Steve juggling apricots

Elysian Brewing’s Steve Luke prepares to burst out on his own

One of Elysian Brewing’s well-known and highly respected brewers recently learned a valuable lesson about the power of social media. He sent out a tweet thinking that only the 11 people who follow him on Twitter would see it. Someone with more than 11 followers retweeted it. And so on and so on. Before long, Steve Luke’s inbox filled up with requests for more information about his plans to leave Elysian Brewing and open his own brewery. The cat was out of the bag and Cloudburst Brewing now has more than 11 followers on Twitter.

Those familiar with Steve Luke’s work for Elysian are excited because he’s the guy responsible for some of Elysian Brewing’s most beloved beers, like Space Dust IPA and Split Shot Stout, not to mention some of the brewery’s more creative endeavors. But there is an obvious question that everyone wants to ask him: is this move a response to Anheuser-Busch’s acquisition of Elysian Brewing? Is he walking out on Elysian because of the takeover?

The answer is short and unequivocal: absolutely not. Steve hatched a plan to start his own brewery and set it in motion long before the fuse was lit on the A-B/Elysian bomb. Regardless of how the timing looks, the two developments are unrelated.

“Most industry people are already aware of my project,” Steve said. “I think it would be nice to let the public know, especially for those people that felt jilted by the sale of Elysian. Hopefully it will give them a little something to look forward to, knowing that the guy who created Space Dust IPA, Dayglow IPA, Splitshot Stout, and others is going to be brewing beer down the street at his own brewery.”

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Poorly executed selfie with Dick Cantwell, getting fresh hops.
Poorly executed selfie: Steve with Dick Cantwell, getting fresh hops.

He intends to continue working at Elysian while Cloudburst Brewing comes together and, as much as some people may want him to, Steve seems to harbor no ill-will about the business development that captured so much attention and spurred so much ire in the beer world. You can sense some disappointment in his voice when he talks about it, but nothing close to vitriol. His mind is obviously occupied with his own plans.

The Best-Laid Plans

Steve hopes to pour Cloudburst Brewing’s first beers in the fall of 2015, which means he’s been working on this project for a very long time already. Most beer lovers don’t fully appreciate the work that goes into a brewery before the first beer is poured. Literally, it can take years to create a solid business plan, secure financing, find the right location, get properly licensed locally and federally, and eventually build the brewery.

Along with advice and assistance provided by his many friends in the beer industry, Steve is also leveraging his personal experience, much of which he earned in 2012 when he helped Seattle’s Bluebird Brewing, the beer-making arm of Bluebird Microcreamery, get its feet off the ground.

“When you apply with the TTB [the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau], there’s a ton of paper work you have to do, but there’s a bunch of stuff that they don’t tell you they want,” Steve explains, as an example. “You send them everything they say they require, and then you get this long list back from them of more stuff they want. I’ve been through that, so I’m putting together everything they say they want plus all the stuff I know they’re going to ask for. Hopefully that will speed things up.”

As far as the financing goes, Steve lined up a group of silent investors who have relatively small equity shares in the company but no control over how the beer is brewed. In other words, the partners bought into the idea that Steve should run the brewery and brew the beers as he sees fit.

The plan is for slow, steady growth within reason. His intention is to never get too big, but points out that he cannot foretell the future. Right now, Steve says he has no plans to become the next Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada) or Jim Koch (Boston Beer Co).

He describes Cloudburst as a brewery that will have some local, regional distribution, but also be a hub for the neighborhood. He imagines the Cloudburst taproom being a hangout for the increasing number of people living and working in Seattle’s Belltown and north-of-market neighborhoods.

The location, just north of Pike Place Market.
The location, just north of Pike Place Market.

Location, Location, Location

The Cloudburst Brewing location is just outside of the Pike Place Market, just a couple of blocks north on Western Avenue, in the building that once housed Elliott Bay Bicycles, which closed down last September after 31 years in business.

In all, the space includes 7,200 square feet, most of which will be used for the brewery. The taproom will be modest, utilitarian and barebones—nothing fancy, but comfortable—and Steve plans to let the space evolve over time. Also, there’s a certain kind of experience Steve knows people enjoy at a brewery.

“The taproom will be mingled with the brewery, sort of like Fremont Brewing used to be,” Steve said, talking about Fremont’s original Urban Beer Garden, where people sipped beers and socialized while surrounded by a forest of stainless steel fermenters. “People like that feeling of being actually in the brewery when they’re drinking the beer.”

No doubt the brewery’s taproom will attract a lot of locals seeking an escape from nearby condos and apartments, but the summer months promise to bring amazing foot traffic. If you’ve spent time in that area when the cruise ships are in town, you’ve witnessed this. Still, Steve says that he is more excited about serving the community of residents than he is feeding the teeming masses of out-of-towners.

Details still need to be solidified, but the plan is to be a dog-friendly, beer-only taproom, allowing people to bring in their own food. A lot of city dwellers in Seattle have dogs and Steve wants to provide a place away from the apartment where dogs can relax and socialize without having to leave their masters at home.

For now, this is the logo. It may change.
For now, this is the logo. It may change.

The Brewery

Cloudburst is purchasing its brewhouse from Silver City Brewing, which is destined to get a new, bigger brewhouse soon. It’s a big 10-barrel system, meaning it is a 10-barrel system capable of yielding more than 10 barrels per brew session. It will feed 15- and 30-barrel fermenters. (Steve is still in the market for a couple more used fermenters, FYI.)

Draft product only, for starters, with bottles and who-knows-what down the road.

The Name

“A cloudburst is sudden and unexpected,” Steve says, noting that the name relates to how he wants people to experience his beers: unexpected flavors, surprising on the palate. “Also, it’s just fun to say.”

The Beers

Steve is quick to point out that he has no intention of recreating or “stealing” any recipes from the portfolio of beers he brewed for Elysian. Instead, he will take what he’s learned and apply it to new beers.

Many people in Steve’s position long for artistic expression and look forward to owning a brewery so they can finally devise some highly creative and interesting recipes. So exactly what kind of crazy beer is Steve looking forward to brewing once he gets to brew whatever he wants?

“Hmm…” Steve says, then goes silent for several seconds. “That’s a tough question.”

More silence.

“Ya, that’s a really good question.”

The question remains unanswered. It was, in fact, a smart-alecky question, posed by someone familiar with Steve’s unrestrained, creative work at Elysian. After all, Steve is the guy responsible for brewing Elysian’s Gourdgia on My Mind—the notorious pumpkin-peach ale.

Steve juggling apricots
Steve juggling apricots

The 4-1-1

Cloud Burst Brewing
2116 Western Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121

https://www.facebook.com/cloudburstbrewing

https://twitter.com/cloudburst_brew

http://cloudburstbrew.com

 

 

 

 



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