I have a dream. I dream that a Washington brewery will finally climb into clouds of beer lore. That a Washington brewery will find the perfect balance of capacity, craft, and artisanship to be mentioned in the same breath as Deschutes, The Bruery, 3 Floyds, Founders, and Russian River. I want my global beer friends to look upon my Washington beer access with the envy of a younger sibling watching their older sibling enjoy the benefits of being a few years older and wiser.
But so far, it's been rough. For a number of reasons; distribution, production capacity, ambition, and many more. Washington breweries just haven't gained widespread notoriety. Building a top tier beer brand is a lot of work and more than a little luck. But I think our breweries in Ballard have a shot. I think Hilliard's and Stoup have great beer and great marketing. Hale's and Maritime have deep tradition that shows in their beers. Populuxe, NW Peaks, and Urban Family do tasty interesting beers. But Reuben's seems to have been able to combine them all into something special. And people are taking note.
The latest is the news that their Imperial Rye IPA (in my hand right now) made the elite 8 in the National Imperial IPA Championships. Is this competition crazy? Absolutely. Has the Imperial Rye IPA "beaten" any beers I recognize? No.....except for their own Imperial IPA in the sweet 16. Is the judging criteria suspect? Absolutely. But Reuben's is starting to build a fairly solid track record of buzz-worthy wins. To build a house, you have to start with a foundation, and been building an impressive foundation with its wins.
That's a pretty solid showing. And they work to get themselves out there. They had their American Brown, Imperial IPA, Imperial Rye IPA, Robust Porter, and Roggenbier at the Great American Beer Festival, the pinnacle of beer award shows for US breweries.
Reuben's isn't there yet. But they're the closest I've seen to checking the boxes that are required to stand out in the increasingly-crowded world of beer. They have great, interesting beers with a slight twist (Rye), they've got great marketing, and a lot of ambition.
As I've travelled around breweries in the US, they show off to medals: GABF medals, and World Beer Cup medals. I think Reuben's can have some of those in their taproom down the road. And it will be a great day for Washington beer when they do.