Seattle’s iconic and famous Pike Place Market celebrated the opening of it’s MarketFront expansion in June 2017.
The beautiful expansion boasts 30,000 square feet of open public space, including a public plaza and viewing deck with expansive views of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier and the Puget Sound.
Tucked into one of the new spaces is a brewery with one amazing view, Old Stove Brewing Co. As a lover of all things craft beer, I have been thirsting (pun intended) to check them out. I grabbed some colleagues of mine, headed to Pike Place Market for happy hour and I had the chance to sit down with co-founder, Brian Stan, while sipping on some brews!
First and foremost – I get that many Seattleites use public transportation, bikes, walk, Uber, Lyft, you name it. For those like me, who live in Pierce County and rely on SR 167, I am a commuter. And like any good commuter, I appreciate a good, cheap and close parking spot – especially in downtown Seattle. The MarketFront expansion, located on Western Avenue, has it’s own parking garage! And ample parking available! And parked there for 3 hours only cost me $12! Hallelujah! That’s reason enough right there to visit Old Stove Brewing Co.!
Now let’s get right down to it. The beer. Call me lame, but IPA’s don’t agree with my taste buds, I love porters, stouts and ales. Old Stove Brewing has so many beers to choose from – and if you don’t like beer (or if beer doesn’t like your gut – my gluten-intolerant friends), they have soda, wine, cider and water! As the good beer reviewer that I think I am, I went all out and ordered TWO flights to try a wide variety of their beers. I told the bartender I like everything but IPA’s and he carefully selected my first flight for me while Brian helped me pick my second flight. I tried:
- Wynona’s Big Brown Beer
- Smoked Porter
- Max Capacity – Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
- Belgian Blonde
- Old Stove Pilsner
- Streaker Citra Pale Ale
- The Two-Pronged Crown – IPA
- Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine
- Amber Waves
- Tiger Shark Pale Ale
- Blackberry Sour
My colleagues and I taste-tested all of them and my favorite one ended up being the Wee Heavy Scotch Ale! At 8.4% ABV, the Scotch Ale was indeed velvet-smooth with malt notes of caramel, raisin, and plum. My second favorite had to have been the Big Brown (5.9% ABV)! It was no wonder I loved it as the dark ale over bourbon-soaked cacao nibs roasted by Old Stove’s neighbor, indi chocolates, is tossed with some vanilla beans for added flavor. The Smoked Porter (5.9% ABV) was true to name, with hints of chocolate, raisin and coffee. The Belgian Blonde (7% ABV) and Old Stove Pilsner (5.4% ABV) took me back to my travels throughout Germany and just made me smile. It’s really amazing how tastes can bring back memories! I also enjoyed the Blackberry Sour (4.4% ABV), and can I just point out that I had a Girl Scout Cookie and Beer Pairing party last year and surprisingly, a sour goes really well with the S’mores cookie! And my Scotch Ale love really brings out the flavor in the Trefoils (shortbread). If you have any interest in pairing cookies with beer, you can check it out my review here!
The whole experience was made so much better by the bartender who chatted with us throughout the experience. He was very passionate and knowledgeable about all of the beers as well as knowing exactly what to recommend to each of us based on what we had been enjoying. He told us about how he started his bartending career in Australia after completing the RSA course Melbourne.
There were about ten of us in our group for happy hour, and between all of us, we all tried a little of everything, including the wine and Finnriver Cider and everyone left happy. You cannot beat drinking really good, locally crafted beer while enjoying the waterfront views that only the Puget Sound offers. Old Stove Brewing is currently expanding their space and adding a full service restaurant and revamping the entrance and bar area. We cannot wait for that to open as WE WILL BE BACK!
Co-founder Brian Stan sat down with us and let us pepper him with some questions.
Tell us about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up?
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area and I moved up here in 1992 to finish high school in Bellevue and then I moved to Seattle in 1995. The Bay area was very different than Bellevue, it was a shock.
How does the Pacific Northwest lifestyle inspire you?
It’s the land of hops. Not only the land of hops, but the land of craft breweries. The industry is tight knit, we all know each other, we ask each other favors, we collaborate a lot, it’s just a thriving industry that’s really cool and it’s not cut throat like a car dealership. It’s really cool to have so many breweries centralized in one part of the country. It’s starting to spread out everywhere in the country, but from what I grew up with, this is cool.
That leads into my next question, because there are so many breweries out here, what made you decide to open one?
