Spinnaker Bay Brewing’s lively Head Brewmaster Janet Spindler comes from a long lineage of brewers. A family portrait of her great-grandmother, who brewed barrels of beer in the pioneering days, is proudly displayed above the stretching mahogany bar. Below the original photo is the handwritten caption “what is home without beer?” and nothing rings truer for Janet and her business partner/accountant Elissa Pryor. “The brewing community in Seattle is like a close knit family,” said Pryor. “If we’re low on something, it’s like asking your neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar. We have lots of friends we can rely on,” she said. Janet was constantly receiving compliments and requests after sharing samples of her home brews at parties, and in 2012 she knew it was time to go after her dream of opening a brewery of her own.
The space housing Spinnaker Bay once operated as a horse and buggy repair shop (more likely a pseudo brothel!) and had the perfect bones for a seamless transition into a brewery; plenty of ventilation, and good ol’ fashion raunchy charm. The unassuming location really opens up once you get inside, with a few tall bar tables to gab with friends in the front, across from a stage generally hosting some of the ladies’ local musician friends. The inviting aroma of churning hops fills the air, as all of their beer is brewed in huge casks on site. Hungry patrons can order individual pies from SODO pizza to soak up the suds before heading out the door, or grab a bite from whatever food truck is parked out front.
But OMG THOSE BEERS. After sampling an array of Janet’s recommendations, the standouts were by far the High Heel Imperial IPA, a citrus hoppy ale with a gentle smooth body, the Little Dingy Blonde, a seasonal German style ale featuring Cascade and Tettnager hops with a crisp clean finish and my favorite, the Coconut Porter. I’m not typically a huge fan of porters, but the sweet notes of coconut and honey pair quite nicely with the strong aromatic coffee flavor profile, a uniquely satisfying balanced blend. Plus the ladies throw a festive luau when it’s released, so what’s not to love? If you’re looking for a fun place outside the stuffy Seattle pub scene, make your way south and check out this gem nestled over in Hillman City. “There are so few breweries that can actually say they’re a part of the community,” said Spindler. “We could have opened in the city, but we’re happy to call Columbia City home.” Spinnaker’s is producing some of the best local varieties I’ve tasted this year, and it’s awesome to know the brains behind the beers are a group of badass talented ladies.