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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Jack Cameron