Brewery expands production

The amount of beer produced and distributed will double with the new equipment and location


KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen

Tom Handy discusses the bare bones aesthetic and laid-back vibe of the new Paradise Creek Trailside bar; the brewery's grinder, boil kettle, and fermenter tanks will be visible to future patrons of the bar.

LATISHA JENSEN, Evergreen life editor

Paradise Creek Brewery is in the final stages of moving its tank systems to a larger area to multiply beer production.

Owner Tom Handy said the brewery consistently grows by at least 25 percent every year, gaining more customers and distributors. Inevitably, beer often ran out with the original equipment, and they didn’t have room for new tanks in their first location.

“It served us well for seven years,” Handy said. “We more than doubled the size of the space. This place will allow us to do probably five or six times more.”

The name of the new site, for customers 21 and older, will be Paradise Creek Trailside, Handy said.

This tasting room and brewery is located in a large garage-type setting on 505 Riverview Ave., near the City Playfield. It lies along the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail, hence the new name.

Head brewer Ethan Campbell has worked at Paradise Creek since last December and is working on the cooling system with one other person. The intensive labor it requires is taking a large portion of the time.

He learned how to brew at his first brewery job and then completed an advanced online brewing theory course, Campbell said.

“Making beer is my favorite part of every brewery job,” Campbell said. “I’m getting pretty anxious to have a system actually up and running. It’s been more than a month since we brewed.”

Inside the Brewery

The building is equipped with a cooler room for ready-to-drink beer, a lab room, a full brewing system and a lounging area with picnic tables inside and outside. Dogs are welcome, Handy said.

Handy said the lounging area is the last thing they will finish. Right now, the main focus is setting up the tanks so they can start making beer.

“It’s going to be pretty industrial, I think people don’t mind seeing the guts of a brewery,” Handy said. “It’s going to be rustic, but comfortable — a place to hang out relax and not worry about life. It will be easy going, nothing fancy.”

Customers will be able to schedule tours to watch the brewing process, Handy said.

Campbell is one of the brewers working on the new location, while others are working on packing up the old place into the new, and someone else is working on the delivery process, Campbell said.

Paradise Creek Trailside has three brew house tanks twice the size of the old ones. These are used in the first part of the process, during which brewers boil the beer and prepare it for fermentation, Handy said. That means that, per batch, they can make twice as much in the same amount of time.

“If you can brew half as much or half as often,” Handy said, “you just save 50 percent of your time.”

There are 11 fermenter tanks, used in the next step for the beer where they add yeast. Then the mixture ferments.

“That’s the part that creates what people like,” Handy said.

After fermentation is done, the brewers take out the yeast and carbonate the beer, and then package it.

Handy sold his tanks to Abbey Ridge Brewery and Tap Room in Illinois. He bought most of the equipment from Aslan Brewing Company in Bellingham because they are also upgrading their system.

“I had buyer’s remorse for like six months after I committed to spending half a million dollars on equipment and I’m going ‘what did I do?’ ” Handy said, “but now that I’m seeing it all come together I’m like, ‘yeah this is going to go.’ ”

Behind the Science

Handy’s favorite brews are sour beer and barrel-aged beers—things that don’t ordinarily taste like beer. They’ve matured in different ways and gone through different reactions than typical beers, giving them a unique and complex flavor.

“There is a very complicated process making beer,” he said, “because you’re working with live organisms and organic material.”

Enzymes convert the starches to sugar, and they’re only active at certain PH levels and certain temperatures, he said.

“I started by home-brewing, that’s how a lot of brewers start because they like doing it, at the small scale,” Handy said. “That’s the thing I like the most, the science part of it.”

The lab room is to make sure the yeast is healthy, happy and alive, he said.

Yeast contributes a great deal of flavor, and the temperatures during the process effect this flavor. The various types of grains and hops to choose from can alter the taste, allowing more room for creativity, Handy said.

“You can kind of just think of some concoction that we want to do and just make it,” Handy said. “The longer you are at doing it, the better your brainchilds are when they’re done.”

Handy ordinarily hires people who have a considerable amount of beer-making experience or a diploma. He said beer-making is more scientific than wine-making.

“There’s just a lot to know about making beer,” he said. “It’s not just yellow water — it’s pretty complicated. Even if you do know it, you can end up accidentally making bad beer that isn’t as good as it could be.”

There are many more ways to mess up beer than most other drinks. Even making the same beer twice is a challenge, Handy said, because just the type of water used can make a significant difference.

He said he thinks Pullman has decent water because it’s about 10,000 years old, sitting in deep wells and ultra-pure, instead of water that has filtered through the earth for reuse.

“It’s really finicky in that way,” Handy said. “Every single step is important that it’s right, or the beer flavor will change.”

Future of Paradise Creek

As the business expands within Pullman, Handy also plans to widen his distribution horizons. His beer is disbursed mostly in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.

There’s one distributor in Montana he knows that covers the whole state, so he plans to connect with them.

“They’re not a huge beer distributor, but they get around,” Handy said. “Montana would be a good way to start to get into towns that are real beer-centric, like Missoula.”

With his brewers doing a majority of the work in this new location, he is able to focus more on traveling to sell his beer at festivals in places like Olympia, tap takeovers and other retail location events just about every weekend.

Campbell said he is looking forward to the increased capacity of beer and customers they will bring in once the building is finished.

They have enough of a few types of beer to last Paradise Creek until the tanks are set up and ready to brew, he said.

The open space, which originally inhibited the old tanks, will be used for larger groups of customers who cannot fit in the restaurant and bar seating area.

With distribution requests from the west side of the state, Handy is optimistic for their sales. For example, he said they’re looking at new distributors in Seattle, and they plan to increase volume there.

“We should be able to sell about as much beer as we can make,” he said.

There is no set date for Paradise Creek Trailside to open, although Campbell predicts by the end of next month. Handy and at least a few other brewers are working toward the opening of the brewery most of every day.