Tag Archives: Ken Thoburn

5 Question Friday With Ken Thoburn From Wingman Brewers

ken

It has been a full year since I last did a 5 Question Friday. College, working on my novel, and family obligations have made it difficult to focus on this website I care so much about that doesn’t pay me. 

I figured what better way for 5 Question Friday to return than to go back to the first guy I asked five questions to. Ken Thoburn from Wingman Brewers is back for an unprecedented third time. The first time I talked to Ken his brewery was just a couple of rooms in a small building on Fawcett Avenue and they hadn’t even put out a beer yet. Later when I talked to him in 2012, they were making their move downtown. 

Let’s see what’s going on with Ken and his brewery these days. Here’s Ken:

1. The last time you did a 5 Question Friday was 2012, you were just about to move things downtown, what’s been going on for Wingman Brewers since then?

Wow seems so long ago. We moved our little brewery to Puyallup Ave in 2012, got a year of good credit under our belts and went I to serious debt to try and grow our business. We learned a lot of being small business owners between 2012 and now and are continuing to try and work our way into being a business than can support ourselves, our families, our workers, their families and our community. We want to keep growing into the kind of company that people in Tacoma are proud of. we think despite our limited experience and funds that were getting there.

2. How has your personal life changed since then?

I got a dog. He’s fantastic. My wife and I bought a house since she has a great bread winning job as a nurse. I try and take at least one day off per week now. Some days are great, some days suck, some months or years have been great and others have been full of struggle and suffering. I think struggle is something that will always follow me or maybe I’ll always follow it. I think personally I’ve been spending a lot of energy trying to find the good in what looks to be awful or frustrating. I just constantly try and remind myself that I dont know everything and that there’s something to be learned from even the people who I don’t agree with.

3. What’s something about the brewing industry that would surprise most people?

It’s hard. We don’t just have fun and drink beer all day. The work isn’t even the hard part. Despite there not being a lot of old brewers since it is a physically demanding job, it’s also an industry that isn’t flush with cash. There’s a million taxes to pay, as a small brewer I have little ability to take advantage of economy of scale and it costs a lot to get that beer from my brewhouse to your refrigerator. The margins are small. As the industry is consolidating only those with lots of money or lots of passion are surviving.

4. In the spirit of community so common with brewing, what’s a local beer that you like not made by Wingman?

There are so many. It would feel like a betrayal of everyone who I didn’t mention to only mention one or two. If people are looking for great local beer I would recommend checking out southsoundcraftcrawl.com

5. What’s next for you and Wingman Brewers? We’re partnering with a new brewery to build a shared production facility. Together we can afford to build something more environmentally friendly and economically friendly than we could separately. We should be able to make more beer, and hopefully over time have a comfortable business where we can express our creativity and exercise our love for our community.

I’d like to thank Ken Thoburn and Wingman Brewers for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday and congratulate them on their success. (Also I’m a personal fan of their Ace IPA.)

If you think you or someone you know might make a good 5 Question Friday participant, let me know at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

– Jack Cameron

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5 Question Friday One Year Anniversary With Ken Thoburn From Wingman Brewers

One year ago next week I started TacomaStories.com and 5 Question Friday. During that year, this site has had over 30,000 visitors. People who have participated in 5 Question Friday include street poet, David Fewster, Pierce County Prosecutor and author, Mark Lindquist, The Voice contestant, Vicci Martinez, and the Mayor of Tacoma herself, Marilyn Strickland. But it all started with 5 questions for Ken Thoburn, co-owner of a ‘nano-brewery’ called Wingman Brewers. At the time, they hadn’t even released their first beer. I decided there was no better way to end the first year of 5 Question Friday than to catch up with Ken Thoburn and see how he and his brewery are doing.

Here’s Ken:

1. How has Wingman Brewers changed in the last year?

Over the course of the last year we’ve spent most of the time getting our bearings.  None of us had worked professionally for a brewery before we opened our own so there has been a lot to learn as we’ve negotiated the industry.  We are constantly growing, adapting and trying to give our customers the best beer we can.  We still have so much to learn on every front so we’re very thankful for the awesome supporters we have.

