New breweries opening up in Seattle isn’t anything, well, new. But, I can’t tell you the last time I was this excited about a new brewery opening. Holy Mountain Brewing is currently building out a brewery at 1421 Elliott Ave W in Interbay, sandwiched right in between Ballard, Queen Anne and Magnolia. Owners Adam Paysse (President, Brewer), Colin Lenfesty (VP & Head Brewer) and Mike Murphy (VP of Sales) have been working on the idea of opening a brewery together for about 3 years. After finding a very large 10,000 square foot building a few months ago, they have been hard at work making their dream a reality.
Now, full disclosure: I’m good friends with these guys, but you shouldn’t confuse my excitement about their brewery with having anything to do with our friendship. I fully expect their beers to kick ass, and if they pull off what they intend to do, a lot of beer geeks are going to be just as excited as I am to have them around.
They will be brewing on a 10-barrel system purchased new from Marks Design and Metalworks, and they will start off with four 20-barrel fermentors and two 20-barrel brite tanks, one of which will be dedicated to Brett and sour beers. Their facility will include a 3,000 sq ft barrel aging cellar and a 1,500 sq ft taproom. All three owners are long time homebrewers, and Lenfesty has been brewing professionally for several years in the Seattle area. They are currently in the middle of taking a completely raw warehouse and molding it into the brewery they have been mapping out for years. According to Lenfesty, “We’re doing almost everything ourselves, from cutting concrete, to digging ditches to plumbing glycol. We have moved lots of dirt and hauled off a lot of concrete. We have a lot of really great resources in the construction and brewing industry, and I’ve been lucky to have gone through build out and expansions at other breweries. We’ve taken a lot of guess work out of being a new start-up and knew where we could save money on build out and equipment, and where we needed to spend it. This is a brewery built by brewers.”
As for what type of beer they will be focusing on, don’t expect a typical lineup for a NW brewery. Paysse says, “We’ll be doing a lot of seasonal, hop-forward and yeast-driven beers, including saisons/farmhouse ales as well as some lagers… a lot of clean, drinkable beers. We’ll be focusing on barrel aged as well as barrel fermented beers, and we plan to have an extensive sour program that we’ll be putting into barrels as soon as we can.” They will not have a flagship beer lineup, and they will instead focus on a seasonal rotation. Most importantly, Holy Mountain is going to be making beers that they are passionate about. These are all guys that love styles like saisons & sours, and they expect that to show in their beers. Lenfesty explains, “We are constantly tasting beer and seeking out new things that come to market. We taste wines and spirits to understand the effects of the barrel on those products for inspiration on what we could achieve with our own. Always hunting and keeping our ears open for the what’s new. We’ve spent years understanding flavors, off flavors and how to properly identify them. We’ve brewed a lot and have a great process in place. Making barrel aged beers, especially sour ones, isn’t magic and it isn’t a roll of the dice. It’s all about controlling everything from mashing to blending, to create the beer that was intended in the first place. It’s a lot more than pitching a culture into a barrel and crossing your fingers.”
Murphy, who has worked in beer and spirit sales in the Seattle market for several years, explains how their selection of styles could also be a benefit when selling in the local market, “I’ve played the full-time handle game for years and though we love hoppy beers as much as every other guy at the bar, we wanted to avoid the IPA rat race from the start. We love the local market and are good friends with a lot of the people making beer here…a big goal of ours is to add an element of diversity to the local scene. In the short term, we want to do what we can to fill in the stylistic gaps in the Seattle market that out of state breweries are capitalizing on.” While you might not see an IPA from Holy Mountain distributed out to the market, you’ll likely see one on tap occasionally at the brewery. Lenfesty says, “We would rather have people come in and drink one from the source where it has been stored properly and is at its peak of freshness.”
They are currently hoping to have beer ready for distribution at the end of July and the taproom open sometime in August, but that timing will certainly depend on permitting and final equipment falling into place. In addition to beer available on draught, they plan to have bottle-conditioned 750ml bottle releases before the end of 2014. Paysse explains, “We plan to bottle a bunch of saisons and expand our bottling program once we have beer coming out of barrels. We’ll be doing growlers as soon as we have enough beer to go around.”
The taproom will have room for about 60 seats & will have up to 12 beers on tap. As far as the feel, they are going for more of the environment of a beer bar vs. the typical taproom that you might find at a production brewery. They will feature food trucks on certain days, and they have room to build out a kitchen in the future. The location is adjacent to the Elliott Bay Bike Path that runs from Ballard to Belltown, and the taproom will have a big roll up door looking over the railroad tracks towards Centennial Park/Pier 90.
As for the name, Holy Mountain is a song and album by an old “doom/stoner band” called Sleep, and it is also a side reference to Mt. Rainier. According to Paysse, “After some trademarking issues with a previous name, we had to come up with something else. While eating, drinking, and listening to music at (a friend’s) house one night, Holy Mountain came up as a possible brewery name. We liked that it was a reference to that formative album, our heavy involvement in music, and where we all came from.”
So, what niche do I expect them to fill in Seattle? Think about breweries like Cascade, Upright and The Commons in Portland, or even the mighty Russian River in California. Seattle just doesn’t have a brewery that regularly (not just occasional special releases) focuses on barrel-aged beers, saisons, sours, lagers, IPAs and many other styles together with consistent quality like these breweries do. I’m hoping that over time Holy Mountain will make this happen.