Can Washington Handle 15 More Breweries?

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Today I am sad to report that the Washington State Liquor Control Board discontinued Hazel Dell Brewpub’s microbrewery license. The brewpub, located in Vancouver, WA, closed its doors at the end of 2011. Now it is official. It is always sad to see a brewery close. On a positive note, I am happy to report that there are currently 15 new breweries awaiting approval by the state.

Even if these 15 breweries actually gain approval, there are no guarantees. Some breweries approved by the state never actually come to fruition. Starting a brewery is more complicated than many people imagine and most wannabe breweries learn some tough lessons along the way. Getting approval from the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is perhaps the most significant and time-consuming hurdle. Municipal permitting issues also seem to be a big deal-breaker for many would-be breweries. When it’s all said and done, getting the state license might be the easiest part of the process.

Someone should write a book. Actually, someone did write a book: the Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery. As I understand it, Elysian Brewing Company’s Dick Cantwell is currently working on a revised, updated version.

Check out the list below of microbrewery licenses pending approval by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. By the way, without getting too deeply into the semantics of the whole thing, in Washington all of our breweries are licensed as “microbreweries.” Redhook in Woodinville is a microbrewery and so is Slippery Pig in Poulsbo.

Liquor Control Board Actions with Regard to Microbrewery Licenses

New Microbrewery Applications (Pending)

  • Machine House Brewery, Seattle
  • Bad Chemist Brewing, Seattle
  • Dungeness Brewing, Port Angeles
  • Flood Valley Homebrew, Chehalis
  • Beer Falls Brewing, Richland
  • Rainy City Ales, Seattle
  • Rainy Daze Brewing, Silverdale
  • Lake Stevens Brewing Company, Lake Stevens
  • Ashtown Brewing, Longview
  • Black Dog Spirits, Seattle
  • Shrub Steppe Smokehouse Brewery, Richland
  • Bale Breaker Brewing, Yakima
  • Island Hoppin’ Brewery, Eastsound
  • Sayulita Brewing, Seattle
  • St. Helens Brewing, Toledo

Recently Approved Microbrewery Applications

  • Herbert Benjamin Friendly Brewing, Renton

Other Actions

  • Northern Lights Brewing in Spokane is now No-Li Brewhouse (name change).
  • Hazel Dell Brewpub in Vancouver. According to the state, the microbrewery license is now discontinued.

10 Responses to Can Washington Handle 15 More Breweries?
  1. Triplehorn Brewing
    May 8, 2012 | 12:37 pm

    Woodinville also has a newly approved TTB & WSLCB microbrewery! In construction and pending open date of July 15!

    Triplehorn Brewing Co
    19510 144th Ave NE
    Woodinville, WA 98072
    Triplehornbrewing@gmail.com

  2. Kendall Jones
    May 8, 2012 | 1:17 pm

    Thanks for chiming in. I think the LCB is a bit busy right now. Triplehorn (like 192 Brewing) does not show up on the “current actions” list or the “approved microbrewery” list. I’m not about to start saying I feel sorry for the LCB, but given all that is going on right now on the eve of privatization, it’s easy to imagine how busy they must be processing all sorts of new license apps.

  3. Adam P.
    May 8, 2012 | 2:37 pm

    Great post. From what I can tell all the Seattle breweries listed here are nanos, of which there is certainly a glut. I wonder how much this avalanche of nanos will affect consumer sentiment more than anything, given that many of them aren’t bringing much new to the table, and some of them have questionable levels of brewing experience and quality control. I don’t see anyone brewing on that scale putting a minor dent in the overall demand for craft product in the state, or in any particular city/region.

    I didn’t have the time to research the others, curious what scale they are all planning/hoping to brew at.

  4. Logan Thompson
    May 8, 2012 | 3:25 pm

    It definitely is a bummer that Hazel Dell Brew Pub closed down. I know we have so many great brew pubs in Portland, but living in Vancouver the selection on this side of the river for beer brewed in the city is a bit lacking (although I can’t complain, we have access to a lot).

    It looks like all of the new breweries are opening up north of us. I definitely think there is room for more though.

  5. Aubrey Laurence
    May 8, 2012 | 8:48 pm

    Yes, Washington can handle 15 more “good” breweries. In fact, it can handle 50 or more new “good” breweries. This state has many breweries, which is fantastic. But it’s still painfully underserved.

  6. Beaux Bowman
    May 9, 2012 | 12:05 am

    I have to chime in and say that in reality, getting the TTB and state license is almost the easiest part (you new guys/gals will see!). It is everything past that point that gets interesting. Almost anyone can get a license, once you get it then the fun starts! Welcome to boomtown, hold on tight.

  7. Beaux Bowman
    May 9, 2012 | 12:23 am

    Also, regarding the theme of the article: I think there is room for more breweries, especially neighborhood specific locations (brewpub/brewery with taproom). Washington is a state of small breweries and the trend continues. You still don’t see large upstarts coming onto the scene very often here. Most of these new breweries are nano style. Nano is low risk, low/no (financial) reward. A nano has to become fiscally viable to survive unless it is just a “professional hobby”. The next five years will show which nano brewer seeds will sprout and develop into larger and viable breweries. Some already have and some have faded away. BTW, I’m not punching on nano so no hate mail please. At the end of the day, a brewery is a business and follows the same rules and laws of economics as a dry cleaner or a manure farm. Go WA beer!

  8. Dione Dittmar
    May 9, 2012 | 8:21 am

    Having started Airways as a nano, I totally agree with Beaux. It’s not viable long-term business plan for most breweries. It is, however, a great way to incubate a start up brewery without a lot of cash or risk. I would encourage anyone opening a nano sized brewery to do a lot of research and business planning, and to talk to other people in the industry about the pros and cons. Make sure your expectations are realistic, and that you know where you want to be down the road.

  9. Robby Leviton
    May 9, 2012 | 9:18 am

    Kendall, thanks for the great updates as always. More breweries gives the potential for more great beers, which translates to great guest tap opportunities for current Brewery’s with taprooms, etc. We love new and wonderful Washington beers and the community that creates them.

  10. Brickyard
    May 10, 2012 | 10:06 am

    I have to agree with Beaux. State and TTB licenses were pretty easy. TTB is mostly a waiting game. The killer for us was the Snohomish county building permit and Health Department permit requirements. As a nano, we seriously under estimated the financial implications and quantity of things that they made us do to get open. Permit costs, architect fees, engineering studies, plumbing, ADA requirements; the list goes on-and-on. It does however make the completed project that much more satisfying to complete!