Ah, the smell of Fall.
No, I’m not talking rain.
I’m talking the yeast, the hops, the roasted malts.
I’m talking beer.
Just as our gullets wander to pumpkin spice lattes and slow-simmered stews, brewers begin punching up their offerings with fall seasonal brews.
That makes October the best time of year to visit your neighborhood brewery.
Call this your very own do-it-yourself Oktoberfest with a focus on 15 breweries that brew beer right here in Pierce County.
This brewery guide will take you to taprooms of all shapes and sizes. You’ll explore brewery restaurants with extensive menus, a taproom squeezed into a brewer’s garage and even one tucked into a warehouse. I’ve covered broad territory — this guide spans both sides of the Tacoma Narrows and stretches across the county along Interstate 5. Grab a map and a designated driver for this journey. You’ll need both, and it’s just smart planning.
The craft beer revival has struck Pierce County hard in recent years, with a third of these breweries opening since 2011. And more are on the way — you’ll have to read to the end of the story to find out where.
Head brewer Shane Johns pours a bag of malted barley into a mash tun full of hot water at the Engine House Number 9 brewery. Peter Haley/Staff photographer
Engine House No. 9
611 N. Pine St., Tacoma; 253-272-3435, ehouse9.com.
Hours: Open at 11 a.m. Monday-Friday; open at 8 a.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Details: This brewery was founded in 1972 and purchased in 2011 by X Group Restaurants, owners of nearby Masa and Asado. The brewery lately has been making a name for itself with its sour beers, featured in a sour beer festival E9 holds in August.
Brewers: Head brewer Shane Johns and assistant brewer Donavan Stewart.
Beers: E9 has 23 draft beers on tap at all times, with about seven to eight E9 brews; the rest are guest taps. E9 flagships include the E9 IPA, Rowdy & Dick amber ale and a Belgian white. Something new at the brewery — a permanent sour on tap (subject to availability). Upcoming fall seasonals include an Oktoberfest lager and Spike’s Harvest ale, brewed with hops grown in Tacoma.
Extras: More than 100 diners can fit in the dining room, which is friendly for all ages. Find a menu of burgers, sandwiches and casual pub fare. Brewery tours are available, if requests are made in advance.
Head brewer Jeff Carlson draws a Point Defiance IPA at Harmon Tap Room in Tacoma. Peter Haley/Staff photographer
204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma; 253-212-2725, theharmontaproom.com.
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. daily.
Details: Find the birth of all Harmon beers at the Harmon Taproom, the epicenter of the Harmon chain’s brewing operation. The small chain has grown to four brewpub restaurants under the direction of Pat Nagle and Carole Ford.
More Harmon locations: Harmon Brewery and Restaurant on Pacific, The Hub restaurants in Tacoma and Gig Harbor.
Brew team: Head brewer Jeff Carlson, production manager Bill Lundeen, brewer’s assistant Burren Conlen and cellerman Alex McKay.
Beers: Find 10 taps here, all Harmon beers. Flagship beers include Mt. Takhoma Blonde, Pinnacle Peak Pale Ale, Point Defiance IPA, Puget Sound Porter and Expedition Amber.
Fall seasonals are the Fall Ball Imperial Harvest red, brewed with an extra helping of Munich malt and finished with pumpkin spices. Also coming are a barrel-aged saison and the Steep and Deep winter brown.
Extras: The taproom, which allows children, has its own menu of pizza and sandwiches, while the Harmon and Hub restaurants maintain separate menus.
Events: Pumpkin spice blonde release Oct. 3 and Steep and Deep Winter brown release Nov. 1.
Head brewer Joe Walts with malted barley at Narrows Brewing Co. in Tacoma near Day Island. File photo 2013. Peter Haley/Staff photographer
9007 S. 19th St., Tacoma; 253-327-1400, narrowsbrewing.com.
Hours: 2-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Details: Founded in July 2013 by a group of friends, Narrows Brewing is a 15-barrel brewhouse, which is quite large for a taproom the size of Narrows. Watch brewers at work from the taproom. This brewery in the Narrows Marina has a stunning water view.
Brew team: Head brewer Joe Walts and part-time brewing assistants Jared Fraychineaud, Zach Dowling and John Schultz.
