Lara Zahaba, co-owner of Stoup Brewery.
Stop by Stoup and see what’s on tap – Ballard brewery continues to grow
By Lindsay Peyton
Stoup Brewing is here to stay.
Lara Zahaba, who co-owns the establishment with her husband Brad Benson and friend Robyn Schumacher, dispelled rumors that the beloved Ballard brewpub might close its doors as a result of the property being sold to a new owner.
“The new landlord has taken over our lease – and they want us to stay,” Zahaba said. “They’re keeping us in the loop as they develop the property.”
Since 2013 when the business opened at 1108 NW 52 St., the craft beer production site and neighborhood gathering spot has steadily grown.
After a successful first year, a beer garden sprung up on the patio next to the building. The following summer, a fire pit was installed in the outdoor seating area.
Zahaba said construction is now under way for an event space upstairs.
“We were receiving a lot of requests to reserve space,” she said. “But we weren’t able to accommodate them because our taproom is small.”
That will change in the months ahead. “Our goal is to always be bringing something new and dynamic to the table,” Zahaba said.
The brewery’s offerings of beer on tap have also increased over the past few couple of years – from three on draught when the doors first opened to 15 now, plus a rotating selection of ciders. A rotating selection of food trucks serves up snacks to hungry beer lovers.
Lara Zahaba, (center) co-owns Ballard's Stoup Brewery with her husband Brad Benson (right) and friend Robyn Schumacher (left).
For Zahaba and Benson, the business has been a labor of love – and a longtime dream.
The two started dating just after graduating from college. “My husband and I have been beer lovers for our entire adult lives,” Zahaba said. “I would even say our relationship was founded over pub beer dates.”
She explained that Benson started brewing at home in his 20s and was exploring all the varieties around.
When Zahaba pursued her career in wine, focusing on sales, public relations and education, Benson worked for commercial brewers and even helped start a brewery in New Jersey.
After the two married and started a family, Benson returned to his career as a chemist.
“In 2012, the second craft beer wave hit Seattle,” Zahaba said. “That’s when we asked ourselves, ‘This is what we love; why aren’t we doing it?’ We started exploring our options and looking for property.”
They also became friends with Schumacher – a high school biology teacher looking for a major change.
“Robyn was exploring her passion for craft beer,” Zahaba said. “She was in an interim period, trying to make craft brewing her career.”
The three put their heads together and drafted up a business plan. “We said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s take a leap,” Zahaba recalled.
They found a property available right in their Ballard neighborhood, in the former Ness Cranes building.
“This was a garage,” Zahaba said. “We built out the whole thing.”
The business opened to customers in April 2013 – and the location proved to be ideal
Zahaba explained that Ballard has a number of breweries scattered within walking distance – a draw for tourists and locals alike.
“It’s definitely becoming a destination,” she said. “They come to Ballard, because they can experience so much Seattle beer in a small area.”
And customers keep coming in. “This is an appealing place to be,” Zahaba said. “There are a lot of families, a lot of dogs. We love our dedicated regulars. They come in for the company as much as the beer.”
She said that the craftsmanship is what sets Stoup beers apart.
Since both Benson and Schumacher have a background in science, they are precise when it comes to formulating flavors and crafting a top-notch product.
“It’s more than executing a recipe,” Zahaba said. “They understand exactly what’s happening every step of the way.”
Ballard resident Tim Taylor said the attention to detail sets the taproom apart. “They’re professionals,” he said. “A lot of people open a brewery because they’re passionate about it – but they have the science and technology down.”
Taylor has been a fan of Stoup since the beginning. “They were kind of the first Ballard neighborhood brewery that made really good beer,” he said. “Now Ballard has an awesome little beer scene – but Stoup is definitely one that people should hit before they leave Seattle.”
Taylor regularly recommends the pub to friends and guests who stay at his Airbnb. He even served the beer at his wedding. He enjoys stopping by a couple times a week to have a brew out on the patio.
“They’re good people – and to see them chase their dreams and come through on them, is super cool,” Taylor said.
For more information, visit www.stoupbrewing.com.