Cloudburst Brewing just celebrated their first anniversary in bustling Belltown. Founded by Steve Luke, Cloudburst Brewing is a small and unique brewery with a pint-sized tasting room. Known for their excellent IPAs, Cloudburst brews a variety of Washington beers with unique ingredient combinations.
Unique to most breweries, Cloudburst Brewing has no flagship beer although you can expect Happy Little Clouds Pilsner to always be on tap. In addition, you can anticipate 3-4 IPAs. Otherwise the Cloudburst tap list will feature the creativity and craft of brewers Steve and Zach Kornfeld with what is fresh and new from Pike Place Market.
Cloudburst Brewing Tasting Room
Although proximity to Pike Place Market was not a primary goal when selecting the brewery’s location, it has been a natural pairing for Cloudburst’s farm to table brewing style. Housed in a hundred year old building, just a block north from Pike Place Market, Cloudburst’s rustic tasting room is designed for foot traffic.
The former bike shop is 7200 square feet and houses the brewery in the back of the brick building, behind the tasting room. Currently a 12BBL system, Cloudburst tanks are in constant rotation to uphold its goals of 11-12 beers on tap.
Walk through the loading dock entrance to place your order at the bar for a beer to savor at one of the simple tables or simply hangout. You can also order pre-filled growlers to go. Cloudburst Brewing doesn’t fill other growlers to ensure that the Cloudburst beer you buy is unadulterated and not accidentally contaminated by a less than pristine growler. Not everyone maybe happy about the pre-filled growler policy but it is iron clad. They want to make sure that the Cloudburst beer you pour from the growler will taste just like the beer from their bar. Steve Luke may look like a totally laid back guy but this man is SERIOUS about quality control.
The Cloudburst Brewing tasting room is unique in another way. There are no tasting trays at Cloudburst. Cloudburst Brewing is not about “speed dating” with beers. Steve Luke states
“I want customers to sit down and have a conversation with the beer and really get to know it.” Steve readily admits that “…it is a thorn in the side of social media, especially for Untapped. Untapped is Pokemon for adults in being rewarded for how many different beers they capture. I am more interested in people savoring their beer, than counting it. “
In addition, Steve explains that the logistics of glassware and the staff time in setting up tasting trays just isn’t feasible in their tiny tasting room. This is especially true during their busy hours.
The Cloudburst Brewing tasting room is for the over 21 crowd, no minors permitted. Friendly dogs are welcome. Currently there is no food available for purchase within the tasting room but you are welcome to bring in whatever tasty morsels you pick up at the market, or elsewhere, to enjoy with your beer.
In its first year, Cloudburst Brewing has already begun to rack up the accolades. Their Market Saison won first place Saison in SIP Northwest’s Best of the Northwest 2016 competition. During the 2016 Winter Beer Fest, Cloudburst’s stout My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy won two People’s Choice Awards. Steve talks about being inspired by food and what will pair well with food as he crafts his beer recipes.
Here is a description and our tasting notes from the four beers we sampled to show you a variety of Cloudburst beers. Expect to see some totally different beers on the tap list the day you visit. Cloudburst keeps a list of current and upcoming beers on their website.
<strong>Beers we sampled</strong>
Market Fresh Saison Batch #9: Brewed with plum and green cardamon, this opaque yellow beer reveals hints of plum and banana on the nose. Although cardamon can easily overpower, Steve and Zach used a steady hand here. The spice accentuating the plum flavor midway and the sleight resinous character adding to the hops bitter finish.
Luxury Good Saison: This saison was one of Ed’s favorites. Aged in Delille Cellars white wine barrels, it married the slight funk of a touch of Brettanomyces with the elegance of Chardonnay.
Two Scoops Brown Ale with Cinnamon & Raisin: Imagine a piece of cinnamon toast and you know exactly what this version of brown ale tastes like: juicy raisins and cinnamon on your nose and the tip of your tongue, followed by a nicely toasted malt middle with a hint of sweetness. The finish has just the right touch of bitterness, like the cup of coffee you might be drinking with your cinnamon toast.
Darkenfloxx: This Imperial Stout served on nitro was an almost decadent pairing of hazelnut and coffee. The nose boasted rich, toasted hazelnuts and the taste backed up it’s claim. The flavor was about 50% hazelnut and 50% coffee and 100% delicious. This was a difficult beer to say goodbye to when it was time to leave.
Cloudburst beers are available by the glass and pre-filled growler at the tasting room. Cloudburst IPAs on tap grace a small number of restaurants and bars where the specific Cloudburst IPA changes every 2-3 weeks.