Beers: Find six taps here, all Narrows handles. The IPA is the biggest seller. The brewery’s Oktoberfest was released last week. An imperial red should debut in early October. The brewery has plans to team up with Northern Pacific Coffee Co. to brew a cardamom coffee stout in late October.
Extras: 21 and older only in this taproom that can hold 150 people and has a brewery viewing area from the taproom. Only snacks served here, but outside food is welcome and food trucks serve Wednesday-Saturday nights.
Events: Beer historian Ron Pattinson will speak at 3 p.m. Nov. 8 about stock ale and his new book, “The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer.”
Check out the brew operation behind a window in the Pacific Brewing and Malting taproom in downtown Tacoma.
Pacific Brewing and Malting
610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-272-2739, pacificbrewingandmalting.com.
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; noon-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
Details: This brewery from head brewer Steve Navarro and co-owner Brent Hall is the newest in Tacoma. It opened Sept. 20 in an area of downtown Tacoma that’s shaping up to be a minibrewery district. Odd Otter (also in this story) plans to open a block away this year, and a McMenamins is planned a block up from Pacific Brewing and Malting, which is named after a brewing company of the same name that operated in Tacoma more than 100 years ago until the state’s Prohibition adoption in 1916 shuttered Tacoma’s old brewing district (near 25th and Jefferson).
Brewer: Steve Navarro.
Beers: The taproom opening menu included 1897 pale lager, Dirty Skoog IPA, Grit City porter, Moon Yard strong ale and Citra ale.
Extras: This family-friendly taproom has plenty of communal seating and standing room. Brewery operations are on display through taproom windows. Find the entrance right next door to Old City Hall. No food service, but outside food allowed.
An 18-ounce Imperial Pint of Big Horn Hefeweisen and a mug of Oktoberfest are among the beers offered at The Ram. That’s The Rhinelander Burger, too. Peter Haley/Staff photographer
Details: This Lakewood-based brewpub chain — founded in 1971 — has gone national, but it still brews beer in Pierce County. The brewery has brewing operations inside its brewpubs on Ruston Way, near South Hill Mall and near Lakewood Town Centre. A South Tacoma facility also brews, but is not open to the public. Brewery tours are available by reservation at the Ruston, South Hill and Lakewood locations. Go to theram.com for locations.
Brewers: Dave Leonard is head brewer for all Ram locations, but each facility also has its own brewer.
Beers: Find the up-to-date lineup at theram.com, but be on the lookout for the just-released Oktoberfest and the upcoming release of a pumpkin beer.
Extras: The Ram’s family-friendly breweries offer comfortable seating in sprawling digs; they’re full-service restaurants with menus of burgers and sandwiches.
Morgan Alexander, owner of Tacoma Brewing Company, talks with a customer while his brother Tristan Litke, left, pours a beer. File photo 2014. Thomas Soerenes/Staff photographer
Tacoma Brewing Co.
625 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma; 253-242-3370, tacomabrewing.com.
Hours: 4:20-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 2-9 p.m. Saturday.
Details: This nano brewery started as a coffee house called Amocat, but it transformed into a tiny brewery in 2012 as owner Morgan Alexander’s love for home brewing progressed. Find flavor-walloped brews at this brewery, including a specialty with ginger beers.
Brewers: Head brewer Morgan Alexander and assistant brewer Tristan Litke.
Beers: Twelve taps feature a frequently changing lineup, with a few guest taps that always include one cider. Current taps include Broken Window IPA and Amber Jack, an homage to the bear that once lived in the Tacoma Hotel. Look for a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout release this fall.
Extras: Other than snacks, no food at this all-ages taproom, but Puget Sound Pizza, Stink and Maxwell’s are nearby.
Events: A Nov. 1 anniversary party and a release party today for Dr. Alexander’s Hard Ginger Ale.
Wingman Brewers operates a taproom in the Tacoma Dome neighborhood. Thomas Soerenes/Staff photographer
509 1/2 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma; 253-256-5240, wingmanbrewers.com
Hours: 2-9 p.m. Thursday; 2-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2-9 p.m. Sunday.
Details: Four friends — Ken Thoburn, Derrick Moyer, Daniel Heath and Jason Sabol — founded Wingman Brewers in 2011. They quickly moved from a small facility on Fawcett Avenue to a bigger taproom and brewing facility in the Dome neighborhood.
Brewer: Head brewer is Thoburn.
