In the time of COVID, being a nano-brewery that focuses exclusively on distribution isn’t the worst position to be in. No taproom to manage, few if any employees and a distribution framework to lean on.
That’s the situation that Bothell’s Watts Brewing found itself in over the past 20 months. After a short stall during the initial shutdown early in the pandemic, Watts rebounded nicely, ramping up production with a contract to brew at Seattle’s Hale’s Ales, beginning an extensive canning operation and extending its distribution network.
Owner Evan Watts is starting to get noticed for his efforts — and his beer. Watts took home a gold and a silver medal in the recent Washington Beer Awards and was named Very Small Brewery of the Year.
“Any time you win it’s kind of a surprise,” Watts said. “There are so many good breweries in Washington and to be recognized at that level is fantastic. It’s one of those things that we want to create awesome beers that people love, and an award like this can help people recognize our name.”
Watts Brewing won a gold medal for its Xylocopa Irish export stout in the Irish Ales category and a silver medal for its Drone Strike session IPA in the Experimental & Session Beers category. Watts was especially proud of the silver.
“There are so many entries in the session beer category because it opens it up to IPAs, so to win a medal in that category feels great,” Watts said.
Xylocopa is available in cans and on draft in a number of bottleshops and bars in the area, including Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish, Brigid’s Bottleshop in Edmonds and Chuck’s Hop Shop in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. Watts said Drone Strike is sold out currently but will be coming back in the spring.
Watts said he hopes that the awards and honor of being named a brewery of the year can help catapult the brewery into a new space. He said he’s currently looking for a 10,000-square-foot warehouse space for a production brewery and taproom in the Puget Sound region, including Bothell, Mill Creek and south Everett.
Sound to Summit brings home medal haul
In other Washington Beer Awards news, Snohomish’s Sound to Summit Brewing took home three individual medals and shared a gold medal with Everett’s Scuttlebutt Brewing for their collaboration hefeweizen Bridging the Trestle.
Sound to Summit won a pair of silvers for its Lederhomish Vienna-style lager and The Kraken’s Cream Ale, while also taking a bronze for its Ryes of the Pumpkin King in the Pumpkin Beers category. Those medals are on top of a recent double gold recognition from SIP magazine for its Scotch ale.
“Sound to Summit has always been about quality and being ‘true to style’ in every beer we brew,” Sound to Summit Brewing owner Doug Milnor said. “These medals are symbolic of the meticulous process we go through to ensure that every beer being poured is of the highest quality.”
Sound to Summit head brewer Adam Frantz, who has been at the brewery for three years, said he’s taken a philosophy of meritocracy in terms of what he brews.
“I run the numbers every month and see what people are buying,” Frantz said. “I go strictly by the numbers and try to hone in on what beers our customers are asking for and what’s selling. For us that’s lighter lagers, hazy and West Coast IPAs and seasonal beers.”
What the customers are asking for, and what Frantz is delivering, are medal-worthy. Lederhomish, which is still on tap if you hurry, was part of Frantz’s seasonal lager series and is a true-style Vienna lager that lagers for two months, not an easy ask for a brewery in which tank space is valuable. Frantz brewed The Kraken’s Cream Ale to put something lighter on the brewery’s nitro tap. It’s not currently on tap, but should be back soon.
As for the bronze medal winner, Ryes of the Pumpkin King is built with rye malt and oats to give it a complex character and Frantz cold-seeps the spices — ginger, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg — before adding them to the brite tank. It’s a different approach, but it’s resulted in a smoother beer that full of body — and a medal winner.
Frantz brewed the collaboration with Scuttlebutt brewers Adam Chittick and Eric Nord, and the brewers tried to come up with something a little different than the usual collaboration. The hefeweizen is brewed with Saphir hops, a German hop that gives the beer a neutral bitterness and bright aroma.
“I was really impressed with our collaboration medal because that’s a catch-all category that gets a lot of great entries,” Frantz said.
Everett brewery, cider open Seattle taproom
Everett’s Crucible Brewing and Soundbite Cidery are joining forces to open Pour Decisions, a beer and cider taproom in Ballard. Located at 8000 15th St. in Seattle, Pour Decisions celebrated its grand opening this past weekend and is now open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m.