Ah, the ’70s — what a happy time. We’d arrange bean bags in circles and studied liner notes as “American Pie” and “Heart of Gold” bounced off the basement’s wood-paneling, ornamental lamps with dangly tassels and a yellow smiley face dangled from the cottage-cheese ceiling. Mom’s squeaky leather booths meant Wonder Bread sandwiches were seconds away.
Up to the 1970s, the U.S. was mostly known for mass produced American Lager. Sad face. Then, Fritz Maytag resurrected Anchor Brewing Co. in the early 1970s, and in 1976 Jack McAuliffe started New Albion Brewing Co., both in California. Smiley face.
Brothers Steve and Scott Houmes — who witnessed the leisure suits, 8-track tapes, Ziggy comics and yellow smiley faces in the ’70s — went on to become restaurateurs. In September 1996, they added craft beer to their lives when they teamed up with brewmaster “Big Daddy” Don Spencer and opened Silver City Brewery in Silverdale, Washington. The Houmes’ mission was to create happy, community-oriented restaurant and craft brewery. In 2004, the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce named Silver City Business of the Year. Smiley face.
However, those living outside Kitsap County donned sad faces as MacFarlane’s Scotch Ale and the other Silver City brews kept a close distance to the Silverdale brewery.
In 2008, smiles appeared when the Houmes began distributing their beer around the Puget Sound.
Demand for Silver City grew rapidly. In May of 2010, the brothers moved their brewery operations to a new, 7,600 square foot production facility and taproom in Bremerton. The Silverdale flagship brewpub became a larger, restaurant-only operation. Smiley face.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Silver City Brewery. To commemorate the occasion, the brewery has been releasing “20th Anniversary Series” beers, such as the MacFarlane’s Scotch Ale and Deluxe Malt Liquor, in addition to Fat Woody Scotch Ale Limited Series and the return of Ziggy Zoggy Summer Lager, which will hit the taproom at noon Friday, April 1 with a party featuring $1 cans, free Ziggy Zoggy Frisbees to the first 30 people who purchase Ziggy six-packs, raffles and more.
All that certainly brings a smile to our faces. What really made us smile was the nice day we had touring the Silver City Brewery last week. Yes, the 20th anniversary was reason enough to ask Silver City sales executive Jordan Marsh for a private tour of the Bremerton facility. But, throw in two new 160 barrel, outdoor fermentation vessels and the recently released Nice Day IPA, and we were stoked.
Marsh poured a pint of delicious, fruit juicy Nice Day IPA and pushed open the doors to the brewing production room.
“’Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair / And the days surround your daylight there. Seasons crying no despair / Alligator lizards in the air. In the air.”
We kid you not. The band America’s “Ventura Highway” song was blasting in the huge facility and we were drinking A Nice Day IPA that has a unique yellow smiley face wearing sunglasses on the label.
“Brewer John loves ‘70s pop songs … as do I,” said Marsh. John Hopkins, who brews a couple days a week at Silver City, had just learned his homebrew ESB grabbed second place in a national contest.
Jim Croce, Chicago, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Paul Simon and others serenaded us as we weaved through 80 barrel fermenters, 60 barrel bright tanks and Heaven Hills Distilleries Kentucky Bourbon barrels.
Last summer, over a three-week period, Silver City replaced its 10 barrel system with a new 35 barrel brew house, produced by AAA Metal Fabrication out of the Dalles, Oregon. Having grown to an annual capacity of 9,000 barrels in 2014, Silver City had far outpaced the size of the brew house.
“We reduce the number days we brew a week in half while making more beer than ever,” said Marsh.
“You’re a shining star / No matter who you are. Shining bright to see / What you could truly be (what you could truly be).”
The Earth, Wind and Fire song played as, I kid you not, Marsh explained his role from keg washer to cellar assistant to warehouse worker to, for the last two years, sales executive. He’s done everything at the brewery, short of brewing. He loves his job.
We toured the surprisingly small cooler for the volume they produce, where the beer never sits more than a few days. Inside also rests a 15 barrel bright tank that they truck north to their Silverdale restaurant.
The Houmes are hands-on owners, with Scott running the brewing side and Steve overseeing the Silver City Restaurant & Ale House. Brewmaster Don Spencer oversees Director of Quality & Innovation Matt Riggs, who also runs the pilot beer and barrel-aged programs, and Head Brewer Seth Hanson, who use to run the cellar program.
“It’s very humbling when you can have a conversation with the owner any day of the week,” adds Marsh.
Marsh poured Ziggy Zoggy Summer Lager from a bright tank for an early taste before Friday’s party. Brewed in the tradition of German style Zwickelbier, the unfiltered lager sports a bready, honey-like malt flavor and pleasantly hopped. It’s more filling than a typical lager. It’s a summer beer, indeed. Smiley face.
“You are the sunshine of my life / That’s why I’ll always be around. You are the apple of my eye / Forever you’ll stay in my heart.”
As we drove away the two 160 barrel towered over the grain silos in Silver City’s parking lot. The new additions will allow Silver City to reach further away markets, specifically Eastern Washington. When the Bremerton facility opened the brewery could produce 2,300 barrels. Silver City is approaching 15,000 this year. Happy days.
SILVER CITY BREWERY & TAPROOM, 2-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 206 Katy Penman, Bremerton, 360.83.1487, silvercitybrewery.com