Ghostfish Brewing Kick Step IPA Canning Day

Impact Giving | Ghostfish Brewing and The Mountaineers

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Mountaineer Magazine and on www.mountaineers.org.

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine Ghostfish Brewing founder Brian Thiel talks about his company, our partnership, and what makes Kick Step IPA so special.

Leave it to a Mountaineer to find a mountain!

This was my thought as I finished reading an email from Web Chang, a staff member at Mountaineers Books. Web’s message arrived shortly after Ghostfish released our third packaged beer of 2015: Shrouded Summit Belgian White Ale. In this case, the mountain Web had found was on the side of our can, which vibrantly depicts two trekkers stopping for a moment to take in a majestic view of cloud covered Mt. Rainer (designed locally by Kevin LeDoux).

Web wanted us to know that he appreciated the can design of Shrouded Summit, and as one of three co-founders of Ghostfish Brewing Company, receiving this message was extremely gratifying. Looking back, this early brush with The Mountaineers was foreshadowing of an incredible partnership to come, focused on supporting your nonprofit mission in the most delicious way possible.

GLUTEN-FREE PIONEERS

Ghostfish Brewing didn’t start out as a dedicated gluten-free brewery. While many people now associate Ghostfish as “the gluten-free brewery”, we’ve always considered our focus to be making the highest quality beer that also happens to be gluten-free. We don’t make beer for people who are gluten-free – we make beer for beer drinkers!

I joke now that in the beginning (2013) we were setting ourselves up to be yet another one of the 7,000+ craft breweries across the United States. The plan was always to be innovative by providing an environment that encourages individual contribution, artful aesthetics, and challenges norms. Sometime into the planning phase, we decided to become a dedicated glutenfree brewery to support our vision and contribute to a more sustainable model of production. 

What we didn’t necessarily grasp at the time was that we were pioneers in a growing, yet small segment of the craft brewing movement. When you think about beer made from barley, wheat, and rye, you don’t necessarily think about how much tinkering and transformation has occurred over centuries in beer engineering to get to where we are today.

There was no history of gluten-free brewing, nor a playbook that existed, when we started Ghostfish.

SUSTAINABLE GRAINS

We create our beer using traditional brewing methods, but grains we use are most certainly non-traditional by today’s standards. You’ll find plenty of millet, brown rice, and buckwheat (unrelated to wheat) in our grain room. These grains were used in the creation of beer around the globe for centuries, and in fact, millet predates barley in beer brewing history! All these grains are naturally glutenfree and don’t contain the proteins that cause harm in people with Celiac Disease.

While each of our primary grains have amazing sustainable qualities, millet is particularly drought and heat tolerant. It is a highly nutritious cereal grain that sustains more than a third of the world’s population. Buckwheat, which is a fast grower, thrives in poor soil conditions, and is a wonderful cover crop that maintains soil health, reduces soil erosion, and supports a healthy proliferation of honeybees. If you want to bring bees back to your garden, plant some buckwheat!

MOUNTAINEERS CEO TOM VOGL ON THE SUMMIT OF KILIMANJARO WITH KICK STEP IPA, COURTESY OF TOM VOGL.

THE MOUNTAIN-WHO’S?

I’ll admit that I knew very little about The Mountaineers prior to starting Ghostfish Brewing. Growing up in rural northwest Ohio didn’t lend itself to thinking much about mountains, not unless you count watching the von Trapp family escaping Austria into Switzerland. My first exposure to mountains came during a family vacation to Gatlinburg, TN, right in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. It wasn’t until I moved from Ohio to Colorado in my early 30s that I began to appreciate mountain pursuits.

Summiting “14’ers” was something that a low-lander like me could handle and appreciate. If reaching the top of Mt. Elbert (14,440 ft) was one of my proudest outdoor achievements while living in Colorado, summiting Long’s Peak (14,259 ft) gave me serious bragging rights amongst my friends and family. Okay, so I know what you are thinking: ”Yea, but you started at an elevation near 10,000 ft.” Well, you’d be right, and I’ll also admit that none of my 14’er adventures were considered technical feats, but they did give me a deep appreciation and respect for mountains and how unruly they can be.

