Kent, WA - Although we are already into the third month of the new year, there have already been some changes in the economic landscape. During this past year, we have seen all manner of business created, some obvious, some not so much. The brewing industry is very much like the bakery, or the textile, or the popcorn vendor, all trying to make a living, through self reliance. It already been reported that in Washington state there are several new breweries each fighting for that coveted handle.
Last week while many of you were taking in some of the soon-to-be official Spring weather, we took a drive to Kent. Known as the town next to Renton, this city has held an attraction, with its large warehouses, its business campuses, and now a brewery. Located just off Hwy 167 and a few miles short of Pacific's Trade Route Brewing, is a small brewery soon to take off. Airways Brewing, which was founded last year, is another in a line of breweries with a focus on starting small with gradual growth. Founded by the enthusiasm of Alex Dittmar, and engineered by the capable hands of Jameson Gesford, the brewery's focus is on English-styled ales despite its owner's heritage-sake.
As we thought about all the things we wanted to see and discuss with them, we couldn’t help but first notice the entrance to the brewery, a tasting room.
Walking in through the doors, one cannot help be thankful for the simplicity of the wooden furniture, the well placed paintings, and even the brewery’s logo stenciled on the wall, near the entrance to the brewery. Of course one cannot be shocked by the sheer size of the tap handles, made from actual door handles from a retired Boeing 747. Looking further around we noticed the entrance to the brewery where took the opportunity to walk into the area. It was during this time while they were in the middle of brewing a batch of ESB that we took the chance to learn more about Airways, Alex, and Jameson.
If you met Alex anywhere else other than the brewery, you more than likely would not know who he was or what he did. However, if you have ever consulted with Alaska Air and their website for travel arrangements, then you already know him. After 15 years invested as one of Alaska's graphic designers, Alex has spent a good chunk of his adult life, in the air in one mode or another. When he is not working on designs for the airline, he is found being a "warm-up" comic at a comedy club or brewing a batch of English-style Ale at home. One of the interesting things we learned about Alex was that his mother's maiden name was Pabst and with a name such as that, one would presume a German influence in brewing. However, he has discovered that his passion for brewing lies with those in the Atlantic Isle and less from the land of Pliny.
However, Alex has long sought a refuge where his love of aircraft, the business of commercial travel, and brewing beer could be expressed. For Alex though it wasn't just aviation that filled his days, but also the love of brewing a good beer. Soon to be opened to the public will be a 18 person tasting room, brilliantly decorated with photos and other aircraft memorabilia, that reminds you of a time when air travel was romantic and fun.
His "sidekick" (if you will) Jameson when asked why he was invested, he responded in his own words, it was all about the opportunity to build something. Speaking with Jameson you wouldn't be disappointed with this cosmopolitan's knowledge. A self-taught engineer by trade, it was his experience and hands that were responsible for everything from the bar top and 747 door handle taps to the refrigeration room, all built from scratch. Most of his demonstrated knowledge comes from years of loving math and science, as well as time spent under a very handy father. However, he would not be without his own stories of beer, as a man who grew up in Union Gap, just a few miles away from the hop fields of Yakima. During his time spent studying business management and a short lived study in theology, he had a brief stint as security detail for hop distributor, Hop Union. When we asked Jameson whether he brewed or consumed, he produced an enthusiastic yes to brewing, but tempered it with the realities of being a proud parent.
It became clear as we spoke to both of the guys, that this wasn’t just a brewery, but also two men’s enthusiasm, one for brewing and one for building. As we continued our conversation (albeit with the occasional timer going off reminding of another hop addition), we learned much from them, including the release data of their opening, March 11th. But regrettably, we soon realized that much like the beer that was kegged in the cooler, or the beer in waiting for the last hop additions, this conversation had to end. We soon said our good byes, took a few last photos, and began our journey to the car, departing the brewery, Alex, and Jameson.
March 11th, 2010 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Grand Opening, Airways Brewery & Tasting Room
6644 S 196th St #T-100 Kent, WA, 98032
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.