Monday, May 28, 2012

The Crypt Of Rays - Venturing Into The World of CRYPTICON SEATTLE! 2012

The ghouls, horror fiends, and other assorted freaks invaded Seattle once again for the 2012 edition of Crypticon Seattle on Friday May 25th, Saturday May 26th, and Sunday May 27th.  The event was again held at the Hilton Hotel SeaTac where it moved to in 2011 (previously in Everett in 2010, the Seattle Center in 2009, and the Double Tree in 2008).

This year's guest list was stellar.  Check it out for yourself:

*Doug Bradley (Pinhead from the Hellraiser films, Nightbreed)
*Dee Wallace (E.T., The Howling, Cujo, Halloween (revamp))
*Richard Kiel (Jaws from the James Bond classics The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, Happy Gilmore, the Twilight Zone, Pale Rider)
*Ricou Browning (the creature from the Universal classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon)
*Don Coscarelli (director of the Phantasm films, Bubba Ho-Tep)
*Sonny Landham (Predator, The Warriors, 48 Hours)
*James O'Barr (creator of The Crow comic book/character)
*J LaRose (Saw 3, Saw 4, Insidious)
*Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 and 5, Halloween and Halloween 2 revamps)
*Marilyn Burns (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eaten Alive)
*Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever)
*Gangrel (wrestler, former WWE superstar)
*Voltaire (stop motion animator, musician, jack of all trades)
*and others

Along with the guests, there were numerous vendors, author's alley, panels, film screenings, parties, mixers, and everything else associated with conventions.

I was fortunate enough to be covering this year's Crypticon for Eclectic Arts.  A nod of thanks to Mr. Chris Saint for approving my press credentials.

Where to begin? 

I met so many people over the past three days that it's nearly impossible to recount every discussion or contact that was made.  I will do my best to do so, though.

Right off the top, one thing I can say is that I encountered no issues at the convention, aside from one (that I will write about later) that was more an annoyance than anything.  Overall, the convention was smooth and pretty much on target for my expectations.  Having covered ZomBcon in 2011, I was expecting something similar at Crypticon.  In many ways, Crypticon exceeded my expectations so hats off to the organizers.

I was accompanied by three different EA staff members during the weekend.  One who had helped me cover ZomBcon and two newbies - to get a different perspective from those who had never set foot in a convention of this or any other kind.  They added information to this event article that I missed or forgot about.  The photos that will accompany this article and the interview articles in the print version of EA were also taken by the same EA staff.

One aspect that I would really like to mention is the demeanor of the media guests.  Every single one of them were so accommodating, gracious, engaging, and a joy to talk to.  The EA Crypticon newbies were suitably impressed as well with the actors, their approachability, and how they interacted with the fans.

It only takes one guest with a lousy attitude to potentially sour or ruin a convention experience for a fan.  From my own personal perspective, being a fan of many of the guests in attendance, I was filled with a sense of renewed hope, that one can be successful and not have a raging ego or a bitter attitude toward the industry as a whole.

The first day of Crypticon, I wanted to get a lay of the land, look at the schedule, talk to a few of the guests to nail down approximate times (and days) for when I would be interviewing them.  I had already touched base with Ms. Dee Wallace and the webmaster for Mr. Doug Bradley in advance.  I was hoping to schedule a sit down interview with both of them, possibly away from the convention hall (due to the noise, distractions, etc).  But, if that didn't work, I just wanted enough time to do a decent interview.

Ms. Wallace's people (and herself) had told me to touch base on Friday at the convention and we would set something up for Sunday.  I also heard back from Laura, Mr. Bradley's webmaster, about doing the exact same thing (talk with Mr. Bradley on Friday about what day/time would be best).

My assistant on Friday had been to more than one horror convention.  However, she didn't know who was going to be there at this year's Crypticon until we walked into the vendor room.  I knew I wanted to find Ms. Wallace as soon as possible.  As we walked toward her two tables, my assistant was in a bit of shock, an OMG it's Dee Wallace kind of shock.  Being a huge Stephen King fan meant my assistant was also overly familiar with Ms. Wallace's role in "Cujo".

There were a few fans talking to Ms. Wallace at her tables.  Once they left, I introduced myself and much to my surprise, Ms. Wallace said it's so slow in here we could probably do the interview tonight.  Could I have done it?  Yeah, but I had mentally prepared myself for Sunday.  As a side note, Ms. Wallace suggested we do it away from the convention before the vendor room closed but she said she had to stick around after 8pm for a wedding in the middle of the vendor room.  She was rather dismissive about having to stick around and, in hindsight, that would of been an awesome time to do the interview in a nearby room but alas it wasn't to be.  Damn wedding (no offense to the couple).  Oh well.  We agreed on early Sunday - between 11am and 11:30am.

As we walked around the floor, there were always people at Mr. Bradley's table (the other guest I needed to speak with) so we continued looking around at the various vendor booths and such.  We were walking by J. LaRose's table.  I was looking at some of the photos for purchase on his table (mainly from the "Saw" films and "Insidious").  Mr. LaRose was very friendly asking how we were doing.  We ended up talking for a good ten to fifteen minutes about Seattle, conventions, and the beer scene in the NW and Florida (where Mr. LaRose resides).  He was so down to earth and interesting that I asked him about doing an interview later on in the weekend (Sunday).  He said sure and now I had two interviews scheduled.

Anyone that knows me knows how much I've been into the Crow and for how long.  I picked up the first print of the second issue off the stands back in 1989.  I've met James O'Barr three times prior - way back in 1994/1995.  At 8pm he was schedule to do a panel.  A handful of us were waiting in Emerald Ballroom C along with the moderator.  Unfortunately, after twenty minutes and no Mr. O'Barr, the panel was canceled.  I was a bit bummed but figured I could chat with him on Saturday or Sunday.

I later found out straight from Mr. O'Barr that he was scheduled to be in two places at once.  He told me that he didn't know anything about the panel.  He was told at 8pm to be at this VIP mixer for those fans that bought the VIP tickets.  He was rather upset about it as events like mixers just aren't his thing.  He would much rather be at a panel talking about his work with his fans.  I alluded to one bad aspect of the Con and this was it.  

Even though I'm jumping all over the place here, I must also mention the panels that I attended on Saturday.  Six hours of them in a row!  I would of stayed for the seventh but I needed to get into the vendor room before it closed at 7pm that day.

The moderator of four of the six panels I attended was Mr. Tony Kay.  Mr. Kay's credentials (from

"In addition to holding down, you know, a real-live day job, I scribble freelance for this lovely 'site, Seattle Concerts Examiner, and City Arts magazine. I also host Trivia Night Tuesdays at the Bourbon Bar in Columbia City Theater; serve as schlockologist for Bizarro Movie Nights at the Aster Coffee Lounge in Ballard; and took home the ass-end of a trophy competing against fellow movie nerds on the Independent Film Channel's Ultimate Film Fanatic game show a few years back."

Mr. Kay impressed me.  A lot.  So much so that I actually talked to him a bit to say exactly that.  I honestly didn't expect to go into Crypticon being impressed by a moderator.  And I don't say that like I'm some aloof asshole.  I mean it wasn't on my radar to be checking out the moderators and how they went about their business.

Mr. Kay was professional, did a splendid job of balancing moderator with genre geek, and let the guests actually, gasp, SPEAK.  This was one of my biggest gripes about ZomBcon.  I expect the moderator to keep the discussion on course, to give the guest some bullet points to pull from, ask follow up questions when appropriate, and that's it.  The panel never is and never should be about the moderators IF it's concerning a guest.  Panels that are covering specific subjects or topics, of course then the panel of moderators will be discussing things with themselves and, hopefully, the audience.  But when there's a guest panel, I want to hear from the guest.  They are the focus.  If I wanted to listen to two or three or four geeks try to out do each other with obscure film references and facts, I'd listen to a podcast, you know?  But I digress.

The first panel I attended was with Mr. Kay moderating a discussion with "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" star and legend Mr. Ricou Browning.  The last survivng member of the famous Universal line up of movie monsters, I was looking forward to what Mr. Browning had to say.  And I wasn't disappointed.

Mr. Browning told stories of growing up in the water (via swimming and scuba diving).  He was as sharp as a tack as well.  He was rattling off dates, names, you name it he knew it.  It was interesting to hear about the Creature suit itself, the weight they had to use so that it would sink (the suit was made of rubber and was buoyant).  Many are probably not aware of Mr. Browning's creation of the Flipper character in film and television.  This panel really set the tone for the rest that followed.  I went in, learned a lot that I didn't know before, and left very impressed with Mr. Browning.

I stopped by Mr. Browning's table on Sunday and asked a few questions, following up on his panel from the previous day.  He told a great tale of a sea lion that he raised in his home for five years!  How it slept in a bed in the house, how they used the bathtub for it and how it loved to overflow the tub so that water ran down the hallway, after which the sea lion would slide on it's belly, much like a kid on a plastic Slip N Slide.  Mr. Browning is a legend, the only surviving actor from the classic Universal Monster days.  I was honored to meet him.

