Seattle: The Center of the Universe for Beer"People around here love beer the way I do. All of my best friends are brewers."
Todd Carden sees Seattle as having both regional and cultural advantages over most places when it comes to his passion: beer.
First in the city's favor are the renowned hop yards of Yakima Valley in Washington's south central region. Second is the abundance of high-quality wheat, barley and other grains from Eastern Washington. Third is plenty of good water — which is to be expected from a place that gets more rain than most.
"We have everything right here in the state to make great beer," he says. "We can buy everything in-state to make world-class beer. All of the ingredients are close by and all are of high quality."
But Carden, owner and brewmaster of Elliott Bay Brewing Company, says it's something more than simple raw materials that sets Seattle apart. "This is a place that values innovation," says the 44-year-old. "We have creative people here who are passionate about what they do. You can see it in high tech. You can see it in the restaurants. And, of course, a lot of the brewing pioneers started here."
Examples? Redhook Ale Brewery, originally in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, was among the first microbreweries to open here 30 years ago. Hale's Ales was another. Different brewers brought in new techniques and styles, from barrel aging to what has become Seattle's signature hoppy aroma.
It's similar to what you get in Silicon Valley, Carden says. Talent and innovation pull in more of the same. They create a feedback loop. In other words, the breweries in Seattle are good because there's plenty of talent in town. And that talent works as a magnet to attract more of the same.
"People come here to learn and expand their craft," he says. "This area is known internationally for the quality of the local product."
Carden's ideal Seattle day is when he has the time to take a friend on a brewery tour of the Emerald City. "You go to Big Time or Maritime Pacific or Hale's and you get totally different beer and a totally different feel," he says. "This area is great for that. There's great beer everywhere."
Carden began his career working in a McMenamins brewery in Oregon after graduating from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. He found that he not only loved beer, but also the industry. It didn't take him long to realize that the Pacific Northwest was to microbrewing what Manhattan was to advertising: the center of the universe.
"I remember thinking, 'This is it. This is what I love,'" he says.
He moved to Seattle and began working in other breweries. In 1997, he and co-owner Brent Norton took the next step and opened Elliott Bay. As local demands have changed, the brewery has too, and a few years ago it switched to all-organic ingredients for many of its beers. Again, Carden says the region makes it easy to do some things. People in Seattle not only like the end product, they also respect what went into the work.
The same appreciation they have for organic and local produce and meat extends to their beer as well. "People around here love beer the way I do," says Carden. "All of my best friends are brewers."
Check out Todd's Seattle.