Brian Koch is the owner of North Portland’s Lombard House pub, and like many others he is grappling with a pandemic, a pivot to delivery, and worldwide protests of an unjust system that have implications far more important than beer and bars.
Today, approximately 25 years after earning official recognition from the King County Council as the Center of the Universe, Fremont gains its first taproom with a fully organic beer list. Aslan Brewing, the certified organic beer company founded in Bellingham, Wash., by Frank Trosset, Jack Lamb, and Pat Haynes, quietly opened its third location over the weekend on Seattle’s North 36th Street. Located in the new Cedar Speedster building where acclaimed Korean restaurant Revel will reopen at the end of the year, the 21+ space features striking murals by artist Conor McPherson, seating for 30, and ten Aslan beers on tap. It’s open seven days a week with happy hour daily and Sunday night industry specials.
“I’ve been looking [for this] for the last two years,” explains co-owner and CEO Lamb. “We needed another boost. Everyone’s beer sales are down in Bellingham.”
Seattle is the biggest market for the brewery, which expects to sell about 8,000 barrels of beer in 2019, so opening a satellite in the Emerald City makes business sense, and Lamb, who grew up in the Ravenna neighborhood, also describes the decision as something of a homecoming. This connection led him to personally devote a lot of time to the project, overseeing the buildout and going so far as to occasionally sleep in his van instead of driving back and forth to Bellingham. It was all in service to his vision for the space, and the company’s future. Aslan spent close to $300,000 on developing the property, and has added nine employees under the direction of general manager Madison Sorden.
“To me, this is about connecting quality with the name,” Lamb says, pointing out the different types of glassware behind the bar. “It’s also a hub to host accounts.”
At 1,300 square feet, the taproom isn’t enormous, but high ceilings make it seem more spacious, and an as yet unfinished event space next door adds nearly another 1,000 square feet to alleviate anticipated weekend crowds. In addition to draft ales and lagers, the drink menu at Aslan Seattle includes more than 10 additional beers in bottles or cans, five varieties of wine, three ciders, and two types of kombucha (not to mention a collection of tiny bottles of Underberg behind the bar). Beer to go is available in a cooler by the entrance. Fan favorites Batch 15 IPA and Dawn Patrol will regularly appear on tap, but according to Lamb, part of the goal here is to introduce drinkers to the depth of Aslan’s portfolio: brown ale, kellerbier, Brett saison.
“I want to keep this thing so simple,” says Lamb, adding that he intentionally designed the menu to fit on half a sheet of standard letter paper.
While Aslan Seattle won’t do any production on site, it joins two other breweries with a footprint in the neighborhood: Fremont Brewing Company, which began selling beer in 2009, and Outlander Brewery and Pub, which opened in 2012. Fremont was also the home of Redhook Brewery for a little more than a decade before the company moved to Woodinville. Noting missteps made by an out-of-state brewery that opened in Bellingham several years ago, Lamb notes that Aslan reached out to the local beer community as things began to take shape, meeting with business owners, explaining its intentions, and answering questions. By all appearances, these efforts have already begun to pay off.
“I’m super excited to have the Aslan folks in the neighborhood,” says Matt Storm, who owns The Masonry, a popular restaurant and beer bar nearby. “Beyond making a bunch of really nice beer across a variety of styles, sometimes greatly underserved ones, they also are just genuinely some of the nicest people I’ve met in the industry.”
Aslan worked with both The Masonry and neighboring beer bar Brouwer’s Cafe to create a limited release dark sour called Fremontii, and Lamb mentions that a second collaboration with Lighthouse Roasters and Theo Chocolate—two other Fremont businesses—is on the horizon. Plus, as another sign of its commitment to cooperation, Aslan is relying on two Seattle restaurateurs to provide food for its taproom. The current solution is pre-made cured meat sandwiches from Salumi. Then, early next year, when Victor Steinbrueck opens Local Tide in the adjacent space, Aslan will serve seafood from its neighbor via a connecting window. Expect Dungeness crab rolls, shrimp toast, salads, and a seafood cake bahn mi.
It all adds up to a concept that’s distinct from Aslan’s original brewpub as well as its Depot barrel-aging facility and event space in Bellingham. At the same time, the taproom represents a new step for the brewery and a new face for Seattle’s beer scene. According to Lamb, Aslan wouldn’t have it any other way. “We’re creative, we’re evolving, and we give a shit about other stuff besides IPA,” he says.
Aslan Brewing Seattle Taproom – 401 N 36th St STE. 102, Seattle, WA 98103
Author of The Great Northeast Brewery Tour and a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Beer, Ben Keene has judged beer competitions across the United States and frequently speaks at industry conferences and conventions. He lives in Seattle.