Profile: Ancient Lakes Brewing – Quincy, WA

Just east of the Columbia River, somewhere between Interstate 90 and Highway 28, you will find a small chain of lakes known as the Ancient Lakes. Not far away in the town of Quincy you’ll find a brewery bearing the name of these remote and unfamiliar lakes. The brewery is anything but ancient: Ancient Lakes Brewing Company was born in 2010, the brainchild of longtime Quincy resident John Cedergreen.

Some years ago Cedergreen was visiting his daughter in California, touring the Napa Valley and tasting wine. At some point he asked someone where the winemakers went to relax and enjoy a libation after work. “The guy explained that he and the other winemakers go to the local brew pub in Calistoga and drink beer,” Cedergreen told me. “Apparently winemakers like good beer. I’ve also noticed, first hand, that when people are out wine tasting they often seek out beer, too.”

Returning home to Washington, Cedergreen let his Napa experience ferment for a while. He eventually began to recognize that Washington’s wine country is dotted with breweries. He also recognized that more and more wineries were opening around the Quincy area. In fact the process of establishing the Ancient Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area) is currently under way.

At some point, it became clear that he should consider opening a brewery in Quincy. He discussed the idea with friends and eventually decided to pull the trigger. It was a change of direction for Cedergreen, who recently sold his family’s Quincy-based food processing business and was looking for a new challenge. There was one major obstacle: he didn’t know how to brew beer. Enter Mike Silk, a local school teacher who also happened to be an expert home brewer.

Ancient Lakes Brewing is a nanobrewery. However you define that term, Ancient Lakes Brewing fits the bill. The brewer still works a day job. The brewery is located at a residential location. They brew the beer in small batches. Mike Silk brews the beer on a beautiful, two-third barrel Sabco system.

The brewery’s offerings include all the standards: Amber, Porter, IPA, Hefeweizen and so on. I was particularly fond of the Antler Dance Amber.

The brewery is located in a garage at Silk’s house a few miles out of town amongst the farms.  They generally don’t consider the brewery open to the public, but that doesn’t mean you cannot sample the beer. You can get the beer at The Grape, a wine bar in downtown Quincy that regularly features a full complement of Ancient Lakes’ beers. While it isn’t the official tasting room, The Grape certainly feels like it. When I visited on a Saturday afternoon many of my fellow patrons were drinking beer. Some of them had spent the first part of the afternoon tasting wine at local wineries and were now seeking (and finding) good beer.

Ancient Lakes on tap at The Grape.

You can also find Ancient Lakes’ beers at a few accounts around Grant County, especially in Quincy. Check the Ancient Lakes Brewing website for a current list of clients.

Cedergreen told me he recognizes that brewing on such a small scale isn’t economically viable. There is no question that he has a head for business and everything about Ancient Lakes Brewing seems very deliberate and thought-out. He explains that they do indeed have a plan and this is a first step. He recognizes the value of moving slow and managing growth. What’s more, he understands that it all starts with good beer.

Assuming that Ancient Lakes enjoys the same kind of success that other breweries are currently experiencing, I suspect that the plan will move forward, the brewery will grow, and eventually the beer will be more widely available. When wine geeks do indeed establish the Ancient Lakes AVA, there will already be a brewery bearing the name.