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Craft brewing at Peaks and Pints

Explore the local beer scene without having to leave your barstool at Peaks and Pints

Ron Swarner (pictured) and his partners rotate their taps as fast as rain clouds roll over the Olympic Mountains, offering guests a wide selection of local and regional beers and wines. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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Long, sloping hiking trails, drizzling spring rain and small batch, hoppy beer. They're all synonymous with enjoying life to the fullest in the Pacific Northwest. Lucky for Tacoma residents, they're also embodied in one of the city's newest taprooms and bottle shops, Peaks and Pints.

Located in Tacoma's up-and-coming Proctor District, Peaks and Pints is a casual, lodge-inspired taproom that opened in 2016. Since then, it has provided a dazzling selection of more than 600 different kinds of craft beer and cider in the cooler. When patrons step inside the 3,600-square-foot establishment, they're met with mountain-inspired décor, carved wood tables and a 13-door beer cooler.

The taproom also has a full menu of artisan-crafted food that two of its three co-owners, brothers Justin and Robby Peterson, are well-known for across Tacoma. Their other establishments include The Galley food truck, Peterson Bros. 1111 and The Valley. Ron Swarner, the third co-owner of Peaks and Pints, said he and the Peterson brothers collaborated to open the taproom two years ago. "While I had extensive marketing experience, management skills, workaholic work ethic and vast beer knowledge, I had never run a tavern," he said.

Swarner said the Peterson brothers had been his first choice of business partners. "Justin and Robby grew up in the tavern business, watching their father, Bob Hill, help build The Swiss into the Tacoma icon it is today. Our brainstorm sessions have been a thrill. Justin paces like a maniac, so Robby and I have to follow him around to add our two cents."

Swarner has a long, successful history of his own in the local newspaper industry. For 29 years, he was a co-owner of Swarner Communications, a family-run business out of Steilacoom, publishers of The Ranger, NW Airlifter, JBLM Living and the Weekly Volcano. He said his interests in beer and writing have intertwined in recent years.

"The last four years I have written about beer almost on a daily basis. It's become my passion. I adore the scene. There is an element of solidarity, brewers being a band of brothers."

Swarner said he enjoys being a part of the larger craft brewing community. "Running a small independent brewery isn't easy. It is hard, physical work with long hours and no huge financial reward ... Being in a room full of brewers drinking is one of the messiest, impassioned, inspiring things. Brewers are passionate about what they do, and they want the whole craft beer category to do well."

In addition to providing a hearty supply of local beer and artisan foods, Peaks and Pints is also dedicated to community enrichment. The taproom supports Green Tacoma Partnership, an organization that promotes "new urbanism," which is a city planning philosophy focused on strengthening neighborhoods by providing parks and green spaces and ensuring residents have access to nature.

"Our philosophy focuses on contributing to our community's betterment in any way that we can," Swarner explained. "Whether you want to stop in after work and unwind, meet up with friends to solve pothole problems, spend an evening learning brewing secrets from a knowledgeable brewmaster ... or chat about Green Tacoma Partnership, our goal is to make this neighborhood a better place to live."

True to the sentiment, Swarner and the Peterson brothers built Peaks and Pints with a strong nod to local history and community. They kept the building's original wood-slat floors and built the taproom's 35-foot bar with reclaimed wood and Western red cedar logs. Even the building's notable 20-foot ceiling is a holdover from its earliest days as a neighborhood movie theater in 1923. "I was lost in the turn-of-the-century building," Swarner recalled of his first impression of the site. It is why he also enjoys working in the craft beer industry.

"I love restaurants and bars. They serve important functions in society in addition to serving us food and drinks. We celebrate the big moments of our lives in such establishments. We travel the world in restaurants. We escape our daily routines in bars."

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