Norse brewery conquers new location

POULSBO — Thanks to loyal customers, the owners of Valholl Brewery are expanding in a new location to meet demand — whether the owners feel ready or not.

Jeff Holcomb, brewer and co-owner of Valholl, said when he and Jordan Rodgers opened their brewery in 2010, they hoped to expand in three to five years. They were soon running out of kegs to sell, and couldn't produce enough of their unique craft beer to meet demand with their current system. In the last year, since buying their new site on 3rd Avenue — between Fishline and City Hall — Holcomb, Rodgers and their business partners began the big move to the new Valholl Brewery and tasting room.

"We're Vikings," Holcomb said of his brewery. "We've got to be big and fun."

The new 1,600-square-foot site will feature 18 taps of Valholl beer in a Norse-themed tasting room, where the brewing system is visible from the bar. The original brewery at Austin Towers was 600 square feet.

Holcomb and Rodgers have hired craftsmen to enhance their brewery — a local blacksmith forged the metalwork featured along the bar and crafted the front door, and a chainsaw artist carved a Norse figurine into a wooden pole.

Holcomb grew up in Poulsbo, and said when he was a kid the city library was in the building he bought for his brewery.

"I used to read books in the corner where my brewing system is now," Holcomb said.

Holcomb and Rodgers met while working at Heads Up Brewing Co., a brewery in Silverdale where folks could brew their own on-site. Heads Up closed in 2008. Rodgers said that was the "kick in the butt" he and Holcomb needed to open their own brewery.

Rodgers and Holcomb are joined by salesman Aaron Kallio, manager Bill Reedy, and apprentice-turned-brewer Justin Crawford.

Rodgers said he's been into craft beer for a long time, but picked up some brewing skills and recipes while at Heads Up. He and Holcomb had similar ideas about beer and brewing styles — which is that they don't really stick to traditional brewing styles.

Holcomb said they like brewing with "stuff," as in Rodgers' Licorice IPA recipe. Holcomb said Valholl is also known for its high-alcohol beers.

Holcomb said Kitsap County breweries are building a reputation of unique brews on this side of the water. Other brewers aren't really competitive, Holcomb said, even around the state. Valholl is especially friendly with Poulsbo's other breweries, Slippery Pig and Sound Brewery.

"It's a great little community," Rodgers said.

But Kitsap County's breweries do want to set themselves apart from the other 140 or so craft breweries.

"We don't want you to leave and go somewhere else and say, 'Oh, I had this at Valholl,'" Holcomb said.

With the larger system, Valholl's brewers won't be able to experiment with recipes as much. Holcomb said the 8-fermenter system — each holding seven barrels, or 207 gallons — is brewing the same amount in one day as the old system would produce in a month, about 217 gallons per brew.

The tasting room will have 10 to 12 of Valholl's main beers on tap, as well as four to six seasonal or experimental beers. Rodgers said Valholl will also be vetting which beers to bottle, and should be selling in stores this spring. For non-drinkers, Valholl's got you covered — Holcomb's dad makes a root beer that will also be on tap.

Holcomb said Valholl is planning a soft opening Feb. 8; check and its Facebook page for details.


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