Announced this past week, after years of operating as public house and brewery, Hale’s Ales is consolidating their restaurant to become a taproom. As of January 4th, 2018, guests should no longer expect weekend breakfast or weekly lunch and dinners. Instead, the brewery will feature a limited menu of sandwiches and snacks, paired with their award-winning ales and lagers.
For those with families, the brewery will host an all-ages section, while those of drinking age can also continue visiting the bar. Both designated areas will support delivery/takeaway food from nearby restaurants, as well as offerings from the limited in-house menu. In addition to children, the brewery will have an area for those with pets.
For Mike Hale and his wife Kathleen, the decision to transition into a taproom recognizes the brewery and pub needed to adapt to the increasing competition before it was too late.
Since 1996, Hale’s Ales has remained a sentinel for English-style ales, featured in their English-inspired public-house, at 4301 Leary Way NW, in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Along the way, the brewery championed styles like Cream Ale and Pale Ale, long before the local brewery landscape matured to what it is today. In spite of the surge, Hale’s Ales enjoyed the support of hungry drinkers seeking the comfort of carpeted floors, complemented by traditional wooden tables and chairs.
Recalling what inspired the decision to close the kitchen, co-owner Mike Hale would point to numerous indicators starting with Seattle’s liberal philosophy of taxing residents and businesses to fund social services. In addition to the city’s aggressive taxes, the $15 an hour mandate coupled with federal regulations against distributing gratuity between the kitchen, bar, and restaurant, created a semi-hostile environment for his staff. Plus, with a neighborhood becoming predisposed with new restaurants, Hale’s Ale core support has been reduced to a gallery of loyal drinkers with lineages going back decades.
The transition from a restaurant and pub into a taproom isn’t the only metamorphosis going on at the brewery.
As part of the streamlining efforts, including hospitality costs, the brewery has hired graphic design agency Blind Tiger to modernize Hale’s Ales for a new generation of drinkers. No doubt you’ve seen updated cans and bottles, lining the shelves with familiar names like “Billsner” and “Mongoose”. In addition to the much-needed facelift, the brewery is releasing a new series of India Pale Ales, curated from their 15 Minutes of Fame series. If the initial reaction to the new labels is an indication of renewed interest in Hale’s, the new IPAs will restore a business that’s slowly been declining.
Humbly, now in his seventh decade, Hale reassures everyone that his focus has been and always will be on the beer. Over time, if the taproom proves successful and a need exists, Mike and Kathleen might consider restoring the kitchen. Until then, the hope is that guests will continue supporting one of Seattle’s oldest breweries, now a bit leaner on your waistline.
Hale’s Ales Taproom initial hours are Tuesday thru Sunday, 3 pm to 10 pm. For more information call (206) 782-0737, during regular business hours.