The next panel I attended was moderated by Ronnie Angel and featured Sonny Landham.  I've always been a big fan of the "Predator" film and Mr. Landham's portrayal of Billy in the film.  He was also quite memorable in "Lock Up" (with Stallone), and in the hit "48 hours" (with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte).  Mr. Landham came into the room in a wheel chair.  While he has naturally aged (like we all do), there was no mistaking that big, booming voice of Mr. Landham's.  He has the kind of voice that makes you drop what you're doing and hope to God he's not pissed at you.

Mr. Landham answered questions, and quite often had a remark for any one that opened the back door of the ballroom.  "You got the $50 bucks?" he hollared to one late attendee.  He also quipped at another fan who came in late "she doesn't know who the Hell I am" and laughed.

When Mr. Landham's panel was over, he shook the fans hands as he was wheeled out of the ballroom.

The next panel was an eye opening treat as well.  Doug Bradley is a horror fan's God (or Devil I suppose) or at least one of them.  Playing the iconic Pinhead from the "Hellraiser" films, he is someone I was stoked to interview later in the weekend.  As I mentioned to Mr. Bradley, he doesn't need a moderator.  Once you get him talking about a topic, he's off to the races with anecdotes, humor, wit, and matter of factness that is absolutely entertaining.  The moderator listed for this panel was not there.  I'm not sure who the gentleman was in her place but, again, luckily he didn't need to ask much as Mr. Bradley commanded the room like troops before battle.

After Mr. Bradley's panel, we had a decision to make.  Do we stay for the next panel (or two), or wander the vendor floor to perhaps speak a little one on one with the guests, maybe grab some lunch to eat (as it was 3pm now), etc.  The decision was pretty much made for us.

Toward the end of Mr. Bradley's panel, one of the next guests came in a bit early.  Mr. Bradley kindly told the guest, Mr. Richard Kiel, to "come on in Richard".  If you don't know who Mr. Kiel is, stop reading this blog right now and go jump into moving traffic.  Now.

But, seriously, it was a nice gesture on Mr. Bradley's part to not only recognize Mr. Kiel but to welcome him into the room while his panel wrapped up.

Mr. Kay was back in the moderator chair for the panel with Mr. Kiel, most known for his villain Jaws in two of the James Bond films "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker" and Ms. Marilyn Burns, the lone survivor Sally in the original horror classic, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre".  Each guest had great personal stories to tell about their careers, their better known films, and were very well spoken and engaging with the audience.  I found it interesting to see that the prejudice that surrounds people that are of Mr. Kiel's size and stature to be rather true at the convention.  He spoke about trying to breakout of the monster role, the assumption that he's stupid due to his size, etc.  Movies have helped perpetuate that stereotype (Frankenstein anyone?) as has society as a whole.

Mr. Kiel really could be described as a gentle giant.  He is very articulate, warm, and has a story telling ability that pulls you in and takes you on a journey of decade proportions.  He was a fascinating guest to hear from and I followed up with him twice after the panel when he was back at his table in the vendor room.

We spoke about "Happy Gilmore" and how it brought him a new generation of fans.  He also recounted the tale of writing his book about Cassius Clay.  Mr. Kiel gave me the historical background and I found myself mesmerized by the depth of knowledge that Mr. Kiel possessed regarding the historical figure.  I asked if he had a copy of the book with him that I could purchase.  He said "I didn't think to bring any as I didn't think there would be any normal people here at the convention like you and I" and then laughed.

We then got on the topic of shooting overseas, Asian countries to be exact.  Mr. Kiel had asked about my background (being Asian).  He told me about shooting commercials in Japan, visiting Kyoto, working in Taipei and Hong Kong.  He is a great storyteller and he even interjected a few personal stories about his son, his past Asian girlfriend(s), and whether or not his son would live happily ever after with his newest girlfriend.  It was very amusing but for privacy sake, I won't go into the details here.

Ms. Burns showed me that she basically had her own personal horror film going on within the horror film that was "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre".  Some of the things she and the cast endured in that sweltering heat on an indie budgeted film made the audience cringe.  She recounted a tale, during the dinner scene toward the end of the film, where she is tied down to a chair (wrists and ankles) and they needed a rag to stuff in her mouth.  Someone shouted out on set, "we need a rag!".  So a crew member went looking around the house (if you remember that dirty ass, nasty house in the film then you know how awful this is going to be) for a rag.  He found one on the ground, filth ridden, and proceeded to stuff it in her mouth.  She kept it in for take after take, tasting the critters, dirt, and whatever else was on that rag.  During one take, she fell over, still tied down to the chair.  She just lay there on the floor.  As the crew were setting up for another take, after probably minutes, someone finally said, "someone get the girl up".  Still think making a film is all glitz and glamor?  Hardly.

The next panel was also another treat.  Mr. Kay continued with Mr. Don Coscarelli - the director of such films as "Phantasm", the three sequels that it spawned, "Bubba Ho-Tep", and the sword and sandal cult film "Beastmaster".

Mr. Coscarelli was a pure joy to listen to.  He had story after story about making the films, things that happened on the sets, and other asides that made the hour go by insanely fast.  A funny and down to earth man, Mr. Coscarelli could do well hosting a show of his own.  Really!

At this point it's 5pm and the next panel I knew I wanted to stay for which was Ms. Dee Wallace.  Besides Doug Bradley, Ms. Wallace was the other guest that I was really excited to meet.  Mr. Kay was moderating this panel as well.  Someone must of been smart by assigning so many panels to Mr. Kay as, again, he did a bang up job.

Ms. Wallace was, well, Dee.  She is no bullshit.  She is funny, loud, engaging, caring, insightful, and has stories on top of stories.  She is a woman that has been through so much, has seen it all over her forty plus year career, and yet she still comes across as the most down to earth, real, person.  As Ms. Wallace has so many stories to tell, Mr. Kay did a great job of letting Dee go off on tangents and such, giving her space to work so to speak, but also keeping things moving forward as the panel progressed.

At this point, it was time to check out the vendor room before it closed for the day.  My assistant wanted to meet Doug Bradley before he left for the evening.  Doug was most accommodating with the fans.  My assistant got a signed photo and a candid photo with Doug.  She was happy and it ended the convention for her on a high note.

Sunday was a blurrrrrrrrr.  This was the one on one interview day for me.  I'll get into all that soon.

With two days down and one more to go, in many ways the most important day of the convention for me, I arrived at the Hilton before 11am on Sunday.  My assistant and I rode up with some other press in the elevator to the third floor and walked around.  Many of the vendors and guests weren't set up yet at their tables so we passed the time with those that were available.

After ten minutes or so, I noticed Ms. Wallace was at her tables, ready to start another day.  I asked her if this was a good time to do the sit down interview we had scheduled.  She said "it looks pretty slow right now so let's do it".

This interview will be in an upcoming issue of EA - when it's ready, I'll be posting about it here on this very blog.

A few side notes I can write about is that one fan came up to Dee's table with a genuine ET metal lunch box which I thought was cool.  She signed it for him and I asked if he had the thermos that goes with it (knowing that ups the value considerably).  Alas, he didn't but you could tell he was happy to have Dee sign it.

Another fan was looking at the various photos and didn't want to interrupt our interview.  He came back after the fact and bought a photo.

I can also add that Dee gave me more time than she had agreed on which I really appreciated.  There's another cool and funny story here but, again, it'll be in the one on one interview in the print version of EA.  Look for it soon!

Mr. Bradley was the next interview - I'm skipping through time here as his interview was in the afternoon.  He had an assistant with him to handle sales at the table so off we went with his interview.  Much like Dee Wallace's interview, Doug gave me more time than allotted, which made me feel good.  He also didn't break from the interview at all - even though fans would come up and look at the photos and such at his table.  He definitely didn't need to do that as interruptions happen at these things but, again, that was cool of him.

And you know what I'm going to write next - you can read his interview in an upcoming issue of EA.  Hey - EA started out as a print magazine and that will always be the main focus.  \m/

The last interview almost didn't happen.  I was supposed to talk with J. LaRose a bit on Sunday but every time I looked over at his table, he was nowhere to be found.  After three attempts, I told my assistant, let's go.  As we were leaving the vendor room, who shows up?  Mr. LaRose.  We walked to his table to do the interview then he decided we should do it somewhere quieter.  So we found a side room and did the interview there which was nice as the din of noise from the vendor hall was gone.

All together now - you can read his interview in the print version of EA!

After three days of Crypticon, I was ready to head home.  The convention was a ton of fun to cover and I think I did the Crypticon Seattle folks justice as well as the guests in terms of coverage.  This event article is just one of four things I am working on for the 2012 Crypticon Seattle coverage.  The other three being the in person interviews I did for the print version of EA.

To all the Crypticon organizers, Mr. Saint, guests, vendors, and random people I met over the three days, my thanks for making the convention experience a memorable one.  I can't wait for next year's Crypticon Seattle!


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Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Want My F'n Beer! FOGGY NOGGIN BREWING Interview! 5/20/12

What does Foggy Noggin Brewing and ESPN analyst Brock Huard have in common?  On the day of this interview a neighbor brought Mr. Huard and his family by Foggy Noggin Brewing for a short visit.  There were a few “that guy looks familiar” stares but outside of that, Mr. Huard came and went with little fanfare.  To those of us that have been to Foggy Noggin before, this isn’t surprising as the atmosphere is laid back and enjoyable.

