Standard Brewing: little brewery, big expansion plans

Standard Brewing Company of Seattle just announced expansion plans. They’re expanding the brewery, the taproom and the entire experience. There are two things I really like about this story.

First, Standard Brewing is staying in the Central District. That’s a good thing. Some people call it gentrification, others call it a quest for affordable housing. Whatever you call it, a lot of beer-loving people have moved into the CD in recent years. They need, want and deserve a brewery to call their own. Justin Gerardy proved that point when he opened Standard Brewing a couple years ago.

Second, Standard Brewing makes some damned tasty beer and now they’ll be able to make a lot more of it. To be honest, and I don’t think many people would disagree, some of Washington’s many nano-breweries are a bit disappointing. Nanos face challenges that are too often reflected in the beer, but there are some nano-breweries that overcome the obstacles and produce top-notch beer. Standard is one of those.

So, here is the expansion plan, as explained by Justin:

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. For the last year or so, it has often felt like Standard Brewing was headed downhill on a freeway onramp, stuck in first gear. It all started with 1100 square feet, 3 fermenters and a brewing system that produced 31 gallons at a time. Now at 2000 square feet, 7 fermenters, a brite tank, and tripling our cold room, we’re squeezing every last drop of beer out of our space, constantly struggling to maintain our 12 taps. I knew a year and a half ago that the nano life couldn’t last much longer, and started considering every option that kept the brewery in the Central District. I looked at the Field Roast building, 18th and Yesler, the Catfish Corner building, every vacancy on Jackson St., the Firestone building, even made a valiant attempt at the old Firehouse on Yesler. After finding rents in our area to be totally unworkable for this type of business, a deal was reached to keep us in our current building, where we can expand and stay indefinitely.

Every brewery has a unique model to make ends meet. Some are set up to sell entirely at wholesale to distributors and produce huge volumes. Others add a tasting room and sell a bit of retail as well. Some focus on nothing but on-premise consumption, including food and spirits, where total output can be a bit more restrained. Most of the time, the formula is based on the available space. In our case, space is the constraint, but so are our ideals. Not wanting to leave the neighborhood leaves our options slim, but the choice to keep the brewery relatively small also affords us diversity and an experimental attitude. Some say we’re known for our IPAs, but it’s the other 9 taps that keep it interesting from a brewer’s perspective, and if we switch to production brewing in a warehouse, this playfulness wouldn’t be possible.

The plan is going to unfold in stages over the next 7 to 8 months. The first thing you’ll see is the removal of that goofy false wall as you enter the tasting room. In early summer, the patio will expand to include the whole parking lot. It will become fenced in. We’ll be repairing the water damage and repainting the entire exterior of the building. Roof leaks will be repaired. Then, we’ll be bringing in a new system, which will likely give us about 7 times the output we currently have. We will be building out a yeast lab and bringing in a plethora of oak barrels for aging and sours. You will start hearing a lot about nerdy microbiology and unusual bugs making your Standard beer. Brettanomyces. Lactobacillus. Acetobacter. Mixed, wild cultures. My goal is to have monthly special bottle releases once it is all humming along smoothly.

In October, we will take possession of the space next door, currently occupied by the Halal Mart. Build-out will commence on a new bar space, where we’ll not just serve our beers, but food and liquor as well. The kitchen will be a little pop-up, where we will bring in talented, interesting food that works especially well with our beer. In unfussy ways, the years spent in a vest and tie, stirring brown liquor will come back into use behind a sexy bar top. This time, however, dress will be casual. In the end, the same low key atmosphere and style will be maintained along an ever changing, consistently high quality, variety of beery options, and we will all welcome a handful of new people into the Standard family while we stride toward a Grand Re-Opening somewhere around the new year.

I can’t express how thankful I am for everyone’s support and patronage that has grown this business into the voracious little monster it is. Please pardon our dust as we get to work on a thousand little steps that will bring it all together into the next version of Standard Brewing. See you all soon.

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