It’s not often you meet a new brewery that will tell you they have forty recipes they’re comfortable brewing for mass consumption, and it’s even more rare to find a brewery whose first commercial batch was a Roggenbier. Fortunately for this correspondent, Reuben’s Brews in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle can claim both, and I had the opportunity to discuss these claims to fame with them and more.
Reuben’s Brews is a true family affair. Named after the son of co-owners Adam and Grace Kim Robbings, the Reuben’s Brews team consists of Adam, Grace, and Grace’s brother-in-law, Mike. “We never thought about opening a brewery,” said Adam. “That was not the point.” The point was that Adam had a discerning taste for what makes a good beer great and a desire to share that knowledge with others – in the form of meticulously crafted beer.
Reuben’s Brews got its start at a neighborhood event called the Phinney Beer Taste in November 2010. Just six months after he began homebrewing, Adam entered the event as a homebrewer and won People’s Choice, as voted by the event’s 800 attendees. Shortly thereafter, homebrewers were banned from entering the event. So the following year, Adam gave a Brown Ale to Anacortes Brewery to present at the festival and again won People’s Choice. Adam continued to win awards in homebrewing competitions and was soon recognized as one of the top homebrewers in the state. That was when Adam and Grace realized that a brewery was a possibility. “People liked what we did, and we enjoyed making it, so it seemed logical to do that on a reasonable scale,” explained Adam.
Though he was already brewing on a 25-gallon homebrewing system, Adam attended an intensive brewing program at UC Davis with the goal of understanding the commercial process changes required for brewing beer on a larger scale. After the UC Davis course, as well as dozens of homebrewed batches, Adam clarified his process for perfecting his award-winning recipes: “I know the science, I know the art – because there is an art – but I can also taste things in the beer and create that feedback loop” to distinguish different flavors and change the recipe as needed.
This process has certainly made the young brewery one of the most decorated of its kind. Reuben’s Brews entered six beers in the World Beer Championships in Chicago and won six medals. “It’s pretty nice seeing your name down next to these really big, national players,” Adam admitted humbly. But Reuben’s Brews is certainly giving these larger players some competition: Adam’s Eight-Grain Porter was the highest rated porter in the World Beer Championships this year.
In addition to the multitude of awards the brewery has received, it also has distinguished itself as one of the most prolific new breweries in the area. Earlier this year, Mike brewed Reuben’s 50th batch, an old English ale. At that time, the brewery had been open for less than 6 months. This is an impressive and important part of the brewery’s appeal – Adam wants to have the opportunity to serve customers as many options as possible on the brewery’s twelve taps and keep the recipes true to form. Explained Adam: “We are set up to do lots of different beers in 10-barrel batches, not just a few beers in 60-barrel batches. That’s deliberate. We don’t have a house yeast strain and we don’t have a preferred base grain. Logistically, if you get too big that becomes difficult to do, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re about having the beer as the beer should be, not what our production dictates. We did about 16 last year [in 2012] and already did two in 2013, so in less than six months, we’ve done 18 beers.”
These beers include an American Rye that was named a “Best New Local Brew” in Seattle Magazine’s Best of Seattle list, as well as a Roasted Rye, an Imperial Rye IPA, and a barrel-aged Imperial Stout, to name a few.