My first experience at Foggy Noggin was back in 2010, a month or two after their grand opening in March of that year.  I remember driving up the driveway and seeing the black and white FN sign and being a bit skeptical to be honest.  I walked into the garage where one or two other people were sampling the beers at the time – Bit O’ Beaver (English bitter) and Christmas Duck (English porter).  There were no pint sales at the time, only samples and growlers to go, open one Saturday afternoon a month.

Meeting Jim Jamison, brew master, for the first time, I was instantly put at ease about his brewery operation.  Jim’s extensive home brewing background, laid back personality, knowledge of the beer scene, and passion for beer made my initial visit a memorable one.  After trying both Beaver and Duck more than once, I left with a growler of Beaver, one of many to come.

Having been back several times since that initial visit, attending both anniversary releases, and several growlers later, I felt it was time to do a proper interview with Jim and Foggy Noggin.  Pull up a chair and read on.

EA:  So I was talking to Matthew (assistant brewer and Jim’s son) about Seattle Beer Week (May 10-20th) and the event you were at on Thursday May 10th at Elliot Bay Pizza in Mill Creek.  How did it go?

JJ:  It was standing room only.  Some of the regulars of Elliot Bay Pizza were kind of surprised when they showed up because there was no place to be so they left (laughs).  We brought some unusual beers.  We brought our 2012 Anniversary Ale which we don’t normally let out of the brewery to keg accounts.  We brought a keg of Wasky (Burton Ale – which will be bottled in the future).  And we brought a keg of our MLK Alt (German style alt – one of two beer exceptions to the English styled beers that Foggy Noggin produces – the other being the cream ale that Jim is producing for his daughter’s wedding).  Normally we do half pints of the Alt but they got a whole keg so he was doing growler fills (laughs).  That was fun.  He also had Elysian’s Split Shot – the Seattle Beer Week official beer.  I thought that was a pretty nice beer.

EA:  Do you have any other SBW events you’re doing?

JJ:  The only other one we’re doing is at Malt N Vine in Redmond on the last day, May 20th, for the Hangover Brunch.  So we’re doing the first day of SBW and the last day.  For me it’s tough as there are too many events.  

EA:  Staying with present day events, now that you’re on your third year, is this where you thought you’d be when you started Foggy Noggin?

JJ:  Honestly, we didn’t know.  We had no idea what to expect.  Being as remote as we are, and back then, Skookum Brewing was probably the closest one to us, meaning they had their brewery on their property like us.  It’s a little bit different as they’re not brewing in a neighborhood so much, more like open space.  But, we had no idea as there really weren’t too many people doing what we we’re doing when we started.  I was shocked.  I mean, I didn’t know if anyone would show up at our grand opening back in 2010.  Did you make the grand opening?

EA:  No, I missed that.

JJ:  We had a few people waiting when we opened up.  But, we ran out of beer!  We went through everything we had.  We had brewed every weekend from January 23rd and the grand opening was on March 20th and we sold out of everything.  

EA:  Wow!  So, that’s like a nice problem to have (laughs)

JJ:  It was.  And we were only open once a month at that point (they’re usually open every Saturday now – check their blog or Facebook for weekly updates).  We had to brew enough beer so we could be open the next month.  So, we decided that wasn’t going to hold out very long because we would just not have enough beer.  So, we added a couple more fermenters and that helped a lot.  I couldn’t distribute anything.  And, it’s nice to have everybody here at the tasting room but not everybody can get here.

We want as many people to experience our beers as we can.  So, you want a balance of beer that’s here in this environment because people think this is kind of cool (tasting room in the garage) but, also, what about the people that don’t have a chance to get here?  Like those that live down in Tacoma or those that live up in Bellingham or wherever, really.  I really want to have our beer in their community, too.  But, it’s hard with our size, to do much of that, to get kegs out to the outlying areas.

So, I think we’ve got a decent balance.  We’re not getting kegs out to those places but when we do it’s kind of special.  

EA:  So you’re not saturating the market…

JJ:  Yeah, it’s tough when I have people that want to carry my beer and I have to talk to them and see what their intention is.  Like do they have a rotating handle that every once in a while they’ll put a keg of Foggy Noggin beer on?  And usually it’s “no, we want to have a keg on all the time” and that’s when I have to tell them we can’t do that.  We just can’t do that.  It’s impossible for us.  If I did, then I’d have no other tap accounts.

I’ve turned down a lot of people because I’m not what work’s for their system.  

EA:  Where they expect a new keg every Tuesday or whatever…

JJ:  Yeah.  And I understand.  They have to print beer menus, they want commonality through their tap lineup, maybe once a quarter they change their lineup, etc.  We just can’t accommodate that.  I’ve even had some chains approach me like Joey’s (three locations around the Seattle area).  They wanted a tap account and I was like I couldn’t even supply one of your locations let alone all three (laughs).  

EA:  But thanks for the offer…

JJ:  Yeah!  I mean it’s flattering that they’re interested but who knows?  Maybe in a different time, we’ll be in a different position.

EA:  That brings up another question that I know I’ve talked to you about previously.  Do you want to keep things where they are with your production or do you want to grow and expand in, say, three years to more of a production facility and a pilot facility?  Or is that just too crazy?

JJ:    Honestly, we think about all the possibilities, like making our flagship beers on a bigger scale and continue making the seasonal beers on a smaller scale.  Moving to another location is another idea.  Or staying where we are, those are all options.  We’re thinking about adding more fermenters and adding a fermentation room to the brew house in the back (the brew house is a stand alone building on the back of Jim’s property).  So, instead of six batches a week, maybe we brew twenty or twenty four batches a week.  That’s a lot more capacity but that’s a lot of work.  We’re labor intensive on a half barrel system.  Really labor intensive.  

But, there’s also an interest that a half barrel system, a small batch system, is a novelty and pretty unique, too, and if we stay with that small batch system, that’s kind of our niche.  We want to do authentic English ales on really small batches.  

We have nothing to complain about.  We like where we are and we’re weighing all of our opportunities.  We’re not interested in going out and getting, you know, investors, a bunch of debt, etc.  And we don’t make that much money here so it would take a long time to save up enough to expand like that (laughs).

My plan to expand was when the lottery was $600 million but I didn’t win (laughs).

EA:  (laughs) You and me both.  I had plans for that money but it didn’t happen.

JJ:  I had better plans than whoever won it did (laughs).

EA: (laughs)

EA:  You make a good point about keeping the hand crafted aspect to your beers versus doing thousands of gallons of beer on a production system…

JJ:  Yeah, I don’t know if the individual character of our beers would come through if we did it on a grander scale.  You have a place like Widmer, probably the biggest per batch brewery in the Northwest, and they make some great beers on that scale.  So, I’m sure you could dial in the recipes to whatever you need them to be.  Bigger doesn’t mean worse beer.  People think that, you know, Budweiser, Miller, Coors bigger means you make that type of beer.  Not true.  Anheuser-Busch could make any beer they wanted to.  I mean, hats off to them, they make the same beer every single time.  When you get a Bud it tastes like a Bud every single time, whether you like it or not (laughs).

EA:  Give ‘em some props for….something (laughs)

JJ:  (laughs)

EA:  So, let’s go back.  Jim, where were you born?  Raised?  And when did you start getting into beer?

JJ:  Born and raised in Portland, Oregon.  I went to college at Oregon State.  In 1978 I found a beer bar in Portland.  They had six or eight taps representing different countries.  Rainier Dark represented the US, they had Guinness, etc.  But they had, I’m thinking it was like, 1200 bottled beers from around the world.  It was every beer that you could bring into Oregon at the time.  They had a printed menu and I would fold it up and take it with me and I went through every beer on that list.   It took me years to do.  But that’s where I learned all the differences.  You know the Austrian beers versus the Czech Republic beers versus the French beers, they had them all.  When I got into the British styles I was like, wow, these are different.  They’re a little more balanced, all the flavors are a little more subtle but you can taste them all.  That’s where I learned that, to me, English beers were so unique, that English style.  That’s what got me hooked on that.

So, then I grew up, got married, had kids, etc.  In 1992 my wife bought me a home brew kit.  That’s the box it came in (points to the top of the cooler where Jim sells growlers from).  I played around with it.  The first couple batches were terrible.  But you drink ‘em cuz you made it (laughs).

Then I started writing about beer.  I had started Northwest Brew News (not to be confused with the Northwest Brewing News – Mark).  I got to meet a lot of great brewers, tried a lot of beers, etc.  We had tastings by style of Northwest breweries.  So I would print that, for example, we’re doing a pale ale tasting.  The first ten breweries to respond would ship us beer and we’d invite subscribers of the publication and they’d taste them and do taster notes.  Whenever we did a tasting, that became our most popular issues.  Then the breweries would always ask for permission to use those comments for promotional purposes.

EA:  How long were you home brewing before you started Brew News?

JJ:  In 1994 so two years I had been home brewing.  And that was kind of hap hazard as that wasn’t the greatest beer.  You do it on the stove top, you ferment it in the laundry room, my wife didn’t like the smell in the house and all that stuff, so I got kicked out into the garage. (laughs)

EA: (laughs) At least it was in the garage.  She could of said don’t do it at all or do it completely off the property.

JJ:  Yeah.  We had a lot of fun with it.  You know, as my kids got older, they got more interested in it.  When I bought the current system that we use from Fall Creek Brewing (they never opened out of Marysville), the kids were more interested.  We were brewing every weekend.  And Matthew (Jim’s son), he was out of college at that point.  So, he was really interested in learning how to brew beer.  And that’s when we started brewing together.  So Matthew’s been brewing quite a while with me.

