Redhook's second act brings longtime brewer back to its roots | Crain's Seattle

Redhook's second act brings longtime brewer back to its roots

Head Brewer Nick Crandall sits in front of Redhook Brewlab's custom mural, designed by Grammy-nominated Seattle illustrator and Sub Pop Records art director Sasha Barr. | Photo Courtesy of Red Hook.

Way back in 1981, Redhook founders Gordon Bowker and Paul Shipman believed they could make a better beer. Redhook Ale Brewery started out in an old transmission shop in the Ballard neighborhood, then moved to a former trolley car barn in Fremont.

"When Redhook started, “craft beer” wasn’t even a recognizable term and consumer knowledge of craft beers was pretty low. Over the past 36 years, there’s been this massive explosion of industry growth, both in Seattle and on a national level,” says Vanessa Parker, Redhook’s local marketing manager.

After 36 years, Seattle’s original craft brewery is still brewing craft beer for new generations of beer lovers. But after all that time, changes were inevitable. In 1994, Anheuser-Busch bought a stake in the company. That was a tough transaction to swallow for the independent-minded, close-knit craft-beer community in Washington state.

Just last week, the Woodinville property that for 23 years housed the Redhook brewery, was sold a real estate company for $24.5 million. It had been the site of Washington’s largest active beer-making facility until it closed this summer.

In its place a few months back, however, Redhook opened a new pub and brewery on Capitol Hill: Redhook Brewlab.

That facility features 16 taps of rotating small-batch beers, brewed on site by Redhook Head Brewer Nick Crandall, an eight-year brewing veteran. He has spent his time at Redhook focused on innovation and new beer development, including two pub-favorite IPAs in Redhook’s line-up, the reformulated Big Ballard Imperial IPA and the hazy Bicoastal IPA.

Crandall is bringing his recipe ideas to life at Redhook Brewlab through a thoroughly modern, eight-barrel brewhouse. The brewhouse utilizes a unique "high efficiency brewing system" that employs a mash filter instead of a lauter tun, enabling significant water and grain conservation, quicker brewing times, and easier batch-to-batch turnover. 

The flexibility and efficiency of the brewhouse allow Crandall to experiment with a wide variety of beer styles and recipes, and brew more than 100 different small-batch beers every year.

“Redhook was built on experimentation and taking risks back in the early 80s,” Crandall says. “Redhook Brewlab will allow us to experiment and test brewing boundaries, as well as get feedback directly from our guests. We’ll see what works and what might not. Ultimately, the next generation of Redhook’s core and seasonal beers will be born at Brewlab.”

Truth in numbers

Statistics appear to confirm that there are next-generation beer lovers, or at least people who consistently support the craft beer industry. The Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, recently released its 2016 Economic Impact Report. The report studied the economic effects of craft breweries on both the national and state economies.

In Washington, now home to more than 350 breweries, the economic impact was measured at more than $1.7 billion in 2016. In terms of jobs, the state’s breweries provide 13,306 jobs that paid on average $47,355 annually. The Brewers Association’s biennial analysis, which features economic data of craft brewing for all 50 states, is the largest and most comprehensive state-by-state report of its kind. The study examined a two-year span, from 2015 to 2016.

With the launch of Brewlab, Redhook has also introduced its new Washington Native series, a rotating line-up of house IPAs that will feature ingredients exclusively sourced from the State of Washington. The Washington Native series will be a permanent fixture at Redhook Brewlab, and Crandall brews with ingredients from favorite sources, including hops from Roy Farms in Moxee, Wash., and malts from Skagit Valley Malting in Burlington, Wash.

Cultural melting pot

Redhook Brewlab’s concept is an intersection of Seattle history and culture, a place where the city’s eclectic influences mix – art, science, brewing, food, and music.

Housed within the Pike Motorworks Building, Brewlab’s space is an open modern brewery and pub concept with an abundance of natural light. Large skylight windows above the front entrance on Pike Street saturate the main bar and seating area with light, and floor-to-ceiling windows between the pub and brewery space give patrons a close-up view of the latest small-batch beers being brewed.

In fact, Parker says Redhook has some great new limited release beers being offered in bottles in 2018 that started at Brewlab: My Oh My Macchiato Milk Stout and Peaches for Me IPA.

Brewlab is all about the beer. It provides a place to make a deeper connection with beer lovers because we can pull back the curtain and share innovative recipes using unique, local ingredients,” Parker says. “We gain valuable feedback from our customers and can see what is working here and what might need to be tweaked, which has been really useful in determining which beers might make the step from draft to six-packs. 

"Ultimately, Brewlab is a place where people can come in and enjoy a great beer with friends and family – which is the end goal of any good brewery, right?" 

December 11, 2017 - 6:29pm