Will Kenmore Become the New Ballard?
October 22, 2015 - 11:40 AMStory by Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog
By now, most Seattle area beer lovers know about the wonders of Ballard and its eight or ten breweries (depends on where you draw the lines). The neighborhood once defined by it Scandinavian heritage has become known as a destination for the region's beer lovers as well as wayward beer tourists from distant lands.
But what really keeps the brew kettles boiling in Ballard is the local residents. The breweries and their taprooms serve as local gathering spots that promote a sense of community and drive home the image of Ballard as a great neighborhood for young families, millennial singles, aging hipsters, grizzled fishermen, and just about anybody else.
At least one other community around the Seattle area recognizes the role that breweries play in the ongoing vitalization of Ballard. The City of Kenmore occupies the northernmost shores of Lake Washington and is bigger and more residential than most passersby imagine. Away from Bothell Way, which bisects the city, Kenmore covers 6.3 square miles and is home to nearly 25,000 residents, many of whom like to drink craft beer.
City planners in Kenmore want to attract new breweries and create a brewery district near the Burke-Gilman Trail along NE 75th Street. So far, the plan is coming together nicely, with two breweries in place and a third on the way.
So, what can a city do to pave the way for would-be breweries? Simply put, they can help get the beer flowing and the doors open. For burgeoning breweries, the federal and state government requirements are just part of the process, but the local permitting and approval processes are often what create the annoying delays that lead to postponed grand openings. In some cases they're more like road blocks than speed bumps.
"The City made some zoning and regulatory changes to encourage microbreweries to locate here," says Nancy Ousley, Assistant City Manager, City of Kenmore. "When the City of Kenmore adopted Economic Development Strategy in 2009, the Washington Brewers Festival was already a successful annual event here at Saint Edward State Park and we knew that Kenmore could be a great location for craft microbreweries."
The annual Washington Brewers Festival—the largest beer festival in the state—has since moved on to Marymoor Park in Redmond, but Kenmore's love of craft beer remains.
If you've driven through Kenmore lately you may have noticed a new brewery along the Burke-Gilman Trail. Located on NE 175th, the recently opened Nine Yards Brewing is located right next door to 192 Brewing's Lake Trail Taproom, which has been a popular gathering spot for locals since it opened in 2012.
Unlike their neighbor, Nine Yards Brewing has a brewery on site. (192 Brewing produces its beer at residential location nearby.) The new kids on the block started pouring beer in July at their brewery and taproom. Business has been booming ever since.
The crowd at Nine Yards Brewing. Photo from the brewery's Facebook page (by Brian Stork).
"The city is very enthusiastic about getting us and other breweries in town," says Ethan Savagilo, co-owner of Nine Yards Brewing. "That said, there were growing pains as the first brewery to license under the new ordinance. I expect these wrinkles will get ironed out in the future."
"We would be so excited to have more breweries in the area," adds Savagilo. "Crowds have been delightful and humbling. The people of Kenmore have been so kind to us. To be honest, they are nearly drinking us out of house and home."
A third brewery, Cairn Brewing Company, plans to open soon on the same street, just a few doors down from Nine Yard Brewing and the Lake Trail Taproom. Current plans call to open in the early winter or spring of 2016. The build-out is busily underway.
"When we looked for locations for a brewery, we knew we wanted to be on an urban trail," says Jen Boyd, who is opening Cairn Brewing along with her husband, Bill. "Kenmore is, in our view, an up-and-coming area, and the city’s leadership is a big piece of that forward momentum."
Jen Boyd explains that the city's overall vision was instrumental in the decision to open the brewery in Kenmore.
"The City Council is upgrading their downtown pedestrian experience, looking at a transit-friendly downtown plan, and has a focus on making Kenmore a great place to work and play. All those initiatives align with our vision of a community brewery and taproom."
"We’ve found the planning department responsive and the team overall great to work with over time," says Boyd. "Our first contact with the City of Kenmore was a meeting with Nancy Ousley, who embraced our idea of a family- and dog-friendly community brewery in Kenmore and has been a sustaining supporter as we moved through idea to permitting for renovations for our location on the Burke-Gilman Trail."
The City of Kenmore recognizes the value that the Burke-Gilman Trail adds to the community. Not only does the trail provide a pedestrian- and bike-friendly corridor for residents, but it also brings in people, in the form of bicyclists, from neighboring communities because it stretches, essentially, from Ballard to Redmond.
"In economic development you always want to build on your city’s strengths, and one of our key assets is the Burke-Gilman Trail," says Ousley. "So now if you’re biking on the Trail, you don’t have to wait until you’re in Woodinville to stop at a pleasant place to try a local craft beer—you can pull off the trail and discover Kenmore."
"192 Brewing has become the defacto community center for the city—family- and dog-friendly, with great outdoor gathering space," adds Ousley. "Now, it’s one of the soon-to-be three craft breweries within a block or so on NE 175th Street, right next to the Burke-Gilman Trail. This is one more way that another part of the policy plan is coming to life—Kenmore’s image as a city with many cool attributes is being promoted."
Since its incorporation in 1998, Kenmore has endured an image problem that the city is now working hard to overcome. Many people probably didn't even know that it was an independent city at all, but Kenmore is more than a wide spot in the road between Seattle and Bothell.
The plan is to promote Kenmore as a vibrant, growing community, one with a keen eye focused on its future. For the city's beer lovers and brewery owners, it's clear that Kenmore sees craft beer as part of its new, improved image.