Tag Archives: Tacoma Beer

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

Advertisements

5 Question Friday With Tacoma Brewing’s Morgan Alexander

Morgan

I first encountered Tacoma Brewing Co.’s place while looking for somewhere to have a drink before I went to see a movie at the Grand. Morgan’s brother, Tristan was working. Lately, craft brewers have been popping up everywhere in and around Tacoma.

 Most of them make an IPA, a Stout, and maybe something slightly different. The choices at Tacoma Brewing were strange and exciting. I ordered a honey/strawberry beer. After that, Tristan let me taste a few others. Not one of these beers seemed like a safe bet to me. Each seemed to be pushing the envelope of craft brewing. Sure, they had a stout but it was a cherry/pomegranate stout.

As I talked to Tristan, he told me about his brother, Morgan. He said, “He’s been brewing stuff practically since high school when he learned you could turn sugar into alcohol.

A few weeks later I got a tour of Morgan’s operation and got to talk with Morgan. When I tried to describe the experience and the type of adventurous drinks that Morgan is making to a friend after the thing, I said, “When it comes to brewers, where others are professors, this guy is Indiana Jones.”

I’m happy and honored that Morgan agreed to join me this week for 5 Question Friday. Here’s Morgan:

1. How did Tacoma Brewing get started?

It got started out of an obsession to make flavor-forward beers for the masses… or at least Tacoma! It was some years in the making but after getting feedback from dropping samples off at my favorite watering holes, I decided to go for it and file for a commercial beer making permit.

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

My favorites are the Penalty Kick Double IPA (11%) – it drinks like a 7% and is very citrus hoppy – very juicy! On the darker side I like the Kentucky Bourbon Stout… because I love bourbon and it’s very bourbon-forward.

3. What’s the most misunderstood thing about craft brewing?

I’m not sure about that one!

4. Where can people get your beer?

People can get my beer at the taproom and as of this week at the Red Hot and Parkway – and soon other fine beer places.

5. What’s next for Tacoma Brewing?

Next is scaling up production and moving to a larger space. That’s the two year plan, at least. I am also one of the only breweries making a “pre-prohibition style ginger ale” line (contains alcohol) and I hope to start bottling them by this fall to get it out to local grocery stores and bottle shops.

I’d like to thank Morgan for participating in 5 Question Friday and I’ll say right now that his ginger ale is amazing. You can try his continuing changing selections yourself at Tacoma Brewing Co. at 625 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, WA 98402. They’re open 5pm – 9pm Mon-Fri and 3pm – 9pm on Saturdays.

If you or someone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, drop me a line at TacomaStories@gmail.com
– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Barry Watson From Pint Defiance

Up until now, Tacomans had to go all the way up to the awesome 99 Bottles in Federal Way (pictured here) to find specialty beers. The Watsons’ Pint Defiance promises to be just as much fun.

Beer. It’s one of the foundations of civilization. At the end of a long day there are  few things better than an ice cold beer.

Beer lovers in Tacoma know of the handful of places throughout the city that have a better than average beer selection. I’m not talking about a place with Red Hook ESB. I’m talking about a place they might carry Old Engine Oil. The bottom line is that Tacoma simply doesn’t have a specialty craft beer store. This fall that will all change when Barry Watson opens Pint Defiance.

As soon as I heard about this, I tracked down Barry Watson who is co-owner with Renee Watson and asked him if he’d like to be part of 5 Question Friday and tell us all about this new venture. Here’s Barry.

1. What is Pint Defiance?

A retail store and taproom dedicated to the love of great beer. We will stock hundreds of labels & have draft taps also. You can purchase bottles, fill growlers, enjoy a pint & attend tasting events.

2. Why do you think Tacoma is a good place for a Craft Beer Store?

I have always felt that a store solely dedicated to craft and quality beer has been something missing from Tacoma business landscape. Good beer has become such an integral part of northwest culture and lifestyle that we wanted to celebrate it.

3. What is the most underrated beer out there?

I’m not sure if they qualify as underrated, but I have really been enjoying some of the smaller Hood River breweries. Everybody’s Brewing, Country Boy IPA & Double Mountain, Vaporizer Pale are super tasty right now.

Also, Shane Johns & Sean Jackson at the Engine House #9 have really stepped up the quality and variety of beers that they offer.

4. What other projects are you involved in?

I recently sold the restaurant that I opened back in 2003. This is my main focus right now. My wife Renee and I are building this from scratch, so it takes a lot of time and effort. (Although the fine folks at the Red hot let me make a guest appearance behind the bar from time to time.)

5. When you’re going out for a beer, what Tacoma bars do you like?

Both the Red Hot & the Parkway Tavern have an unmatched selection & range of beer. Not just in Tacoma, but in the region. Either bar can easily hold its own against any pub in Seattle.  Also, you can’t beat a enjoying a fresh pint in the beer garden at 7 Seas (I know it’s not Tacoma, but my palate does not discriminate geographically).

I’d like to thank Barry for taking the time to join me on 5 Question Friday. Rest assured that when Pint Defiance opens you’ll be reading more about it here. 

If you or someone you know would like to be part of 5 Question Friday, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

– Jack Cameron

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