When my youngest turned 21, we decided this is what we want to do.  We want to build a brewery.  We had so much extra beer, we were giving it away to people, and they were going, “man, I’d buy this”.  We were like we don’t have any debt; we can do it here on the property, worst case scenario we end up with a great brewery building in the back yard.  What’s wrong with that, ya know?  When my youngest turned 21 we decided to go as I wanted all the kids to be of legal age.  And so we’ve never turned back.

But it took a long time.  It took me two and a half years from the day we decided to go, to make ourselves a business, file all the paper work, we didn’t open our doors until two and a half years after that.

EA:  What would you say was one of the biggest surprises or hurdles during that two and a half year period of time getting Foggy Noggin up and running?

JJ:  Well, I didn’t know it was going to take so long.  The federal government at that time was kind of transitioning.  They didn’t have a director in place.  It was hard to communicate with them.  They’re a lot easier now.  Applications are online and their turnaround is more like six months now.

I had the brewery originally set up in my garage.  They used to allow that.  Places like Big E Ales, originally he was in his garage.  So they were allowing that in the past.  But the new director read through the laws, the old laws, and he interpreted the laws that you can’t do that.  Anything that had a common wall to a residence, you couldn’t have a brewery.  So, that pushed us out to build the brewery in the back.  So that took us a little bit of time because we had to build it (laughs).  And it had to be a commercial building.  It looks like a shed but it’s a shed that meets all the commercial building requirements.  So I have fire marshal that inspects it every year.  I have a suppression system in there that has to be inspected every year.

EA:   I remember you telling me about when you were really close to opening, back in like December of 2009, an inspector came and said you couldn’t because you didn’t have a handrail leading up to the brewery.  Is that right?

JJ:  We had all of our inspections up to that point.  We had our electrical inspections, our plumbing inspections, all of it.  The final one was your final certificate of occupancy inspection.  The guy walked up to it and said, “well, I already see that you’re going to fail”.  I said, “what do you mean you haven’t even been inside yet?”  He said, “you don’t have a railing.”  I said, “a railing?  We have two steps.”  He said, “if you have one step you have to have a railing.”  This was on December 22nd, 2009 I want to say.  So I said, “I tell you what.  Before Christmas, I’ll have one built and I’ll send you a picture of it if you’ll give me a contingency write off on it – that I’ll have the railing built.  If I don’t send you the picture, then don’t approve the inspection.”  He says, “I don’t want to come back here.”  (laughs)  So, I had it built, sent him the picture, and that was that.  I mean the railing doesn’t really serve any purpose.  It’s more in the way than helpful.

EA:  It’s those weird little things that they want…

JJ:  Yeah!  

EA:  So when you were going through the whole process of getting Foggy Noggin open, did you have anybody that helped you or had good advice?

JJ:  The one that I kind of used as my sounding board was Vertigo Brewing out of Hillsboro, OR.  They were a one barrel system.  They were about a year ahead of us so they went through a lot of the same things.  

I remember meeting them for the first time and I brought a couple of growlers with me.  We weren’t brewing for sale, yet.  And I know exactly how they feel because I get it all the time now.  They were like, “here’s another home brewer who wants us to taste his beer.”  The biggest thing was that, I use Pro Mash software for all of our batches and it has an inventory function.  They didn’t know how to use the inventory on it.  They were like, “how do we know how much inventory we have?”  I was like “you guys don’t use the inventory on there?  Let me show you.”  I showed them how to use it and they go “oh, maybe this guy knows something.”  (laughs)

EA:  (laughs)

JJ: We hit it off pretty good after that.  I gave ‘em some beers to try.  They were surprised that our beers were as good as they were.  And we still communicate quite a bit.  So, they helped me out with some of the things they went through.  

EA:  How about some of the local breweries in terms of help or advice?

JJ:  Not when we were opening up.  But once we opened I was looking into other kegs and I checked out Skookum.  There were a couple other places, too.  When we started doing some bottling Randy at Snoqualmie Brewing was really helpful in who he used.  It’s a great community.  No one tries to hide anything.  And I know everyone’s busy.  I get a lot of requests and sometimes I can’t get back to them for a while because I’m so busy.  It’s not that I don’t want to help them.  

It’s amazing every week I get about four or five people that say they want to start a brewery, they want to ask me questions, and I usually tell them to come here when, well, like when you’re here right now, before we open on Saturday’s, so I can talk with them with little distraction.  That’s the best time to get me.

EA:  Yeah, because when you’re open and you have customers you don’t have the time to really sit down and answer anything at length.  I’m sure they want to ask you every little thing, too.

JJ:  They do.

EA:  It’s like, hey, I want to help but catch me before we open.

JJ:  I had one guy that wanted to come today and I was like today’s a bad day because I’m doing this interview so I wouldn’t be able to give him the attention.

EA:  Well, it’s good that you’re honest about it.  

JJ:  Yeah.

EA:  Instead of saying hey everyone come on by before we open and I’ll answer your questions and then you don’t have the time for them.

JJ:  Yeah, then everyone’s disappointed.  But, yeah, it’s a great community.  Everyone’s nice, helpful, there’s nobody that’s pretentious that’s like we’re little so they’re better than us.  There’s none of that.

EA:  That’s one of things I love about the beer community here.  I tell people all the time that aren’t into the beer scene that beer people are good people.  They’re not looking out solely for themselves.  If they can help someone else out, they will.  If I can help you be a little more successful, so be it.

JJ: I agree.

EA:  And that’s a nice thing to see, especially when it comes to businesses when you’re talking about dollars and cents.

JJ:  Exactly!  I think the more breweries out there that are making good beer; it just makes everybody better and stronger.  It’s not going to hurt anyone.  There are plenty of beer drinkers out there.  They say in some markets, craft beer accounts for, what, 20% of the beer sales, when it used to be like 5%?  There’s still a lot of opportunity there.

EA:  I wanted to ask you more about the Northwest Brew News.  Did you start that out of your passion for beer or what were the origins?

JJ:  That started because I was at a grocery store and there was a guy that looked really confused and he asked me some questions about beer.  And that’s when they didn’t have the selection they have today.  So I helped him and he said it would be cool if there was a publication with beer information.  And I go “that’s a good idea.”

EA:  How many years did you do the publication?

JJ:  We did it for four years.  

EA:  Do you happen to have a copy of any of the issues?

JJ:  I have a whole binder of the issues.  (Jim looks for the issues at this point).  I used to have the issue with Diamond Knot out here as I did an article on them when they were pretty new.  (Jim steps away find the binder and returns a minute later).  Yeah, I put every one of them in here.

So, the first issue was 1994 and we did Pike Place, Canyon’s down in Canyon Park, and Pete’s (Wine Shop).  So that was at the beginning.  We then expanded and we did articles on Widmer, 74th Street Alehouse, Larry’s Markets when they were still around.  I did an article on draft versus bottled beer.  

EA:  And this was all you doing all the work, all the writing?

JJ:  Most of it.  We said there were other people but I was writing all the articles at least.  We did a wheat beer tasting event.  Pyramid, Redhook in Woodinville, Bridgeport.  There was our first picture - in 1995 we put Big Time’s picture in there.  

EA:  So how did you get this distributed?

JJ:  It was a subscription.  It was cheap.  It was a buck an issue or five dollars a year.  And this got mailed to you and it came out every other month.  Dirt cheap.  We had very little advertising in it.  The first issue we had no subscribers we gave it all away.  We gave it to all the people that were featured.  We gave them a whole stack to pass out.  Hopefully people would pick it up and would want it, ya know?  I traveled a lot so I would go to the airport and I was a member of the red carpet club and I’d leave a stack in there.  When I got on the airplane, the backs of the seats, I’d leave one there.  Wherever I could (laughs).

Yeah, so the last issue was in 1997.

EA:  Why did it stop?

JJ:  It was getting too big.  We had 15,000 subscribers.  I was selective on ads.  (Jim showed me a few paid ads in the issues).  Anheuser-Busch wanted to take out a full color insert and I said no.  This isn’t what we’re doing (in reference to the AB ad).    It’s funny though I did an article on all the Michelob beers at one time, just myself.  They sent me a whole box of every beer they made at the time.  And it was pretty good beer, really.(laughs)

EA:  Is that when they were expanding into the Amber Bock and the other craft type styles?

JJ:    Yeah.

EA:  One interesting note is that with Eclectic Arts, it started with the music community around the world.  The more underground, grassroots, passionate people that may have started a fanzine, or have a blog, or are doing what they can to expose people to other sorts of music.  They are really going to like the fact that you had your own publication dedicated to beer.  They can relate to that mentality.  I don't think many people outside of the beer community know about it.

JJ:  No, I don't think they do either.

EA:  They're going to know about it now. (laughs)

JJ: (laughs)

EA:  Switching gears, I know you were up at the Bellingham Festival recently.  How did that go?

JJ:  Amazing.  That's a fun festival.  It's all for charity.  Proceeds go to a center that helps at risk youth.  And the festival is their biggest fundraiser.  They would of gone out of business if it hadn't been for the beer festival.  It's a chance to see breweries you don't normally see.  Like that's the only festival that North Fork does.  They're about twenty miles east of Bellingham.  So, it's fun to see some things you don't normally see.  

