Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood is a perfect spot for a brewery, and Flying Lion Brewing hopes to be open soon on Rainier Ave S in a small space right next to the popular Full Tilt Ice Cream. The closest brewery to Columbia City is currently Spinnaker Bay Brewing, located just a few blocks south in Hillman City. Flying Lion will be located right on the main business drag of the neighborhood, making it a great addition to those in search of a beer in South Seattle.
Four brothers, and some various other family members, are investors in the brewery. Griffin Williams is the only one spending all of his time on the brewery, but his brother Evan is also on the payroll, and another brother, Tyler, is located in Seattle and will help out when available (The 4th brother lives in DC). The Williams brothers are opening Flying Lion after growing up in an area that knows a little something about good beer. They are originally from Kalamazoo, MI, home of Midwest staple Bell’s Brewery. Griffin says, “I think our original introduction to craft beer was living in the same town as Bell’s. Our dad would always have a bottle or two of Bell’s in the fridge.” As for why they decided to open their brewery in Seattle, Evan & Tyler moved here several years ago, and Griffin thought it would be the perfect place after coming out to visit. ” We just really like the beer culture. We know that beer is appreciated out here. Plus, it’s close to the hops.” Griffin & Evan are 24 and 28 years old, respectively, and they have been homebrewing long enough that they’d prefer not to say exactly how long so that we can’t do the math. Griffin moved to Seattle earlier this year after working at a homebrew supply shop in Minnesota while preparing to get the brewery going, while Evan is currently studying for a graduate degree in biomechanical engineering at the University of Washington.
They will be brewing on a new 3-barrel brewhouse purchased from Stout Tanks & Kettles in Portland, and they will also start off with 3-barrel fermenters. Griffin says, “We were originally looking at just doing a 1-barrel system, but after running the numbers it just made sense to go with the larger system. 3-barrels is pretty much the biggest system we think we can fit in here. We can fit some 7-barrel fermenters in here, but we’ll see how things go the first few months. We’d have to take the door out to get the bigger fermenters in.”
As for what you’ll find on tap at Flying Lion, Griffin says, “Our preference is heavily towards porters and stouts. So, we’ll definitely have more of those on tap than normal for most places, but we’ll have a variety of other styles.” Griffin says his favorite porter in town is the Robust Porter from Reuben’s Brews, which won a gold medal at the recent Washington Beer Awards. Evan’s favorite style is a Baltic Porter, and if time permits they’d love to have one on tap when they open their doors. They plan to have a bar and somewhere around 25 seats in their taproom, and beer will be available for purchase in pints and to-go in growlers. To start off, they will have the taproom open every day of the week, except Tuesday. They will be kid and dog friendly.
They are hoping to open in August or early September, but they have plenty of work to do in order to meet that goal. They have been working on getting the space ready to install the brewing system, which they should have in their possession shortly. Evan will be taking on the task of installing and setting up their electric brewing system. He says, “It’s been a little bit of a stretch for me as a mechanical engineer, but I did study physics in my undergrad. I can go back to the basic fundamentals of the science and figure out where electrons are supposed to be going, it just takes me longer than a true electrician. We have some engineering friends who are helping out as well.”
One unique feature at their brewery is that they plan to mill all of their grain with the power of a bicycle. Griffin says, “We bought the biggest grain mill we could afford, and then Evan (the engineering student) figured out that we can power it with our legs.” Evan adds, “We did some power tests on bikes over at UW’s IM building for various amounts of time to see how many watts we could output & see if we could roll the grain we need in a reasonable amount of time. We figured out that we can keep up with what was the recommended 3/4 horsepower electric motor; we can be at least that fast.” They are going to have the bike and mill set up where customers can take a spin and mill some grain, if they’d like to be part of the process. “We are going to try and have some sort of leader board, probably by number of pounds milled, and then maybe every once in a while throw out a prize.”
The small space where their brewery sits has previously been a thrift shop, print shop and was originally part of a Safeway store that spread throughout much of the complex. They aren’t sure which previous tenant would have been a part of the following story. Griffin says, “We found a little bit of history in the walls of this space. I was taking out some drywall to put our plumbing in and I found a padded envelope buried in the wall. I thought maybe it was a bunch of money someone hid back there. But, no, it was actually a Colt 45 pistol with a police tag with an evidence number from 20 years ago on it. There was a pack of 6 bullets, too. It was definitely a pretty weird thing to find. We ended up calling the police and they took it.”
Sounds like the type of story that could inspire the name of some beers, although I’d stay away from using “Colt 45”. Padded Envelope Porter, maybe?
They will soon be launching a crowdfunding campaign on CrowdBrewed, but they aren’t looking for a handout. Griffin says, ” Our crowdfunding campaign is primarily to ease some of the high capital expenses during these last few weeks before we open. We’ll be launching the campaign in about a week on a site called CrowdBrewed… It’s still a fundraising campaign but we’re not looking to take the money without giving back as much as we can. Many of the rewards are essentially pre-paid really good deals on our beer, in other words, our crowdfunding campaign will serve as a loan to make sure we don’t have to cut corners just to open.”
As a nearby Beacon Hill resident myself, I certainly look forward to another brewery opening up in the area. Cheers, and best of luck to Flying Lion.