As the grandad of local craft brewing, Scuttlebutt has seen it all.
Big moves. New beers. A city transformed. An industry revolutionized.
Since opening its doors along the Everett waterfront 25 years ago, Scuttlebutt has seen nearly everything change.
They no longer brew beer in their original location, having built a restaurant and taproom as part of the waterfront’s revitalization and a giant brewhouse in a warehouse on Cedar Street near downtown Everett.
They’ve changed beer recipes, rebranded, won awards, opened a boutique taproom, partnered with indie-rock magnets like KEXP and the Everett Music Initiative, and, on top of it all, survived in a beer industry that has undergone titanic shifts since they brewed their first beer.
“We are still making beer and food, and get to be a part of this local community,” said Phil Bannan Jr., Scuttlebutt’s general manager. “I can say that we are making the best beer and food we’ve ever made — and we are excited for the future.”
Bannan Jr.’s dad, Phil Bannan Sr., and his wife, Cynthia, pioneered craft beer in Snohomish County, opening Scuttlebutt in a small rickety building on the Everett waterfront in 1996. The Bannans still own and operate the brewery — and this month they celebrate 25 years with a month’s worth of beers, parties and music. (See box)
Scuttlebutt will be releasing a new beer each Friday in July. Each beer was brewed by one of its longtime employees in collaboration with a Scuttlebutt brewer. The final beer of the month will be a weizenbock brewed by Bannan Sr. and Jr. and the brewery’s original brewer, Pat Doud. The brewery will also host a two-day concert event on the final weekend of the month, with food trucks, beer releases and giveaways.
When Scuttlebutt began brewing beer 25 years ago, the craft-beer landscape was completely different. Microbreweries were a nascent idea, with only a few players even in Seattle. Scuttlebutt joined the likes of Elysian, Hale’s, Diamond Knot and Redhook in trying to convert Rainier and PBR drinkers over to a more elevated drinking experience.
The market was so barren, it was common to name beer simply after the style of beer. Hence Scuttlebutt’s Amber, Porter and Hefeweizen.
Things have changed so much that not only is Scuttlebutt now coming up with cool names for its beers — Lightspeed Lager and Rollerbowl Kolsch are two recently released beers — but they’re moving away from bottles to what’s become the industry norm: cans. Since beginning to can a few years ago, Scuttlebutt now distributes about two-thirds of its lineup in cans instead of bottles.
Bannan Jr. said he remembers thinking 2,000 breweries in the nation was a lot a decade ago. The most recent figures show the U.S. supports more than 9,000 breweries — and that number continues to grow despite over-saturation worries.
“Before, if you wanted to, you could pick a market and go, put in the effort and make it grow,” said Bannan Jr. of distribution. “Now every area has their ‘own’ breweries to support and get behind. It’s actually pretty cool. Challenging for the business side, but great for beer drinkers all over.”
Scuttlebutt distribution extended across state lines and even across the Pacific and Atlantic ocean as opportunities opened up in Japan, South Korea and England, among others.
Over its 25 years, Scuttlebutt has been a picture of consistency. Not only could you always find original lineup beers on tap at its restaurant, but only three head brewers have ever led the brewhouse: Doud, Matt Stromberg and Eric Nord.
After Stromberg took over the brewing duties in 2000, he moved the brewery toward more experimental beers, including barrel-aged. A small batch system allowed the brewery to do more “one-off” beers that not only gave the taplist more variety, but also act as a farm team for future larger releases.
“Those are the beers I get most excited about and I know that our staff feels the same,” Bannan Jr. said. “They’re new and fresh. In business you have to be constantly adapting, changing, growing and pushing yourselves. If you aren’t then you might as well stop. If you are using all the same old recipes, the same hops, same yeast strain the same art, etc., as when you started then there’s really no reason to continue because the passion for it is probably gone.”
Nord has taken that mantle and run with it, creating a wider variety of special and seasonal releases for craft-beer fans.
“People’s tastes evolve,” Bannan Jr. said. “There’s still some great classics out there, but there’s so much more to choose from now. That being said, we still brew our Amber — it’s 25 years old and there’s still a place for it. I’m glad there are still people out there who love it.”
The pandemic altered customer’s tastes tremendously. Amber, Scuttlebutt’s No. 1 beer in sales by volume for decades, is no longer, recently supplanted by the brewery’s newest hazy IPA offering, Living Daylights. Fittingly, in another nod to change, Living Daylights took the place of Gale Force IPA, the brewery’s original Pacific Northwest-style IPA, in the brewery’s lineup.
Distribution changed as well. Before the pandemic, Scuttlebutt packaged about 60% of its beer, with the other 40% kegged for distribution to bars, restaurants and the like. Like many breweries, Scuttlebutt went to 100% packaging soon after COVID-19 hit, but the draft percentage still lingers around 20% even now.
What hasn’t changed in 25 years is Scuttlebutt’s devotion to quality, innovation and community.
If you go
Scuttlebutt, 1205 Craftsman Way No. 101, Everett, is hosting its 25th anniversary party July 30-31. There will be live music, food trucks, new beers and giveaways. Tickets are $10 and include two beers and glassware.
Also: Each Friday in July, Scuttlebutt is brewing a special beer to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Schedule:
July 9: New Zealand Pale, William Rundall, assistant brewer;
July 16: Red IPA, Nate Feaster, taproom manager;
July 23: Imperial IPA, Marianne Ost, cellarwoman;
July 30: Weizenbock, Phil Bannan Sr., Phil Bannan Jr., Pat Doud.