When I moved to Seattle, my mind was blown once again by the outdoor recreation possibilities of our region. In researching new objectives, I stumbled onto The Mountaineers and was drawn to its mission.

CREATING KICK STEP IPA

I was intrigued by the idea of creating a beer with The Mountaineers from the first mention. In discussing the details with The Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl over a few Ghostfish beers in 2017, we both grew even more convinced. While I like to think that we were chosen because of our environmentally sustainable grains, our pioneering spirit, or the fact that we already boasted a few mountain-themed beers (Shrouded Summit Belgian White Ale and Peak Buster Double IPA), in the end I believe the decision had everything to do with shared values and alignment of our mission to develop community by fostering a sense of teamwork and a place of belonging.

We got right to work, starting with a name. It might seem easy, but choosing beer names has become extremely challenging in today’s overcrowded craft beer scene, and the last thing you want to do is step on another brewery’s toes by duplicating or replicating an existing beer. We brought a group together to brainstorm name options to convey climbing heritage while being modern, edgy, authentic, distinctive, aspirational, and cool. Fortunately, we landed on Kick Step, a technique true to the outdoor community that also lent itself well to a can design (and avoided the standard mountain-themed clichés).

While I can’t take credit for the “romance copy” printed on the side of each can of Kick Step IPA, I will say that it sums up in every way possible why it makes sense for Ghostfish Brewing and The Mountaineers to work together.

Ghostfish and The Mountaineers were both founded on the idea of transcending limits. We thrive on a spirit of wonder, a sense of adventure, and a commitment to the wild places of the Pacific Northwest. We’re powered by strong, passionate communities who support our missions. Whether it’s distinctive craft beer made from high-quality, low-impact grains, or unique, life-changing experiences in the outdoors, we believe life is meant to be lived and lived well – no matter who you are. This is Kick Step IPA: a liquid representation of our shared values.

KICK STEP IPA, PHOTO BY JOHN BECK.

A DELICIOUS WAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Any good brewer will tell you that there’s always room for improving a beer. To that point, we’ve been tinkering with the Kick Step IPA recipe over the past 5-6 months, making small adjustments to improve the overall taste, flavor, and aroma. The goal from the beginning was always to create a uniquely Pacific Northwest-based IPA to celebrate the place we call home. To accomplish this, we chose a trio of Washington grown hops to accentuate the blend of millet and brown rice malts that comprise the base of the beer. A healthy dose of Bravo, Cascade, and Simcoe hops creates a pleasant bitterness profile with distinct flavors of candied orange, sweet fruit, and pine. Kick Step IPA is crafted with a sessionable spirit in mind to keep you light on your feet after any adventure.

Today, Kick Step IPA distribution is growing across the U.S. and Canada, and people in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and many other areas not only get to enjoy Kick Step IPA, but get exposed to The Mountaineers mission.

I am extremely proud of the relationship we have with The Mountaineers, a nonprofit organization committed to connecting people with the natural world, and I am honored to support the incredible work you do. That’s why 10% of Kick Step IPA cases and kegs sold go to The Mountaineers. It gives me great pleasure knowing that our contributions, nearly $20,000 and growing, will benefit future generations of outdoor enthusiasts who desire to explore the wild places of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

The next time you are out adventuring with purpose, reward yourself with an ice-cold Kick Step IPA!

Travel Tuesday – Indiana

Hello, Indiana! 

When visiting Indiana you’ll surely start at the capitol and when you do we’ve got you covered. Indianapolis is a great city for riverfront parks, museums and racing. Whether you’re visiting for an adult trip or bringing the kids, there is something for everyone in this town.  If parks and large open spaces are up your alley, then White River state park, Moon Tree and Fort Harrison are all worthwhile checking out. Fort Harrison is a 1,700 acre state park with trails, picnic sites and fishing spots along Fall Creek. Also on the property is the Museum of 20th Century Warfare, housing information on the soldiers who once walked the grounds.

Fort Harrison 1903, Photo: Fort Harrison Rescue Authority

White River State Park is a 250 acre park in downtown Indianapolis.  It follows the only completed portion of the Indiana Central Canal, once intended to transport goods. Moon Tree is a quirky attraction, but cool nonetheless. Located in the front lawn arboretum of the Indiana Statehouse is a 30 year old sycamore tree that was grown from a seed that has made a trip to the moon and back.

