On Thursday night I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with the two men behind one of the latest and greatest breweries to open in Western Washington, American Brewing Co. One of these men you will probably not be familiar with, the other…if you don’t know by name you should be ashamed.
Neil Fallon is a housing developer from Tacoma. Quite obviously, there’s better industries to be in these days, and he’s no dumby, so the time was nigh to invest in an industry with a little bit more stability. The craft beer industry is not only seeing steady growth in a down economy, but it’s full of kind, supportive people that hold strong values in community. People that work together as a team, even though, technically, they are competing against each other. This is a cornerstone of the craft beer world that Beer Blotter loves and embraces, and Neil feels the same way.
Neil knows all about building a classy space to house a taproom and brewery, but when it come to actually making beer, his knowledge is limited. That’s where the next player comes in.
Skip Madsen is a household name in the brewing community of Western Washington, and he is Neil’s number 1. When asked about the (seemingly) over density of breweries in the Seattle market, Neil responded, and I’m paraphrasing, “Yeah, that was a concern. I thought about opening my brewery in another part of the country, but once I joined up with Skip, I knew we could be successful anywhere”. We completely agree.
Skip has brewed for Pike Brewing, Big Time Brewing, Boundary Bay Brewing, and was an original founder of our beloved Water Street Brewing. He’s the man behind many stellar beers that you may still be drinking from those breweries. He has won many awards for his beers. He has mild celebrity status in this area, and it’s completely warranted.
Most recently, Skip produced Breakaway IPA under Baron Brewing’s license. Due to some personal circumstances and the fact that American Brewing seemed to be on the verge of becoming a reality, Skip stopped producing the hoppy concoction that pleased the palates of many Satellites, myself included. I remember the first time that I tasted the grog at The Pub at Piper’s Creek. I knew if Skip was behind it that it would be good, and it was. Still to this day I think that that beer might have the coolest tap handle of all time. It’s a severed hockey stick and blade. It stands out like none other.
I’m very excited to announce that Breakaway IPA, as we know it, will be transitioned to American Brewing and act as it’s flagship brew, and that the tap handles will come along with it!
ABC plans to break out the gate with 4 brews, but they may only have 3 done by the time the taproom opens. Neil is shooting for a January launch. The first beer that Skip will brew on the brand new 15 bbl brewhouse will be a blonde. The IPA makes two, then there will be a red ale and a stout. The fact that December is already half over is just one of several reasons why I’d be surprised if they opened by even late January, but I’m hoping they can pull it off. The brewery and taproom are still very much under construction. There seems to be a lot left to build and fasten. I, personally, would be a little fearful about that very first batch on a brand new system, but if anyone can do it, it’s Skip. Another worry is that ABC only has three fermentors, one 15 bbl and two 30 bbl. Though that’s enough to produce a pretty good amount of product, beer takes a while to ferment, and three fermentors means only three beers at a time. But I’m not complaining, just give me some of that Breakaway and I’ll be happy.
Though there are plans to eventually bottle, all of ABC’s offerings will initially be draft only. This is pretty common for a brewery upstart, just saying.
ABC is housed in an industrial complex right across from Arnie’s Restaurant on the Edmonds waterfront. It’s a pretty big space. Oddly, or maybe not, the room that the brewing equipment is in seems smaller than the area that the tasting room is in. One thing that I really like about Neil’s vision is that the tasting room will be a big component of what they do and who they are right from the onset. Because the tasting room is still under construction, it was very hard for me to envision what it might be like when it’s done. I asked Neil if he could think of any local tasting rooms that he may have had in mind when he designed it, or that he thinks might be slightly reminiscent of what it will look like. He struggled a little at first to come up with one, but eventually revealed that he thinks it would be a happy medium between the very industrial (think Trade Route) and the very glossy (think Black Raven). Sounds pretty good to me.
One aspect of the tasting room that was fully realized when I visited was the huge bay windows that separate the brewhouse from the tasting room. Though you can really only see the top of the tanks from the bar area, it’s a pleasant reminder that you are drinking beer that was created just a matter of feet from your seat. Another extremely bad-ass element of the tasting room will be the popcorn and hot dog machines. Way to kick it up a notch fellas!
I think it goes without saying that everyone that knows these two guys knows that they will be successful. This taproom is, without a doubt, going to be a serious beer geek destination on the Northside. Keep your eyes and ears open for details about the grand opening, hopefully in January of 2011.