Origins of Cloudburst Brewing
Steve Luke was been in the beer brewing business, at some level since he was 21. It started with a summer job at making boxes and cleaning floors at Allagash between his junior and senior of college. After graduating with a degree in Economics and Psychology, Steve got a job at Harpoon Brewery in the marketing department. It didn’t take him long to decide that he would rather be making beer than marketing it! He returned to Allagash in 2008 where he worked his way up from brewery operations to becoming a brewer. After Allagash, Steve became the Head Brewer job at Cambridge House Brewpub, Connecticut. It was there that Steve got to start creating his own brew recipes.
Inspired by the better craft beer-small business environment on the west coast and his wife’s residency, Steve decided to move west to further his brewing career. After completing the Master Brewer program from UC Davis, Steve’s first job in Washington state was Head Brewer with Rogue Brewing in Issaquah. Too big, too corporate and similar in many ways to his East Coast employers, Steve felt like he was still working for The man. What he wanted, was to work with THE man, the renown Dick Cantwell.
After a year of formal introductions and attempts to work at Elysian Brewery, it was an informal evening for drinking beer after Caskfest that gave him that opportunity. Dick Cantwell was among the industry professionals, drinking more than a couple of beers, with Steve that night. By the end of the evening, Dick offered Steve a job at Elysian. Concerned that the offer was given in jest during drunken camaraderie, Steve vowed he was going to hold Dick to that offer.
Owned at the time by a small group of investors and the three men at top, Elysian Brewing was making exciting quality craft beers with imagination and care. The funky names and creative ingredient combinations appealed to Steve’s aesthetics. This was the type of job he was hoping for when decided to move west.
During his tenure at Elysian, Steve was best known for brewing experimental beer batches at the small brewing system at Elysian Fields. There Steve brewed with a host of uncommon hops, herbs, fruits, flowers and whatever else caught his imagination. Some of Elysian’s most iconic beers like the Space Dust IPA and the Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout, the official Beer of Seattle Beer Week 2012 were the results of Steve’s experiments.
Although Elysian was very open to Steve’s creations and pretty much let him decide what to brew, after four years, Steve started to think about what would be next. He had a long held dream of opening his own brewery and had been tooling with a business plan for years. January 2014, he formed his LLC and let his bosses know of his future plans. Supportive, the owners assured Steve would have his job while he put together the challenging task of creating a brewery.
A year later, when Elysian Brewing was sold to Anheuser-Busch, Steve was well into planning his own brewery but felt the push to make it reality now that Elysian Brewing was owned by The Man. He refused to sign any of the new owners’ paperwork, even the employee handbook, in fear of doing so might legally restrict his new venture. That lasted for months, but the ultimatum finally came down: sign or leave. Steve left Elysian July 2015 to pursue his new brewery Cloudburst full time.
Big Business vs Brewer Run Brewery
Steve proudly describes Cloudburst Brewing as a brewer run brewery. While researching his business plan and from personal experience, he decided that a single founder run brewery tended to be the most successful while adhering to his goals. Steve is the founder, head brewer and majority owner of Cloudburst. A small group of silent investors, with limited ownership stakes, make up the rest of the owners. By official owner agreement, Steve Luke is the sole decision maker for the business to ensure that this truly is a brewer run brewery. Although Steve has final say, he also describes Cloudburst as a collaborative effort. Steve and Zach work together in coming up with recipes and the brewing. Steve still consults with his brewing mentors and values their input.
Although he discounts the Economics and Psychology degree he earned in college, “Who actually uses their college degree anyway?”, it is clear that he has used both in designing Cloudburst. Steve has a keen sense of what beer lovers and the general public wants. Different is big and Cloudburst offers you something different every time you come in. He understands that while certain segments of the population want their reliable standard brews, there is a whole other burgeoning population that bores easily and wants whatever is new and different. He tries to keep his ear to the ground to know what is new and what is trending. You can’t make everyone happy and Cloudburst doesn’t even bother trying but Steve’s keen economic sense helps guide where to put the lines. Steve does all of the book keeping and decision making for Cloudburst with a life/work balance in mind. Cloudburst is not a businessman run brewery but it is a serious business. Cloudburst Brewing had a successful first year.
What is next at Cloudburst Brewing?
Although currently Cloudburst is strictly Bring Your Own Food, the tasting room hopes to add charcuterie plates and other nibbles to the menu this summer. Outside seating is also in the plans for warm weather. More seating and the addition of food will be a nice enhancement to the currently sparse tasting room.
2116 Western Avenue | Seattle, WA 98121
Tasting Room Hours
Wednesday – Friday, 2pm – 10pm
Saturday, 12pm – 10pm
Sunday, 12pm – 8pm
Closed Monday & Tuesday