Skookum Brewery out of Arlington, WA is one of the fastest rising breweries in our region. At this year’s Washington Brewers Festival, Skookum beat out 130 other breweries to receive more tokens – beers poured – than any other brewery. They also won two silvers.
People want what they have. But they’ve been at this for a while. They celebrated a 10th Anniversary in January and have been growing steadily in the regional craft beer scene, with the rise of hazy North Eastern style beers. You can find Skookum occasionally on tap at Elizabeth Station. But they go fast.
Why is that? What’s all this commotion about?! In an effort to learn more, I reached out to Ron Walcher, Founder of Skookum Brewery to get some more answers about what they’re all about.
Spruce Juice brewed with mangos
Drupe Love Milk Stout, brewed with oats and toasted coconut
No Slice Hef brewed with fresh citrus
Cool Your Boots IPA, chinook and columbus
Pile-Up IPA, mosaic, nelson, amarillo and chinook
Here’s the full interview.
TT: What is your title? Give us Skookum’s history in a paragraph.
Ron Walcher: Owner/ operator/ head laborer. History: 10 barrel brewery based out of our farm from Jan. 2007 to 2012. Moving to the Prototype building at the old Bayliner facility by the Arlington Airport in 2012 to the present. We are still a 10 barrel brewery.
You used to brew for Skookum. Why was Hollis brought on board in 2011?
Hollis was hired after tasting some of his homebrew at Stilly Mashers meetings. His combinations of flavors and brewing techniques were at a high level despite being new to the home brew scene.
Skookum Brewery patio
Who else is on your team at Skookum and how would you describe the working atmosphere?
We have two other people at the brewery; David Kolbe, formerly of American Brewing, and, Max Neumann, formerly of Brickyard Brewing. The atmosphere at Skookum is relaxed with a really good work ethic.
You started with a 10bbl system. How big of a system do you have now and do you have any plans to increase in size? Do you have a barrel goal/estimate for 2017?
Increasing the size of our brewery is not an option right now for two reasons. One, we’re having so much fun making smaller batches (the main reason we started brewing in the first place) and two, why?
How many beers do you have on tap?
We have 16 taps with 14 of our own.
At the Washington Beer Festival Skookum had more tokens than any other brewery in Washington State. What was your most popular beer at the festival?
Vapour Trail IIPA was our most popular.
How do you explain Skookum’s growing popularity?
Our popularity can be attributed in part by our distributors passion for beer and some fantastic retailers that really know beer and for some crazy reason they like us.
How would you describe Skookum’s brewing style and what are your favorite beers that you have brewed?
I think our brewing style is in constant change. Yes, some people like a little consistency in their beer menu, but beer is food, I can’t eat a PB&J but once a year. Some of my favorite beers are ones that I haven’t brewed. If I had to pick, it would be Hopinoscopy. First time we used hop oils and I boiled the wort way too long and created a really big IIPA. Skookum brews lots of hazy pales and IPAs. Why have you chosen that style of beer and who do you count as influences in the industry?
Skookum brews lots of hazy pales and IPAs. Why have you chosen that style of beer and who do you count as influences in the industry?
The hazy IPA’s really lend themselves to hop flavor and aroma and allow more creativity in variety of grains since clarity is not an issue.
What has been the biggest change for Skookum in the past three years?
Our biggest change for Skookum is Distribution along the I-5 corridor and specialty beer shops getting access to us.
What is on the horizon for Skookum in the next two years? Cans? Different styles of beers? What’s coming?
Two things on the horizon; one, bottle conditioned beers, and two, more barrel conditioned bottling.
If a stranger were to come to Skookum, what one beer should they try?
I usually recommend one of our newest beers since they are ever changing and may not be there next week.
Do you expect to increase your distribution over the next 12months and will the Bellingham market be seeing more of you? If you do plan to increase distribution, where to and how much more?
Our distribution will increase slightly over the next 3 months only because we just purchased a 20 barrel Bright tank. Hopefully Bellingham can get a little more.