Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen

By Will Kemper, Brewmaster

About thirty years ago, I visited the brewmaster of the now-defunct Rainier Brewery in Seattle. I had a passion for brewing, mostly developed from years as a homebrewer. I had a degree in chemical engineering and hoped that with this foundation I could find a way to become a professional brewer. At that time, the industry was in a state of serious consolidation and craft brewing was essentially non-existent. The brewmaster was a very courteous man who explained that the only way into brewing was to be born in it. In other words, it came through family.

Completely unsatisfied to accept this reality, and knowing that a brewery such as New Albion existed, it seemed reasonable and logical to open my own brewery. This example may show that while engineers are extremely analytical and inquisitive, we can also be naïve and essentially stupid. My involvement and eventual departure from Thomas Kemper, the brewery I set up, was a significant good news/bad news scenario.

The bad news was that I experienced much of the negative side of the beer business—the part that does not deal with beer. Unfortunately, contrary to what many people believe, my wife, Mari and I received virtually nothing from that enterprise.

The good news is that it forced us to go places far and away just to make a living. Traveling the world and experiencing breweries, beers, procedures, and techniques which can be very different from US breweries has greatly added to my overall understanding of brewing. Hopefully, my involvement with projects home and abroad has been positive enough to add to the larger craft brewing movement. In my experiences with places where craft brewing had not had a foothold, there is an initial skepticism leading to fascination which ultimately becomes a passion. This is fun stuff, and since good beer is involved, the mood is enhanced.

Chuckanut Brewery represents a convergence of technical and engineering concepts developed from over two decades of professional involvement with craft brewing both home and abroad. Many ideas and techniques implemented are not commonly, if at all, used in America. It is a small facility, but it has features which are large in capability. For example, most everything is computer controlled and driven. The precision and variability (e.g. all motors) provide for ease and efficiency of production.

My head brewer, Josh Pfriem, who previously worked with a wonderful brewery, Utah Brewers Cooperative, as well as our assistant brewer/salesperson, Jim Parker, should also be recognized for their immense contribution to our brewery. Their input and ideas are a big reason I have not veered too far as yet.


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