Puyallup River Brewing Company founder and brewer Eric Akeson, along with his head brewer Nat Woodsmith, received three medals and grabbed 2015 Small Brewery of the Year at the Third Annual Washington Beer Awards during the Washington Brewer’s Festival at Marymoor Park this past June. It was a short ride for Akeson to being named king of all small breweries. Well, kind of. Although Akeson began delivering his beer to local bottle shops and groceries stores in 2012, he’s been a beer enthusiast since working in a Kirkland alehouse in the mid-’90s. He took his homebrew hobby to the next level in 2011, opening a brewery in his South Hill home’s backyard. He launched the Puyallup River Alehouse three years ago yesterday in downtown Puyallup. His Blonde Saison, Pineapple Paradise Saison, Mud Mountain Milk Stout and other Puyallup River Brewing beers were producing smiles. He was on top of the mountain, right?
Then, two months after all the awards, he closed his taproom.
Since then, Akeson has climbed even higher, although he has less backyard now. Akeson installed a seven-barrel brewing system in November. He just signed with Olympia Eagle to give his award-winning beers a larger audience.
We miss hanging with Akeson at his Alehouse. We decided to check in.
PEAKS AND PINTS: Do you miss your days running the Puyallup River Alehouse?
ERIC AKESON: I absolutely miss the people from the Alehouse. Honestly, don’t miss the day to day of running a pub. I can say I’ve tried it. It just wasn’t really my cup of tea. I was fortunate to be approached by a couple of good business friends that were interested in purchasing the pub. I’m excited for them to get it back open with all of the implemented changes. I think it’s going to be really well received.
PEAKS AND PINTS: When will the pub reopen?
AKESON: I’m not exactly sure, but it will be called Flanagan’s Craft Pub with 28 beers on tap, including all of Puyallup River Brewing’s offerings, full liquor service and an expanded kitchen.
PEAKS AND PINTS: Thankfully, you’re still brewing. When did you brew your first beer?
AKESON: I started brewing beer in 1994. I worked at a great place called the Rose Hill Alehouse in Kirkland. The owners were home brewers, and some of their regular customers were brewers, too. I had a lot of great help and mentoring.
PEAKS AND PINTS: How many barrels are you producing on the new system?
AKESON: Puyallup River Brewing has expanded brewing capacity from 15 to approximately 120 barrels a month. We’ve signed with a great distributor, Olympic Eagle, and we’re excited to get our beers out there in the marketplace. Our products are available on draft and 22-ounce bottles.
PEAKS AND PINTS: Any advice for those thinking about opening a brewery?
AKESON: Do your research and don’t be underfunded. There are a ton of components that go into building a brewery, and it’s somewhat of a long process. Patience is definitely a virtue … that’s something I’ve definitely struggled with at times.