Photo by Shane Harms
After getting nationally recognized as an award winning home brewer, Adam and Grace Robbings have opened up shop in Ballard, so everyone can get a taste of their personally crafted beers.

Reuben's delivers beer with a personal touch

Owners Adam and Grace Robbings opened Reuben’s Brews August 5, further adding to the brewing trend in Ballard people have been calling the “Red Hook District.”

Robbings, originally from London, moved to Seattle in 2004. After the birth of his son, Reuben, Robbings said he started home brewing because he felt he could enhance flavors in many of the beers he was drinking. Coincidently, his first brewing kit was a gift from his son.

In 2010, Robbings won his first competition as a homebrewer in the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s (PNA) Winter Beer Taste, taking peoples choice award for his Roasted Rye PA against well known breweries like Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi. Later, Robbings also won Best of Show at the Skagit County Fair.

After Robbing’s win in Skagit County, he was invited to brew his recipe at the Anacortes brewery. Since that batch was brewed at a commercial brewery, Robbings was allowed to enter in the 2011 PNA Beer Taste, which had banned home brewers from participating. That year he won the peoples choice again with his American Brown. Following local victories, Robbing’s brown won silver on a national scale at the 2012 National Home Brew Conference.

Marked by overwhelming popularity after success in competitions, Robbings and Grace decided to open Reuben’s, but not with the typical tap room or commercial brewery mentality. They want to limit their distribution to local vendors but be nationally recognized, so that when people want to drink Reuben’s Brews they come to Ballard.

“Our goal is to make the best beer out of the best local ingredients, not to sell as much as we can,” said Robbings.

What’s more is that when people come to Reuben’s they are in for an education. Adam and Grace, who is an economics instructor at Bellevue College, have made the tap room also a classroom, where they encourage people to think about the flavors and the process in the beers.

The menu is an example of the Robbings’ educational goal, where specifics like the International Bitterness Units (IBU), alcohol by volume (ABV), original specific gravity (OG) and flavor profiles are clearly listed.

From the start Robbings has kept ingredients and materials local and sustainable. He uses grains and malt from Washington State and has used a recycled wood and plastic waste material called NewWood (manufactured in Elma, WA) to build much of the space.

Robbings, said the space was empty and had no sewer or running water. With the help of his in-laws, Michael and Liz Pfeiffer, they have refurbished the space into a vibrant room that functions as both brewery and urban tap room.

“I wanted to keep people close to the brewing equipment so when they ask about the beers I can literally show them [the equipment] a few feet away,” said Robbings.

Pfeiffer, a carpenter by trade, moved from Illinois to help in the construction of the space and brewery operations. He works as brewery manager and has a hand in every step in the brewing process all the way up to pouring taps. “I’m here from morning to night and assist Adam with everything,” said Pfeiffer.

“If you ask me the pumpkin brew is what brought Mike out here. He was drinking only Bud light before he tried it. Now he drinks nothing but micro brews,” said Robbings.

The Imperial Pumpkin Rye, which will be available in October, is one of many beers that distinguish Reuben’s brews from other breweries.

“There is a science and there is an art in brewing. We experiment with different yeasts and ingredients like molasses and toasted pumpkin seeds like in the pumpkin rye to bring complexity to flavor,” said Robbings.

Robbings said out of seven taps there are five different yeasts used and in the American Brown there are 8 different grains, creating depth and complexity in the flavors.

Since opening with five beers on tap on their opening day, Aug. 5, Robbings has added two more brews. Currently, tap tasters can look for the Roggenbier, American Rye, American Brown, Robust Porter, Dry Stout, Imperial IPA and the Imperial Rye IPA. A California Lager and an India Red Ale are on the way.

On his first visit, Kris Harness of Lake Forrest Park said he comes through Ballard for business and happened to discover Reuban’s Brews. Finishing his glass of Imperial IPA, Harness said the beer is bitter at the finish, but very smooth getting there. “If you like IPA’s your going to love this place,” Harness said.

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