– by North Seattle Sarah, North Seattle Bureau Chief –
While heading through Woodinville on our way to Triplehorn Brewing recently, we hit the brakes in the car and suddenly detoured to the left. There were handmade signs in the street saying “Beer” “Wine” “Football” and “Here,” with an arrow pointing into a parking lot (the city of Woodinville was less impressed than we were, and the signs are no longer there, but I’m hopeful they’ll make a comeback in some capacity). Alright, we’ll make a quick stop and see what it’s all about.
Turns out it’s Woodinville’s newest brewery, Blue Lightening Brew, recently opened and sharing a space with Vessel Wines. Since I was shocked and disgusted that there was a brewery I hadn’t heard of yet, we naturally got an entire sampler of their four beers on tap. For now, there’s Horny Blonde, BP-A Pale Ale, Papa Gay Gay IPA, and Double Ott Stout, but more are on the way. For visiting groups where not everyone enjoys a beer, there’s Vessel Wine available too.
Blue Lightning Brew
19405 144th Ave NE
Woodinville, WA 98072
Toren Heald, brewmaster, was working the bar when we visited. Naturally, I asked him for a little more information on the brewery and how it got started. Toren used to have a column in the Woodinville Weekly and was considered their Senior Beer Columnist, which piqued his interested in learning more about the brewing process. Here’s what Toren had to say about the beginnings of Blue Lightning:
One day I came across a Groupon for a brewing class which I immediately talked my friend Brian into taking with me.
Brian and I showed up to our scheduled brewing class with a lot less enthusiasm then we had when we originally signed up. It was a Sunday and Saturday night might have gone on longer then either one of us had expected, UGH! You know what I mean. This course had to be the most agonizing class EVER, but we managed to suffer through. I’m not exactly sure why anyone would ever want to brew their own beer when there are already tried and true concoctions in the market place but somehow after all that I decided to invest in a small 5 gallon brew system.
After a couple of tries brewing recipes that I found online I came to the realization that online recipes for the most part weren’t very good. I found myself thinking about what kind of brew I wanted to make and did a ton of research to make the best brown ale I could with my limited brewing knowledge. Brown Ale, yes, brown ale sounded good and it was. We did a static test amongst friends and they all seem to approve. I know, a fluke. Nobody gets a great beer the first time. Had to try again.
Time after time and recipe after recipe the beer was coming out fantastic. Not every brew came out perfect mind you, we had to make some tweaks along the way to get them the way we like them. The good news, even when things didn’t come out quite right, it was still beer and we drank it happily.
Before long we had increased to a half barrel brew system and were brewing almost every weekend. When you make that much beer you have to find a place to store it and we knew just the place, our friend’s livers. We brewed more beer in one year than most home brewers do in 10. We knew we had something special with all the compliments and of course I’m no stranger to good beer, it was time to take our hobby to the next level.
Brian and I had taken our friend, Mike Miller, on as a partner to our venture and we began to look for a commercial space to produce and sell beer, which proved more difficult than originally expected. After several months of looking for the perfect location we ran across Steve from Vessel Wines.
Vessel has a unique business model; they package wine in kegs for wholesale. They built out a beautiful tasting room that only got used for special events and had a ton of extra space, enough for a small start-up brewery. It was a match made from pure luck. Within a few short weeks of meeting the owners of Vessel we were up and running.
The tasting room for Blue Lightning is fun. Decorated partially in pirate gear and partially in a hodge-podge of other things, and dog friendly, it overlooks the wide open space below which also features a stage for special events. There are TV’s to watch football, along with bar seating and tables. The place has an instant laid-back feel that was extremely welcoming, and we’re glad we stopped in. So why “Blue Lightning?” That’s another fun story from Toren:
A couple years ago, when my son was only 4 years old, we had a thunder storm crashing over our house. So much that one large boom shook the whole house scaring my poor boy to tears. I was excited about the wicked weather I ran to the front door and flung it open to watch Mother Nature’s fury. My son screamed, “shut the door Dad, you’ll let the thunder in”. To ease his fear, I coaxed him to come stand by me and watch the wonder outside. By the way, he loves stormy weather since that day. A few days later I was down in my back yard production facility brewing up a batch of one of Woodinville’s finest IPAs and thinking about what to name my “business” when my son came up to me and said, “Dad, do you remember that blue lightning?” I don’t know what made him think of the lightning as blue but it stuck with me. The birth of Blue Lightning happened.
In an industry where “newbies” can have a hard time cracking into the business, Toren and the rest of the team at Blue Lightning know how lucky they are. He left me with this little nugget:
We couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement of all the local brewers. Please go show your support for great local breweries and have a pint at Brickyard Brewing, Triplehorn Brewery, Dirty Bucket Brewing, 12 Bar Brews, and of course Redhook. After you try out all our friends…and you sober up we would like to see your faces and have you try out our beer at Blue Lightning Brew at Vessel Wines.
Blue Lightning is located at 19405 144th Ave NE in Woodinville. Their open hours vary and are posted online, but their Grand Opening party is slated for November 8th, with live music and food trucks.