Dystopian State Brewing Company is the new kid on the block of Tacoma's continuously growing beer scene. The historic building that used to be home to the Arctic Bottling Company, and Wagner Motors, has now been overhauled to be a Dystopian-themed microbrewery and 10,000 sq. ft. tap room – yet keeper of the old world charm. While a utopian state represents a place with perfect qualities, the dystopian state does just the opposite.
The idea of operating a brewery started about a year ago when co-owners Shane McElwrath, Lana Adzhigirey and Chris Bradley combined business knowledge, the desire to create a family-friendly place and McElwrath's home brewing experience.
“We are going to make a lot of styles and do it right here in the Pacific Northwest with local ingredients, try to keep it real and do something original,” says McElwarth who also acts as the head brewer. “We think our beer is outstanding, and it's only going to get better. The brewery is a very cozy and intimate space,” he says about the living room-like atmosphere.
The decision to open the brewery in Tacoma was an easy one. “Never mind Seattle and their hundred breweries, neve rmind Portland. Tacoma's got a cool scene, they've got innovative new beers, let's go there and try it out,” says McElwrath.
In addition to wrapping up the permit side of the brewery, the multi-talented owners also took a shot at exploring their woodworking skills, building tables from spools and crafting the centerpiece counter top.
The three flagship beers include a broad range of flavors: Helmet Breaker, a double IPA on the malty side; the Gold Sigil Honey Wheat Ale made with coriander honey from California; and the Red Queen Red India Pale Ale, aromatic and earthy. There are 18 taps with flagship and seasonal beers.
“One of the things that we can do that other breweries can't is doing pretty complex step-mashing with our system, meaning that we can do beers that are very true to style for German beers,” says McElwrath. “That's something this town doesn't have a lot of.”
“I always recommend the Red Queen first,” says Adzhigirey who likes to "interrogate" guests about their preferred tastes to help with the perfect match. “The Coconut Cream Ale is very popular, but it's very divisive – people either hate it or love it.” As no artificial flavors are used in any of the products, the guests are in for a flavorful experience.
“Tacoma has really accepted us with arms wide open,” says Adzhigirey. During the initial opening on Nov. 4, about a thousand thirsty guests were in line for a new taste. Although the brewery is off to a good start, the Dystopian State team already has big plans for the future. Making kegs available to businesses and starting to bottle beers in February are next on the agenda. “We're just excited to get going with the full-swing production in the brewery,” says McElwrath.
Live music comes to the microbrewery on Thursdays and Fridays, and events like the Sounders MLS Cup Party on Dec. 10, with more event planning underway, will keep guests of all ages entertained. This brewery, however, is not your new neighborhood sports bar, as only a few select events are shown.
“We like to keep it about beer, conversation and literature. Back to basics,” says Adzhigirey. “We're a brew town; this is where you can get the best craft beer.”
Even McElwrath's daughter Isla, 8, was an eager helper during the growing process and instrumental in deciding if the artwork would be appropriate for other kids. With families as patrons in mind, the Dystopian State team wanted to create a space where everyone feels included. While snack food is available, the brewery plans to book food trucks on Fridays and Saturdays to keep patrons fed. A small café is expected to open as a separate entity within the brewery during the next year.
The brewery is located near the intersection of 7th Street and St. Helens. Business hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Cheers to that!