Northwest Military Blogs: Served blog

Posts made in: April, 2015 (13) Currently Viewing: 11 - 13 of 13

April 13, 2015 at 3:16pm

Wingman Brewers celebrates four years in Tacoma

Wingman Brewers head brewer Ken Thoburn will be behind the bar during the Tacoma brewery's fourth anniversary celebration. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Technically, Wingman Brewers produced its first batch of beer in 2007. "The first batch of beer I ever made was a five gallon batch of beer with my fellow Wingman Derrick Moyer.  We got the itch for brewing then and opened our business with a one barrel of 31-gallon batch of beer in April of 2011 with a party at The Red Hot," remembers Wingman head brewer and co-founder Ken Thoburn.  Friends and Tacoma natives Thoburn, Moyer, Daniel Heath and Jason Sabol launched the then Tacoma small-batch brewery. The brewery's name and image is homage to Thoburn's grandfather, an artist who served in World War II in the Pacific, and painted the sides of fighter planes when he could. Today, Thoburn, Moyer and Heath pilot the business.

Now four years after their takeoff, Thoburn still walks into his brewery with a smile. "My life has changed dramatically. I love my job for the first time in my life and that goes a long way," say Thoburn. "Even on the worst of days I still count myself lucky that I get to do what I love."

Wingman Brewers has produced iconic beers with aviation names such as ACE IPA, Stratofortress Belgian Strong Ale and P-51 Porter.

"We make a whole lot of Ace IPA and P-51 Porter," says Thoburn. "The Porter takes up the most production because aside from making the normal P-51 Porter we also do a large amount of Coconut P-51 and added Peanut Butter Cup P-51 this year.  It feels like I'm making P-51 nearly every week." 

But over the past four years, Thoburn has developed a startling number of different beers. By his count, he's designed more than 90 different brews or variations.

What has been the biggest challenge since opening? 

"Day-to-day business operations are challenging," says Thoburn. "Neither my business partner, Daniel, nor I had a huge amount of business ownership experience previous to opening Wingman Brewers so it's been and continues to be a heck of a learning process."

Currently, Wingman can't keep up with the demand for their beers. They could be selling many more beers, according to Thoburn.

"Our main issues have stemmed from production and distribution," he explains. "We continue to expand our business as quickly and safely as we can, though, so hopefully we will be able to get our beer to more people soon."

Wingman's strategic agility plans calls for an expansion of their beer production, distribution and retail space.

"In what order and how quickly depends on a number of variables," adds Thoburn. "We're just trying to stay flexible and enjoy the process as much as possible. We're very grateful for all the support from local businesses that we've had and we feel very lucky to have such great beer drinkers out there enjoying our product."

And, there's plenty to enjoy Saturday when Wingman Brewers opens the hangar doors for their "Here's To 4 in 253" four-year anniversary party. Lizzie Lou's Comfort Foodtruck, special glassware and plenty of beer are on the docket.

The taplist will be as follows:

  • Ace IPA;
  • P-51 Porter;
  • Peanut Butter Cup Porter;
  • Coconut P-51 Porter;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Old Plank Pils;
  • 2014 Bourbon Barrel Aged Stratofortress;
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Big Baby Flat Top;
  • 2014 Vintage Sour Brett Berliner Weisse; 
  • Madagascar Vanilla Bean & Raisin BBFT;
  • Red Hot Chili Pepper Ace IPA;
  • and more.

Wingman will also have bottles of: 

  • Bourbon Barrel Big Baby Flat Top;
  • Bourbon Barrel Stratofortress;
  • Pocket Aces 2X IPA;
  • Peanut Butter Cup P-51 Porter;
  • Chocolate Fortress; 
  • and more.

WINGMAN BREWERS "HERE'S TO 4 IN THE 253" FOURTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, noon to close, Saturday, April 18, Wingman Brewers, 509 ½ Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.256.5240

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

April 20, 2015 at 10:14am

Eat This Now: The Hoffa

Find The Hoffa at The Valley down the street from the Tacoma Dome. Photo credit: Jackie Fender

It's not often I get out of the house from some grown up shenanigans but after their domination of the Slider Cook-Off at the Museum of Glass, I finally HAD to check out The Valley. Naturally I was not disappointed. I'm a huge fan of Valley co-owners Rob and Justin Peterson's sister restaurant, Eleven Eleven on Hilltop Tacoma. Also, X Group partnered with the Petersons on The Valley, and I find the X-Group's friendly takeover of the Tacoma dining scene refreshing because each concept is unique from the next so a partnership between the two is culinary rock stardom and you can consider me a groupie.

On my visit we tried a few items with my favorite being The Hoffa ($9.49). This sandwich is a matrimony made in heaven with marinara, spicy Italian link sausage, mozzarella cheese, onions, peppers and pesto all served up hot on a French roll. All of the components are perfection making this sandwich a spicy, meaty, cheesy success. Served with a side salad or Tim's Cascade Chips the sandwich is quite filling and fun because this ain't yo mama's meatball sub.

