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Local, veteran-crafted beer at Odd Otter Brewing Company

More than half the staff are former military

Odd Otter Brewing Company’s lead brewer, Greer Hubbard, prepares an upcoming batch of milk stout beer. Photo credit: Christina Butcher

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With more than 217 breweries in Washington state alone, there's no shortage of well-crafted, local beer for servicemembers near Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) to enjoy. It should come as no shock that local businesses like Odd Otter Brewing Company, a small, veteran-owned craft brewery dedicated to military appreciation, have cropped up in nearby Tacoma.

"We are thrilled to have a large military following," said John Hotchkiss, one of Odd Otter's five founders. "It's been a tremendous honor for us to be able to see this all come to fruition."

Odd Otter Brewing Company opened in 2014 in Tacoma's bustling downtown area. In the three years since it arrived on the craft brewery scene, it's gained a reputation for brewing beer with creative, unconventional flavor sets and a constantly changing tap list. Ottermelon hefeweizen, Ottzel Quatzel pale ale, Ottcho Borracho Mexican and Poppa Otter's Bacon Porter are just some of the beers currently on tap.

"We've been fortunate to have a really great team of people come up around us and help us see this concept become a reality," Hotchkiss said. "It's a much more vivid experience than I think any of us had in our minds. The reality is there's a lot more depth, energy and passion there than we could ever have imagined."

Because of the brewery's roots in military service (more than half of its staff and founders are military veterans or currently serving) and its dedication to giving back to the community, Odd Otter has developed a strong local following of military patrons. The brewery's founders are Maj. Owen McGrane, former Capt. John Hotchkiss, Sgt. Pablo Monroy, Derrick Peacock and Teresa Smith.

"We have firsthand experience and appreciation for the challenges of being in the military and being a military family," Hotchkiss explained. "We want to be a home away from home for all those people. There's something unique about putting yourself in harm's way in your day-to-day job, and we appreciate the contributions of those people in our community."

Originally from Colorado, Hotchkiss moved to Washington state in 2007 after becoming an Army officer. He served as a physician for six years before leaving the service in 2015 out of JBLM.

McGrane, who works as the head brewer at Odd Otter, is also an active-duty Emergency Medicine physician at Madigan Army Medical Center with 19 years of military service. Monroy served four years in the Navy before joining the Army National Guard in Washington state in 2011, where he currently serves as a cavalry scout with the 205th Regiment.

"Owen was an avid homebrewer long before we had the concept of starting a brewery," said Hotchkiss, "and after I'd gotten out (of the Army), I was neighbors with Derrick and Pablo. They made some pretty decent homebrew, and they expressed they'd be interested in starting a brewery. That idea just kept moving along. None of us had a business background ... we didn't really have a great sense of what we were getting into in the beginning. We just wanted to do something fun."

In keeping with its roots, the building on Pacific Avenue where Odd Otter Brewery is housed also has a strong military heritage. During World War I it served as a Sailors and Soldiers Club, and during World War II, it was used as a United Services Organizations (USO) center.

Within a year of opening, Odd Otter won the 2015 KING5 Best of Western Washington award for Best Brewpub. It holds weekly events, including live music, karaoke, trivia, and beer-and-yoga sessions, and it offers daily discounts to first responders, active-duty military, veterans and their spouses. The brewery also holds frequent fundraisers for local nonprofit organizations, including the Fisher House, Fred Hutch Obliteride, Tacoma Rescue Mission, the American Red Cross, The Mission Continues, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"Even though none of us are from the Tacoma area, it's been really cool for us to be able to come together and give something to the community that we all love very much," Hotchkiss said.

Odd Otter Brewing Company, open daily until 2 a.m., 716 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.327.1680,

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