Last week we paid a visit to 7 Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor. Though they have yet to release their beer for public consumption, they do have some release parties scheduled in the coming weeks (see our post about those release parties). Wanting to give you all a bit of a preview, last Thursday we pointed the Washington Beer Cruiser south and headed out to visit this newest of Washington’s breweries.
To begin with, 7 Seas Brewing is Travis Guterson and Mike Runion, business partners and friends. When we arrived, they greeted us warmly and were quick with the samples. Travis is a well-travelled brewer for his age. His resume includes stops at Pelican Brewing (Pacific City, OR), Old Lompoc Brewery (Portland, OR), and Silver City Brewing (Silverdale, WA). There are a couple of things you’ll notice about Travis that clue you in to the fact that he’s a brewer. First, like many of his bretheren in the Washington Brewers Guild, he’s got a lot of hair. Second, his body art is unmistakeably beer-themed.
Travis will make the beer and Mike will peddle the product. Mike recognized his passion for the beer biz and wisely spent some time working at Silver City Brewery doing just about anything around the brewery that needed to be done. It wasn’t always glamorous work, but Mike knows that if you want to succeed in the beer business, you need to know about beer. And there is no better place to learn about beer than a brewery. Mike describes his time at Silver City as an internship. It quickly evolved into a plan to get him exactly where he is right now: standing in his own brewery handing me a sample of 7 Seas Cutt’s Ale.
Back in January, we reported that 7 Seas had suffered a significant setback because of a fire (see original post). The reports were a bit vague and we failed to fully recognize the amount of damage the brewery suffered. Turns out, pretty much everything was cooked.
“The stainless steel is pretty much all that survived,” Mike tells us. “We’re fortunate that we found a company that specializes in cleaning up stainless when it’s suffered smoke damage. We lost pretty much everything. From the big stuff to the little stuff. From the glycol unit and the computers to the gaskets and o-rings. If it wasn’t stainless it was lost.”
There’s something to be said for the power of optimism. You sense that Mike and Travis now look back at the fire and see only the light. No doubt, the set back (in terms of time and money) was a heart breaker at first, but these guys are not feeling sorry for themselves. “We got a new space, which we like a lot more than the old space,” says Travis, “and we don’t have any neighbors.”
If memory serves, it was a space heater in a neighboring business that caused the fire.
The brewery is located very near the Inn at Gig Harbor, just off Highway 16. It’s a great space for a brewery and they have ample room to grow. They’re still building, but it is coming together nicely. The brewery will feature a tasting room overlooking the brewery. Mike and Travis imagine being able to have larger events (parties) at the brewery as well. They certainly have the space and the parking for it.
The plan is to offer three beers initially and then expand the line once they have things dialed in. “We have to make good beer before we can start making a lot of different beers,” Travis says. “I have a lot of recipes but I want to really nail these first three beers before we move on and start making others. I have a lot of recipes that I have perfected over the years on homebrew systems and on pilot systems. So far, I’m really happy with the way they’ve translated to the bigger system.”
We sampled the Cutt’s Ale and the British Pale Ale. Named after nearby Cutt’s Island, Cutt’s Ale is an amply hopped amber. While many amber ales are far too malty and sweet for my lupulin-loving palate, I found the Cutt’s Ale to be a refreshing departure. It is notably hopped and very well balanced. It is hard to believe that this is the first batch of beer Travis has made on this system. Mike describes the beer’s namesake, Cutt’s Island, to us fondly. “To get there you have to go by boat or kayak, and then you just kick back on the beach. It’s a great place to relax and drink beer.” The island sounds as delicious as the beer.
The British Pale Ale was young. It was done fermenting but still needed conditioning. Knowing this, I could recognize where this beer was headed. It’s going to be a traditional English pale ale, brewed with noble hops, and will weigh in at a sessionable alcohol content (somewhere around 5%).
The third beer in the 7 Seas line up was in the fermenter and was bubbling away vigorously. The Ballz Deep Double IPA is going to be a huge IPA in the finest Washington tradition. It will weigh in at over 8% alcohol. At over 80 IBUs, it will be made with copious quantities of Yakima Valley hops.
There is a separate release party scheduled for each of the three beers. A brilliant idea.
For 7 Seas, the initial plan is to keg their beer and self-distribute it to select accounts in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Further out, Mike and Travis plan to package their beer in cans. Yes, you heard me right. Cans. Lightweight, clean, environmentally responsible aluminum cans. Good beer in cans. Canned beer is good.
“I know people have a lot of opinions about canned beer, but it’s just the best thing to do,” says Travis. “Mike and I both love to get out and enjoy nature — to get out in the woods and to go out kayaking and stuff. Cans are just the more responsible thing to do.”
Mike adds, “There are small manual canning systems available now that make it possible at a reasonable cost, so it’s just the way to go.”
Cheers to that.
We didn’t know what to expect when we rolled up to 7 Seas, but now we do. Great beer, great people, and a very sensible and intelligent approach to the beer business. We look forward to drinking their beer and we heartily welcome 7 Seas Brewing to the Washington beer scene.
Get out there an make your way to one of their release parties.