The past year has been a rocky one in the world of craft beer business. An over-saturated market across the nation saw beer drinking numbers decline overall. But as the big macro brands and larger craft brands saw sales dip, smaller craft breweries continued to thrive on a micro scale.
Though most Snohomish County breweries kept their kettles boiling in 2018, not everyone made it out alive. Seattle’s iconic Greenwood brewery Naked City recently announced it will be shutting its doors after 10 years of operations. (The company’s Camano Island location will remain open for now.)
It was nice to see a number of local breweries expand in 2018. Crucible opened its second location in Woodinville, Middleton Brewing expanded its footprint at its location in a strip mall along Everett Mall Way, and Scuttlebutt Brewing continued to fashion itself as a purveyor of not only beer but local music.
Here’s a few things I’m looking forward to in 2019:
New breweries: I was surprised at how few new breweries opened in 2018. After a cavalcade of new breweries in 2017, Snohomish County really only saw a handful this past year, including Ale Spike on Camano Island and Glorybucha, a kombucha brewery, in Arlington.
I don’t expect an avalanche of new breweries in 2019, but early results show that there may be an uptick next year. First, Hemlock State Brewing is moving from its garage location in Shoreline to a taproom spot early in the new year in Mountlake Terrace.
I’ve also heard rumors about a new brewery opening in Stanwood and big name players possibly moving to Everett, Lynnwood or just across the county line in Totem Lake. Of course, those are just rumors, but it portends to be a better year for new breweries locally.
Big changes: After his plan to move into a large facility in Lake Stevens fell apart, 5 Rights Brewing’s owner R.J. Whitlow punted and put into action a Plan B. That plan will see the garage brewer open his first taproom in downtown Marysville in early 2019.
It’s a huge step for 5 Rights, which was named 2017’s Small Brewery of the Year by the Washington Beer Commission. Whitlow recently purchased a larger four-barrel system from Geaux Brewing that will allow him to brew larger batches and get more of the “Right” beer into the hands of local beer fans.
There are a number of other breweries that plan to grow in 2019, and I’ll be able to share more about that when deals are secure. Stay tuned.
Old dogs, new tricks: Innovation is the name of the game in craft beer. Like music, if you’re still standing when the disco ball drops, then you’re probably dead.
From my vantage point, it’s fun to watch brewers tinker with recipes, buy new equipment and forge new partnerships to stay relevant and fresh. In 2018, it was brut IPAs, coolships and craft beer marrying itself to local indie music (see: Scuttlebutt and Everett Music Initiative).
My Christmas wish is more lagers and less milkshake IPAs in 2019. That’s not a popular opinion, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of the local lager offerings lately, and I’d like to see more.
Other changes I’m looking forward to in 2019 include: Skookum moving to pint cans, a no-brainer for the quality and quantity of amazing IPAs head brewer Hollis Wood produces, Scuttlebutt hosting family days at its taproom, complete with board games, kiddie bands and root beer, and a little further afield, the new beers/ciders/meads being produced by former Jester King duo Amber Watts and Ron Extract at Garden Path Fermentation in Skagit Valley.
What are you looking forward to in 2019? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Double Dog Pale Ale, Snotown Brewing: A Pacific Northwest-inspired double pale ale brewed with Chinook and Mosaic hops. Available on tap at the brewery.
Luminous Flux, Skookum Brewery: An IPA brewed with white wheat, a touch of flaked barley and Southern Passion, African Queen, Mosaic and Citra hops. Available on tap at the brewery.
Aconcagua Peach Milkshake DIPA
Sound to Summit Brewing, Snohomish
Style: Milkshake double IPA
Stats: 8 percent ABV, 45 IBU
Available: On tap at the brewery
From the brewery: Named after the tallest peak on the South American continent, this milkshake IPA was made with Citra and Amarillo hops, lactose in the boil and a heavy dose of vanilla beans prior to kegging.