Cloudburst Brewing on Western Avenue opens to beery fanfare.
The day before Cloudburst Brewing opened, dozens of brewers and beer bloggers gathered in the new tasting room to congratulate owner Steve Luke, one of the industry’s young talents.
He’s hard to miss. Luke sported a ski cap and salmon-colored pants. With his mountain-man beard and a parentheses of a shaggy mane, the dude looked like he just came from a Phish concert.
“Oh, thanks,” he said repeatedly upon receiving pats on the back and congratulatory handshakes from a list of who’s who in the beer scene, including Seattle Beer Week founder Ian Roberts and beer writer Kendall Jones.
Located two blocks north of Pike Place Market, Cloudburst debuted last Thursday, but I could have sworn it had been open for months. It’s all I’ve been hearing about at breweries and beer halls since last fall. It’s easily the most anticipated brewery opening in recent memory.
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The 7,000-square-foot warehouse with an 11-tap tasting room showcases a rotating list of IPAs from a traditional Seattle variation that’s piney with maltiness (called Old Flame) to a robust IPA with pineapple notes (Flashing Lights).
Even his pilsner tastes hoppy. But they go down easy for such boozy, bitter concoctions, a sign of good craftsmanship.
Luke learned to brew at the esteemed Allagash Brewing Co. in Maine. But he made his reputation the past four years toiling with recipe development and experimental suds for Elysian Brewing Co. (The much talked about Space Dust IPA and Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout were his recipes.)
Looking for the next challenge, the 32-year-old brewer realized the way to get creative freedom was to run his own shop. Thus, Cloudburst was born.
It’s been his funhouse laboratory. Luke even brewed with 20 pounds of oyster shells to get “the calcium and mineral notes” to make a briny stout.
He started a series of “Fresh Market” saisons, where he strolls along the stalls at Pike Place Market to find his muse, lugging along a dolly to fill with fruits and herbs. Those shopping expeditions resulted in beers brewed with grapefruit and rosemary and his celebrated cranberry-and-sage saison.
His latest market-inspired beer, a habañero-and-mango saison, will be on tap next month.
“That’s what’s fun for me,” said Luke. “A lot of breweries make the same beers over and over. They have an organized core brand. I didn’t want to be constricted by anything. I want to brew whatever I want to brew. That might not make good business sense, but I want to be creative and explore.”
Cloudburst Brewing, 2116 Western Ave. Beers range from $4-$6. Other than crackers, no food is served, but patrons are encouraged to bring their own snacks. Dog-friendly (206-602-6061 or cloudburstbrew.com).