Beer: The Next Thing in Beverage Service

Whether concocted at home or hand-picked from a favorite brewery, craft beer is sweeping Northwest wedding receptions, creating a down-to-earth, relaxed vibe
From: Spring/Summer 2013 edition

In the past few years, the wedding reception as we’ve known it has changed. We’ve unbuttoned our collars, loosened our ties, kicked off our shoes and moved the party outside, into a barn, under the stars. We’ve also reconsidered what we’re drinking. No longer thinking of their receptions as wine-only events, many couples are switching out their Pinots for heady stouts and hoppy IPAs to accompany their nuptial celebrations.

It makes sense that craft beer is being featured more prominently at weddings, simply because the brew has increasingly become a part of daily life, explains Nigel Slater, sales manager at Redmond’s Black Raven Brewing Co. “The wedding demographic, late 20s to mid-30s, is much better educated about beer today,” Slater adds, citing the popularity of beer-related activities, such as happy-hour excursions and brewery tours, as examples.

With all the choices available locally, the tricky part is deciding which varieties of beer you want to treat your guests to. One way to narrow your options is to plan your selection around a set menu. Seth Hammond of Redmond’s Lisa Dupar Catering suggests a pairing menu of small, regionally inspired bites teamed up with 2.25-ounce shots of local beers (think Black Raven Trickster IPA alongside truffle-oil-infused mac-and-cheese poppers or crispy, homemade onion rings washed down with Pike Brewing’s Kilt Lifter Scotch ale).

Keep in mind, though, that just because you’re crazy about fruity Hefeweizens or bitter lagers doesn’t mean your guests are. Thor Stoddard, retail manager at Fremont Brewing, suggests selecting at least one beer with lower alcohol content and lighter taste. “Our Universal Pale Ale and Summer Solstice Ale are popular for that reason,” he explains. “They appeal to the masses.”

Once you’ve settled on including beer at your wedding, next come some choices on how to serve it. Gussy up a bar or service station table with a festive “Beer Bar” banner, or pour brew into souvenir glasses that double as favors, such as the ones local couple Ellen and Scott Medley gave their guests, each glass featuring an illustration of a sasquatch bride and groom next to the Space Needle—a fitting tribute to the couple’s Northwest roots and Seattle’s drinking culture.

Most breweries are happy to provide kegs, bottles, cans or growlers for receptions, but bottles can be personalized and spiffed up with customized labels and cute caps. If you opt for the traditional keg, most breweries provide a tap with each rental, but for couples whose big day falls in a summer month, a “kegerator” may be the way to go. The keg is stored in what is essentially a small refrigerator with a spigot on top, ensuring a cold beer every time. Adam Merkl of Ballard’s Hilliard’s Beer, whose product comes in cans, growlers and kegs, urges customers to consider buying cans as opposed to kegs, explaining that, aside from a greater variety and low maintenance, canned beer is easily saved for later, should there be any leftovers.

Of course, some beer buffs are also really into home brewing, and what better time to showcase that talent than on one’s own wedding day? “It’s great that home brewing is becoming common,” says Michael Boos of Georgetown’s Sound Homebrew Supply. “We’ve started to shun the old idea that beer brewed at home is quirky,” he continues. Ballard-based beer enthusiast Steve Kelly called on the expertise of friend Adam Robbings, owner of Reuben’s Brews, also in Ballard, to assist him in the brewing for his wedding and ended up with two original beers that had guests raving. Corinna Czerwonka of Tacoma, who is tying the knot with fiancé Jacob Andresen this summer, planned her wedding with beer in mind. Hop vines from Puterbaugh Farms in Mabton, Washington, will adorn a wooden trellis built by her father, and barley-and-flower-filled Mason jars will serve as centerpieces. There will also be a few kegs of home brew, naturally.

Have fun choosing the perfect beer to complement your big day. Think of it as a reward after all that “real” planning you’ve had to do. Plus, you’ll get to do a lot of tastings. We’ll raise a glass to that.

Sippin' Accessories

What better way to commemorate your big day than with personalized beer accessories? With a bevy of local designers poised to help, your beverages are about to get a lot more interesting.
Coasters and Labels

  • Tutta Lou Press
    Tutta Lou Press’s “Drink More Beer!” letterpressed coasters are the perfect blend of party attitude and elegance. If you’re looking for a subtler message, Seattle-based designer Sarah Rollinger is happy to design custom coasters and labels.
  • Bottle Your Brand
    A huge selection of waterproof and self-adhesive label templates and an option for you to create your own design make this Kirkland printing company a valuable resource for home-brewers.
  • Farewell Paperie
    Georgetown design duo Lisa Geubtner Towns and Jen Pham-Corbett’s simple, colorful designs make their letterpressed paper products stand out. Custom-designed coasters or labels from these two will make your beverages even more irresistible.

Caps, Openers and Glasses

  • Crafty Caps
    With a bevy of bottle-cap colors and suggestions for designing your own custom cap, this Seattle-based company has got your back. If you’re still toying around with design ideas, send Crafty Caps your thoughts—it will provide design suggestions within 48 hours.
  • Zippy Dogs
    Bottle openers, cozies, pint glasses, coasters, oh my! If you want it, chances are Zippy Dogs has it. On the scene since 2000, West Seattle–based owners Elise Lindborg and Kelli Henderson both have design backgrounds and strive to provide green, sustainably manufactured products in their attempt to create “the smallest possible carbon pawprint.”
  • Athletic Awards
    This South Lake Union-based company is able to customize a whole range of products, from pint glasses to umbrellas, both essentially Pacific Northwest items.

Signature Brew
Whether you’re gathering supplies at a local home-brew shop, learning the ropes from a brew master, tackling recipes with your sweetie or indulging in a quintessential Northwest bachelor party, an afternoon of home-brewing something you can proudly serve at your reception, or give away as favors, will certainly get you in the celebratory spirit. Our favorite local spots are ready to aid you in your pint-producing endeavors.

  • Gallaghers’ Where-U-Brew
    180 W Dayton St.
    Gallaghers’ also helps customers brew and bottle their beer, but are not set up to label.