John Sype found his heart in a glass of beer.
He found his head brewer next door.
Sype, a cardiologist at The Everett Clinic, and his wife, Stacey, recently opened the doors to their new brewery, Sound to Summit Brewing in Snohomish. The two have put Grady Warnock*, who grew up next door to them in Everett, in charge of brewing their beers.
“We got talking one day and traded some home brews,” John said of Warnock, who has only been brewing beer for two years. “I was impressed.”
The Sypes’ love for craft beer can be traced back 15 years to their days in Omaha, Nebraska, where Stacey was in dental school. One of her professors was a home brewer and got John interested in brewing. He started with home kits and built his own recipes. In 2012, having moved to the craft-beer hotbed of the Pacific Northwest years earlier, the two started thinking about turning that hobby into something more: a brewery.
Warnock, meanwhile, was working odd jobs since graduating from the University of Washington with a biology degree. In November, 2012, he started brewing beer and fell in love with the science behind the process. During stints of being unemployed, Warnock, 26, would brew beer and tinker with recipes.
“I would spend half the day looking for a job and the other half researching brewing and writing recipes,” Warnock said.
The Sypes, both 41, were so impressed with Warnock’s home brews they decided to ask him to be the head brewer in their “hair-brained scheme” to open a brewery. He jumped at the opportunity and started soaking up as much information as he could about brewing. He dove into books like Charlie Papazian’s “The Homebrewer’s Companion,” he went to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver to rub elbows with the country’s best brewers and he attended a two-week intensive course at Siebel Institute in Chicago.
He credits the Siebel course with helping him go from being a home brewer to a brewer who could oversee a commercial, big-barrel system.
“For home brew I can brew something and it’ll be gone in a few weeks,” Warnock said. “But here you’re going to have beer that may sit for three months and you want that beer to taste the same three months later as it did the minute it came out of the bright (conditioning) tank.”
The Sypes looked at places in Everett and Mukilteo to rent or buy to house the brewery but each attempt was derailed due to issues with zoning or timing. They turned to Snohomish and everything seemed to fit, from location to the size of the warehouse, which is located in a business park along Bickford Avenue.
Surprisingly, Sound to Summit is Snohomish’s first brewery taproom. But that doesn’t mean Sound to Summit is entering a market foreign to good craft beer. Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse and Trails End Taphouse have been successfully serving craft beer to the Snohomish community for years. Sound to Summit hopes to build on that.
“It’s an untapped resource,” Warnock said, no pun intended.
Sound to Summit will have five flagship beers to start out: kolsch, IPA, American wheat beer, golden Belgian-style ale and stout. But the kolsch is the beer that Wornack wants to hang his hat on. Not an easy beer to brew, kolsch is a German pale ale that is light in flavor with a low gravity.
“The yeast can be difficult to get right and without the dark malts or grains you can’t hide anything,” Warnock said of kolsch. “I’m proud of how this beer turned out.”
As for the brewery’s IPA, Warnock describes it as hop-forward, stressing the hop flavor over the hop bitterness. He said he’s disengaging from what he calls the “hops arms race.”
“Over past few years there’s been a race to make more bitter and more bitter IPAs but I think that zaps your taste buds,” Warnock said. “I like to have the malt backbone balance out the bitterness.”
Warnock likes to approach beer making using his scientific background, building his recipes from the ground up instead of adapting other recipes. He praised the purity of Spada Lake water for helping create a blank canvas for his recipes and described some one-off beers he’s hoping to roll out in the future like an orange hefeweizen or a rose kolsch.
John and Stacey have been happy with Warnock’s brewhouse efficiency and the taste of his beers. John did admit that he’s got a few specialty beers up his sleeve.
“I’d love to do a barleywine,” John said.
So, as a cardiologist, what is John’s take on beer?
“Like I tell my patients: Moderation is everything. Whether it’s having wine with dinner or a beer, moderation is key,” John said. “Binge drinking is a problem, but in moderation it’s fine.”
Sound to Summit Brewing
1830 Bickford Ave., Suite 111, Snohomish; 360-294-8127; www.soundtosummitbrewing.com
Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday (closed Friday, Dec. 19); Grand opening planned for Jan. 24.
Taplist: Kiteboarder Kolsch, Monte Cristo Gold, Six-gill IPA, Ubergrippen Stout, High Climb American Wheat Ale