EA:  I think I read somewhere that Foggy Noggin won the people's choice award or something?

JJ:  We did.  We got first place people's choice for Diablo Del Sol (Foggy Noggin's English pale ale).  I was surprised.  I thought Chief Lightfoot (Irish red ale) would of won because everyone was coming up and saying "everyone's talking about your red ale so I want to try it."  And that was the first beer of ours that ran out at the festival.  So when they told us we need someone over here to do the awards, I expected our red ale to win.  

But the people are always right.  Whatever the like is what they like.  You can't argue that. (laughs)

EA:  Are you guy's going to be at the Washington Brewer's Festival this year I take it?

JJ:  You kind of feel like you're obligated to them.  That's the granddaddy of the festivals, the real highlight of Washington beer.  It's fun.  It's a long one though.  Three days and you're just exhausted by the end of it.  You're ready to go back to your real job (laughs).

EA:  And I remember the first year Foggy Noggin was at the Brewer's Festival, you guys got the very first customer through the gates who wanted Kastrated Dawg.

JJ:  We did, you're right, Kastrated Dawg.  Friday night we did a version of Kastrated Dawg.  We had three five gallon kegs.  We were serving a Lagavulin Scotch aged Kastrated Dawg.  That keg lasted about fifteen minutes.  That was a lot of fun.  Then we put on a version of it that was just oak aged.  And then we put on a version that was just straight up.  And that stuff just flew out.  

EA:  I remember that's where I first had it. 

JJ:  Oh really?

EA:  Yeah, I don't remember which version I had, though.  I was there on the Friday.  I remember we were standing in the line, the church bell rang to signify the opening of the Festival at 4pm, and we saw this guy literally running toward a booth but we couldn't see where he ran to.

JJ:  We were all watching.  Who were the breweries near me?  The one in Ellensburg….

EA;  Oh, Iron Horse?

JJ:  Iron Horse was on one side of me and I can't remember who was on the other side.  And we were watching and we were all like "where is that guy running to?"  And then we were like, "he's coming this way!" (laughs)

EA;  So what can we expect from the Friday only beer from Foggy Noggin this year?

JJ:  Friday we're going to do Big Chief the imperial version of our Irish red.  And we're actually going to have three beers every day.  We're going to do Big Chief on Friday.  We're going to do Chief Lightfoot on Saturday.  And we're going to do Little Chief on Sunday which is a session Irish red.

This is a little bit left of the Lagavulin Kastrated Dawg from that Brewer's Festival in 2010 (Jim pulls out a growler from his cooler with a few ounces left of the rare version of Kastated Dawg and fills a taster glass for me).  

EA:  Oh wow - nice!  You really pick up the….

JJ:  Oak…

EA:  Yeah, for sure.  And the scotch ….  Are you planning on aging any other beers?  

JJ:  I haven't put anything in there yet.  (Jim has a Woodinville Whiskey cask in his garage).  We're thinking of doing an imperial porter in there.  But when we look at our brewing schedule we're always looking at how are we going to fill enough beer for this event or that event?  It's tough.  We always look at our cooler and we're like "we have no beer, how are we going to get through the weekend?"  

We have our cream ale returning to the tasting room.  I did one batch earlier, about three of our kegs.  I wasn't here when we debuted it.  I came back and it was all gone.  I didn't even get to try it (laughs).

We also have a collaboration beer we're doing with Mt. Tabor Brewing down in Vancouver, WA.  He's a cougar (WSU) and when the beaver's came to town we had a bet that the loser had to host a collaboration brewing.  I said no one really loses but we have to make more beer on your system because he has a seven barrel system.  If brewed up here, we wouldn't get much output. (laughs)  I don't know if you've ever had any of his beers. 

EA:  No, I haven't.

JJ:  But he makes some really good beers.

EA:  Do you know what the collaboration beer is going to be?

JJ:  Yeah, it's going to be an English malt bill, our Fuller's yeast, but we're going to use a new hop.  We're going to hop it with a kind of Northwest style hop.  Our hopping schedule is going to be kind of like what we do with Diablo (Foggy Noggin's pale ale) so we're going to do a huge end of boil hopping.  So we want big hop flavor.  And not really go for the huge bitterness.  So, that's the plan.  

EA:  Will that beer only be kegged?  Any chance it will be bottled?

JJ:  It'll all be kegged.  I'm going to do a test batch and we'll run it through the tasting room.  He's going to do a test batch as well and we're going to compare the two test batches.  We're going to try and do the same thing using the same ingredients.  But the different techniques and stuff you do get a little bit different beer.  

EA:  Speaking of that kind of collaboration, do you have any plans to do anything with, say, Dirty Bucket or Brickyard?  Any of the other Nanos in the area?  

JJ:  We haven't talked about it but for us it's just hard to make enough beer for ourselves.  So, it would be a lot of fun because you learn new things when you work with different brewers and different ideas but I just don't have the space here or the time right now.  

But there are a lot of great brewers out there right now.  When I was at North Fork, my wife and I are coming up on our 30th Anniversary next year.  My favorite beer of his is his strong Scottish ale.  He said, "well you come up here and we'll do a special 30th anniversary version of it for you."  

EA:  Oh nice!

JJ:  So we may go up and do a fun brew session with him.  He's just a character.  He's a great brewer.  

EA:  That’s the thing that is cool about the beer community.  Like you're brewing the cream ale for your daughter's wedding, I know.  

JJ:  Yup.

EA:  Somebody like that would do a beer for your 30th anniversary, it's so cool as you have that flexibility to do things like that and be generous to others and do these special occasion beers.

JJ:  Yeah!  I agree.

EA:  Are there any other festivals you'll be doing this year besides the Brewers Festival?

JJ:  Yeah, we're excited about the Everett Beer Festival this year.  It's kind of in our back yard.  So we decided we're going to pick that up and we're not going to do the Winter Festival this year.  Four festivals a year is about the most we can do.  So Bellingham, the Brewer's festival, Everett, and we do the Anacortes Oktoberfest.  And that's a real fun one to do.

EA:  I haven't made it to that one yet.  Maybe I need to do that this year (laughs).

JJ:  It's a two day festival.  I think it's Friday and Saturday.  It's a fun one.  It's fun for us to go to those areas.  I don't know how it started but my son lives in Bellingham so the Green Frog was the first one to start carrying our beer up in Bellingham.  Then they closed down for a bit and relocated.  While they were closed, we started going to Copper Hog so they started carrying our beers.  They just blow through our beer.  I don’t know what it is about Bellingham but they just devour Foggy Noggin beer.  (laughs)

It's like we have a little cult following up there.  They have great breweries up there.  It's a great little beer community up there.  

EA:  That reminds me of bands that are from one area but popular in another.  Like they're from Seattle but they're huge in Detroit or whatever.

JJ:  Yeah, yeah!  And when they tour there in Detroit they sell out.

EA:  Yeah, yeah!  Same sort of thing.  Bellingham is the second home of Foggy Noggin.

JJ:  We've got a place on our waiting list up in Anacortes to carry our beer.  I have a waiting list right now of about a dozen places waiting to carry our beer.  I just haven't been able to get around to getting them our beer yet.  It's nothing personal (laughs) ..

EA:  Oh, no, no.  It’s like you said, you're at capacity and if you could accommodate them you would but right now you just can't.  

JJ:  I would love to give everybody as much as they want but.. (laughs)

EA:  Are you planning on continuing to do your anniversary beer event every year?  Maybe get to a point where you have like a four or five year vertical?

JJ:  Yeah, next year we'll have all three of our anniversary ales on tap.  This year we had two.  The fourth year we'll have all four.  But I only have enough kegs of the first year to do that.  I do have some bottles of the first year, though.

Maybe after six or seven years, we can do, like for charity, a vertical tasting raffle and the winner gets a private tasting of all seven years.  That would be kind of fun.  

EA:  That would be awesome!  Especially after how well that first anniversary ale aged, having it alongside this year's back in March.  Wow….

JJ:  It was amazing!

EA:  Holy moly…

JJ:  I was really amazed at how well it aged.  I really was.  

EA:  It was a good beer to begin with and then it turned into a beautiful beer with a year on it.

JJ:  What's it going to be like in two years…

EA:  Yeah, exactly… 

JJ:  There will be a time when it starts to degrade.  

EA:  Everything peaks.

JJ:  Yeah, maybe three years will be the peak of it?  

EA and JJ:  It'll be fun to find out (both laugh)

JJ:  Exactly! (laughs)   Every year! (laughs)

EA:  When will you be bottling your Burton ale (Wasky)?  

JJ:  We’re going to start bottling that in early summer.  We're not writing any dates on them but I really want to see how that ages because traditionally it would sit a year in the barrel before they released it from the brewery.  So our's has been so fresh and it's been pretty hoppy.  I think the hops will round out with some age.  I can't keep it around though.  When we put it on tap here it just flies out.  

EA:  It's a great beer, no doubt.

JJ:  We've got three beers I'm going to start bottling.  The Wasky will be the first one.  Then Powder Keg (the coffee stout), and then it's Big Chief (imperial red ale).  Those are pretty unique beers.  Anything we can't get a full run on due to our system, those kinds of beers I'd rather bottle.  Their just too expensive to do growlers.  I don't want to charge $20 bucks for a growler fill.  