I started home brewing long ago and I kept up with that until I landed a job at a now defunct brewery in West Seattle called Pacific Rim. Charles McElevey, the one who started it, was the original head brewer for Redhook and some other notable breweries. I worked there for awhile, then went back to college and got some ‘normal person jobs.’ Along the way, I met and worked downtown with my now business partner, Chris Moore. Eventually an opportunity became available in the Pike Market to open our own brewery in the new MarketFront complex that hadn’t even been built yet. After fighting hard to land that opportunity, we were eager to jump into the industry prior to MarketFront being complete, so we decided to open our first location in an old bagel shop on 1st Avenue while waiting for the new location to be built out.
Walk us through how you opened the First Avenue location to being here at the MarketFront expansion. How did that process work?
Where we are sitting now, this used to be a parking lot and nothing had been built to expand the Pike Place Market for over 40 years. They knew they were going to do something here and they needed an anchor tenant and they wanted to do something for people who actually produce things onsite. They call it “Producer’s Hall”. Honest Biscuits to our North biscuits, indi chocolates to our East makes chocolates, and just on the other side of Honest Biscuits, Little Fish will open up soon, with a cool canning operation. We knew it would be a four year build-out to complete the complex. So in the meantime, we were just chomping at the bit to get something open and that’s luckily when First Avenue became available. Upstairs was the taproom and downstairs was the brewery. Now, that is not an Old Stove location anymore. We had a grace period where we had both open to activate this space, but with Market rules, you can’t have two places in the Market. So the old space on 1st ave is now The Taproom at Pike Place and they serve mostly local craft beer from all over the state. Old Stove opened this interim beer bar in June of 2017 at MarketFront and we hope to have the full brewery and restaurant operational within the next couple of months.
How do you decide what beers to make and what makes the perfect recipe?
With a brewery, there is always room to improve. Our customer base is so wide that we really need to spread around the styles that we do from our pilsners to IPAs to stouts to sour beers to more traditional or exotic beers. Luckily, since we are in the market, we have the ability to sell of that instead of brewing a weird style that some beer nerds may like, but it takes forever to get through a batch. The fun part for us is being able to wake up and think about what we want to brew today. There are some we brew more often because we have some accounts at restaurants or bars who want a certain kind of beer consistently. As far as selling over the counter, we have the ability to throw in a couple of new batches that we think might be cool or that we just want to try.
Do you always brew the exact same way every time?
When you are making beer, you are using raw ingredients. Those raw ingredients for beer are based off agricultural projects that change year to year. One hop season might grow a specific kind of hop and it might be a different way the next season. You change your recipe to keep up. Another way of looking at it, when you taste it and you know what it’s supposed to taste like, you ask what you could do to make it taste better next time. You may not want to make it dramatically different if a restaurant is counting on you to brew it one way, but you can make slight tweaks to make it cleaner or crisper without really messing with the profile.
I imagine the with the macro-breweries, everything has to be the same, all the time.
Obviously I’m not a big macro-brewery guy but one thing I respect a ton for those brewers there is that they can make a beer that tastes exactly the same as it did in 1983, and that’s just by taste. The machines can help you somewhat but still, your master brewer should be able to put his stamp of approval on it. And they are also brewing on a massive scale. You have this little glass that this thousand barrel fermenter is filled with and it tastes like that little glass you had 20 years ago. It’s pretty incredible.
Do you work with any charities or non-profits?
We do events! People knock on our door and we help them with events. Right now it’s a little hectic and summers are a hectic time but right now in the off season for sure.
Since this is What’s Up NW, are there any places you like to eat, drink and chill?
I like to go to Old Stove to eat and drink, both locations. In the market, take your pick, there are hundreds of places around. In fact, that’s one of the cool things about being a brewery here is that a lot of my wholesale – I just stick a keg on hand truck and walk it across the street. Being out here, you have the pick of the litter.
The expanded part should open in April, do you have anything else happening in the future?
There will be a week that we close and tear this wall down, seal up the ground, run some electrical and reopen. In the summer, the window wall system opens up and we will have seating outdoors. There is a mezzanine up there and a stairway also. All of this here now is temporary and you will be able to see through here, from Western Avenue all the way to the water. It’s pretty cool, you can see ferries going in and out, the sun setting over the Olympics on clear days. It takes on three different moods throughout the day – you have the crisp mornings, dusk where you can see the sun set and all these different lights start coming on like the Ferris wheel and then you have the evenings. The view will also change once the viaduct is gone too.
I highly recommend checking out Old Stove Brewing Co. The beer is fantastic, the bartenders and wait staff are incredibly friendly, and you know the co-founders love what they do! Their true passion for craft beer is found in each glass.
Old Stove Brewing Co.
1901 Western Avenue Suite A
Seattle, WA 98101
Ph. (206) 602-6120