 

2. What is your favorite brew you’ve made so far? 

Stratofortress is a Belgian Specialty Ale.  I originally made it as a one time thing but it was so good I had to make it again and again.  People have responded to it in the same way clamoring for it everywhere so we’re really happy with the response.  The beer itself is huge at 11.4% ABV and we age it on rum soaked cedar planks.  The spiciness of the dark rum and the spiciness of the esters present in the beer play extremely well together.  The added complexity that the cedar brings to the fruitiness of the malt background makes the beer one of the best out there in our opinion.  It’s wild to us that Stratofortress has such a great reputation after we’ve only released 5 barrels of it in the last 3 months.  We’re very excited to continue making Stratofortress and to continue making more unique beers like it in the future.

 

3. What was the most surprising thing that’s happened to Wingman in the last year?

The rate of growth and the demand for our beer really surprised us.  We’ve had to be really careful about expanding our client list at all because we have trouble keeping up with the clients we have.  We thought it would take multiple years before we got to this point but the industry moves fast and people want their beer.  Coming up on our 1 year anniversary here in April we’re very excited to be expanding and hopefully we’ll be able to bring our beer to 10 times the amount of people who tried it over the last 12 months.

 

4. What have you not yet been able to accomplish that you’d like to?

We can’t make enough beer.  I wish I had the beer and the time to deliver it to all the people that want it.  Coming from a customer service background it’s hard not to be able to give people what they want.  It’s also hard being a small business owner and wanting to grow but not having the resources or time to grow as fast as you want to.  Everything takes time.

 

5. What’s next for Wingman Brewers? 

There are a ton of nexts for us in the coming months.  We’re hoping to open in our new location toward the end of April.  We’re moving our brewing operation down there so we can expand it.  We’re going to have a taproom so folks can fill growlers and drink pints 3 days a week as well.  That’s the news for April, but in May we’re going to start putting our beer in cans so we’ll be in places all over Tacoma in 16oz cans.  From there the next jump will be the biggest we’ve made so far since we will have to pony up and buy a larger brewing system and all the accouterment.

You can find out more about Wingman Brewers at http://wingmanbrewers.com 

I’d like to thank Ken Thoburn and all of my other 5 Question Friday participants from the last year. This has been an enjoyable experiment. I’m hoping that the next year will be even more interesting and enlightening. Who would you like to participate in 5 Question Friday? Let me know at jackcameronis@gmail.com

Good To Have A Wingman

The Red Hot

Wingman Brewers' debut at the Red Hot

A few weeks ago Wingman Brewers’ Ken Thorburn was nice enough to participate in the first 5 Question Friday. He said that the first Wingman brew would be debuting soon and he wasn’t kidding. On the evening of April 21st, Wingman Brewers debuted their P-51 Porter at 6th Ave’s The Red Hot.

Prior to that night I had only been to the Red Hot a couple of times. I remembered that the Red Hot had a good beer selection and great hot dogs but I also remembered that it was really small. So when I arrived around 6:30pm I wasn’t surprised that there was a line outside the door.

While waiting in line I finally met Ken Thoburn and his cohorts in person. They all seemed like friendly, good people. Ken said I should stop by their place sometime and I told him I’d take him up on it. It was at this point that I suddenly had a fear. What if their beer sucks?

Now personally I’m not that big of a fan of Porters anyway. Many of them seem more like a meal than a beverage and that’s just not my thing. That’s not to say that I never drink them, but odds are if I’m out having a beer, I’m drinking an IPA or an ESB. That said, I was still looking forward to the P-51.

Once I got inside, I was surprised to find that despite the place being packed, it really wasn’t overcrowded. I could walk around without spilling other people’s drinks. I got to the bar and asked the cute bartender for a P-51. Moments later the dark beer arrived. I paid for the beer, stepped away from the bar and took a sip. The dark, rich flavor wasn’t overpowering, but it did linger. I took another sip and smiled. This was a good brew.

Less than two hours later, the P-51 keg was empty. Wingman’s debut was clearly an unqualified success. Best of all, when I walked out of the Red Hot, I didn’t have to lie to Ken when I saw him.

A week later, I stopped by Wingman Brewers to take a look at their operation. I’d never been to a brewery before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew they were small and just getting started, so I wasn’t expecting huge vats and that sort of thing.

I walked into their nondescript building on Fawcett Street and saw Ken. There are jobs people do because they have to pay the bills. Then there are jobs people do because it’s what they love to do and if they’re lucky enough to make money, then great. As Ken gave me a tour of the place, I could tell that this was clearly something he loved. The light you can see in someone in the process of attaining their dreams is something that’s real.

