Airways Brewing Spreading its Wings
February 7, 2014 - 12:15 PM- by Kendall Jones, Washington Beer Blog -
Airways Brewing is about to begin an expansion project. The brewery and tasting room will remain at the current location on West Valley Highway, but Airways Beer & Bistro on W. Harrison Street in downtown Kent will be expanded and transformed.
The project increases seating capacity from 35 to 150 with the addition of a family-friendly seating area. A new and expanded kitchen will be added, as well as new ground-floor level restrooms.
The remodel includes a transformation of the currently vacant 3,000 square foot patio into a gated garden space for outdoor music and entertainment. Fire pit tables and a retractable awning will allow the garden to be used year-round. Also outside, Airways intends to add a grill and smoker, which makes Executive Chef Ken Buckley very happy.
“The Bistro was something different for us and we didn’t quite know what to expect,” said Alex Dittmar, founder and head brewer at Airways Brewing Company. “We took our already strong brand and built a solid reputation for quality. Thanks to our fantastic customers, we’ve decided to grow in downtown Kent and I think people are going to love what we have planned.”
The patio remodel will come together first, with plans to open the new outdoor space in early summer. Interior remodel plans are being drawn and the process is in motion, however Airways Brewing is not yet able to provide a firm timeline for the project. They expect work to get underway within the next six months if not sooner, with the goal of completion by the end of 2014.
Part of the City
Since opening approximately two years ago, the Bistro has become a beloved downtown business and even earned the Best Economic Engine award from the Kent Downtown Partnership in 2013.
“We’re very excited about what these changes mean for our company, and the team that has helped build it,” said co-owner Dione Dittmar. “We also feel that our expansion fits in well with the City of Kent’s long-term plans for the area, as well as demand from Kent residents for more restaurants and retail in the heart of downtown.”
The Wall Street Journal published a story last year about the positive impact that craft breweries have on communities and local economies. Other publications have suggested that small, locally owned breweries create jobs and generate revenue, but also foster a valuable sense of community. Such reports validate something that many of us have believed for years: breweries are good for neighborhoods. The ongoing relationship between Airways Brewing and the City of Kent is a manifestation of that observation.
When Airways Brewing Company landed in Kent back in 2010, it didn’t take long for the community to embrace the fledgling business. Located along West Valley Highway, amidst sprawling light-industrial business parks, the brewery’s taproom quickly became a favorite spot for after-work socializing, but the thirsty aerospace geeks at the nearby Boeing facility were not the only ones who took notice. Not long after opening the taproom, Alex and Dione struck up a relationship with Kurt Hanson, the Economic Development Manager for the City of Kent.
Kurt Hanson’s job is to attract businesses (and people) to Kent. He wasn’t shy about his desire to lure Airways Brewing into the heart of the city, recognizing the value that a local brewpub would add to downtown’s growing residential and retail community. In his opinion, downtown Kent needed Airways Brewing.
About 18 months after opening the original brewery and taproom, the company opened its second location: the Airways Beer & Bistro in downtown Kent. Though it was not a proper brewery, it was an extension of the brewery across town. Like the original taproom, the locals quickly embraced the new business.
Talking to Dione Dittmar about the entire experience, she explains how easy it has been from the beginning to work with the City of Kent. To be clear, Airways Brewing opened a new brewery and taproom. Then they expanded it. Then they opened a second location. Now they are expanding it. All of this happened in four years.
Although the permitting process inevitably presents certain challenges, Dione says that city officials were gracious and willing to help walk them through each step.
More than More Space
In addition to everything else, the expansion project will see Airways add specialty cocktails by Airways' Erin Caywood, and a wider selection of food to the menu. As noted, the Bistro will add a family-friendly side, but will still have a 21+ bar area.
We recently met Dione Dittmar and Robby Leviton (Airways’ co-owner) at the Beer & Bistro for a preview dinner featuring items from what will be the new, expanded menu.
Dione described the new menu, “We’re going for high quality food that is locally sourced, at a reasonable price. Our tagline for the Bistro as it evolves is locally made, globally inspired. It fits with the travel theme, plus gives us room to play with a lot of different food styles rather than just being a pizza place.”
We were not the only guests at dinner that night. Our party included officials from the City of Kent and also the building owners, who happen to be commercial real estate brokers and developers. It was clear that the project was a collaborative effort and it was hard to tell who was most excited about the Bistro’s expansion.
Bistro Expansion Preview Dinner
Chef Ken Buckley served up an amazing preview dinner, deliciously paired with Airways beers and beer cocktails. He is noticeably excited about how a new kitchen and menu will allow him to flex his creative culinary muscles.
Plate: Whole clove roasted garlic, goat cheese layered terrine with pesto and roasted peppers, jalapeno cheddar sausage, fresh pita, toasted baguettes.
Plate: Grapefruit & fennel napoleon with Canter-berry blueberry vinegar
Beer: Sky Hag IPA
Plate: Tomato, basil and house-made mozzarella on handmade sourdough flatbread pizza.
Beer: Maylani beer float
Plate: Vanilla crepes filled with cinnamon, almonds, and local honey