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Pike Brewing Co.

The return of the Finkels

Last month, we introduced you to Charles and Rose Ann Finkel and the trail-blazing they've done in promoting wine, beer, and gourmet groceries. This month, we pick up the trail after they had sold their businesses and spent time working philanthropically through various organizations.

In 2004, they decided they'd had enough of working without pay and started looking for opportunities. The one that looked best was buying back The Pike Brewing Co. and pub. As trend setters, why did they return to something they'd already done? "It felt like an incomplete project," says Rose Ann. "We had just scratched the surface of what we wanted to do when we sold. The restaurant was new and we sold at what we felt was the cusp of greatness. We're happy we did because it gave us time to do some wonderful things, but business-wise it wasn't satisfying. We needed more fulfillment. Plus we love this business. While we were gone, the brewery had gotten tired. There was no real direction and management was absent." Charles adds, "And it was ours. Our hearts are in local food and we're very proud of our product. For the past four years, we've lived and slept this brewery. When we got it back, we had the shell but no infrastructure. We've added computer, phone and accounting systems. There was no feel for sustainability or local foods and we've built a management team that really cares about the quality of our food. The quality of our employees is helping us succeed." Their menu is similar to what they originally conceived, but more local, sustainable foods are being used. Their proteins are from local farms, ranches and fisheries.

The bar offers local spirits as more distilleries emerge (like Dry Fly) and wine as well as beer. When they got the brewery back, the only wine being sold was red, white, and pink Zinfandel in a box. Now with a wine list focused on Washington, they've received the Distinguished Wine Award two years in a row from the Washington Wine Commission-the only brewery to be awarded. Just as they did in the beginning, they're promoting artisanal craft products.

"Staff knowledge has changed dramatically. A lot of the staff knew nothing about beer in the beginning, but now they're very proud of their relationship with the brewery. There's a test on our website under the history section for P.U.B. (Pike University of Brewing) that 'teaches while it tests.' Everyone on staff has taken it and scored 100%!"

The Pike Brewing Co.
1415 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
206-622-6044

www.pikebrewing.com

Beyond food and beverage, the brewery is an interesting place. The factory sits below the pub. Also in the factory is The Pike Mobile, a 1958 BMW car, waiting for its turn in the public eye at various events. The building housing the pub was built on many different levels. Each level is decorated based on a Pike beer, like Naughty Nellie the madam from the LaSalle Hotel. Charles and Rose Ann's son, Andrew, has done much of the construction including ironwork signs, display cases, benches, and host table in art deco style. Their daughter, Amy, is responsible for the design of the website, making it a true family business. The Seattle Micro Brewery Museum is part of the pub. It traces 9,000 years of beer history with items the Finkels have collected over the years and is a fascinating look at the world of beer. The two levels of the museum are also used as event space, accommodating 50-125 guests. One bit of interesting trivia as told by Rose Ann is that the word "bridal" comes from "bride ale." For about 8,500 years, women brewed beer. When a marriage took place, the ceremony was the ale, brewed by the bride's mother. Pike Brewing offers "Bride Ale" for weddings-the couple can choose one of six Pike beers to be bottled and labeled with their names and wedding date.

Charles and Rose Ann are extremely generous in their charitable giving. "Every business has to decide on a donation focus," says Rose Ann. "We concentrate on health and sustainability." In June, they were part of "Pints for Prostates," raising money and awareness for prostate cancer. They, naturally, work with the Pike Place Market. They are using an intern from Bastyr University to help with their menu in terms of nutritional and allergy issues. They're involved with Les Dames d'Escoffier, the zoo, aquarium, and the Visitor and Convention Bureau. There's hardly an event around town without Pike beer being served.

As for the future, they're concentrating on bringing Pike Brewing Co. to the level originally envisioned. They're not looking to introduce new product (other than seasonal brews), they're more interested in ramping up production and building current brands. They're not trying to be a gastro pub, they simply want to offer good pub/comfort food. They've added a second kitchen and are baking their own bread, have retooled their appetizers, and added a weekly entree special. What more can you ask for? A great, local brewery in an historic setting with beer history in every nook and cranny, and local, sustainable menu items. The perfect storm indeed.

Click here to read part 1 of the Pike Brewing Co. story

Connie Adams/August/September 2010


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