Moon Tree at Capitol Buidling, Photo: Atlas Obscura

If indoor activities are more your style, don’t fret, Indianapolis has museums galore. One of the most unique is the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. They have doodles, rejection letters and his typewriter. Also worth checking out is the Indiana Medical History Museum.  What started off in 1896 as a center to study the physical causes of mental illness, was converted into a museum with all the equipment left inside in 1969.

Photo: Indiana Medical History Museum

For something more kid friendly, there is the Children’s Museum, as well as Duckpin Bowling located in the Fountain Square Theatre Building.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the go-kart racing at K1 Speed, or the option of buying an experience at Indy Racing Experience.  Ranging from ride alongs to driving an IndyCar for your own lap! Regardless of how you spend your trip, Indiana is a great state with a lot to offer.

Photo: K 1 Speed

Indiana Fun Facts:

  1. Abraham Lincoln moved to Indiana when he was 7 years old. He lived most of his boyhood life in Spencer County with his parents Thomas and Nancy.
  2. Explorers Lewis and Clark set out from Fort Vincennes on their exploration of the Northwest Territory.
  3. The movie “Hard Rain” was filmed in Huntingburg.
  4. During WWII the P-47 fighter-plane was manufactured in Evansville at Republic Aviation.
  5. Marcella Gruelle of Indianapolis created the Raggedy Ann doll in 1914.
  6. The first professional baseball game was played in Fort Wayne on May 4, 1871.
  7. James Dean, a popular movie star of the 1950s in such movies as “East of Eden” and “Rebel without a Cause”, was born February 8, 1941, in Marion. He died in an auto crash at age 24.
  8. David Letterman, host of television’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” was born April 12, 1947, in Indianapolis.
  9. Santa Claus, Indiana receives over one half million letters and requests at Christmas time.
Photo: usnew.com

Indiana Ghostfish Retailers:

SoBro Spirits in Indianapolis

Kahns Fine Wines & Spirits in Indianapolis

City Wide Liquors in Mishawaka

Blind Owl Brewery in Indianapolis

Stoney’s Liquors in Indianapolis

S&V Liquors in Fort Wayne

Trail Inn Liquors in Valparaiso

Mr G’s Liquor in Noblesville

Harry’s Old Kettle Saloon in Wabash

Big Red in Bloomington

Photo: Getty Images

Places to See:

-Indianapolis Motor Speedway (duh) Even if you don’t attend the Indy 500, the track offers tours and it’s pretty spectacular to see if you’re up in the pagoda.

-Downtown Canal Walk is beautiful with great restaurants and views of downtown Indianapolis.

-Soldiers and Sailors Monument (the downtown circle) is a cool spot to visit at the city center.

-The Rathskeller/Athenaeum, Indy’s oldest restaurant serving traditional Germanic food and beer is a must visit.

-Mass Ave is the place to find a wide variety of great restaurants and bars.

-White River State Park is a great place to see a concert downtown. 

-Union Station is a beautiful piece of Indianapolis architecture.

-Watch a show at The Cabaret at the Columbia Club on the circle.

Thanks to our Indiana Distributing Partner Craftroads Beverages!

Ghostfish Brewing Vanishing Point 12oz Cans

Vanishing Point in 12-Ounce Cans

As you may have seen recently, in an article on Seattle Met, the can is back! We’re excited and grateful to be featured in this article and soon you will be able to enjoy the refreshing taste of Vanishing Point Pale Ale in convenient 12oz cans. The 12oz aluminum can is the perfect vessel to enjoy Ghostfish beer! Whether you are hiking, biking, fishing, camping or just hanging out in your own backyard BBQ, Vanishing Point Pale Ale 12oz cans are up to the challenge. These cans will be sold in 4-packs in retail outlets starting sometime in mid-late July. Continue reading

Ghostfish Brewing Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout

First Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout

Almost one year ago, we opened the doors to the first and only fully gluten free craft brewery in Seattle. Our mission was to create innovative craft beers, using ancient grains like millet and buckwheat. The whole team has been hard at work for the last year and it’s about time we celebrate. We’re doing so in a lot of ways, including releasing a limited edition First Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout. Continue reading

Ghostfish Brewing New Taproom

The Wait is Over–Taproom Now Open!

