Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

March 24, 2014 at 10:12am

Beer Q&A: John Hotchkiss of Odd Otter Brewing Company in Tacoma

Odd Otter Brewing Company plans to brew beer in downtown Tacoma by this summer.

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The South Sound attracts beer lovers the way a keg attracts red Solo cups, and five friends recently announced their Odd Otter Brewing Company, a taproom and brewery in downtown Tacoma, will open this summer.

I checked in with John Hotchkiss, a former Army physician, and chief operations officer for Odd Otter, to find out a little more about Odd Otter Brewing Company, its history and its future. Here's our Q&A:

WALIE TALKIE: Congratulations on your new venture.

JOHN HOTCHKISS: Thanks. We are very excited to get our products, our mission and our energy into the public eye.

WT: Five owners and a military presence?

HOTCHKISS: Yes, five owners and three have ties to the military. Owen McGrane is currently an Army physician at Madigan Army Medical Center, Pablo Monroy was previously in the Navy and is currently in the Army National Guard and I was an Army physician at Madigan for six years. The other two owners - Derrick Monroy and Teresa Smith - have extensive managerial experience and both have previously managed at Starbucks and Target. Teresa is currently managing a Hertz location at SeaTac, and Derrick is currently managing a legal office in the area. Derrick will serve as CEO, Pablo will serve as chief of daily brewery operations, Owen will be our head brewer and has designed all of our signature brews, Teresa Smith will be our CAO, and I'm our COO.

WT: What inspired the group to start a brewery?

HOTCHKISS: Odd Otter was born out of a confluence of relationships that began years ago. I was Pablo and Derrick's neighbor in Tacoma, and I recognized Pablo's excellent homebrewing instincts after Pablo replicated nearly perfectly a beer that cannot be purchased in the United States. I brought it back from Canada. The concept developed over a period of months, and incorporated ideas that emanated from Pablo and Derrick's group of friends including Teresa Smith. Once the project was conceived, I began discussing it on his Facebook page and reconnected with a friend from his medical internship at Madigan, Owen. Owen has been homebrewing for nearly a decade and has created several award winning beers. Owen then joined the group and brought with him his extensive brewing knowledge and background.

WT: Why the name Odd Otter?

HOTCHKISS: We love our communities, both our geographical community in the Tacoma area, and our various social and subcultural communities. And we like to have fun. As stated before, we have a strong military background in our ownership group. Pablo and Derrick are married, and are actively engaged in the LGBT community. Owen and I are physicians with strong ties to the military medical community at JBLM. We have all lived in the Tacoma area for many years, and we want to support the local economy - to bring something new and fresh to the craft beer community. We appreciate how our various and diverse communities that we represent have come together over beer as we have as brewers. The name Odd Otter refers to the uniqueness of our concepts, the fun we will have brewing delicious and innovative beers, and it also refers to the Pacific Northwest area that we live in. We will have two families of beers and they will be joined together under the umbrella of Odd Otter Brewing Company.

WT: What will we be drinking from Team Odd Otter?

HOTCHKISS: We aim to brew beer that will appeal to everyone, even those that do not consider themselves beer drinkers. We will produce beers that will follow suit with some of the well-recognized craft beer categories - IPA, ESB, Porters, blondes, amber and hefeweizens - but we will also brew outside the box as well, such as our Mama Otter's Pancake Porter made with Vermont maple syrup, a cherry chipotle cider, and a barrel-aged 24 percent behemoth called Blind Otter, and many others.  We have very exciting things planned for the Washington craft beer palate.

WT: When will the Odd Otter dam open for business?

HOTCHKISS: Our brewing equipment should be delivered in June, and we'll be anticipating a summertime opening pending permitting from the city and the completion of our relatively simple build-out.

WT: Can the community drink on site?

HOTCHKISS: Oh, yes there will be a tasting room. We anticipate having four of our own beers when we open and expanding up to six within the first month. We will continue expand that selection as our first year continues. We will eventually have between 12 and 16 tap handles with a variety of locally brewed delights that we will rotate through our taps. Our next-door neighbor is Cafe Vincero, and there is a door in the back of both of our spaces that allows us to move between them. We have a very good working relationship with Kevin Cornwall, the owner of Cafe Vincero, and have agreed to serve a selection of his menu including pizzas from his wood-fired oven in our space as delivery to our space. Additionally, outside food will be welcome.

There you go South Sound. Expect to be drinking pancakes around July. Hotchkiss and friends are building their dream through a Kickstarter page. Read more beer descriptions and get in on the goods before the Kickstarter ends in 11 days.

Update: Tacoma attorney Erik Bjornson informs me Odd Otter Brewery Company has filed for the "Queer Beer" trademark. According to the application, "The mark consists of Unicorn head with open mouth inside a circle resembling the capital letter "Q" with the words "Queer Beer" below the symbol." It's genius considering Tacoma was voted "Gayest City in America" by The Advocate magazine in 2013.

ODD OTTER BREWING COMPANY, 716 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, facebook.com/OddOtterBrewing

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