It’s April 2015 and Mike Runion and I are drinking beers at Mississippi Studios in Portland Oregon before the Mudhoney show. After a long day at the Craft Brewers Conference we donned big smiles. Our joy has nothing to do with an endless stream of craft beer. Rather, we both had just signed letter of intents to launch craft beer projects in Tacoma. We a brief moment we ignored the forthcoming drama.
Fifteen months later, Runion’s smile returns.
Runion and his business partner and brewmaster, Travis Guterson, will take their beloved 7 Seas Brewing back to the future. From their humble beginnings in 2008, to the 2009 fire relocation, to the 11,000-square-foot-building in downtown Gig Harbor, demand for their Rude Parrot IPA, Ballz Deep Double IPA, 253 Pilsner, British Pale Ale and other craft beers has forced the duo to constantly think bigger. Tomorrow, they’ll go huge when they open their 80,000-square-foot new brewery and taproom in a downtown Tacoma building where Heidelberg Brewery previously bottled and shipped its beer.
The endless meetings, land surveys, permits, construction, shopping sprees and moving trucks are for the most part in the past as Runion and Guterson expand production to a possible 80,000 to 100,000 barrels a year.
Like many South Sound craft beer fans, I’m looking forward to 7 Seas opening the doors of its new, much larger Tacoma facility. Until last night, I could only imagine what that place looked like, but Runion, Guterson and the 7 Seas crew led the craft beer and Tacoma hospitality industry through the 500-person taproom, past the embedded 3uilt restaurant owned by Top of Tacoma restaurateurs Jaime Kay and Jason Jones, past the future home of a Valhalla Coffee roastery, through the production facility and into the 10,000-square-foot-basement where 7 Seas houses a bottling line, cooler, barrel room, loading dock and a sea of cans. The 7 Seas barrel room will release its first aged beer — which began aging three years ago in Gig Harbor — by the end of the year.
Failed lease negotiation to expand into unused portions of its Gig Harbor building and the lack of warehouse space in the surrounding area brought 7 Seas to Tacoma. The building’s history was a big part of what attracted Runion and Guterson to 2101 S. Jefferson, which housed the Jet Equipment company and more recently stored artwork for Chihuly Studio. From the taproom and future rooftop beer garden neighboring University of Washington and the city is on full display.
Also on display it the brewing operations visible through windows separating it from the two-story-plus tall tasting room — a view of brewing action that is unparalleled in Tacoma. The interior portion of the tasting room melds metal and modern lighting with wood. In the middle, an oval bar outfitted with 48 taps each will dispense an array of 7 Seas beers. Shuffleboard, tables and couches flank the bar.
Through the beautiful wooden doors, up the wood plank stairs past old photos of Heidelberg’s turn-of-the-century days sits a new Tacoma restaurant on the eastside of the taproom — pronounced Built, but spelled 3uilt. Jaime Kay and Jason Jones, owners of McKinley Hill neighborhood bar, Top of Tacoma, and formers owners of gastropub Marrow, will serve a menu of charcuterie plates, sandwiches, salads and oysters to pair with 7 Seas beer 30 feet away.
Valhalla Coffee will roast on site at the beginning of the year.
The 7 Seas Brewing Tacoma Tap Room will open to all ages at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, serving until 10 p.m. seven days a week.