Looks can be quite deceiving at Standard Brewing.
The building appears unassuming, even industrial from the street, pushed far back on the corner of Jackson and 25th in the Central District. But once you walk under the shade of the big trees and behind the planted bamboo, you'll find a small, beautiful patio, and a tiny, cozy interior.
You'll also always find one guy, owner Justin Gerardy, behind the counter, ready to pour you a brew he made himself. Eight total stools line the bar on the inside of the brewery and dark gray walls are lit by some flickering candles. There are a few landscape paintings from Gerardy's grandmother and, well, not much else.But this one guy, with the help of one friend, uses this tiny, simple space to create flavors that are huge.
There are always around 12 different brews on tap (13 right now!), many of them changing with the seasons or at the whim of Gerardy. Patrons stop by for everything from a two ounce sample to Growlers to-go. And you'll always find one standby: his Bee's Wine Ginger Beer.
"I think I'm the only one in the world making this type of traditional ginger beer commercially," Gerardy told me, offhandedly, about halfway through my interview with him.
I had to ask him to repeat himself, since I'd had the delicious brew many times and never knew anything about its history. And it's certainly not something bragged about on the menu.
"I've done a lot of research and I can't find anyone else in the world talking about making the traditional stuff and selling it," he said, humble and careful to make sure I knew he wasn't putting down any other ginger beers.
"My ginger beer is just different. It's traditional. I spent a long time researching it," he said, detailing exhaustive internet searches and in-depth academic papers. "You see, the original ginger beer was fermented and used a special culture that's kind of a cousin to kombucha. I wound up finally getting my hands on three different samples, got them all tested, and found out one was the real stuff."
The "real stuff" is something called "ginger beer plant." Using it to make alcoholic ginger beer likely started in England.
"Its origins are a little bit shrouded in mystery," said Gerardy. "The theory is that British soldiers were coming back home with this stuff in clay jars from Crimea. They brewed with it and handed it down to their friends."
"Then, after World War II, there was so much extensive bombing that a lot of people thought it was extinct," he continued. "But I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for weird social groups that care about this kind of stuff. That led me to some paper that some dude wrote back in 1892. I had to wade through his 70-page essay in old, British scientist language, to decipher the details about how to treat it and what to expect from it."
Gerardy then led me to a back room/closet/laboratory where he showed me a beaker containing a light yellow liquid, filled with gelatinous globs of goo.
"That's the stuff," he said, as I looked on in awe. "That's the ginger beer plant."
The final product of all of this history and science and brewing is a sweet, delicate, and lightly alcoholic drink that's perfect for a summer day in Seattle. Gerardy has recently started bottling it, and you can find it at places like Joe Bar, Chuck's, and Monsoon.
If you're looking for something heartier, there are plenty of other great options currently on tap at Standard Brewing, like the Cascadian Dark Ale or the Imperial Rye IPA. Right now there's also the Tepache, a Mexican folk beverage that uses brown sugar, pineapple, cinnamon, and clove to make a fizzy, juicy, sweet and sour drink.
Gerardy is always calm and friendly, happy to answer questions about his beer or business, but the 60-hour weeks are starting to (understandably) take their toll on him after being in business for a year.
"This is a ton of work and I need desperately to grow soon," he told me. "Brewing is really space dependent and this is a weird space. I chose this building because I live nearby and I knew that this neighborhood wanted something like this. And I don't want to leave the Central District. So if I can find the right space, then I definitely want to grow."
Gerardy says even if he expands, he wants to keep the same vibe Standard has now. He says the loves the Central District and is still a little shocked and flattered that he's doing so well.
"When I opened this up I was terrified because I basically spent four months by myself," he said. "I did everything on my own. I was sitting here in the middle of winter sawing cedar planks for the wall thinking: 'Is anyone going to actually show up? Is anyone really around here, or is this just a hunch that I have?'
But people were definitely around and thrilled to have this friendly neighborhood spot to hang out with friends.
"I realized right after opening up that because nobody was walking around, no one was realizing who was living around here," he said. "A lot of people had crossed paths professionally and then learned they were neighbors. It's been fun watching the neighborhood get to know each other."
2504 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98144