Around here, two things in life are certain when it comes to beer. Washington loves delicious craft beer and Washington produces delicious craft beer. Events taking place this weekend, and over the next ten days, confirm these two self-evident truths. So do the numbers. In the greater Seattle-Tacoma area 24 percent of the beer we consume is craft beer. In the United States, only Portland, Oregon has us beat at 29.9 percent. San Francisco is the only other city to reach the 20 percent mark. Most cities aren’t even close.*
It’s a statewide party in Washington this weekend. In Tacoma they are about to open the doors at the second annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival (Friday and Saturday). In Yakima they are preparing for Saturday’s Fresh Hop Ale Festival. Enumclaw will be the site of a big Oktoberfest party this weekend (Friday and Saturday) which will feature a lot of locally brewed beer. Up in Blaine, Semiahmoo Resort will host a very special Brewmasters Dinner tonight (Friday) featuring the beers of Bellingham’s venerable Boundary Bay Brewery.
From one end of the state to the other, this weekend people will celebrate beer. However, for two of Washington’s better beer bars, this weekend marks the kickoff of a celebration not only of beer, but a celebration of Washington-brewed beer exclusively. For the next 10 days (Oct. 1st through 11th) the Parkway Tavern and the Red Hot will serve nothing but Washington-brewed beers.
Both the Parkway Tavern and the Red Hot are located in Tacoma and the kickoff of “Tacoma Drinks Washington Beer Week” intentionally coincides with the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival. All of the taps will pour nothing but beers brewed right here in The Evergreen State. The Parkway offers 34 beers on tap and the Red Hot another baker’s dozen. Two bars pouring nearly 50 Washington beers. That’s impressive.
Busily servicing the thirsty hordes, the craft beer industry is booming in Washington these days. In the past two months 21 new microbreweries have applied for licenses with the Liquor Control Board. It is hard to keep exact count, but currently Washington has approximately 130 microbreweries licensed to brew beer.
You might think that the market is overcrowded, but most breweries tell us that they are brewing beer at capacity and are trying to find ways to make more beer to meet the growing demand. For a brewery, increasing capacity most frequently means investing more money into the business—a particularly tough challenge in the current economy.
Most of the nation lags behind us in terms of craft beer consumption so out-of-state brewers flock to the Seattle-Tacoma market recognizing our undeniable penchant for good craft beer. This is a good place for them to sell their product. Likely, a better place than their home state to sell their product. While many people believe that more beer is better, and that the only thing that matters is the quality of the beer, it’s hard for local brewers to not to feel like their market–a market which they’ve spent years building–is being usurped by outsiders. I don’t mean to make a statement either way about that topic, I just want to show my appreciation for what the Parkway and the Red Hot are doing.
So here’s a shout out to the Parkway Tavern and the Red Hot. Thank you for supporting the Washington craft beer industry like this. Local breweries employ local people, pay local taxes, shop at local stores and eat at local restaurants. The “drink local” argument would be meaningless if the beer wasn’t good. Nobody can deny that Washington breweries produce a lot of darn good beer – local, fresh, and award-winning beer. Cheers to that. And Cheers to the Parkway and the Red Hot for acknowledging it.
*Numbers – from the Brewers Association.