Reuben's Brews, which occupies a modest space just north of the historic Bardahl's sign, has a leading force in Ballard's brewery scene in its first year.
Reuben's Brews: Looking back at a year of success, challenges
By Adam Robbings, founder of Reuben's Brews
In November 2011, my wife Grace and I took a leap of faith.
We signed a lease on an empty warehouse at 1406 NW 53rd St. The place had no water or gas. The plan? To open a brewery.
At the time, we had only late night conversations with Mike Pfeiffer, our brother in law and now brewer, about moving to Seattle if we did ever open a brewery. It could easily have been cheap talk after a few brews. But his commitment to our dream was a key factor in us making the leap of faith, which eventually led to Reuben's Brews opening our doors on Sunday, August 5, 2012.
Looking back at our first year since opening, it feels like we've always been open -- but it also feels like we opened just yesterday.
We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support we've received from the Ballard community and beyond in our first year. People have been willing to try our new, unknown brews and have also offered us their fervent support and encouragement. That support has helped us grow in our first year -- customers requesting our brews at their other favorite watering holes is the reason you can find us on tap at many bars and restaurants around town. We are proud to have stuck to our vision of focusing on our beers and opening the tasting room so we could hear firsthand the opinions and wishes of our customers and supporters. We are also proud to be part of an exciting and growing group of Ballard brewers.
I've also been surprised at and incredibly proud of the recognition we've received among the brewing community as well, no small feat for such a small team, just myself and Mike for the majority of the year. (Please join us in welcoming Ryan Downey as the newest member of the Reuben's team!)
Reuben's Brews was the top rated brewery on the west coast in the U.S. Beer Open in 2013, which consisted of over 2,500 beers and 300 breweries. In the 2013 Washington Beer Awards, we came home with the highest number of medals awarded to any brewery and were runner up for best small brewery. We've also won nine medals in the World Beer Championships, and two at the North American Beer Awards.
These successes have come with a lot of hard work. The sheer effort needed just to open our doors (with licensing, permitting and building, on top of the brewing) seemed insurmountable at times. The work of owning a small business is something one can't appreciate until one has attempted it for herself, but it is all consuming. We would be lying if we said we didn't sometimes wonder why we ever undertook such a challenge.
But this leads to why you open a brewery: Because you love to brew. It's almost two years since we signed the lease on our space, and I still haven’t drawn a paycheck. It's not for the money. It's for the satisfaction of handcrafting something that people enjoy. It’s for the pride you get when people come up to you and thank you for what you've crafted. It’s for the person who you meet at the coffee shop who says that you inspired them to homebrew with more rye. It’s for being able to launch our “Thank You Thursday” program, giving back to the community every week.
But every time someone thanks me for what I've done, I can only thank them for their support. It’s extremely humbling being thanked for something you enjoy to do. Reuben's Brews wouldn't exist without the incredible community we live in.
Thank you Ballard for an amazing first year. And cheers to many more!
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