Fast-Growing Reuben’s Brews Expands Capacity, Adds Taproom in Seattle
A handful of months after celebrating its sixth anniversary, Seattle’s Reuben’s Brews is expanding for the third time. Founded in the Ballard neighborhood in 2012 by Adam and Grace Robbings, the young company has grown to include 22 full-time employees and expects to have brewed about 13,000 barrels of beer by the end of the year. Throughout its short history, Reuben’s has been defined by a diverse range of ales and lagers (it will produce more than 130 unique beers in 2018) and confined by the physical limitations of its brewing facilities. But that will change in mid-December when brewmaster Adam Robbings and his brew team begin making beer at a new 11,000 square-foot brewery and taproom roughly half a mile from its current home on 14th Avenue.
“For the first time ever we’re not going to be constrained by space,” says Adam Robbings as work crews ready the brewhouse for its first batches in a few short weeks.
Situated at the corner of Northwest 46th Street and 8th Avenue, the new facility will provide more than increased production capacity. (Although the potential to make as much as 30,000 barrels in the future wasn’t an insignificant consideration.) It will also give Reuben’s staff dedicated office space for the first time, a second taproom they’ve dubbed “The Brewtap,” and a new lab with modern equipment.
“The point is to have everything under one roof,” explains Robbings. “That’s the beauty of this. We don’t have to grow for it to make sense. We’re getting rid of all of these inefficiencies,” he says, referring to his headache-inducing current situation of juggling ingredients, inventory, and resources between three other locations scattered around Ballard.
Once it’s in operation, the new brewery with its 30-barrel brewhouse will be focused on making the company’s four year-round offerings: Crikey IPA, which represents nearly 40 percent of production, Pilsner, Robust Porter, and Hazealicious IPA, a new beer that debuted in late November and replaces Gose, which Reuben’s spun off into a seasonal series earlier in the year. Weighing in at 6 percent ABV, Hazealicious is brewed with wheat, oats, and pale, Pilsner, and honey malt as well as a blend of Citra, Strata, Comet, Mosaic, and Azacca hops. Along with its three annually-available companions, Hazealicious IPA will be sold in kegs and 12 ounce cans throughout the company’s three state distribution footprint. According to Robbings, a British ale yeast, rather than the house strain, “helps it to be nice and soft and pillowy.”
To start, The Brewtap at the new production facility will only open four days a week, beginning in late February. With windows looking out on on 8th Avenue and into the brewhouse as well as several skylights, it’s bound to be a brighter space than the existing taproom, even in notoriously overcast Seattle. And when temperatures occasionally rise to uncomfortable levels in the summer months, The Brewtap at Reuben’s will be a rare air-conditioned public space at one of the city’s brewing facilities. A maximum capacity of 170 people, plus a couple of sofas as well as a mix of high tops and picnic tables also make the room, which will feature a rotating selection of 12 beers on draft, an appealing alternative for fans of the brewery who find the original taproom at capacity on busy weekends.
“All of the furniture in here has come from this building,” Robbings says, explaining that Reuben’s worked with local design firm Splinter & Slag to use wood reclaimed from the warehouse during construction for its chairs, tables, and the bar top, too.
Meanwhile, the existing taproom on 14th Avenue remains open daily, but will offer an even more eclectic and experimental tap list. Growth enables the brewery to make the New England IPAs in its popular Crush series on a more regular basis, and will allow the company to increase the cooperage in its wood-aging cellar. In other words: more bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout (BBIS), and additional releases from the oak-aged sour program it introduced in July 2018 with Brettania: Boysenberry and Blackberry.
“This frees us up to do more specialty beers and new styles we haven’t done before,” Robbings says. “Crush sells out, usually the day of. Triple Crush is one of our most popular beers. With a year-round hazy IPA, the Crush series becomes more experimental-type releases.”
Now with three brewhouses to choose from—5 barrels, 15 barrels, and 30 barrels—Robbings is eager to increase the availability of many previously limited releases like Roggenbier, a personal favorite and one of the company’s debut beers back in 2012. He expects to offer more lagers in the future as well. Another benefit of the expansion is the ability to sour in the kettle and the whirlpool at the same time on the large system. In part, this flexibility allows Reuben’s to build on the success of its GABF medal-winning Gose to create the sour series that launched in November with a cranberry orange Gose, and will continue next year with a cherry Berliner Weisse in January, the traditional Gose in April, and a raspberry Berliner Weisse in September.
For Robbings however, the goal was never to simply get bigger, it’s the continued pursuit of professional challenges and a belief in the importance of maintaining a wide variety of beer styles at all times. “I don’t like using production growth to fund things,” he declares. “When you start worrying about sales, you’re not worrying about the beer.” ■