Skip Madsen and Neil Fallon of American Brewing Co. are getting used to reporters descending upon their new digs at Edmonds’ Harbor Square business complex, where they are putting finishing touches on their brewery/tasting room for this Saturday’s grand opening.
Everyone is abuzz about this unique addition to the Edmonds business scene, especially since it appears next to the recently relocated Edmonds brew-your-own institution, Gallaghers Where-U-Brew. Could these two places, tucked away next to the railroad tracks and a convenient short stroll from the Edmonds ferry, train station and waterfront, be an Edmonds Beer District in the making?
Fallon, an outgoing Tacoma-based real estate developer who started American Brewing with money he saved for a future “fun” investment, envisions that American Brewing and Gallaghers could be just that — and looks forward to the day when other breweries, wineries and distilleries might be added to the mix. In hiring the well-respected Madsen – formerly with Bellingham’s Boundary Bay and Seattle’s Pike Brewing – as his brew master, Fallon got not only one of the best in the beer business, he also got someone who had already scouted out Edmonds as the perfect brewery location.
And Edmonds has embraced American Brewing, Fallon said. While the brewery will be selling kegs and the smaller-sized growlers, local restaurants have inquired about having the beer available by the bottle; and plans call for the tasting room to provide take-out menus so that patrons can order pizza or other meals from nearby establishments. In addition, the brewery tasting room – officially christened the Breakaway Room — will offer snacks, ranging from cheese and thin-sliced salami provided by Edmonds’ own Resident Cheesemonger, to the traditional popcorn, peanuts and hot dogs.
For now, the focus is on preparing for Saturday’s noon-to-8 p.m. event, featuring the official tapping of the keg, live music by rock and blues guitarist Steve Stefanowicz, appetizers and, of course, the four beers that American Brewing will offer on tap: Madsen’s signature Breakaway IPA, made with Vienna and Munich malts and Amarillo and Simcoe hops for a signature citrusy character; American Blonde, a pale ale “that goes down easy”; Ed’s Red, a full-bodied red ale made with three different crystal malts; and Breakaway Caboose (appropriately named for the train that runs outside the building), a thick oatmeal stout using six different malts for a roasted coffee-like flavor with chocolate overtones.
For those who prefer something besides beer, American Brewing has a tavern license, so the Breakaway Room will also be serving a selection of wine from both Sparkman Cellars and Edmonds Winery. (Despite its name, the Edmonds Winery is located in Woodinville, but has Edmonds owners, Fallon said.)
Fallon hopes the Breakaway Room will become a favorite gathering place for Edmonds residents and visitors alike. Big-screen TVs above the bar area will broadcast sporting events, and for the summer there are plans afoot for a possible outdoor beer garden as well as beer floats –your favorite brew topped with ice cream. Hours will be Wednesday-Friday from 3-9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 2-8 p.m., with longer hours possible in the summer.
And for those visiting American Brewing for the first time, Fallon also added a special touch to the parking lot to ensure no one gets lost: Simply look for the “yellow foam road” of stenciled beer mugs leading from the western-most entrance to the Harbor Square complex (the one off Dayton Street closest to the railroad tracks) to the brewery door.
With a capacity for customers to sample from nine brews on tap at any one time, the tasting room will also provide a built-in focus group as American Brewing rolls out new brews, Fallon said. In addition, he plans to make the Breakaway Room available for private parties.
Meanwhile brew master Madsen — with 34 beer medals and some 200 beer recipes under his belt — said he is in his element as the grand opening nears. The Chicago native discovered his knack for beer making while attending college as a forest recreation resource management major in Missoula, Montana. “I found that I had a natural sense of beer and what’s in it,” he said. “I started figuring out formulas and recipes.”
He also figured out that he was no longer passionate about forest recreation resource management. “I asked the profession if I could do a paper on hops,” Madsen said. The professor agreed, as long as the paper was accompanied by some beer, he noted.
From Montana, Madsen moved to a brewery job in Fort Collins, Colorado and then on to the Seattle area, where he has worked in several of the area’s well-known craft breweries. Madsen said it was his wife who first identified Edmonds as an ideal brewery location, and he shared that vision with Fallon, who had initially been considering Fife.
The entire Seattle area, in fact, is known as the craft brewery capital of the world, Fallon said, comprising 25-30 percent of the overall beer market (nationally, craft breweries make up about 6 percent). That popularity has influenced a debate that has reached the halls of the Washington State Legislature, where a bill has been introduced to make coffee the official state beverage. According to Fallon, it’s an idea that doesn’t sit well with local beer-makers.
“Our contention is this: Coffee isn’t even grown in Washington,” Fallon said. According to the Washington Beer Blog, Washington is the top hop-producing state in the country, and all of the ingredients required to produce beer are grown in Washington.
“Making coffee the Washington State Drink is like making a coconut the Washington State Fruit,” Fallon said.
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