What’s Hot: Hilliard’s Beer

From basement to Ballard — this cold one is canned craft microbrew goodness.

Beer brewing sagas tend to go something like this:  Beer-loving bosom buddies set out on a search to find respite from the nine-to-five drone of everyday life.  Armed with half-decent grades in high school chemistry and a “bourgeoning” interest in beer, the aforementioned friends decide to embark upon a brewing journey to while away the time.  At least, that’s how the story played out for Ryan Hilliard and Adam Merkl, creators of Hilliard’s Beer.

Little did they know that their hobby would be selected as only one of 75 home brewing entries in the nation to compete in the Pro-Am Division of the 2009 Great American Beer Festival.   Now, barroom chats and basement dreams became a plan of action.  Creating a brewery didn’t sound like quite the massive undertaking that it had before.

Combining Seattleites’ appreciation for craft beer, everyman’s love of accessibility, and their extensive knowledge about what makes a delicious, cold one; master brewer Hilliard and Merkl endeavored to fill that niche that few others in the nation satisfy: canned craft microbrews.

“Because Ryan and I both have kids, we spend a lot more time drinking at our houses instead of at bars,” explains Merkl.  “So we wanted to create a beer that people could drink at their house regularly, just consistently good beer that people would keep going back to.”

And that’s exactly what they did.  Since opening their taproom doors in Ballard in October 2011, Hilliard’s Beers has been on a roll, churning out craft beers, canning two with more on the way.  As of now, a saison and amber ale are available for your at-home sipping pleasure, and the Scottish Blonde, their most popular beer on draft is in the process of being canned as well.

“We thought it was a little crazy to do something like a saison,” Merkl said,” but it’s one of our favorite styles.  We found that any time you wanted one, you had to buy a 750ml cork and wire-caged bottle for 10 or 11 bucks.  So we thought it would be really cool to be able to have it in your fridge all the time and if you feel like having one, you could just spend $2.50 at the grocery store.  We’re really surprised as to how well it’s taken off.  It definitely set the spirit of what we do – to go against the grain.”

For now, Washingtonians are the only ones lucky enough to find these tall boys of craft brews in grocery stores like Whole Foods and bars like Montana and Brave Horse Tavern.  But expansion plans are already in the works to take it to the next level and become a regional craft brewery.

“It has been a lot of fun,” Merkl concludes.  “On weeks that we’re doing multiple things – turning out 600 cases on a canning run and then brewing at the same time – you kind of look around and think, ‘Oh crap, we started a brewery.’”

Ah, and so goes the tale of the boys who brewed beer in their basement and made it big in Ballard.  But for other Pacific Northwesterners, think this not as a too-good-to-be-true tall tale.  Ready yourself for glorious microbrew convenience — the Hilliard’s Beer craft canned goodness will soon be headed your way.

Taproom Hours: Thursday and Friday 3 PM – 10PM; Saturday 12PM – 10 PM

Hilliard’s Beer | 1550 NW 49th St., Seattle | (206) 465-0078