Beers: Eight beer taps and one cider tap. One beer tap is reserved for guest brews. Find flagship beers Ace IPA and P-51 Porter, among other rotating flagships. Seasonal beers released this fall include a Berliner weisse, a sour beer that also is available in bottles at local stores. Also pouring will be an Oktoberfest, an amber lager, and Miss-B-Haven, a Belgian style tripel. Coming out in cans this October are a Beazle ESB, named after the British flying ace; and an oak-aged Scotch ale.
Extras: A decent view of the brewery operation from the taproom. No food on site for this small taproom and brewery operation open only to those 21 and older. Outside food is welcome. Abella Pizzeria delivers.
Events: A pumpkin beer release and Oktoberfest event 5-11 p.m. Oct. 18. The 2014 release party for the bourbon barrel-aged Stratofortress will be Nov. 22.
EAST PIERCE COUNTY
Tanks are on display at Elk Head.
Elk Head Brewing
28120 State Route 410, Buckley, 360-829-2739.
Hours: 3-7 p.m. Monday, noon-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-6 p.m. Saturday.
Details: Don’t let this warehouse location confuse you; it’s open to the public. Elk Head’s low-tech garage operation is outfitted with communal high-top tables and plenty of standing space. A herd of wood-carved animals keeps watch over visitors.
Beers: Twelve beers on tap, all from the brewery. Flagships include a revolving list that sometimes includes Black Stag Stout and Liberty Cap IPA. Upcoming seasonal releases include a Hornlock Harvest, a peach beer, and a mushroom beer brewed with chanterelles.
Extras: A 40-seat brewery with standing room for 50 or more. Find communal seating at this 21-and-older taproom with an on-display brewing facility. No food on site besides pretzels, but outside food is allowed.
Grab a pint in the roomy taproom at Lake Tapps Brewing Co. at the Riverside.
Lake Tapps Brewing Co. at Riverside
13708 Valley Ave. E., Sumner; 253-750-0869, laketappsbrewingco.com.
Hours: 4-8 p.m. Thursday and 4-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sundays except for Seahawks game days when the taproom opens one hour before kickoff.
Details: This new brewery opened in August in the old Riverside Tavern, adjacent to the Old Cannery. Four friends — Craig Martinson, Lee Martin, Glenn Adams and Vance Hanbidge — formed it as a garage brewing operation, eventually building up to a one-barrel system at Riverside.
Brewer: Head brewer is Martinson, with backup from fellow owners.
Beers: Find 12 taps, all Lake Tapps beers except for one guest tap, currently pouring M.T. Head. The opening flagship lineup includes an IPA, pale ale, porter and amber. Seasonal brews include jalapeño ale and coconut porter. Upcoming releases include a honey hibiscus blonde, a pumpkin beer and an ale made with roasted garlic (yes, you read that correctly).
Extras: This all-ages taproom has roomy seating for 50 and is outfitted with flat-panel televisions, making it an ideal destination for game viewing. No food on site, but outside food allowed.
Events: Hibiscus Honey Blonde release party Oct. 4 coincides with the Come Walk With Me 5k Cancer Walk that begins and ends in the brewery’s shared parking lot with the Old Cannery.
M.T. Head Brewing is a bit of a drive. It’s in Tim Rockey’s garage.
M.T. Head Brewing Co.
27307 159th Ave. E., Graham; 253-208-8999, mtheadbrewingco.com.
Hours: 3-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Details: Prepare for a trek to this brewery in Graham from Tim and Renee Rockey, who opened M.T. Head in 2009. The payoff is a stunning Mount Rainier view and a look at a home-based brewing operation on a beautiful piece of property (It’s closed to the public with a big, locked gate, so don’t get any ideas about visiting during off hours).
Brewers: Tim and Renee Rockey.
Beers: Find flagships Zeus’s Revenge, Twisted Head IPA and Bonehead Brown Ale.
Extras: 21 and older at this cash-only taproom.
The brewing area of Northwest Brewing co. Photo courtesy Northwest Brewing.
Northwest Brewing Co.
1091 Valentine Ave., Pacific; 253-987-5680, northwestbrewingcompany.com.
Hours: Noon-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
Details: This brewery originally was called Trade Route, but changed its name to Northwest Brewing. Find this brewery’s beers in wide distribution throughout the Northwest, with bottles in most major grocery stores.
