Friday, January 4, 2013

Scuttlebutt: The new brewery

   The last time I posted anything about Scuttlebutt in Everett related to its brewing operation, they were in the old seafood building on Marine Drive.  When they moved the pub out by the marina, they put the brewing across town, in an industrial section between Everett Station and I-5.  Stopped by a few days ago and was impressed by the technology as well as the philosophy.
    As I walked toward the building, I saw Eric Noll, who had been one of my brewing mentors at Gallaghers-Where-You-Brew in Edmonds. Eric offered me a tour, an offer I of course could not refuse. First thing was the bottling line. Scuttlebutt does a lot of trade in 12-oz six-packs and 22-oz singles.  Their one machine can do both, switching back and forth.

Eric told me that Scuttlebutt is ramping up to ship to
some giganto distributor in New Jersey, who will put them in markets up and down the east coast.  They are looking at being registered in thirteen states in 2013.  These guys are running the bottling and labeling line full-tilt to fill those pallets.

All those Navy towns up and down the east coast: good marketing will give Scuttlebutt a niche, with its navy-themed labels like Homeport Blonde (one of my favorite blonde ales) and Gale Force IPA, and the fact that Everett has for years been the home port of at least one carrier, currently the Nimitz, and some smaller ships.

I wondered aloud if Scuttlebutt was going down the industrial-craft beer road.  This is not an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.  We think of industrial beer in America in terms of the insipid flavors of Bud and Coors, which we, as consumers, demanded for the last half of the twentieth century. Yet, as Shock Top and Blue Moon demonstrate, the big brewers can make beers that taste better and have some character.  Should these be called "craft" beers? Certainly not "microbrews", the old term that seems to have been supplanted by craft beer now.  Micro connoted a brewery in a garage, and clearly some of our brewers best known for flavorful beers are way beyond that scale:  Redhook, Widmer Bros, in Portland, the Anchor Brewing plant I touned in San Francisco last summer.  I think Lisa Morrison may be on the right track in her Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest when she contrasts the term with wine's terroir:  "But instead of being shaped by the soil's condition or mineral content, craft beer's terroir is influenced by the personalities of the brewers, the surrounding communities, and the particular culture that envelops each brewery."

The brewers at Scuttlebutt look as if they are ready to play around, experiment.  Eric. pictured here in front of a row of fermenters, pointed out a large whiskey cask to be used for aging some special brew.
The surrounding community, Everett, is solid blue-collar with the Navy and Boeing.  As to a particular culture at Scuttlebutt, I wish their public face, the pub, had more personality, but the sterile space on the marina has been crowded each time I have stopped by. The brewery projects an adventurous image, and I see Scuttlebutt as a craft brewer on the way up.
(Visited 12/21/12)