Trendsetting and trailblazing — this Seattleite elevates the craft of micro-brewing.
Joel VandenBrink believes it takes two beers to make the world go ‘round, so it was easy to name his business when he opened up his brewhouse, Two Beers Brewing, two years ago in SoDo.
His namesake now makes headlines as it breaks barriers in the beverage world as the first Seattle microbrewery to can 12-ounce beers. VandenBrink believes these pop-a-top “sessionable” beers should allow people to sit and toss back a few over good conversation and be a solid product without getting sloshed off their seats.
“Sometimes beer is beer is beer,” VandenBrink said. “I think what sets my beers apart are the local angle, the canning angle and the session angle without high alcohol, high octane or barrel aging. What sets me apart is simplicity.”
An outdoorsman at heart, VandenBrink moved to Seattle eight years ago and was instantly thirsty for the Northwest’s plush natural offerings and the opportunity to create excellent beer that those offerings provide.
After realizing there was more to life than Budweiser, he set off as a home brewer and made his project legitimate in 2007, in a 170-square-foot space in Fremont just large enough to be a legal brewery. He sold a maximum of four kegs a week to gauge a response from his consumers and the rest, as they say, is history.
The power of the Northwest beer and its presence was remarkable to him and fueled his drive to go local or go home. Sourcing nearly 95 percent of Two Beers’ ingredients from Washington, including 100 percent of its base grain and hops, VandenBrink makes his sincere appreciation for local suppliers and customers fairly clear.
“If I can keep my dollar local and someone else keeps their dollar local, we’ll keep it in the community, and it makes the value of it that much more significant,” VandenBrink said of his understanding of community economics. “In this economy, the little guys have to band together.”
Two Beers currently produces five staple beers – 20:20 Blonde, Evolutionary IPA, SoDo Brown, Persnickety Pale and Immersion Amber – and two to three seasonal brews that flip quarterly. With six full-time employees plus VandenBrink and a few part-timers, the Two Beers folks run their multi-part business as not only the producer of product, but the sales, marketing and distribution team as well.
“The toughest part of the job is keeping everything moving at a pace that it needs to move at,” VandenBrink said. “There are so many pieces to owning a brewery, and it takes a lot of energy. But for the most part, I run a fairly fun, casual ship around here.”
With VandenBrink in command, the Two Beers Brewing team is shifting their gears to a bigger scale, as they plan to double their production space and size. Though he insists he’ll stay local to the core, he’s not letting that caveat hold him back — VandenBrink’s modest venture is set to steer toward the big time.