EA:  Plus if you're doing growlers only a certain amount of people get to try it.

JJ:  Right.  Bottles are perfect.  They can share it with a couple of friends.  

EA:  More beer for more people.

JJ:  Yeah!  

EA:  Anything coming up that we haven't seen in the tasting room yet?

JJ:  We've got a recipe dialed in for a mild.  If you look at historically, the big English style beers, what have we not done?  We haven't done a wee heavy.  We haven't done an English mild.  We haven't done a barley wine.  Those are probably the big ones that we missed.  

If we do a barley wine, I'm thinking maybe this summer we’ll do it I'll only get one small keg out of it.  It'll be a 13 or 14% abv beer.  We probably would let it condition and not serve it until sometime in 2013.  So maybe something like that.  

A mild I think would be a great compliment to the other beers we do.  We have a beer that we haven't brewed commercially, it's an English amber ale.  We did a gluten free beer that we haven't brought out yet either.  We did a non-alcohol brown ale.  We brew it like a full blown beer but then we boil the alcohol off to get it down to a low or non-alcohol version.  So it has the start of a great beer.  Most of the non-alcoholic beers I’ve had, I'd rather drink water (laughs).  

We tested a golden ale last year and we're thinking of, in secondary, putting some huckle berries in it, give it that tartness and a little pink hue to the color.  Maybe do that for Susan G Komen (breast cancer).

EA:  Oh nice!

JJ:  Ya know, every pint a dollar goes toward Susan G. Komen.  

EA;  Oh cool.  It's nice when people think beyond themselves.

JJ:  Yeah and you know the problem with those great ideas is when do you have time to do it?  

EA:  Jim what was the first beer you feel you had dialed in?

JJ:  Bit O Beaver was the first beer I perfected and we're still using the same recipe from ….1995.

EA;  Wow, that's a long time.  No wonder you know it like the back of your hand.

JJ:  Yeah, and I know when something is not quite right with it, if it's tasting a little bit off.  We have our science down pretty good.  There have only been two batches that fermented out a bit too much so they were dry.  So we blended those to make Civil War (with Christmas Duck porter) and Spotted Owl (with Christmas Duck porter and Oski scotch ale).  

Spotted Owl is the weirdest beer.  I've had so many people tell me that is their favorite beer and when are you going to brew it again?  And I'm like, well, hopefully I don't have to brew it again (laughs).  But we may do a one off blending just for fun.  

I want to thank Jim Jamison and Matthew Jamison for taking the time to talk about Foggy Noggin Brewing.  If you ever get a chance to get out to the Bothell area on a Saturday, look them up at for their schedule and have a pint or two.  Or check them out at the upcoming Washington Brewer’s Festival in June.  They’re great people making great beer!

Questions or comments?  EclecticArtsZine AT gmail DOT com


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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Press Release:

Crypticon Seattle, the largest horror convention in the Pacific Northwest, returns May 25th-27th to the Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center. This year, we welcome Doug Bradley (Hellraiser), Don Coscarelli (Phantasm), Marilyn Burns (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and more! Our expansive vendor room is full of a wide variety of unique collectibles, art, comics, games, and household horror d├ęcor. Talk a walk down the Author’s Alley to meet some of the genre’s best authors and have a first look at some of the fresh meat! You’ll be inspired by the New Image College of Fine Arts makeup contest as well as the numerous panels featuring the finest brains of the scene, Zombie Tag Live Action Role Playing Game, and film festival. Think you can survive the weekend? 

Visit for more information. 


EA will be covering the event all three days.  I have already been hard at work securing interviews and such with a few of the media guests.  

So if you're around town over Memorial Day weekend, come check out the convention and say hello!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

In The Name Of The Flock - BLACK RAVEN BREWING CO 5/6/12

Saturday May 5th, 2012 was the third anniversary for Redmond's Black Raven Brewery - aka the Flock Party.  Beer, food, live music, and beer drinkers.  And a lot of them!

The event started at Noon and closed down at 9pm.  I arrived a little after Noon to find a line of about 30 people getting ID'd and branded (wristbands).  A number of cars were pulling into the various parking lots and a good number of people were already on the premises.  With the sun already peaking out from behind the clouds, the weather was going to ensure a great time for both brewery and customers alike.

One thing I've always liked about Beaux and his crew at Black Raven, from the very beginning, is that you can always tell that someone has put some thought into the execution of everything they do, a real vision of how they present themselves.  The Flock Party was no exception.  From the soft opening of the brewery back in April of 2009 to three years later, a few expansions later, a few more staff later, hundreds if not thousands of kegs later, I always feel like I'm going along for a fun, well planned, ride when I visit Black Raven.  And that's a nice feeling.

This was my first flock party (for shame, I know, especially being a Founding Club member at BR since they opened their doors).  I drove by it in 2010 but had already had a bit too much beer prior.  2011 I have no idea what I was doing - totally dropped the ball on that one.  So this year I was determined to make it.  It just so happened I had to be over in Kirkland that weekend anyway so that made it that much easier.  Flock Party 2012 here I come!

After going through the ID line, the first thing you saw to the left was a map with a lay of the land.  Again, smart, someone planned this well.  Tables to the right, then the live music stage (complete with tent and a PA that was piping the music all over the grounds this time around).  The brewery was of course open in the usual areas inside.  Outside in the back they had the retail booth set up (aka merch).  There were more tables as well as two pouring stations (mainly rare beers).  A water station.  And in between the front and the back were three food vendors.  Oh, and an ATM machine that wasn't working at the beginning (but was eventually fixed).  Porta potties in the very far back (much needed and appreciated too) rounded things out.

The signage was spot on - clearly marked above so one could read what was pouring at each of the two outdoor stations along with information sheets on each beer.  They had signage at the Cask Fest that was also smart (signs on tall sticks so you could see from far away what they were pouring and if they were out) so this didn't really surprise me.  I tell ya - again - well planned out and much appreciated by this beer drinker.  Sometimes, it's the little things.

Me being me I wanted to check out the rare beers in the back first.  As I was looking through the signs above the first pouring station, who is standing to my left?  THE Ravenmaster (says so on the back of his work shirt) himself Beaux.  Beaux made sure to tell me to check out all the stations as there are different beers at each one, including some of the more rare ones.  I started with Splinters (the bourbon barrel aged Scotch ale).  If you've ever had it, you know it's freakin Heaven in a glass.

BTW:  all the beers were either 10 oz or 16 oz.  The main lineup were 16oz (along with a few others) while the rare beers were 10oz.  $3 for the 10oz, $4 for the 16oz.  The smaller sizes were good as it allowed you to try more beers throughout the day.  And it allowed more people to try them as well.

Back to the beer.  After savoring my Splinters, I meandered over to the other rare beer pouring station and had the Snicker Doodle Stout on Cask (which I also had at the Cask Fest in March).  I continued to roam around, watched some of the first band play (which featured a Black Raven staff member and a regular customer on the harp for a few songs).

A few of the Malt N Vine guys were there having fun - saw Justin roaming around and talked a bit with Jason.  Andy Lapworth was there having a good time as well.  And, of course, Kraven T. Raven was on the premises.  

I roamed inside for a bit and grabbed my third beer - the ever loving Wisdom Seeker.  I hadn't had it in awhile (missing it's appearances in the taproom as well as the bottles) so it was nice to taste all that hoppy goodness again.

Time for a food and water break.  Can't go wrong with meat in tube form when you're having a beer so that was my choice.  Old standbys Flying Saucer Pizza had a kiosk as well as the great taco truck Los Chilangos were the other choices.

By this point the crowd was getting a bit heavier in numbers but still very manageable.  I grabbed another beer: the Possum Claus on cask.  After munching down my meat and chips, it was time for the next beer:  the Kitty Kat Blues blueberry pale on nitro at station 2.  Now, for all you beer geeks that just scoffed at me for doing the nitro beer; screw you - heh.  The beer was great - reminded me of a blueberry muffin of sorts - and it was a full pour as well - yippee!

The next band on the stage was Four On The Floor - classic rock cover band led by the Washington Beer Blog's Kendall Jones.  Kicking off their set with some SRV is just fine by me!  "Pride and Joy" baby.

At this point, I really wanted to stay longer but I decided to leave for a bit, grab a relative, go visit another brewery for a quick pint (Hi Steve and Sharon at DB!), and then maybe head back to the flock party.

But before I left, I craved more knowledge: time for another Wisdom Seeker!  Woo hoo!

Toward the end of History For Sale's set (sorry guys I fucked up again - one of these days I'll catch a whole set) - I returned to the flock party and met up with some other friends.  Quite buzzed at this point (and, no, I was NOT driving - just to let you know), I decided to head back to the rare beer area and see what was left.  Grandfather Raven was calling my name.  Love that beer!

There was definitely a large crowd at this point but, again, an overall great vibe.  I stayed for one more beer which was the Gunpowder coffee beer at station two inside.  And after that, I knew it was time for me to call it a night.....or late afternoon.  Yeah, I'm a lightweight.  Sue me.

I want to thank Beaux, Kat, Karen, Nigel, Kraven T. Raven, Kyle, and the entire crew at Black Raven for putting on a party with class, thought, and that trademark Black Raven fun style!

