Not long ago I heard a rumor about a relationship brewing between Hale’s Ale Brewery of Seattle and No-Li Brewhouse of Spokane. Essentially, I heard that the latter was going to acquire the former. I decided to investigate.
Rumors are quite often untrue, but these kinds of unexpected transactions, deals that see one local brewery acquire another, are not unusual these days. NW Peaks Brewing recently acquired Spinnaker Bay Brewing, Odin Brewing acquired Hilliard’s Beer, and last year Pacific Brewing acquired American Brewing. So what’s happening between No-Li and Hale’s?
This morning I spoke to John Bryant, the owner of Spokane’s No-Li Brewhouse and he set the record straight. Essentially, the rumors of a merger or acquisition are greatly exaggerated. No-Li Brewhouse and Hale’s Ale Brewery have formed a collaborative relationship, but it is not at all any kind of buy-out or merger.
“Mike Hale and I struck up a friendship and it’s developed into a relationship between our breweries,” said Bryant. “He pioneered craft beer in eastern Washington when he opened his original brewery in Colville in 1983, and then moved it to Spokane. Hale’s was Spokane’s first craft brewery and we’re learning a lot from them.”
As I remember the story, the original Hale’s American Pale Ale was sold on July 4, 1983. The brewery was then in Colville, Washington. Shortly thereafter, the brewery moved down the highway to Spokane. In the late 80s, Hale’s opened a second brewery in Kirkland and then moved the entire operation to its current home in Seattle in 1995. To be clear, Hale’s Ale Brewery was the third “micro brewery” in Washington, opening not long after Grant’s in Yakima and Redhook in Seattle. Today, Hale’s is Washington’s oldest craft brewery. Although Redhook still exists, it is not privately owned and therefore does not qualify as a craft brewery.
Sometime next week, the first batch of No-Li’s Born and Raised IPA, brewed and canned at the Hale’s Ale Brewery in Seattle, will hit the market. In making that happened, all the usual regulations had to be met and the paperwork had to be filed, but that’s the extent of the official relationship at this point. Any discussions beyond that, according to Bryant, have not taken place.
“Behind the scenes Al Triplett has been an instrumental force in No-Li’s growth and success,” explained Bryant. Al is a well-known figure in the beer world because, among other things, he was a brewmaster at Redhook. “He’s been behind everything we do and doesn’t get enough credit for it. We sent him over to brew at Hale’s. We have our own lab, and also send our beer out to another lab, and when the results came back for the beer we brewed at Hale’s it hit all markers.”
On brew day, Bryant loads a keg of No-Li’s yeast and a bunch of No-Li’s hops into the van and drives from Spokane to Seattle. When he arrives at Hale’s, they brew the beer. It sounds like he’s having a great time doing it.
“It’s just a cultural thing,” said Bryant. “Our people and theirs just get along and we are all really having fun with it. We share a common culture. It’s competitive out there these days and this just feels really good. We’re pouring Hale’s beer at our pub and Hale’s is pouring our beer at their pub.”
“Mike and I don’t know where it’s going to go. Maybe someday we’ll brew Hale’ beer at No-Li, but for now I’m just learning a lot from Mike. It’s just a positive relationship at this point and we’ll see what happens.”
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