Off a gravel drive on 53rd Avenue Southeast in Bothell (actually unincorporated Snohomish County), Jim Jamison is at the ready in his attached garage. Ready, that is, to go to work with what he hopes eventually will become the various tools of his trade.
On this specific day, he’s thrown some ingredients into his brewing system and is working on a dark porter beer, which, as it percolates, gives off a faint coffee aroma.
“That’s the roasted barley,” Jamison, a sales manager by day, said of the scent, adding there is no actual coffee in the beer.
After the beer moves from the brew kettle and through a cooling system, it will spend about a week in a small fermenter in the corner of the garage. When it’s ready, Jamison will test the beer for sugar and alcohol content, and one presumes, taste. If it passes muster, the porter will then get placed into bottles stamped with the Foggy Noggin Brewery label.
Technically not even open to the public yet, Foggy Noggin is pretty much the dictionary definition of a small business. At least temporarily, Jamison’s garage literally is the brewery. His business partners are his wife and grown children. His computer savvy niece takes care of the marketing.
When the brewery officially opens for business later this summer, it will be on Saturday’s only. While he hopes to get into selling kegs to local bars, for now, Jamison plans on selling his various ales in half-gallon glass jugs or growlers.
The germ for Foggy Noggin was contained in a gift from Jamison’s wife, that gift being a 16-quart brew pot he received and started putting to use in 1992.
“Everybody always really liked the beer,” he said, “though you don’t if they’re just being nice, or what.”
Around Christmas 2007, Jamison apparently decided to see if his brewing skills really are up to par. He applied for state and federal licenses and while it took longer than expected to gain those licenses, he’s ready to put his recipes to the test with the public.
By the time Foggy Noggin goes fully operational, Jamison will have moved his brewing operation out of his garage. He said it’s a federal rule that you can’t have a brewery that’s attached to a residence. With that in mind, Jamison plans on building a small structure on his property, using the garage for beer tasting and retail sales.
Jamison isn’t afraid to talk about the size of his enterprise, which he adds is particularly limited by the size of his fermenter. But Jamison adds there is at least one well-known local micro-brewery that started out in much the same way as Foggy Noggin. For now, though, Jamison said he doesn’t have any overhead or payroll and isn’t about to run up the debt that might be connected with trying to run a full-fledged micro-brewery.
“This isn’t our final resting place,” Jamison insists, indicating his crowded, but very clean garage. He said he gets visitors every week wondering when they will be able to buy some Foggy Noggin brew and he has built up an e-mail list of a few hundred potential customers.
In his brewing, Jamison concentrates on English-style ales, partly because brewing can take place at room temperatures as opposed to cooled surroundings. He also wants to stay away from IPAs, or India pale ales, which he thinks are all too common.
“My thought was, do we really need another IPA?” he asked.
Jamison describes the English beers he favors as lighter, less bitter than many other speciality brews. They also tend to be lower in alcohol content, though he makes a few varieties that a have bit more kick.
“There’s a reason there’s many different types of beers,” Jamison said. “Everybody likes what they like … To me, the sign of a good beer is, it makes you want to have another.”