro-brewery scene along the Burke-Gilman Trail a priority.
“This is one of those times that reality has followed the policy,” said Kenmore Assistant City Manager Nancy Ousley. “I think a micro-brewery is more in keeping with what I think of when I think of Kenmore.”
Sitting right next door is the newly opened Nine Yards Brewing, where co-owner Ethan Savaglio opened up the brewery earlier this year with two friends. It’s wide-open design houses a large wooden bar, a projector and also serves as their brewery.
“When we first came in here, the place was pretty ratty,” Savaglio said.
Nine Yards used to be various industrial and mechanical businesses, which took its toll on the building, requiring them to put in large amounts of time to fix it up. The location also had to be rezoned earlier this year by the Kenmore City Council for light industrial so Nine Yards could brew on the property.
Savaglio said his taproom is primarily focused on mid-range to low alcohol content beer, with most falling between four to six percent.
“We really enjoy a well-balanced beer,” he said. “We are essentially a session beer house.”
Notably, Savaglio said they choose not to brew IPA style beers, noted for their bitter, hoppy tastes and high alcohol content. Session beer generally has lower alcohol content, allowing those who drink it to monitor their intoxication easier, he said.
“We are very much focused on creating a community space, that’s the kind of pace we want to foster,” said Savaglio.
Another block down on 73rd Avenue Northeast, Bill and Jen Boyd were hard at work renovating the soon-to-be Cairn Brewery in the floor beneath Kenmore’s business incubator, a building which the city rents out the second floor and the Boyd’s lease the bottom floor.
“I’ve been home brewing for years just as a hobby, a passion,” Bill Boyd said.
They said their permits are all in order, and they’re tentatively shooting for a February opening once their industrial brewing equipment arrives. Like the other brewery owners along Burke-Gilman Trail, they are excited about offering bikers and walkers a place to rest and enjoy a beer.
“We really wanted to be on an urban trail, that was really important to us,” Jen Boyd said.
“We very much see the brewery as being a very social atmosphere, we really appreciate that aspect of it,” Bill Boyd said.
Community was an idea all three brewers said they valued. Unlike other industries, the owners of 192 Brewing, Nine Yards and Cairn all feel their close proximity to each other will increase business for all of them as it creates more of a destination for connoisseurs.
This idea was what drove the cities decision in 2009 to put Kenmore on the craft brewing map. If the city and brewers get their way, the Northshore waterfront could soon become a hub for local beer, food and entrepreneurs.
Also happening in upcoming weeks is the Bothell Beer Festival is Oct. 17 from noon to 6 p.m. on 101st Street between Main and 183rd Street.
Photos by Aaron Kunkler
Top: Derek Wyckoff owns 192 Brewing co. in Kenmore.
Above: Bill and Jen Boyd are working to open Cairn Brewing.