A big welcome to Seattle’s newest brewery, Hilliard’s Beer, which recently opened in Ballard. They opened to the public with a bang on October 7 with a party at their taproom, and owners Ryan Hilliard and Adam Merkl estimated they had close to 1,000 people come through the brewery that day. The brewery is located in a small industrial strip in Ballard, just a block north of where Maritime Brewing had their original location. The building itself is a former car dealership. It is a large space with lots of natural light, room enough for a sizable taproom area, and room for growth when the opportunity presents itself.
Ryan is the brewer and will be working on a 15bbl brew system they attained from the now defunct Sacramento Brewing. Ryan is coming from a life as a flight instructor, and like many professional brewers before him has been an avid homebrewer for a long time. Adam will run things on the sales and business side, and comes from a background in sales. The two met when their wives were in graduate school together, and about two years ago they decided to join forces and go down the path that has brought them where they are today.
Hilliard’s is joining the craft can revolution and will focus on selling beer in 16oz aluminum cans. Available now is their amber, which you can find at most local bottles shops. It’s a nice drinking session beer with good balance. The cans themselves manage to have a classic feel but still stick out, and I love the look of them. Choosing to go with cans is a huge commitment for a new brewery, as they had to commit to buying a truckload (around 150,000 cans).
Next up in cans will be the Hilliard’s Saison, which will be a rarity in the marketplace; finding Belgian styles in cans is not common.
In fact, this may be the first American-crafted saison put into cans (Both Brewery Vivant in MI and Surly Brewing in MN have canned saisons of excellent quality). They are still dialing in their recipe for the saison, but I had a sample of it on draft and quite enjoyed the full-flavored, fruity (citrus & pineapple) profile. It was smooth and refreshing, despite coming in at around 8% ABV. I think part of what they are dialing in before sending the beer to cans is how strong they want the resulting beer to be. It’s tough to trade taste for a lighter ABV, but an 8% ABV saison might not be a high volume seller for your typical beer drinker. Luckily, Seattle is full of atypical beer drinkers. I’m a big fan of low ABV beers, but not if you have to give up too much flavor. If the beer works best at 8% ABV, then I hope they stick with it. As for why they chose a saison as one of their initial beers in cans, both Adam and Ryan were in agreement. “It’s our favorite style.” They also noted that while there are some saisons available in the Seattle market, many are special releases and can be fairly expensive. By putting their saison in 4-packs of 16oz cans, they hope that people will realize the style doesn’t just have to be for special occasions. Cheers to that.
Hilliard’s will also have beer available on draft, both in their taproom and at local bars and restaurants. They are currently pouring their Regimental Scottish Blonde and Cast Iron Stout in the taproom. Bars such as Whiskey Bar, Naked City, Beveridge Place Pub, and Brouwer’s have had Hilliard’s on tap already as well. The beers that they can will not show up on draft, and they plan to rotate quite a few beers and styles into their draft lineup in order to try new things. If a certain draft beer is popular enough, it could certainly show up in cans somewhere down the road.
It’s great to see another new brewery open up in Seattle, and especially one that is canning a saison as one of its flagship beers to start out. If you haven’t yet, stop by their taproom to say hello later this week, or go pick up a 4-pack of cans at your favorite local bottle shop.
1550 NW 49th Street
Seattle, WA 98107
Thursday, Friday and Saturday
3pm to 9pm