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Making its mark

Harmon Brewing Company: Expansion and the future of beer in Tacoma

HARMON BEER: It's from Tacoma. Photography by Joshua Swainston

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"We are Tacoma's brewery and we are going to be in Alaska, Idaho, Washington and Oregon," proclaims Pat Nagle, co-owner of the Harmon Brewing Company (HBC). "That's how we want to brand the Harmon. Everybody knows Ninkasi is from Eugene, Deschutes is from Bend. And everyone is going to know that Harmon is from Tacoma."

The HBC opened the Harmon Brewery and Eatery downtown in 1997. Over the years it has grown into a Tacoma staple. It's "the mother ship," says Carole Holder, the other half of the HBC co-owner team. The location caters to big parties, the museum and university crowds. 

In April 2008 the HBC opened The Hub, a second restaurant location. An unmistakable silhouette of Cycles Gladiator adorns the family restaurant and banquette hall. Focusing on artisan pizzas and pastas, the restaurant is laid back and has a great happy hour.

A third HBC site opened May 25, 2010, and transformed the old Stadium Bistro into a working brewery, bar and beer garden known now as the Harmon Tap Room. In contrast to the other two locations, the Tap Room is a beer lover's bar.  Bottles, growlers and kegs are available at the separate retail counter just inside.

For many Stadium District locals, the Tap Room's major contribution to the neighborhood is the well-designed beer garden - four sturdy long tables surrounded by hop plants with a stereo playing through a series of outdoor speakers. The space was designed by Robert Horner, known for his work in the Tacoma Urban Waters project. The beer garden officially opened for the season in May.

The recent rapid expansion for HBC is far more than physical locations popping up. With the construction of the Tap Room, the HBC doubled its total production of tasty, tasty beer. HBC has also been able to work with distributers to become commercially available at Haggen/TOP Food venues and QFC in Gig harbor, as well as PCC Markets. Harmon beer can now be found all over Washington State and as far north as Juneau, Alaska. 

The increased production also provides the ability to bottle a selection of seasonal offerings.

"Imperial IPA is bottled today and that will be on the market in a couple weeks,"  Nagle tells me, referring to the Rajah's Royal IPA.

"Harmon KillerBrew is coming out, which is amazing," says Holder of a new offering named after recently deceased baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew. In the heyday of Killebrew's career he played left field with the Minnesota Twins. When Killbrew retired in 1975, then with the Kansas City Royals, he had 573 homeruns, second only to Babe Ruth in American League history. The beer's distribution will coincide with the heart of baseball season and should be available in September/October.

Even with all the recent growth, the brewery at the Tap Room still offers enough space to further increase production. The brewery was intentionally left open so that, when required, another fermenter could be added.

"We are looking to expand the brand for sure. We can do so right here in our footprint," says Nagle.

The concept of further expanding to new storefronts is still in the realm of possibility. Holder and Nagle both mention Gig Harbor as an idea for the future.  The HBC brand has already infiltrated the Tides Tavern, a Gig Harbor institution, as Tides ESB Best Barrel Bitter. 

For now we will just have to enjoy the three locations we have here in Tacoma.

Harmon Brewery & Eatery

1938 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma, 98402, 253.383.2739

The Hub

203 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, 98402, 253.683.4606

Harmon Tap Room

204 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 98402, 253.212.2725

Comments for "Making its mark" (2)

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Jake said on Jun. 09, 2011 at 7:05am

They are selling Harmon beer at the little corner store near my place in the South End of Tacoma. Its pretty tasty although more expensive then some of the other similar beers the store sells, $3.99 compared to $2.49 per bottle.

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CA said on Jun. 13, 2011 at 1:16pm

Gotta love The Harmon.

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