Brewer: Art Conner.
Beers: Find flagships Bad Panda ginger pale ale, 3 Skulls pale ale, Hawk One lager, Mango Weizen and Joker amber ale.
Extras: On-site food service, including barbecue from nearby Brank’s. This taproom and brewery allows children.
The brewery operation is on display behind the bar at Powerhouse Restaurant and Brewery.
Powerhouse Restaurant and Brewery
454 E. Main, Puyallup; 253-845-1370, powerhousebrewpub.com.
Hours: Open at 11:30 a.m. daily.
Details: Head to downtown Puyallup to find this brewery restaurant that’s been built into an old power station that supplied the current to the Interurban Electric Trolley. The brewery operation is on display behind the bar be sure to take a look.
Brewers: Head brewer Tim Patty.
Beers: Find a dozen taps, with 11 taps belonging to Powerhouse and one guest tap. The menu also includes an extensive bottle list. Find flagships that include the house IPA, pale ale, Scottish ale, amber and Four Alarm stout on nitro.
Find seasonal beers this fall, including an Oktoberfest lager and a gingerbread-flavored pumpkin ale.
Extras: Chef Ben Williams has revamped the full-service menu of pizza, burgers and sandwiches. Children are welcome, and the brewery makes its own house root beer.
Erik Akeson, owner of Puyallup River Brewing Alehouse. Dean J. Koepfler/Staff photographer
Puyallup River Brewing Alehouse
120 S. Meridian., Puyallup; 253-268-0955, puyallupriverbrewing.com.
Hours: Opens at 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon Saturday-Sunday.
Details: Owner Eric Akeson put his brewery on the fast track when he opened his downtown Puyallup alehouse in February 2013, about a year after starting Puyallup River Brewing at his South Hill home. His home still doubles as the brewing operation, with the downtown Puyallup alehouse a showroom for his beers.
Brewers: Akeson and head brewer Nat Woodsmith.
Beers: Find 24 taps here, with about half dedicated to Puyallup River beers. The rest are rotating taps featuring Northwest craft brewers. Find Puyallup River flagships including Paradise blonde saison, Electron IPA, Fryingpan Cascadian red ale and Lahar imperial IPA. Fall seasonal releases include a number of pumpkin beers, including the pumpkin ale Jack O’Lahar and a black pumpkin saison. Look for the Aketoberfest release in October.
Extras: This 21-and-older brewhouse recently expanded its menu to include pizza, appetizers and other hearty fare.
Creagan Samples, and Remington Newman are assistant brewers at the Puyallup based Station U-Brew. Lee Giles/Staff photographer
211 W. Stewart, Puyallup; 253-466-3721 or Facebook.
Hours: 1-8 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (or later) Wednesday-Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.
Details: Not only is this downtown Puyallup taproom a place to sample beers from owner Steve Samples, it doubles as a you-brew operation. Bring your own recipe or brew from a recipe provided by Samples. Call in advance to book space and brewing time.
Brewers: Samples with help from Creagan Samples and Remington Newman.
Beers: Find six taps constantly changing between 40 different beers made at the brewery. Flagships usually include an IPA, porter, red and pale ale on tap.
Extras: No food on site other than light snacks at this all-ages taproom that seats about 15. Outside food is welcome. The taproom is outfitted with televisions and dart boards.
Events: Puyallup Brew Crew Club meets here the first Friday of every month. Find the taproom’s seasonal beers — the Brakeman Jack amber and The Conductor peach-rhubarb pale ale — at the Oct. 4 Puyallup Art and Wine Walk.
Mike Runion and Travis Gutterson, right, co-owners of 7 Seas Brewing in Gig Harbor. File photo. Drew Perine/The News Tribune
7 Seas Brewing
3006 Judson St., Gig Harbor; 253-514-8129, 7seasbrewing.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
Details: This brewery was founded in Gig Harbor in 2008, but suffered a setback in the form of a fire. It reopened in 2009, on the edge of a storage business. In 2012, co-owners Mike Runion and Travis Guterson moved their operation to a much larger location at the old QFC.
Brew team: Head brewer is Guterson, with help from brewers Salmon Joe, Tyson and cellerman J.D. McQueen.
