Bartender Blake Fitzgerald pours a pint. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Trend: More focus on interesting beers, less on bar scene

SNOHOMISH — Mara Arnold hails from the city that brought us that familiar — if fictional — place where everyone knows your name.

But when it came time for this Bostonian-turned-Snohomian and her husband, Josh, to open their own watering hole, they eschewed the Cheers-like aesthetic of an old-fashioned tavern for the new hot trend: a taproom/bottleshop hybrid.

“The scene is changing from bar-centric to more bottleshops,” said Mara, who opened Josh’s Taps and Caps with her husband, Josh, in April. “Beer is such a scene in Washington. We knew this was going to be popular in this type of community. People love tasting different beers and the convenience of tasting beers from all over.”

Inspired by Seattle taproom/bottleshops like Chuck’s 85th, Full Throttle Bottles and Bottleworks, these craft beer hybrids are usually minimal enterprises that have at least a dozen beers on tap and hundreds more in bottles to go.

Since Special Brews, a taproom/bottleshop, opened in Lynnwood in 2011, nine similar establishments have opened in Snohomish County.

“Bars have been opening and closing up and down Hewitt and Colby (in downtown Everett) since the ’90s,” said Joe Kutz, who opened Brews Almighty, another taproom/bottleshop, in an industrial part of Grand Avenue in Everett in 2012. “It’s a tough game. They became old and stagnant, and lost their luster.

“But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to be ahead of the curve. I always need to be evolving, trying new things.”

The largest boost to this sector was the state law passed in 2011 that allowed growlers to be filled in off-premise, or retail, establishments. Spearheaded by Shane McDaniel, owner of Norm’s Market in Lake Stevens, the law radically changed how bottleshops could sell beer.

“We all have Shane to thank for this,” Kutz said.

Unlike traditional bars and taverns, which revolve around pool tables and dart boards and late-night pub grub, taproom/bottleshops pride themselves first and foremost on having unique and interesting beer lists. They also often host local breweries to further highlight craft beer and shorten the distance between brewer and beer-lover.

“I think taprooms and bottleshops are great for people who truly love beer,” said Jack Crawford, whose Brigid’s Bottleshop in Edmonds recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. “You can come in and explore different breweries you wouldn’t normally come in contact with. People can find rare bottles and take them home. It’s more of a one-stop shop.”

These next-generation drinking establishments rarely have food made on premise. They instead invite customers to have food delivered from nearby restaurants or bring in food trucks to serve patrons. For Josh and Mara Arnold, it came down to the fact that they didn’t have a passion for food.

“Josh loves beer and I have a passion for business, but we had no interest in getting into the food industry,” Mara Arnold said. “It’s so much work and so much money. There’s just a lot more complexity and overhead.”

Kutz saw the craft beer revolution coming nearly two decades ago while he worked as a salesman for Crown Distributing, Snohomish County’s largest beer distributor. So when he saw a void in the Everett market for a taproom focused on craft beer, he pounced.

Now he peruses new beer lists from nine different distributors to battle an ever-growing list of craft beer establishments for the newest and most-hyped beers. He also works the taps nearly every minute Brews Almighty is open and does all of his own marketing. That kind of one-man operation isn’t unique in the taproom/bottleshop world, and is something Kutz thinks is helping push them ahead of traditional bars.

Doug and Bonnie Roulstone came to the taproom/bottleshop concept from a different avenue. The Roulstones owned Clearview Wine &Spirits, but after the state privatized liquor sales, they knew they had to take a different approach.

In 2014, the couple teamed up with their son, Harrison, and transformed their liquor store into a taproom/bottleshop with 32 beers on tap and another 350 in bottles. They renamed it Harry’s on Tye and, given the fact that Harrison is a trained chef, opened a small restaurant as well.

With a little more money available than most taproom/bottleshop owners, they didn’t stop there, recently opening a conjoined wine bar and continuing plans to build an upscale dining experience.

“For us owning a small liquor business was not viable because of the added taxes,” Harrison said. “It was a natural move to craft beer and wine. The industry is exploding and we wanted to be a part of it.”

Local craft beer havens

Ale Spike Bottles &Taps, 9300 271st St. NW, Suite B5, Stanwood; 360-386-7650

Brews Almighty, 3011 Grand Ave., Suite A, Everett; 425-252-2739; brewsalmighty.com

Brigid’s Bottleshop, 190 Sunset Ave. S, Suite C, Edmonds; 425-412-3199; brigidsbottleshop.com

Harry’s on Tye, 14286 169th Drive SE, Monroe, 425-344-4825; facebook.com/harrysontye

The Hop and Hound, 18116 101st Ave. NE, Bothell; 425-486-2337; thehopandhound.com

The Independent Beer Bar, 1801 Hewitt Ave., Everett; 425-212-9517; theindependentbeerbar.com

Josh’s Taps &Caps, 1800 Bickford Ave., Suite 210, Snohomish; 360-217-7221; joshstapsandcaps.com

Route 2 Taproom and Grazing Place; 19837 U.S. 2, Monroe, 360-863-2036; roadtriptaprooms.com

Special Brews, 14608 Hwy 99, Suite 307, Lynnwood; 425-741-7049; special-brews.com

Stogies ‘n Hops, 526 164th St. SW, Lynnwood; 425-741-1000; stogiesnhops.com

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