Sunday, January 10th, 2016

5 South Sound breweries collaborate on India Red Lager

Ron Swarner

Three Magnets Brewing Co. head brewer Pat Jansen chats with Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. director of brewery operations Steve Navarro during the South Sound Brewery Medal Showcase at Puyallup River Brewery in July 2015. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Tap handles in most South Puget Sound drinking joints and restaurant symbolize the progress our region is making toward reinvigorating its brewing traditions of pre-Prohibition era. Today, 40 or so craft beer breweries call the South Sound area home, including Fox Island, Graham and a neighborhood garage in Central Tacoma.

Is the South Sound a recognized craft beer region?

Wingman Brewers co-founder Ken Thoburn organized the South Sound Craft Crawl last year, linking 15 local breweries together in a self-guided tour. There’s been talk from several brewers about organizing a coalition of South Sound breweries to have one voice in beer tourism and legislative matters.

Most of the South Sound only catches a glimpse of the region’s brewers in a group hug during Tacoma Beer Week, major award ceremonies such as Fish Brewing Company receiving the 2015 World’s Best Beer honor, or a special event such as when Puyallup River Brewing gathered the Washington Beer Awards winners from the South Sound for an autograph session.

Sure, collaborations happen on occasion, but it’s typically between two cross-town breweries.

That’s about to change.


Next week, five South Sound breweries — Fish Brewing, Top Rung Brewing, Three Magnets Brewing, Harmon Brewing and Pacific Brewing & Malting will collaborate on an India Red Lager, brewing at Fish in downtown Olympia. The head brewers knocked around the idea during the Washington Beer Awards South Sound party this past summer.

“We were all gathered and were amazed at how many South Sound breweries were represented and had achieved awards,” says Matthew Lisowski, general manager at Fish. “I then asked if anyone had every done a collaboration in the South Sound, and the answer was “no,” but Harmon and Three Magnets Brewing stated, “We should.” At that moment the collaboration was born. I offered our facilities to make this a reality.”

Yes, it has been many months since the idea was born. Several breweries had to drop out. A September meeting was canceled. But, the idea remained alive via email exchanges.

“We all agree the collaboration will be fun opportunity to hang out and talk beer,” says Casey Sobol, co-founder of Top Rung Brewing. “Looking at the bigger picture, it’s our chance to champion the South Sound craft beer scene, to unite and promote our beer scene. Let the region, nation and world know we’re making great craft beer between the two mountain ranges.”

The brewers wanted to produce a product that embodied multiple elements of the South Sound. An India Red Lager made sense. According to Lisowski, the beer will be loaded with many pounds of hops per barrel, but not overly bitter to celebrate a Northwest-style IPA, but also “highlight the German heritage in this region and our phenomenal water.”

The group decided Pacific Brewing would take the lead on the malt bill (Pilsner and with a little bit of Red Wheat) with Fish taking the lead on the hops schedule. Harmon offered to donate whole leaf Amarillo for the hop back, and others suggested they use Red Wheat to boost head retention. Three Magnets head brewer Pat Jansen wanted to go big with the alcohol by volume, but the Collaborative IRL will ring in at 6.5 percent and 40 IBUs.

“It is so much fun to work and hang with all of these brewers; I’m game,” says Three Magnets head brewer Pat Jansen. “Lots of high jinks, and Fish’s automated grain out!”

Will this beer be all the talk in Florida craft beer bars? Who knows. It will certainly be the talk of the town in this region, and possible a catalyst to ignite the South Sound Craft Beer Alliance.


The breweries are hosting an art contest to design the collaboration beer’s label.

Requirements for the label artwork are as follows: It must fit onto a 4.5-inch wide by 4.8-inch tall label, without photographs of people, offensive words or offensive images. Entries must have layered and vectored art, should your label win.

Submissions should be sent to The deadline is Jan. 25. You must be 21 and older to enter. For more details, visit