When Chris and Lyna Pepper moved to Camano Island two years ago they found that the commute to buy good craft beer was just too far.
So they did something about it: They brought the beer to them. Chris and Lyna opened Ale Spike, a taproom/bottleshop that specializes in unique and hard-to-find craft beer, in Stanwood last January.
“We thought if we like (drinking craft beer) and other people are willing to drive that distance then who wants to do that,” Lyna said recently. “We decided we could bring good beer to the area.”
That they have. Ale Spike carries 400 different bottles of beer in 12 coolers and has 26 beers on tap (27 if you know about the secret tap). Imbibers can come in and grab bottles to go or sit down at the small bar and order up a pint. They won’t find Budweiser or beers of that ilk. Ale Spike’s coolers are filled with beers from micro- and nanobrewers like Louisville, Kentucky’s Against the Grain, San Diego’s Green Flash and Seattle’s Rueben’s Brews.
Since opening, Chris and Lyna, who moved to Camano Island from Mill Creek, said they were surprised by north Snohomish County beer fans and their knowledge of craft beer. That has allowed them to bring in even better beers.
“We underestimated the level of love of craft beer in this area,” Lyna said. “There are some really complex palettes around here.”
Still it puts a smile on their faces when someone comes in, grabs a bottle and spins it in their hands with a quizzical look.
“People have come in and said they’ve seen beer here that they haven’t at other shops,” Chris said. “That’s good to hear. I like to have beer that people haven’t tried, haven’t seen or even heard of before.”
As with most small business owners, the Peppers are working long hours. Ale Spike, which is open six days a week, has only one employee and Lyna still telecommutes to her full-time job as a director of a staffing agency.
“I’m at the shop more than I’m at home,” Chris said.
The Peppers’ love for craft beer dates to the early years of their marriage around 2000 when Lyna introduced Chris to “good” beer.
“Before that I only drank Budweiser and Coors,” Chris said.
For a look at Chris and Lyna Pepper’s five favorite beers they carry, click here.
Since then they’ve downed countless pints, brewed a number of batches of their own beer and even helped pour beer at Washington Beer Lovers events for the likes of Diamond Knot, which both Chris and Lyna singled out for praise as a local brewery that does things right.
“We served at a number of beer events for Diamond Knot. We were quote-unquote beer buddies with Diamond Knot a long time before it was hip,” Lyna said, laughing.
In an industry that sees a new local brewery pop up seemingly every day, Lyna said it can be tough to keep up. Both Chris and Lyna talk to craft beer brewers, distributors and fans to find out about new beers and breweries. They also do plenty of research, unfortunately not all of it drinking.
“We do so much research online,” Lyna said.
Ale Spike has big plans for the new year, including a website, but first they are working with a local brewer on a special anniversary beer.
“We can’t give away any details,” Lyna said.
9300 271st St NW, B-5, Stanwood
Hours: Noon to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday; Noon to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday
Beers on tap poured by schooner, pint and growler.