Not long after Anheuser-Busch purchased Elysian Brewing early last year, I learned about an Elysian brewer named Steve Luke and his plan to open Cloudburst Brewing. At first I thought it was one of those ship-jumping scenarios we’ve seen before, but Luke’s plans had been in the works well before A-B’s acquisition of Elysian. Once word spread about Cloudburst, it quickly became one of the most anticipated breweries to open in Seattle.
Before Luke worked at Elysian (for four years), he garnered experience and skills at Allagash, Cambridge House Brewpub, and Rogue’s Issaquah Brewhouse. He also a graduated from UC Davis’s Master Brewers Program.
In a Washington Beer Blog article, writer Kendall Jones summed up Luke’s time at Elysian well:
“Steve Luke worked as the brewer at Elysian Fields where he devised some of Elysian Brewing’s best-loved brews, like Dayglow IPA, Space Dust IPA, Split Shot Stout, and the infamous Gourgia on my Mind, the pumpkin-peach ale Budweiser canonized in a Super Bowl commercial as an example of an overly fussy beer.”
Jan. 7, 2016, Cloudburst Brewing finally opened in an old building a couple blocks north of Pike Place Market. After visiting the brewery twice, I have concluded that it truly lives up to the hype. Cloudburst beers are not only delicious, they’re also fun and interesting.
The taproom is somewhat small, rustic and simple — the complete opposite of “fussy.” The tap list is written on large sheets of brown paper. Taps are designated with tags held by clothespins. Wood beams have a distressed, whitewashed look, as if designed by the couple from the TV show, Fixer Upper.
The taproom, which spills part way into the brewhouse (with an oversized, 10-barrel system that can yield up to 15-barrel batches), may be a little raw for some, but it’s laid-back and quaint.
Unlike most breweries that brew the same beers over and over, it sounds like Luke plans to brew whatever strikes his fancy, so I’m sure the dozen taps will rotate often. On my visits, there were a wide variety of styles on tap, though it was heavily weighted toward darker brews (e.g., a briny oyster stout, a coffee porter, and a nitro milk stout) and IPAs – four different IPAs, in fact, plus a dry-hopped pilsner.
Also on tap was a well-made Market Fresh Saison flavored with fresh cranberries and sage. This saison was spicy and peppery with estery notes of lemon and orange, malt flavors of fresh-baked bread and sweet grains, and a pleasant bitterness. The Market Fresh Saison will change from batch to batch, based on “whatever looks good” to Luke at the Pike Place Market. I hear the second batch will be made with grapefruit and rosemary.
Pigeonhole IPA was crisp, snappy and dry, with bready malt flavors and an assertive, grapefruity bitterness.
Flashing Lights IPA had a bright and fruity nose, a lively carbonation, a balanced and citrusy bitterness, and a bone-dry finish.
No Recess IPA was hazy and a bit chewy, similar to many of the new-school IPAs from New England. It had a doughy maltiness with a subtle sweetness complemented by a mild to moderate bitterness. Hop flavors and aromas wafted with tangerine, apricot and grapefruit.
A cloudburst is a sudden and unexpected downpour of rain. Beyond just being a “fun” word, Luke says he named his brewery Cloudburst because he hopes people will find his beers unexpectedly delicious — like a downpour of flavor. I think it’s a fitting name because that was my experience with them.
The Cloudburst Brewing taproom is located at 2116 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, and it’s open from Wednesday through Saturday from 2-10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 8 p.m. For more info, visit cloudburstbrew.com or facebook.com/cloudburstbrewing.