Bothell, WA - A couple of weeks ago under a rainless but cloud filled sky, we made the journey to unincorporated King County to Bothell. As we were driving we couldn’t help but wonder why the map kept telling us that were were nearing a residential area. Finally after the last turn and seeing a private drive way we realized, we were visiting one of the first residential brewery of this year.
Getting out of the car we walked around the front and after finding a path we discovered what all those photos (featured on their website) were about. At the time of our visit we were in for a rare treat as owner and head brewer, Jim Jamison, was in the middle his second test batch. To those not familiar with the term, a test batch is what brewer’s employ whenever they start out with “new” equipment (used or in fact brand new) in order to understand the many temperaments. No two brewery systems are alike and in order to better understand how long before the kettle is hot, or how much water is displaced, one needs to produce a beer, even if it means pouring it down the drain later.
As we watched, Jim transferred the wort along with additional extract (recovered during the sparging process) into the nearby boiling kettle. If you’ve been to a brewery either inside a bricked, four walled, facility you have seen a breweries mechanics. Most employ a side by side configuration wherein the wort after boiling the grain, is transferred through a pump into the waiting boiling kettle for the next stage of brewing, hop additions. In Jim’s case he employs the most natural of forces, gravity to move his beer from the mash tun to the boiling kettle.
Watching the clock, Jim took some time, in between the cleaning and re-sterilizing of equipment, to speak to us regarding his experience in the industry as well as the inspiration for Foggy Noggin Brewing Co.
Jim Jamison started his adult life in Portland in the suburbs of Hillsdale. After graduating High School at Wilson High (class of 1978), he started down the path to acquire a degree in Finance and if possible a Master in Business (or MBA). He attended college at Oregon State University for three years, before leaving the state run school for Portland State University, in search of the elusive degree. It was here that he finished his studies acquiring a degree in Finance.
After college, Jim began work as salesman while visiting some of his favorite pubs (including the Hillsdale Brewery and Alehouse) . During a visit to one of these such pubs an idea came to him in the form of a publication called Northwest Brew News. So with a goal of filling a void that existed for information craving, craft beer drinkers, Jim started this publication (as a hobby) in 1994. During this same time he compiled a book on the subject of reviewing craft beer in the Northwest. Sadly though in 1997 Jim sold the newspaper and started focusing full time on the brew kit his wife Kim, gave him in the Christmas of 1992.
During those early years of home brewing, Jim could be found not only giving away free beer, to his friends and family, but also developing special gifts of beer. An example of this was a beer he dubbed Christmas Goose which was a dry hopped version of his soon to be release Duck, stored in Champagne bottles. The beer became such a success that he started brewing it all year. Chances are If you asked Jim how many beer styles he has brewed since 1992, he would run out of room in the fridge to store them all.
But, it wasn’t until as his children were beginning to come of age (21) that he started down the path of becoming a production brewer. Starting in 2007 he began researching the necessary paperwork, rules and regulations (ex. you are not allowed to claim a garage as a brewery if any of its walls share with a residence) in order to register as a state brewery.
With the discussion continuing, we couldn’t help but admire the brewery system with its “build-your-own” appearance. Featured towards the entrance was a half-barrel (140 pints) fermenter, which was manufactured at a nearby corrections facility. Seated next to this was a hot liquor tank created out of a half barrel (or keg) of beer. Further down the line was a mash tun and boil kettle which completed the brewery. All of this was fascinating as I watched Jim’s son Matthew pitch in the first addition of hops.
Throughout the conversation Jim’s son Matthew (graduate of Washington State University) was found performing the familiar heavy work of an assistant, including the disposal of the spent grain. The grain, as most would assume was donated to a farmer in Snohomish County, with a small amount withheld for the Jamison’s 14 year old Lab. Cruz.
As the hop additions were added, contributing to the flavor, aroma, and finish we started to realize much like the beer our conversation would have to be put away for another time. As we started our way out the door we inquired about Jim’s immediate future plans, regarding the brewery. He has indicated that starting maybe this weekend (January 23rd) they will begin production brewing. Mid March (20th?) you can expect to visit the brewery and get a monogrammed (or your own) growler of Foggy Noggin, to take home and enjoy. In the meantime take heart knowing that all it takes to become a professional brewer in the Northwest, is a homebrew habit, and a desire to brew from your backyard.
About the photos’ author
Paul “Fruit Trees” Orchard, is an amateur craft beer enthusiast and amateur photographer. Throughout the many years in craft beer he is always carrying a camera (smartphone, digital, traditional) and is invites you to see that beer can also be exciting even if you can’t drink the photo.