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Pike Brewing Company

In 2010, we wrote an in-depth article about Pike Brewing and founders/owners Charles and Rose Ann Finkel. The two-part article ended with a look at what they felt the future held. As they celebrate their 30th anniversary this year (October 17, 2019), we catch up on what's happened.

In 2015, Charles and Rose Ann added three new owners. With their mission of creating a 100-year-old craft brewery, there obviously needed to be a succession plan. European models showed generations of family members keeping things running. Charles and Rose Ann's two children chose not to take over the reins. To remain an independent craft brewery, they needed to offer ownership to long-term, dedicated employees who had helped them succeed.

Drew Gillespie has become President and Owner. He started as a line cook in the Pike Pub when he was 19. He moved to the front of the house and ultimately performed every job in the Pub, becoming the GM. He has worked in packaging at the brewery and has shadowed head brewer Art Dixon, although he doesn't brew himself. "There have been a lot of lessons learned over the years," says Drew. "I always like something different and challenging to experience. I'm going on 21 years with Pike and those challenges have always been provided."

l-r, Drew Gillespie, Patti Baker, Charles Finkel, Rose Ann Finkel, Gary Marx

Patti Baker is now Vice President, Controller, and Owner. She was the bookkeeper and office manager and grew to handle all the finances and administer the 401(k) and medical insurance programs. She also processes the orders for Pike's direct sale retail and wholesale customers.

Gary Marx is the Executive Chef and Owner. He has run the Pike Pub since the day it opened in 1996. He researches and develops menu items, oversees the staff and food quality in the kitchen, and created the culture of looking for local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients first.

Charles and Rose Ann are Board Chairs and remain owners. They are still deeply involved, just not with the everyday operational details. "They are here multiple times every week, email every day, do all the design work, come to all the tasting meetings, and go to events around town," says Drew. "They enjoy it; they're really not the types to retire.

"Philosophically and emotionally, we're a brewery and that's what drives the company," explains Drew. "The sheer number of breweries nationally (7,500) and in Washington (500) has grown exponentially. 50% of beer consumed is craft beer. That's wonderful, but it has changed what you need to do to be successful. Before, you had a brand and you built that brand. With so much consumer education now, which we've always wanted, and customers who want to try something new, you have to continually find ways to keep people interested. We've gone with a two-handed approach: embrace our history and create limited and rotator beer. We still make our original beer, Pike Place Ale, and have eight year-round beers. Our Pike Third Story Series is our experimental line where we do things like Belgium Quad three ways: regular, blackberry, and one we age in Copperworks Distillery gin barrels. We make 30-40 different beers each year. We keep Pike Stout not because it's a sales driver but because it pairs wonderfully with food. IPAs were IPAs because they had both hoppiness as well as bitterness. Now you can have an IPA that doesn't have the bitterness. IPA has become a hodge podge of different beers under one umbrella." When you're visiting Pike Brewing, the knowledgeable staff helps you get through all this, plus there are samplers. You can start with the year round beers or jump into what's on tap (which constantly changes).

For their 30th anniversary, they created Pike Reunion IPA by having past and present Pike brewers collaborate. It was a limited release available for a few months starting in September. They also had a "30 Beers for 30 Years" promotion in October where people could taste archived/aged beer and barley wine not available at other times. If you picked up your punch card and manage to have 30 pints by the end of the year, you could win a varsity-style sweater.

Brewers Dick Cantwell, Kevin Forhan, Charles Finkel, Kim Brusco, Jason Parker, Adam Orick

Pike has changed from bottles to aluminum cans. "Cans are the wave of the future, economically and environmentally," explains Drew. "We tested glass and cans for two years. In October 2018 we bought our own canning line. By early 2019, we had switched totally to cans." At the same time, they updated their packaging.

Between 2013 and 2015, they expanded the brewery, adding fermentation tanks downstairs to increase capacity. In July of 2017, they opened Tankard & Tun, a seafood-focused restaurant and oyster bar. "About one third of that project was about adding fermentation capacity upstairs. The restaurant concept was a way to offer a different experience pairing food and beer, but food that can't be served in a pub. Menu items are hyper-local, we call it 'elevated' dining as a double entendre, both higher level from pub food and because it's upstairs."

Pike's team has plenty of experience running a restaurant but opening a new one was a different kettle of fish, as it were. "You have to listen to your customers or you won't make it. We thought seafood only, but people wanted a burger. So although we have a burger in both restaurants, they're quite different from each other." Tim Taggart, the executive sous chef of Pike Pub, took over as head chef of Tankard & Tun at the end of September. "We like to promote from within," says Drew. "Tim has been with the Pub for seven years. We did a study and found that one third of the employees have been with us for over five years. 15% of employees have been with us for over 10 years. We work hard to create an atmosphere that encourages people to stay and be part of the family."

Tankard & Tun dishes

Predictions for Pike's future? "We don't plan to brew offsite. If you brew in two places, the beer will taste different. There's a nuance and art to brewing beer. Having expanded twice, we don't feel we'll need to do it again any time soon. We want to be here and do it right, and take opportunities as they come: right one, right time."

Photos courtesy of Pike Brewing Company

Connie Adams/November 2019

Pike Brewing Company
1415 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101

The Pike Pub, 206-622-6044
Tankard & Tun, 206-812-6619
Pike Brewery, 206-622-3373

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