I picked up a flock party t-shirt and headed home.  If any of you stayed from 5pm until closing, let me know what I missed.  I bet I missed something worth writing about.

But I'm glad I didn't miss this year's flock party - it was a blast!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Interview by:  Mark Sugiyama - Eclectic Arts Magazine

All Photos (except Grand Opening):  Seattle Next Door (

Grand Opening Photos:  Courtesy of Dirty Bucket Brewing (

Dirty Bucket Brewery is a new Nano brewery in Woodinville, WA.  Founded by brothers Steve and Chris Acord, along with Steve’s wife Sharon handling the books, the brothers Acord held their official grand opening on April 14, 2012, from 11am – 9pm.  

I arrived at 11:30am and the place was already packed.  Dirty Bucket was pouring five beers (!) – Dirty Blonde, Dirty Amber, Filthy Hoppin’ IPA, XXX-tra Filthy IPA, and their Black Lab American stout.  Both pints and taster flights were available.  

An appearance by the deputy mayor of Woodinville capped off a great grand opening celebration.  I enjoyed myself so much, and more importantly, the beers, that I followed up with Steve about doing an interview.  I stopped by Dirty Bucket on April 28th to chat with Steve about all things beer.

EA:  Steve, thank you for doing the interview.  Let’s go all the way back - what’s your background?
SA:  I was born and raised in California, the Modesto area.  I was in the California National Guard and got activated in 1998.  I ended up in Italy during the whole Kosovo campaign.  Right when it was time for me to get out of the service, 9/11 happened.  So, the military hung on to me a little bit longer and I transferred to Hawaii.

EA:  Thank you for your service.  It’s appreciated. 
SA:  Absolutely.

EA:  When did you get into the whole home brewing process?
SA:  During my time in Hawaii.  I never really thought about home brewing but a neighbor had a kegerator.  I thought the beer was really good and he was like,”oh thanks I made it myself.”  And I thought he was bullshitting me (laughs).  Once he showed me what he did, I was like that’s pretty cool and that’s how it started.  I wasn’t even doing five gallon batches back then.  I was doing like one and a half or two gallon batches on the stove top, you know?  The first batches tasted like absolute crap, too.  I started to read up more on it, educate myself, and it progressed from there.

EA:  What kind of beer were you drinking prior to home brewing your own?
SA:  Oh gosh, let’s see.  I was drinking (paused to remember) Michelob Amber Bock.  I always liked Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada – especially since I was from California and they were right there.

EA:  How long did it take you to dial in your home brew recipes?
SA:  A few months, I’d say, before I was comfortable giving it to friends and such.  It was all bottled too.  I wasn’t kegging anything when I started.  Once I started kegging, I never wanted to see a bottling line again (laughs) as it’s so time consuming.  Our flagship beer, Dirty Amber, my brother Chris designed the recipe for it.  Our Filthy IPA was another recipe that we had dialed in back then.  

EA:  When did you make the move to Washington state?
SA:  I got out of the service in 2005.  Back when I was living in California, I was working for Costco.  So, when I got out of the service, I wanted to work for them again.  I applied at the corporate headquarters and got rehired and that’s what brought me to Washington.  

EA:  So do you still have a full time job?
SA:  Yeah, still have a full time job with Costco.

EA:  In the future, when do you see yourself working at the brewery full time?
SA:  Realistically, probably at least a year and a half, maybe two years.  The brewery doesn’t pay the bills right now.  This is something I wanted to venture into and eventually make it a full time business and expand with a production facility.
        But because it doesn’t pay our bills, I can control our growth, which is nice.  I can control our marketing, everything.  I don’t have to rush to make ends meet.  I’m going into this relaxed and I enjoy brewing.
        It’s amazing how many calls I’ve received already.  Restaurants, pubs, bottle shops, saying “I want to be your first account, we want to carry kegs of your beer”, just amazing.  We’re not even ready for a wholesale distribution yet but when that time comes I have eighteen (tap) handles ready to go.  When I’m ready to move in that (expanded) direction, I will.  We’re enjoying keeping the tap room stocked right now.

EA:  I was kind of surprised when I came to the grand opening that you already had five styles of beer ready to go.  Most new breweries usually have one or two of their own beers and some guest taps.  So I thought it was ambitious that you guys came out of the gate with five beers.
SA:  We’re a small brewery.  We already had people looking at us wondering what we had to offer.  I wanted to let them know that we’re ready.  One thing about brewing on a small system is that I’ve got nine fermenters.  So I can have nine different beers going at one time.  That’s what was important to us to be able to have a variety going.
        It’s interesting you get excited about a brewery opening.  For me I don’t go to a grand opening to taste some other breweries beers.  I go to a new brewery to try their beers, to see what they’ve got.  Having a grand opening on a larger system, you’re only as big as your fermenters.  So if you only have one or two fermenters, you can only have one or two types of beer.  With a small system and nine fermenters, I can pour five beers or do double batches of four beers.  That’s what we wanted to offer on our grand opening.
        We put out our bests players (beers) that we knew were solid and have them ready.  Outside of the pale ale which was just released two weekends ago (right after the grand opening); we had been brewing the other beers we offered for years.  We know that they’re...

EA: ..quality….
SA:  Yeah, and well received.  People liked them.  So we weren’t intimidated by anything.  Well, having 300 people show up on the grand opening was a little intimidating (laughs).  I told my brother that if someone comes into the taproom and says they don’t like any given beer, that’s because they don’t like that style of beer.  It’s not because it’s a crappy IPA or pale, it’s just that they’re not IPA drinkers.
        We brew everything that we enjoy drinking.  We don’t brew a lot of wheat beers because we’re not big fans of ‘em.  If I brew something that I’m not passionate about drinking, that passion isn’t going to go into the beer.  My brother is passionate about ambers and pales.  Even our blonde isn’t your ordinary blonde. When I go to a pub, I rarely order a blonde.  But, we add spices to it to add character and our own spin on it and it’s been a huge success.  I can’t get over how many people have been drinking it.
        So, there were no surprise batches of beer on the grand opening.  There were some surprises in terms of the processes along the way to get Dirty Bucket open.  Oh my God, we we’re scrambling on some stuff.  Randy, the brewer from Snoqualmie Brewing, has been an absolute saint!  He’s been an amazing, an amazing mentor, whether he knows he has been or not (laughs).  Any time I have a question it’s almost like he’ll drop what he’s doing and help.
        I travel extensively for my job with Costco.  Everywhere I went around the country, either the brewery owner or the brew master would be so inviting.  They’d take me in the back, show me their equipment, answer my questions, etc.  Other than one person, we have been blown away by the industry itself.  It’s a tight community where everyone wants to help each other.
        A good example:  somebody saw my quote on Facebook from Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, Delaware) and passed it on to Sam.  (Dirty Bucket has the quote “Starting small but dreaming big” painted on their brewery wall which is a quote from Sam Calagione – Mark)  First Sam emails me and tells me how honored he was and I’m thinking to myself “are you kiddin’ me?”  Then he actually calls and says, "if there’s anything you need or I can help you with, give me a call."  Sam then put me in contact with his brewery manager and it just blew me away, very overwhelming.  He said “you’re going to love it - the craft brewing industry is great place to live.”  So to have that kind of reception, that kind of welcome, I want to pass that on.  I want to keep that sentiment going.
        Brickyard Brewing is opening up real soon here in Woodinville and anything I can do to help them with their processes with getting open, I’m happy to do.  I want to make sure I pay all that good will forward, you know?  To payback what all the brewers have done for me.

EA:  I’ve often said that if you’re a new brewery in Washington, one of the best aspects is that as soon as the word gets out, people will come check out.  It’s not like a restaurant or a local retail business where just getting people in the door is difficult, beer people will give you a chance if you’re a new brewery.
SA:  Yeah!  I mean we had people from Portland here on the grand opening. Vancouver BC.  I was just blown away.

EA:  Do you have any future plans to do something with the other eastside breweries?
SA:  Yeah we are.  Twelve Bar, Brickyard, and us – the three from Woodinville, will be doing something together in August.  Pike Brewing is going to host us.  They’re calling it the breweries from the “Wood Hood” night.  So that’ll be fun.
         I would love to do collaborative beers with other Nano breweries.  I want to do a north - south collaboration with Doan's Craft Brewing in Vancouver BC.  We both brew on the exact same system.  Beaux’s All Natural Brewing in Ontario.  They’ve been really great to me, too.  I’d like to do something with them.  They’re a large scale brewing company but I still want to do something with them.  Sort of a David and Goliath type of collaboration.

EA:  It’s great to see the eastside coming alive with all these new breweries.  I grew up in Kirkland and there was nothing out here except Redhook.  Mac N Jack’s too but they didn’t have a tasting room.  Then eventually Black Raven in Redmond, Jim’s place Foggy Noggin, and then Twelve Bars, and so on.  I’m out in Edmonds now.
SA:  We actually brewed our Dirty Amber down at Gallagher’s (Where You Brew) in Edmonds before we had our system.  We did a large scale batch there just to test it and see how it scaled out as a large batch.

