I first heard of Ghostfish Brewing while looking for a pre-Mariner’s game activity in early spring of this year. Ghostfish is a gluten free brewery from Seattle, WA. In my search for new breweries near Safeco Field, I came across the newly opened Ghostfish Brewing Company. Unable to make it to the brewery before the game, I made a point to learn more about it. Not long after, I was contacted by the good people at The Local. Brian Theil, of Ghostfish, was coming into town to spread the good word.
Aubrey and I reached out to Brian and he gave us a little insight into Ghostfish. Here’s what he had to say.
Where does the name Ghostfish come from?
The Ghostfish Brewery project has been in the making for approximately 3 years. Early on in the initial planning stages, my business partner, Randy and I were trying to come up with a name for the brewery. We had pages upon pages of names. Some good, some not so good, and some not worthy of mentioning. However, nothing was really resonating with either of us.
To understand the rest of this story, it is worth nothing that my wife and I live in Northeastern Tacoma in an area known as Brown’s Point. Brown’s Point is located at the mouth of the Port of Tacoma. We live in an old beach house that was built sometime during the late 1940’s. The house is literally built upon a bulkhead that holds back the encroaching tides of the Puget Sound. During high tide the water level is approximately 4-5 ft below our living room windows.
Around this time, I had a good friend (Richard) visiting me from Colorado. Richard and I had enjoyed dinner and a few beers at the Harmon Brewery in Tacoma before landing back at my home. While I slipped into my house, Richard decided to hang outside on our patio area overlooking the calm waters of the Puget Sound and taking in the star-filled late July sky. After some time, Richard entered the house with the most bewildered look on his face and said “I just saw a glowing fish swim right in front of your house!”. Naturally, I called him nuts and reminded him that we hadn’t had that much to drink. However, he convinced me to follow him back outside to take a look for myself. For approximately 30 minutes, I didn’t see anything except for the beauty of the calm waters gently splashing against the side of our bulkhead. As I was getting ready to head back inside and “thank” Richard one last time for the silly prank he played on me, I noticed a large glowing object gliding towards me underneath the clear water while leaving a trailing and dissipating glow behind it. This entire event took no more than 30 seconds, but it felt like it glided by in slow-motion The hair on my arms was standing straight up when I turned to my friend and asked “What the “@&%*” was that?!?”. Richard’s quick response was “ I “%$@*in” told you so!! We quickly jolted inside and jumped on my laptop to see what the Internet had to say about the phenomenon that we both just witnessed.
The next morning, I phoned Randy to share what Richard and I had experienced the night before, but not before heading him off at the pass by acknowledging that I already knew he would give me a load of flack about what I was about to share with him. Nevertheless, I explained to Randy that we saw a glowing, “ghostfish” swim right in front my house the night before. As expected, Randy had a good laugh and called us both crazy.
Approximately an hour after my phone call with Randy, the phone rang again with a call back from Randy. Upon answering, Randy simply stated “Ghostfish Brewing Company”. I responded with “I love it!!”.
Now, the truth to the matter is whatever we witnessed underneath the water that evening, whether it was a harbor seal or a large fish, obviously swam through a flurry of dinoflagellates. This disturbance caused these bioluminescent organisms to flash, hence creating the trailing glow around and behind the swimming object. However, we’ve been having a good time explaining to our taproom patrons how the “Ghostfish” might be responsible for a lot of the mysterious Puget Sound legends over the last hundreds of years.
What types of beers do you specialize in?
Our current flagship beers include our Watchstander Stout, Vanishing Point Pale, Shrouded Summit Witbier, and Grapefruit IPA. I would say that we specialize in pushing the boundaries of gluten-free beer as we’ve had nearly every style of beer roll through our taproom within our ever-expanding experimental beer list.
Why did you decide to brew gluten free beers?
(Brian) My wife (Amber) was diagnosed with Celiac disease approximately 7 years ago. As a beer lover, Celiac disease felt like a “beer death sentence” to her. The early stages of our brewery project did not involve brewing gluten-free beer. In fact, it was only after I returned from the Great American Brewing Festival in Denver one year that I threw out the idea of becoming a dedicated gluten-free brewery to my business partner Randy. My reasoning for brewing gluten-free beer was based on the reality of becoming another brewery in an increasingly crowded industry doing pretty much the same as every other brewery OR doing something significant in a segment that desperately lacked the authenticity of craft beer. Fortunately, Randy agreed with this line of thinking.
What were some of the main reasons you chose to can your beer?
The decision to can our beer was a no-brainer. We spend so much time focused on the quality of our beers in our brewery and we wanted to insure that people would be able to have the same quality taste experience outside of our place. There really is no debate that aluminum cans are the best package for beer and we wanted the best for our beer! Additionally, with all the incredible outdoor activities that are available in Washington we wanted to make sure that our customers would be able to take our beer with them. Cans are the perfect companions for hiking, biking, fishing, camping, exploring, etc., etc.
How are your beers being received?
Our beers have been received extremely well in the marketplace. We are currently in over 70 retail locations as far North as Bellingham and Olympia to the South.
We have a spacious taproom that can seat nearly 100 guests. Our entire operation resides within a building that was built in 1926 as a steel foundry. We worked hard to bring that industrial spirit back to life in our taproom. We typically have 7-10 beers on tap that we produce as well as a few guest ciders and one guest craft “gluten” beer. Although a later phase of our project may involve a full dedicated gluten-free kitchen, we currently serve 10 different gluten-free pizzas within our taproom.
Are you getting a big response from gluten-intolerant folk and/or those with Celiac disease?
There hasn’t been a week go by since opening our taproom back in early February (2015) that we haven’t been warmed by stories of people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance that have “re-discovered” beer through Ghostfish Brewing. We never tire of welcoming these people back to the beer game. However, truth be told, a large percentage of our customers either don’t know that we make gluten-free beer and/or don’t care. They keep coming back because they love our beer. This is what puts the biggest smiles on our faces because we really are focused on making beer that everyone can enjoy.
Where can we find your beers in Bellingham?
You were visiting a few weeks ago. When can we expect you back in Bellingham?
If not sooner, we’ll be returning to Bellingham to participate in the upcoming “Yes, We CAN!” event on the 4th of July. We look forward to sharing our beers and making lots of new friends during this event!