To our very patient and loyal followers, we finally have the news you’ve been waiting for:

As of Thursday, February 5th, our taproom will be officially open for business!  The inspections are passed, the beer is kegged and ready, the taproom is complete, all systems are go and we are cleared for take-off!

Once we’re open, our regular taproom hours will be Tuesday-Saturday, 3 PM to 9 PM, so come on in and enjoy our awesome beer and some gluten-free pizza!  We’ve got our three flagships on tap, including our Watchstander Stout on NITRO and a Randall tap to add some crazy herb, fruit, spice, and hop infusions to our beers.  We can’t wait to see you here!

Ghostfish Brewing Pilot System

Brewery Progress Update, December 2014

Yo-ho, Ghostfish fans!  We hope all of you had a great holiday season and are getting excited for 2015.  This has been the busiest month yet here at Ghostfish—which would be expected this close to OPENING!

The biggest single piece of news is that we’ve received our TTB and Washington State licenses to brew and sell beer, and as a result WE ARE BREWING!  As of this writing, we’ve got 930 gallons of two game-changing gluten-free beers fermenting happily, and are slated to brew our next batches on January 5th when we receive the malts for our Watchstander Stout. Continue reading

Ghostfish Brewery Progress Update 2014

Brewery Progress Update, November 2014

Wow, what a month it’s been, Ghostfish fans! Three HUGE events took place:

1. Our first public tasting at Seattle Cider Company was a roaring success!  We shared four beer styles: our three flagships (pale ale, witbier, and stout) and a bonus experimental porter, and kicked all four of our kegs in the first hour!  We got a lot of good feedback and positive comments, especially from non-gluten-free craft beer drinkers, and raised $5000 for our Kickstarter.  Check out the photos here.  We really can’t say enough nice things about the people at Seattle Cider: they let us use their tasting room on a night when they are normally closed,  helped us serve the beer and manage the attendees, cleaned up at the end of the night, and did it all with beaming smiles.  We can’t wait to return the favor!

2. We reached our Kickstarter goal of $30,000, and then shot past it by another $1,486!  AMAZING!  It was a hair-raising and nerve-wracking month of campaigning, but you all showed us that you believe in what we’re doing and want to help us achieve our vision.  Words cannot express how amazing it feels to have this kind of support from the community.  Now we can afford to build out a pilot system and brew lab to develop new recipes and brew a huge portfolio of taproom-exclusive beers, and sharing them with you all will be the REAL reward!

3. Our 15bbl brewhouse has ARRIVED and is being installed as I type this!  This is the heart of our brewery, the equipment that allows us to actually brew the beer, and is the final piece of the puzzle.  At this point it is literally just a matter of fitting everything together and putting the finishing details on our taproom…and of course, receiving our licenses.  We are still optimistic that we can have our Federal license before the year’s end, and there’s a good chance that we’ll be ready to brew our first saleable batch as soon as we get our license.  We are getting so close, people!

Brewery Progress Update, October 2014

Well, the time sure has been flying by! I guess that’s what happens when you’re putting in close to 60 hours a week working on really exciting stuff!

In case you somehow missed the big “Kickstarter” banner that’s now on our homepage, we launched a Kickstarter campaign on October 13th to fund an R&D lab, so that we can get Jason out of the kitchen and into a proper pilot brewing facility. We’re trying to raise $30,000 and we only have until November 13th! We’ve got some great rewards, so check it out if you haven’t already: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/898556630/ghostfish-brewing-company-100-gluten-free-beer

Continue reading

Brewery Progress Update, August 2014

As predicted, things have been extremely busy here at Ghostfish ever since we signed the lease on our space.  We have wasted no time at all in getting to work on building Seattle’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery!

First, we completed our TTB application and submitted it for approval.  The current forecast turn-around time for this is approximately 120 days, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that our good luck streak holds and we get a response sooner.  We’re now on to state and local permits…when other brewers told us to expect a mountain of paperwork, they really weren’t kidding!  Good to know our industry is thoroughly regulated.

Continue reading