EA:  Is there anyone else locally that you’ve talked to that helped in terms of getting Dirty Bucket open?
SA:  The guys at Woodinville Whiskey Company.  Woodinville is a beast of its own in terms of trying to open a business, let alone a brewery.  They were really helpful with the process like, “okay, when you get to this step, this is what’s going to happen” that sort of thing, kind of giving us a heads up of what to get ready for from the city.  It helped me to budget a lot of things with that sort of information.
        And, again, the guys from Snoqualmie Brewing - Randy and Kevin have helped out the most.  Right before we had the grand opening here, some of our beer was flat.  I mean water flat.  Come to find out we had a leak on one of our CO2 tanks so we weren’t getting the pressure that we thought we were getting.  So we had to jerry-rig this little contraption with a penny to get things back in business.
        We literally had to stay here one night force carbonating kegs.   Two days before the grand opening!  So, yeah, it was a mad dash to the grand opening, for sure.  But those guys helped me keep my cool and got me through it.

EA:  So where do you want to see Dirty Bucket in a year?
SA:  Other than getting out more in the community, the brewery itself won’t really change.  As far as the business end of things goes, I want to be much more involved in the community.  We’re going to be at Hops n’ Crops in Auburn.  I definitely want to do a lot of charity stuff, things that make a difference.  We’ll be at the Shoreline event that benefits in August, too.
        When people come into our brewery, I want them to be able to see it, smell it, everything, the whole process.  I want Dirty Bucket to be almost like it’s your brewery.  One of our beers, our oatmeal stout, was named by a fan before we even opened.  We had a contest on Facebook for that.  We like engaging our fans.  We’re going to do a fan IPA where the fan can bring in their hops and we’ll wet hop an IPA using their hops and put it on tap here.
         I also want to get involved with the home brewers clubs in the area.  Maybe do a competition and whoever wins allow them to come over here and brew their beer on our system and put it on tap here as a guest tap.  Their friends can come drink their beer at Dirty Bucket.

EA:  I like that.  It’s really, really grassroots.
SA:  Yeah, absolutely.

EA:  Will you be at any of the Washington Festivals this year?
SA:  We’ll be at the Washington Brewer’s Festival at Marymoor Park in Redmond this year – over Father’s Day weekend.  I haven’t committed to any of the other Washington Commission events yet.  I may do the new Everett one as I have a lot of friends in Everett.

EA:  What beers do you have coming up down the line?
SA:  Irish Red coming up real soon.  We have an Apricot Blonde – around middle of the summer.  We’ll probably release that after the Washington Beer Festival.  We have a porter that we’re going to release in late summer.  We’re going to be aging that one with Woodinville Whiskey’s barrels so that’ll be a fun one.
        We’re trying to do something with the local Washington fruit growers.  They’ve reached out to me. They want to do a hard cider.  The Rainier cherries – we want to play around with those in a fruit beer.  

EA:  Have you guys messed around with a pumpkin beer for October?
SA:  Yes, that’s a definite yes.  We have a pumpkin coming out for sure.

EA:  I saw that you guys already have a label for a Cascadian Dark Ale.  When is that coming out?
SA:  Yes!  You’ll get a chance to try that Friday night at the Washington Brewer’s Festival.  That will be our Friday only beer.  It’s called Full Nelson.

EA:  How do you manage to work both your day job and brew beer/open the tap room?
SA:  Well, with my job for Costco, the traveling is to our warehouses at least once a quarter.  So on those travel days, the taproom might be open only Friday and Saturday (and closed Sunday).  We may open Thursday night just to offset the Sunday closure.
        I have to plan the batches too.  My brother Chris lives in Indiana.  He flew out for the Grand Opening.  Brewing wise right now I’m a one man shop.  My wife helps with the taproom when we’re open.  Chris will fly out for the Washington Brewer’s Festival – help pour.  Be here for all the fun stuff (laughs).
        So I’ll go to work around 6:30am.  I’ll get off around 2:30pm.  Come here and brew and then leave around 9pm.  I’ve been working that schedule all week, just trying to get these kegs filled.

EA:  I saw that with the grand opening, you ran out of beer.  What time was that?
SA:  4:30pm.  We opened at 11am that day.  I was expecting maybe 150, dreaming of 200 people that day.  We had a little over 340 people show up that day seemingly all at once.  I was like are you kidding me?  We were overwhelmed by the support and it just blew me away - absolutely amazed by the support.
        My brother designed all of our labels and such, that’s what he does for a living with marketing and design.  So we got the hype going for the brewery and then our Facebook went nuts and then the Washington Beer Blog piece just raised the exposure that much higher.  Then Woodinville Weekly did a piece on us.  It was crazy but it was fun.  It was a good problem to have!
        We set out on the grand opening with eighteen kegs.  We thought that should last until about 8:30pm.  4:30pm man we we’re blowing foam.  I felt bad that we had to close early.

EA:  I know the following weekend after your grand opening you were only going to be open on Saturday but you ended up opening Sunday too.  Is that right?
SA:  Yeah.  The Woodinville wineries had the Wine Passport weekend going on around here.  I knew we’d be busy but not as busy as the grand opening.  We had a nice steady stream of customers on Saturday.  And one corner of the market I forgot about was the wineries themselves.  On Saturday night after pouring wine all day the last thing they wanted was a glass of wine.  So a few of the wineries brought their staffs here on Saturday night and just winded down the day with our beer as a way to thank their staffs for all the hard work they did on Saturday.
        Then they asked about Sunday and I thought, well, I might as well open, designate X amount of kegs.  If we sell out, that’s alright.  If not, they’ll stay in the cooler.  We weren’t as busy as Saturday but we had a steady stream of people come in again, made just a little less money than on Saturday, all in all a great weekend.

EA:  Where do you see things in five years for Dirty Bucket?
SA:  Our original small system here will always be in use.  When we move onto a larger system, that’ll be the production side and the original system will be the pilot side.  We will continue the tradition of what we started.  We will continue being involved with the community.  We will continue making one off beers.  Listening and incorporating fan feedback.  If our fans our telling us, say, via Facebook don’t brew that crap or we did a pilot version and the majority of people didn’t like it, we’re going to listen to that information.
        You know if someone has, say, a wedding coming up and they want a certain beer that we don’t have in production, we can brew it for them, a special order type of beer. 
        And you know it’s a small batch.  If something isn’t working, I’m out fifteen gallons of beer.  I’m not out thousands of gallons like a production brewery.  It makes a big difference.

EA:  Are you guy’s members of the Washington Beer Commission and the Washington Brewers Guild?
SA:   We are members of both.  The Senior Director of the Washington Beer Commission was here on the grand opening and was blown away.  Here we are a ½ barrel system and there are 300 people out there.  

EA:  Do you have anything coming up for Seattle Beer Week?
SA:  We will have our XXX Extra Filthy IPA back on tap here in the taproom.  That’s also the same time as American Craft Beer Week.  We’ll be running a promotion that if you come in wearing your Dirty Bucket t-shirt; you’ll get $3.50 pints (check the website or Facebook for more details – Mark).  We’ve also been invited to a brewer’s night during Seattle Beer Week. 
        I live in Sammamish so I go to Malt N Vine (awesome bottle shop in Redmond – Hi Doug! - Mark) all the time.  They were just here last weekend.  They invited me to do a brewer’s night there so we’re working the details out of that, too. 

EA:  I really like your approach to the business, about keeping it with your roots and such…
SA:  After traveling around and talking to so many different people, I talked with my brother and he was like “so should we do this?”  And I said, “Chris, the only difference between those guys and us is that they did it.  That’s the only difference.  That’s it.”
        You listen to their stories they all started in their garage, their basement, you know?  And it was like, screw it, let’s do it.  It’s what we’re passionate about.  So we made it happen.
        When I look back, even though we’re brand new, I think of all the people that helped us, words of encouragement, it’s just amazing.  I want to continue that.  Let’s make everyone successful, not just ourselves.  That’s one of Sam’s (Calagione) philosophies.
        I actually asked his assistant if they minded that I put the quote from Sam on the wall here.  I didn’t want to get in trouble putting Sam’s name up on my wall.  And she started laughing.  She was like “oh my God, wait until he sees this”.  It would be awesome if Sam came back out, endorse Dirty Bucket.

EA:  Do you ever think the craft brewery industry in Washington will ever peak?
SA:  The good thing about craft beer in Washington is that we’re not Budweiser, meaning we’re not making the same beer over and over again.  You have these local breweries, like Elysian, that I look up to, that are constantly coming up with new beers.  They’re big production facilities but they keep inventing new beers.  As long as we can continue to come up with new, innovative beers, and keep innovation alive, it’ll never peak.  As long as we, as brewers, continue to be passionate about innovation and creating new beers, I honestly don’t see how it can peak.
        The only exception would be if Dirty Bucket just made a blonde, an amber, and an IPA.  If we just let ourselves stagnate.  But, that’s not what we’re about.  We will continue to make beers that we love to drink, create new beers for people to try, and have fun in the process.

Steve and Dirty Bucket Brewery have been invited to a Brewer's Night at The Brave Horse Tavern on Sunday May 13th at 6:00pm.

Much thanks to Steve @ Dirty Bucket Brewery for taking the time and to Kendall @ Washington Beer Blog for re-posting this interview.

Dirty Bucket Brewery
19151 144th Ave NE
Woodinville, WA 98072

(206) 819-1570

Friday:  4pm-9pm
Saturday:  11am-6pm
Sunday:  11am-6pm

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