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.
For Seattle beer drinkers, it’s been a long time coming. Sixteen years after selling its first keg to the Latona Pub and 10 years after firing up the brew kettle at its current location, Georgetown Brewing Company finally has a true tasting room on site. The new space, which took nearly 12 months to complete, debuts today and will be open seven days a week. Fans of the brewery who routinely visit to buy kegs or fill 64-ounce growlers (Georgetown says they sell more than 1,700 growlers of Manny’s Pale Ale every month) will still be able to do so, but now they’ll also have the opportunity to stick around for a pint.
Taking into account an outdoor beer garden complete with a fire pit and several small Japanese maple trees, the expansion adds 1,600 square feet to the existing 800 square foot tasting room. Surrounded by glass walls, the high-ceilinged dog- and family-friendly space will be flooded with natural light on sunny days, and increases Georgetown’s occupancy to more than 150 when the outdoor area is included. Benches as well as low back bar stools at a number of long wood counters provide seating for couples and small groups, while plenty of square standing tables offer places to lean or rest a glass. The main draw, of course, will be the opportunity to select and savor a full pour from one of 24 draft beers. For the time being, everything on tap is made by Georgetown, but that could change in the future.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a guest tap once in a while,” says marketing manager Ingrid Bartels.
After agreeing to open a brewery together and homebrewing eight batches of a pale ale that would become their flagship, former housemates Manny Chao and Roger Bialous bought a used 15-barrel brewhouse in North Carolina in 2002 and set up shop in the historic Seattle Malting and Brewing building. Demand exceeded capacity in a matter of years, necessitating a move to Georgetown Brewing’s current address, about half a mile away. Defying conventional wisdom, the partners grew their business to more than 53,000 barrels as a draft-only company before deciding to begin canning in 2017. In 2018, the brewery sold well over 80,000 barrels of beer, with Manny’s and Bodhizafa IPA, a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival, leading the way. Today it’s the largest independently owned brewery in Washington.
Somewhat surprisingly though, Georgetown’s tasting room never evolved beyond a simple retail space designed to facilitate sales of beer-to-go and branded merchandise. This despite data from the Brewers Association that showed that at-the-brewery sales volume represented roughly 40 percent of growth for the entire craft category in 2018. Free samples have always been available for people who wanted to try beers before buying, but during the period that Georgetown was draft-only, Chao and Bialous concentrated on driving thirsty customers to their many on premise accounts throughout the city. That officially changes today, although the brewery won’t offer food and will close earlier than many other taprooms in town (7 p.m. Monday—Saturday, and 5 p.m. on Sunday).
“We want people to go out in the neighborhood and support those places,” explains Bartels. “That’s why we still don’t can Manny’s. Go spend time in the neighborhood.”
The popular brewery’s newly expanded tasting room is certain to draw more people to Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, which five other breweries also call home. Fortunately for ambitious beer tourists, a variety of good restaurants serving everything from tacos and pizza to sushi and Nashville hot chicken are all within walking distance. So check out Georgetown’s tasting room menu, now featuring exclusives like the sessionable 3.0% ABV MacMertens Scottish ale, a crisp, 4.6% ABV Helles lager called Cindy, and the 9.4% ABV bourbon barrel-aged Mega Meow imperial stout, and start planning. Just don’t be surprised if you spot one of the founders enjoying a pint in the beer garden.
“Manny likes the idea of drinking beer under a tree,” says Bartels.
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.