Story by Lynn Sherk, Washington Beer Blog Budding Correspondent
When Adam and Grace Robbings opened Reuben’s Brews on August 5 last year, I was one of a couple hundred beer lovers who stopped by to check out Ballard’s new kid on the beer block. After sampling each of the five beers available that day (Roggenbier, American Rye, American Brown, Dry Stout and Robust Porter), I thought, “This place is going to be really good. I can’t wait to see what else they can do!” Pictured at right: Adam Robbings with his Washington Beer Awards medals.
Today, Reuben’s has a list of accomplishments that would be pretty impressive for most craft breweries, let alone one that is just shy of its first anniversary. Some of them include:
- Winning a slew of beer awards. Last week, they took sixth place overall at the U.S. Beer Open! They also won three medals, bringing their total medal count to 19, including nine from the World Beer Championships, two from the North American Brewers Awards and five from this year’s inaugural Washington Beer Awards.
- Offering as many as 12 of their own beers on tap daily (occasionally they have a guest beer on tap). On Saturdays, the number increases to 13 with a cask offering.
- As the host of Seattle Beer Week’s 2013 Rye Fest, they had 15 of their own rye-based beers on tap.
- Permanent or rotating handle spots at 50 bars and restaurants around Western Washington.
- In April, they began bottling their brews, which can now be found in 41 stores between Bellingham and Olympia.
Not too shabby for a guy who started out with a homebrew kit in his garage nearly four years ago.
Despite the increase in demand and notoriety, Reuben’s is still largely running as a very small operation. When they started bottling, Adam knew it was time to make “a leap of faith” and quit his day job. He’s now turned over most of the brewing to his brother-in-law, Mike Pfeiffer, who moved his family out from Illinois to help make the business a reality. He built most of the inside of the tasting room and learned to brew by working with Adam on the brewery’s first 50 batches.
On Monday through Wednesday when the tasting room is closed, the tables and chairs are pushed aside to make way for the brewing equipment. While Mike and new helper, Ryan, make beer, Adam spends most of his time on recipe development. He also does some of the “business stuff” and serves as the brewery’s delivery driver, using his own car to transport cases of bottles. Grace has kept her day job, but handles the bookkeeping for the brewery.
So, how does a brewery come this far this fast? Quite simply, it’s the beer.
Adam is very particular about what Reuben’s makes and how. He believes in focusing on the style of the beer and not compromising on ingredients in favor of production efficiencies.
“We use the yeast we want to use for a particular beer instead of just using what we may have in house for another beer,” says Adam. “We use eight different grains in the robust porter and can’t rationalize changing that to keep our grain bill down. We use four different base malts and fifteen hops in-house. It’s the benefit I think we get from a number of small decisions that incrementally add up to the best beer we can make.”
And it didn’t take long for word to travel about his beer. Of the 50 tap accounts, he only approached one to carry his beer. The others, he says, came to the brewery, tasted the beer and asked for it.
“We don’t have a sales team. We wanted the beer to come first. I wanted to focus on the creation of tasty brews, rather than focusing on sales. I just wanted to brew what we think is great and hope others appreciate it the way that we do.”
Mark your calendars for Saturday, Aug. 3 – Reuben’s is throwing a first anniversary party! In addition to the regular tasty brews, Adam promises a couple of barrel-aged beers (including one on tap for the first time ever) and the inaugural tapping of their anniversary brew. More details coming soon!