It’s a common misconception that it always rains in Seattle, but with Washington based brewery Redhook nearby, we can definitely say it always pours. I had the chance to sit down with Redhook Innovation Brewer Nick Crandall and discuss the East Coast-West Coast rivalry, Soccer Supporters, and of course, blondes!
The Brewery – First question, research indicates that Redhook opened in 1981, is that correct?
Nick – That is correct. We were craft before there was craft.
And how long have you been with Redhook?
I’ve been here for three years now.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Let’s see, I’m a brewer. I studied Environmental Science in college. I got into home brewing. I took a job at Vander Bay which is a small brewpub in Bellingham where I was going to school. Up in north western Washington. And then I did that for about 3 years. Then I made it to Redhook. I’ve been here, climbing up, taking more responsibilities as I go.
So, Redhook brews on the East Coast (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) and the West Coast (Woodinville, Washington), are you making America fight a two front beer war?
Well, I don’t think we’re making America fight. I think we’re arming ourselves to deliver to both sides of America evenly.
And you work out of the Washington Brewery.
Yeah, we’re here in Woodinville, Washington which is just outside of Seattle. It’s a little bit more rural so we could get a bigger facility. So we can have a high volume production.
Which Redhook brewery was opened first?
This one. There’s been 3 breweries in the Seattle area over time. We started off in a transmission shop. Then moved over into a trolley station 8 years later. And then in 1994 we built this facility that I’m at now. Each time going up in size. And then in 96 they basically took the architecture plans for this place and duplicated it on the East Coast for Portsmouth. There’s differences there, but it’s pretty similar.
So… just between us, which coast is making the better beer?
(Laughs) We try to make our beer as close to the same every time. We’re making some beer here, they’re making some beer there. I of course personally love the projects that I get to have an influence on, so… I don’t know.
That’s fair. We’ll call it a draw.
(Laughs) Okay, that’s a good way of putting it.
Do you know where the name “Redhook” came from?
It’s kind of a simple story. One of our founders is Gordon Bowker who also started Starbucks, well a co-founder of Starbucks. And he really likes words that end with a hard “K”. And so they were throwing off a whole bunch of stuff like that and the neighborhood where the brewery was originally out of was heavily populated with fisherman. It’s sort of a dock region there. So the “hook” fit and as far as I know, the story is that the “Red” was just randomly chosen. It wasn’t necessarily of any great significance at that point.
What’s your favorite Redhook offering right now, and why?
Let’s see, right now… we’re doing these beers in the Explorer Pack, which is a mixed 12 pack. There’s a Kona beer and a Widmer beer and one of our Redhook beers. And I think right now Blondage is the beer that we’re making for Redhook that is my favorite. It’s a hoppy blonde ale. Slightly dried hopped, it’s got some citrus notes, and it’s just really easy to drink. It’s a nice crisp spring beer.
So, are all of the workers at Redhook called “Hookers”?
(Laughs) Yep, pretty much.
You have the title “Innovation Brewer”, is that an awesome job?
Yeah, it is a lot of fun. It’s a relatively new title in our company. So there’s about 5 or 6 people in the company that have this title. I’m the only one at this location, at Woodinville. Essentially I’m in charge of new developments and bringing in new recipes and executing them. Sometimes there’s you know, some interesting ingredients and I try to source them and try to figure out how they fit into the beer, into the process, what steps and putting in the appropriate amount. It keeps me on my toes, but I think I have the best job in the company.
Then what would be the best part of your day?
The best part of my day is usually just coming into the brewery and smelling everything, the malts. If we’re making a new beer I always get excited about, you know, putting a new recipe together and getting to taste the first one coming out. If we’re making adjustments, that whole process is a lot of fun for me.
Speaking of new beers, one of your newer beers, the No-Equal Blonde is the 2nd Beer brewed in collaboration with the Emerald City Supporters. Have those collaborations been enjoyable?
Yeah, they’ve been great. It’s easier to make a beer when you’re also one of the fans. It’s fun to see these interactions where you get to work with the community that you’re making a beer for. And then you get some of their input. Being able to come up with a product that’s what they’re looking for in a hands on fashion, and not just putting it out there and telling everyone “It’s great!” You’re actually doing a little collaboration with them, so it makes it pretty nice. The first two years we did the No-Equal Amber, and now we’re switching it up to a Blonde Ale. Putting it in six packs, pretty excited about it.
Bottle, Pint or Can, what’s your favorite way to drink a beer?
I’d definitely say pint. There’s nothing like it, I mean, it’s always awesome. You have a higher degree that you can have a fresher product if you’re getting it off the draft. I have a 5 tap kegorator at home so, that’s definitely my preferred method.
What’s next for Redhook?
What’s next? We’re just going to continue to grow and continue to make collaborations between different businesses and partners and see more of the collaborations like what we have Buffalo Wild Wings and the Dan Patrick Show. More of that stuff. There’s a couple small local projects. We’ve got Sun Rye which is sort of the return of one of our favorite beers in a draft format in Washington, Oregon and Idaho I believe. Then I think, I believe there’s a similar project called The Backyard Project out of Portsmouth where they do small volume, unique brews and rotate through.
One final question, for a person who has never had any offering by Redhook before, what beer would want to “hook” them?
I would say Audible is definitely our gateway drug. I think that it can pull in people who aren’t necessarily already drinking craft beer into that market. It’s just a really solid beer to go. But if you’re already drinking craft, I’d say Longer Hammer as the second one, it’s really the heart and soul of what Redhook is.
As always, we thank Nick Crandall for this round. As Nick mentioned, you will definitely see a lot of Redhook collaborations coming up soon. I highly recommend a trip out to Buffalo Wild Wings for their collaboration beer Game Changer. No matter what coast you are on, be sure to grab some Redhook.