By SERAINE PAGE
BREMERTON — There’s nothing like throwing back a cold one in the heat of summer.
Local breweries are gearing up for this weekend’s Bremerton Summer Brewfest, an annual gathering of beer lovers to sample more than 70 Washington summer-style beers.
Local brewers agree that all beer is not created equally. It’s a process; it’s a passion. Some brewers think of beer names in their sleep. Others offer a variety of local beers, plus their own. However it gets served, when the foam settles and the customer takes that first sip, local brewers know they’ve done their best work when they see the repeat customers come back time and time again.
For the past three years, the attendance rate has hovered between 3,000 to 4,000 people, according to Eric Radovich, executive director of the Washington Beer Commission, an organization dedicated to promoting Washington beer to benefit state breweries.
The event is expected to have a significant local economic impact, with revenue generated through distributors and retailers, according to the Washington Beer Commission, citing the Beer Institute.
Bremerton was selected as the site for an annual beer festival because of businesses’ willingness to participate, Radovich said. Silver City Brewery and the mayor invited the commission to start a beer event to highlight local breweries.
STARTING THE TRADITION
Although his business started in Silverdale, Scott Houmes found that the beer he brewed at Silver City Brewery had a following in other parts of the county as well.
His brother, Steve Houmes, took over the Silverdale location so Scott could open a brewery and taproom in Bremerton.
“We’ve been brewing in Bremerton for a little over three years now,” Scott Houmes said.
“We resisted change. We resisted growing for a very long period of time. My brother and I concentrated on improving the Silverdale restaurant, but after quite some time the demand for the beer outside of the restaurant grew to where we were basically tripping over each other.”
The company initiated talks with the city and the beer commission on starting a Bremerton brew festival. The brothers bring a different type of passion to the festival, knowing it is something they were involved in from the beginning.
“We were instrumental in showing the community what Bremerton and Kitsap County has to offer,” said Houmes, who regularly participates in festivals around the state. “There’s a fair amount of camaraderie amongst brewers. It’s somewhat of a fraternity amongst brewers to enjoy good beer. It is fun being in an industry like this.”
Silver City Brewery will offer its popular summer lager, Ziggy Zoggy, at the event, along with other specialty brews.
“Beer festivals are a great way to market your product and your brewery,” Houmes said. “I am excited to see the West Sound get excited about craft beer. This is a phenomenal event where the local craft breweries, including Silver City, are able to highlight their beer to the community. It’s great for craft beer, and it’s great for the local economy. We are very fortunate to be embraced by such a passionate community. We’re just happy to be a part of it.”
SOME DO IT FOR THE PASSION
It all started with a little at-home brewing kit.
Mike Montoney, owner of Rainy Daze Brewing, started his own business on his property in Silverdale. His passion to brew started with a kit and bloomed into a larger pursuit.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Montoney said of home brewing. “I’m always creating new beers constantly.”
As a new brewing entrepreneur and owner of an auto shop, Montoney has a lot on his hands. Even a heart attack couldn’t keep him from indulging in his love of brewing. After losing interest in his car business, he decided to cut down on shop hours and focus his attention on his budding business.
Nine months into it, he can see the fruits of his labor coming to life, despite a few setbacks.
Originally, his detached garage served as the brewing space and tasting room. Despite having the proper licensing and documents, a neighbor complained and a county commissioner stepped in to tell Montoney that he lived in a rural area and wasn’t allowed to operate a retail store out of his home. But, he is still able to act as a wholesaler, and local breweries have stepped up to buy kegs of his product, he said.
Montoney plans to attend the beer festival as a way to recruit those who haven’t tasted his beer, although his reputation spreads as far as Port Townsend bars because of bars’ loyalty of serving his product on tap.
The beer he’s proud to admit almost anybody would drink — even non-beer drinkers — is an oatmeal pale called Mindfunk.
“I think anybody can like it. It’s got that coffee taste. It’s a breakfast beer,” he joked.
Even with a smaller system than most other breweries, Montoney and his buddies just made their 122nd keg of beer, and they’ve created more than 30 beer styles in their barrel-and-a-half system.
“We’re selling beer as fast as we can make it,” Montoney said.
And even though that takes about three to four weeks, Montoney must be doing something right because he won the Washington Beer Awards Silver Medal for his Belgian Bastard, a pale ale that will be featured at the festival. In addition to beer, Montoney also specializes in homemade root beer, a favorite among children.
Although he’s had a bit of a bumpy start with brewing the way he’d like, Montoney keeps a sunshine attitude doing what he loves and looks forward to bonding with other brewers at the fest.
“I think it’s really good for the whole brewing society,” he said. “I think it’s good for the community. It’s made locally. People have pride in that.”
WITH AGE COMES EXPERIENCE
Hale’s Alehouse celebrated its 30th birthday this month.
The longevity of the brewery and restaurant could be because of its unique English-style take on brewing which offers a fresh beer that hasn’t been sitting bottled on a shelf forever.
“It’s open fermentation,” said Nathan Sylling, a sales rep for Hale’s. “A lot of places do it within tanks that are completely closed off. We have mirrors on the ceiling (of our brewing facility). You can actually see the fermentation process happening. That’s more English-style.”
The idea for the alehouse came to owner Mike Hale when he spent a year bicycling around small villages in England, states the company’s website. His travels helped him develop an appreciation for English-brewed ales, but it was on a July 4 that Hale decided to open his first brewery in Colville, where he developed his famous Hale’s Pale American Ale.
Now, Hale operates a brewery and pub in the Fremont District and a pub in Silverdale, where locals gather in appreciation of good beer.
“We have so many talented local brewers,” said Mike Malane Jr., who has known Hale for a long time. “Charisma, passion and presentation: that’s the key to any business.”
His wife, Laura Malane, said she enjoys the Bremerton Summer Brewfest because of the huge turnout of locals supporting Kitsap County businesses.
“Anybody can buy beer and go home,” she said, adding she would rather give her money to those in town, including Rainy Daze beers, which Hale’s offers.
Hale’s will offer its Bourbon Barrel Aged Supergoose, aged for five months in a bourbon barrel, along with four other beers.
“I really like the community of craft beer,” Sylling said. “It’s definitely like a club that’s open for anybody who wants to be a part of it. The craft beer community loves the whole process of it. It’s not just the showing up and drinking.”
— When: July 13, noon to 6:30 p.m.
— Where: Downtown Bremerton.
— Cost: $15 advance, $20 at the door, $15 military, $5 designated driver (includes water and soft drinks). Additional tokens are $1.50 each or four for $5.
— Parking: Free on-street parking available in downtown Bremerton for two to three hours.
— Other: For ages 21 and older. ID will be required.
— Seraine Page is a reporter for the Central Kitsap Reporter.