I suspect all of their sandwiches to deliver the goods and highly suggest the Bacon Gorgonzola dip to start.

Pair it all with a cold brew or cocktail and the kitschy laid back ambiance and you have yourself a Tacoma gem that's located on the path a little less traveled. 

THE VALLEY, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, 1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.428.4265.

Filed under: Eat This Now, Tacoma,

April 20, 2015 at 2:51pm

Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. expands production, hires Andy Kenser

Steve Navarro brewing at Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. in downtown Tacoma. Courtesy photo

Some historians estimate that man has been brewing beer for more than 8,000 years. Anthropologists have even speculated that bearded Neolithic man made the transition from a nomadic to sedentary existence in order to cultivate grain for brewing beer. The beer served as an important nutritional supplement to an otherwise limited plant-heavy diet.

In 1840, archeologists digging up ancient Sumeria (present-day Iran) found clay tablets dating back 5,000 years that are inscribed with representations of brewing activity. From the tablets, we learned that these ancient cultures used beer as a dietary staple before bread was discovered. Their beer consisted of water, barley and flavorings.

Not as ancient, but certainly well bearded, man has been brewing beer in Tacoma since the late 1800s. In 1897, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. was established in downtown Tacoma and grew to become the second largest brewery in Washington state, until shut down by Prohibition in 1916.

Last September, head brewer Steve Navarro and financial businessman Brent Hall reopened Pacific Brewing and Malting Co., not in Tacoma's old brewery district near 25th and Jefferson, but rather down the street in the lower level of the historic Old City Hall Annex Building on Pacific Avenue, near the corner of South Seventh Street.

Even before trying a single beer, one can't help but be drawn to the photographic evidence of Pacific Brewing's history adorning the taproom walls of the new brewery. During a recent visit, I wasn't the only one taking photos of the photos.

But what are not as evident are the changes Pacific Brewing has undergone in recent weeks. Navarro and company have increased production capacity and hired veteran beverage sales rep Andy Kenser to distribute product to restaurants and bars - freeing up Navarro's time to concentrate on brewing beer, which is vital with the recent departure of assistant brewer Bethany Carlsen to the head brewer job at Gig Harbor Brewing Company.

"We doubled our capacity," Navarro told me as we strolled the halls of the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland during last week's Craft Brewers Conference. "We opened the brewery with four 7-barrel fermenter tanks and we just bought two 15-barrel fermenters, so we went from producing twenty-eight barrels to fifty-eight barrels. With Andy coming on, we'll be brewing more beer."

Kenser comes to Pacific Brewing & Malting from Click Wholesale Distributing where he represented hundreds of brands, including Dogfish Head and Bear Republic. Kenser started his career at Pike Brewing Company, moved to Harmon Brewing Company where he was assistant brewer, and eventually became a head brewer for RAM Restaurant and Brewery.

"Andy is my neighbor in the North Slope of Tacoma. He'd come into Pacific Brewing from time to time and really enjoyed the beer," Navarro said. "I knew we were increasing production and I simply couldn't do it all anymore - brewing, selling, delivering. I needed someone to rep our beer so I could focus on brewing. So I gave Andy a call. He's the perfect fit. Andy is well known and liked in the industry. And he's a brewer. He is going to help take us to the next level."

While Kenser will travel Washington state spreading the Pacific Brewing brand, the next level is actually firmly planted in Tacoma. Navarro and Kenser will focus heavily on saturating Tacoma with their 1897 Pale Lager, Dirty Skoog IPA, Citra Pale Ale and Grit City Porter, as well as their seasonals and specialty brews. They want to be Tacoma's beer. They want the Pacific handle to be in all four corners of the city.

As 12,000 brewers from around the world squeezed by us, Navarro and I discussed the brewery's history and success on Facebook. His historical posts drew thousands to his page well before he opened his big doors to Pacific Avenue.

"Our one-hundred-year-old history sparked more interest than we could ever imagine," Navarro explained. "Thankfully, we have been able to back it up with beers that people enjoy."

There are more beers on the way, too.

"We're coming out with a red amber called Red Front," he said. "Back in the day, Pacific Brewing had ownership interests in dozens and dozens of bars in Tacoma. They all sold Pacific beer. During Prohibition, they had to divest all their interests. One of those bars was called Red Front."

He's also brewing another IPA as part of his seven IPA series. This one will be low bitter and all-aroma, made with Amarillo and Simcoe hops. A hoppy Pilsner will follow the IPA release.

Pacific Brewing will begin bottling in May.

PACIFIC BREWING & MALTING CO., taproom open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.383.BEER

Filed under: New Beer Column, Tacoma,

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