Alejandro Brown, owner of Big Al Brewing in White Center, announced yesterday via Facebook that the brewery’s last day of business would be this Saturday, January 14. Big Al Brewing took over the Pacific Rim Brewing operations after they went out of business in 2008, and the business has been one of Seattle’s better neighborhood breweries since. It’s sad news for local beer drinkers.
Could this be a sign of things to come for other local breweries? Possibly. Increased competition from new local breweries and pressure from breweries outside the area that distribute to Seattle is the reality of the industry. Competition for tap handles at bars and restaurants across the city is only going to get more intense. I think there is plenty of room in this town for more brewpub-focused businesses, but the landscape for production breweries that rely on distribution is a completely different game.
On a personal note, I’m truly sad to see Big Al Brewing closing. While I rarely made it over to the brewery in White Center, I always enjoyed their beers when I found them around town. Some of my favorite beers of theirs over the years include the Winter Warmer, Smoked Porter and Old #1 Barleywine. And, let’s not forget the Seattle Beer News/Big Al Brewing Passive Aggressive Wheat.
Big Al also did a great job in exploring barrel-aged beers, most recently with their Time Capsule series, and earlier with their Super Kriek, Jupiter’s Blood and probably others I can’t remember. While it was on a small scale, Alejandro was ahead of the curve in Seattle with barrel-aged beers and it was something he always wanted to expand. But, it’s a tough business model to get going in large volume without having a lot of capital up front. In an interview I did with him for the Northwest Brewing News quite a few years ago, Al said, “We don’t have deep pockets to dig into, and I’m trying to make the growth happen organically. I feel like I might miss the opportunity if I don’t get on it soon. When I look at places like Cascade in Oregon I think ‘Wow, those guys are making some amazing beers.’ I’d love to be doing that.”
Alejandro is one of the nicest people that I’ve met in the industry, and his crew over the years has reflected that. He was lucky enough to work with a lot of friends at the brewery. For those that know him, it was so very obvious how much he enjoyed pursuing his passion. Cheers to him and his wife Noelle for building a local business that was embraced by the neighborhood for 8 years. Best of luck in whatever comes next!
The brewery’s last day of business will be tomorrow, Saturday, January 14. They will be pouring a bunch of special Time Capsule beers, and the Seahawks game will be on upstairs. Stop by and say goodbye.
Alejandro’s announcement on Facebook (reprinted w/ permission):
8 years ago. Damn time flies! Every time I sit down to write this I have to stop because it’s too damn hard. But some things have to be said. Saturday January 14th will be the last day of Big Al Brewing as we know it. We are closing our doors. Phew, hard part over. There are many contributing factors that led to this decision but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. I’d rather focus on the positive. What an amazing 8 years it has been!! I lived my dream and experienced things I could have never thought of in my wildest dreams! The support we got from the amazing brewing industry. The bars who are so dedicated to not only craft beer, but Washington craft beer, are amazing. The partnerships we formed, the friendships that will last forever. The memories, the many, many, MANY beers shared with you all. The festivals, brewers nights, collaborations, guest brewers, OUR AWESOME EMPLOYEES! And let’s not forget the friends and family who reached in to their savings account and put cold hard cash where their support was and invested in this thing! All of it, more than I ever dreamed. There are way too many to thank here, but rest assured, you’ll be hearing from me for a pint or 3 sometime soon. You know who you are, whether you have been supporting us from day one or you just got on board with this thing last year, I see you. And I’ll see you soon.
Before I sign off, I do have to acknowledge one person by name. Noelle Brown, you are my rock. You are my #1 fan and this last 8 years is because of you. You believed in me when this was just a crazy idea. You said “do it honey, I support you”. You let me quit my solid career, take my Grandparents inheritance, your equity in your condo and most important, your loving support, and you jumped right off a cliff with me. Not bad for a serial toe-dipper!! I love you, Noelle. Thank you. Oh and, there’ll be more cliffs. Sorry