Beers: Find 24 taps with one tap devoted to a guest beer from a Washington brewery. Find a wide range of reserve beers and experimental beers constantly on tap, as well as four seasonals on tap and six year-round offerings.
Upcoming releases include Hop Prophet, a wet hop ale released once a year, brewed with fresh Yakima Valley hops.
Extras: No food available at this all-ages taproom that seats about 150. However, a food truck will open soon in front of the brewery. “The Galley” will be a collaboration between the 7 Seas Brewery and Peterson Brothers, owners of Tacoma’s Eleven Eleven.
COMING SOON IN PIERCE COUNTY
The next few months will see a flurry of brewery openings that include:
Odd Otter Brewing: This downtown Tacoma brewery at 716 Pacific Ave. hopes to open this year. Find more information at oddotterbrewing.com.
Outlaw Ales: This nano brewery expects to open Saturday in the garage of Dan Sowers in Bonney Lake. Sowers, owner and brewer, operates a one-barrel system. Find the brewery at 20406 96th St. E., Bonney Lake; 253-740-7756 or Facebook.
North 47 Brewing Co.: Northeast Tacoma will get its first brewery this year in the Browns Point Town Center, 1000 Town Center, Tacoma; north47brewery.com. This is the first brewery for Carl and Stephanie Leach.
Wet Coast Brewing: This Gig Harbor brewery hopes to open by the end of the year. For more information, go to wetcoastbrewing.com.
MORE DIY OKTOBERFEST: BOTTLE SHOPS
Design your own home Oktoberfest with these bottle shops that emphasize Pierce County and Northwest beers.
2049 Mildred St W., Fircrest; 253-302-4240, pintdefiance.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
The grandaddy of Pierce County bottle shops, this store features 1,000 beers by the bottle, with about a quarter of those being Northwest brewers. This shop doubles as a taproom with 10 taps rotating 20-25 kegs a week from mostly Northwest breweries. Beer is available by the pint or growler.
Pierce County beers on tap include 7 Seas, Narrows, M.T. Head and Wingman. The store was founded by Barry and Renee Watson, former owners and founders of Proctor’s Rosewood Cafe, and just celebrated its second anniversary. No food here, but outside food is encouraged. Check out nearby Taqueria El Sabor.
Upcoming events: Fresh hop release party with Double Mountain Brewery 5-7 p.m. Wednesday; Top Rung Brewing (from Olympia) night 5-7 p.m. Oct. 9; Pike 25th anniversary celebration 5-7 p.m. Oct. 16 and a special pumpkin beer pairing with ice creams from Tacoma’s Ice Cream Social, 3-6 p.m. Oct. 18.
Tacoma World Beers
5602 S. Lawrence St, Tacoma; 253-475-7432, tacomaworldbeer.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and noon-7 p.m. Sunday.
Another leader in Pierce County bottle selections, this 7-year-old beer shop has evolved from a cigar shop to a taproom and beer store. With 850 beers in the cooler, the shop emphasizes seasonal and limited-edition beers.
The shop also has an attached taproom with seating for 29 (and outdoor seating, weather permitting). Sixteen taps (with one nitro, one cider) include a heavy rotation of Pierce County brewers: E-9, Narrow, 7 Seas and M.T. Head. The rest of the taps are Washington focused. Beer is served by the pint or growler. A menu of Vienna hotdogs is served.
Events: Tasting tray special daily with a pick of any six beers on tap. Beer 101 classes the second Tuesday of every month with a beer cicerone. A permanent schedule of comedy shows are planned.
Other beer stores:
Copper Door: With 16 taps, seating areas and a cooler with a selection of Northwest bottles, Copper Door is the newest bottle shop and taproom in Tacoma at 12 N. Tacoma Ave.; 253-212-3708, thecopperdoor.net.
Northwest Caps N Taps: In East Pierce County, this bottle shop and taproom with a small seating area emphasizes Northwest brews on tap and in the cooler. Find it at 20840 state Route 410, Bonney Lake; 253-447-8027, nwcapsntaps.wix.com/nw-caps-n-taps.
Also visit: Tacoma Boys stores in Puyallup and Tacoma; MSM Deli in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood and Harbor Greens in University Place and Gig Harbor. They’re not in Pierce County, but Gravity Beer Market in Olympia and 99 Bottles in Federal Way are known for their deep knowledge and inventory of Northwest beer.