They have their wall of kegs, a wide assortment of malts, beer in various stages of completion, and their precious few hops (there’s a hops shortage). In their office, there are stacks of posters and other promotional material, and a few bomb-shaped tap handles. While the P-51 Porter is currently the only brew available from Wingman, their Ace IPA and Pin-Up Pale Ale are coming soon. Ken also told me of a few other brews they’re working on over the summer and into the fall. Wingman Brewers isn’t big, but they have big dreams, good ideas, and great beer. Like the title of this post says, it’s good to have a Wingman.

For the latest on Wingman Brewers, go to their site and sign up for their newsletter. http://wingmanbrewers.com/

-Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Wingman Brewers’ Ken Thoburn

Every Friday I’m going to do a quick five question interview with someone in Tacoma so that they can tell their Tacoma Story. For the first installment, I have co-owner of Wingman Brewers Inc., Ken Thoburn. Wingman Brewing is a new microbrewery located in downtown Tacoma on Fawcett Ave. Given my love of Tacoma and my love of beer, I’m happy to share his Tacoma Story.

1. How did Wingman Brewers get started?

While in college Derrick Moyer (one of our owners) and I started homebrewing.  We quickly became obsessed with making beer and with perfecting our recipes.  During that time one of our other friends (Jason Sabol also an owner) started brewing with us as well.  Our beer became very popular amongst our friends and we kept finding our kegs empty the same day we tapped them.  We love making beer and sharing it with people.  That prompted us to bring on Daniel Heath and start moving our hobby toward becoming a business.  We incorporated in Jan. 2010 and after many months of searching for a building, going through city, state and federal licensing and finally testing our new equipment we’re finally close to sharing our beer with Tacoma.

2. Why Tacoma?

All four of us would be exceedingly happy to have lived and worked in Tacoma primarily from the cradle to the grave.  We love this city.  Between the four of us we’ve gone to many of Tacoma’s public and private schools including PLU, UPS, and UWT for college.  We met each other as kids in the youth group at First Presbyterian Church Tacoma down on 20 Tacoma Ave.  Tacoma has so much to offer and not only as a beer market.  Part of each of our keg sales goes to benefit a Tacoma charity.  This is our community as residents and business owners we want to see Tacoma thrive and continue to be the great place we grew up in.

3. What sorts of beers are you planning on releasing?

We’re releasing three beers.  They are all a bit of a cross between English and northwest styles.  We pack the citrusy hop forward flavors into our beers that everyone in the northwest is familiar with but we also include strong malt and yeast characteristics into our beer that are more commonly found in English style ales.  Our current line up includes P-51 Porter which is a robust dark ale with hints of coffee, chocolate and tobacco.  We also have Ace IPA that has great fruity flavors to balance against its hoppy bitterness.  The last beer in our line up is Pin-up Pale Ale which is again a mix of malty fruit and citrus with just a hint of bitter.

4. Where and when can we expect to see Wingman Beers on tap?

The where is primarily Tacoma and a few surrounding areas from time to time.  The when is soon and very soon.

5. What’s your favorite non-Wingman beer and why?

Asking a beer maker what his favorite beer is, is a bit like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite.  It all depends on the mood I’m in and what my last experience with a particular beer was like.  Beer is more than a tasty beverage it’s social, and drinking a great beer alone is not the same as drinking a good beer with in the company of friends.  For that reason I’d have to say my favorite beer is the beer I enjoy with some dogs and my buddies at The Red Hot, or maybe my favorite beer is the one I’m trying not to spill on myself while playing big buck hunter at The Parkway, or maybe it’s the one I’m having while catching up with a friend at Magoos after a long day.  Whether it’s Ale, Lager, American, Belgian, Sour, Bitter, Light or Dark my favorite beer changes with the moment I’m drinking it in.  Sometimes I want shell out $20ish for a Cascade Kriek and sometimes I just want a PBR.

I’d like to thank Ken for being a part of 5 Question Friday. I’m looking forward to having a Wingman Beer in the near future. Given my taste in beers, I’m betting the Ace IPA is going to be a new favorite.

For more information on Wingman Brewers, got to http://wingmanbrewers.com

–          Jack Cameron