Beer weekend: Top Rung Brewing grand opening, three years for Wingman and more ...

By Ron Swarner on April 19, 2014

After the grain has been shoveled from the mash tun, after yeast has been pitched, after the farmer has hauled away the trailer, there is water everywhere, and a half hour more of work to do before they can go fight fires. Yes, they woke up at 4:30 a.m., it's now 3 in the afternoon, and soon one will turn his waist-high boots for knee-high boots and a red ax.

Thurston County firefighters Casey Sobol and Jason Stoltz's four-year journey to open their brewery official ends today when their Top Rung Brewing Company celebrates its grand opening from 2-9 p.m.

The career firefighters - 20 years for Sobol and seven for Stoltz - have been dialing in their recipes in the garages between shifts at the McLane/Black Lake Fire Department. It became real when the duo's Hosechaser Blonde grabbed the Dick's Brewing "Beer for a Cure" homebrewing contest top prize in 2012 - and they began to shadow Dick's brewer Parker Penley.

"Just as the firefighting community is an open, friendly brotherhood, so is the beer community," says Sobol. "I could be in Boston and any firehouse would take me in as one of their own. The local brewing community is similar."

Wingman Brewers in Tacoma brought back two whiskey barrels from Kentucky for Top Rung Brewing.

"It's a shame Wingman celebrates three years the same day we celebrate our grand opening," says Sobol. "Those guys are great."

Those who didn't drop by Top Rung's soft opening last Saturday can check out the new 10-barrel brewhouse and spacious taproom at 8343 Hogum Bay Lane in Lacey today. The duo pays tribute to their main job, with ladders suspended from the ceiling, firehouse décor and the iconic fireman's shield front and center on the Top Rung logo. Otherwise, the high-ceiling space resembles other taprooms, with concrete floors, modern lighting and long wooded plank tables, which Sobol crafted. Sobol runs the house side.

Stolz runs the brewing. The beers pay tribute to firefighting, with the award-winning Hosechaser, Irons IPA and Scout Stout on tap today. The IPA has recently been altered with added bitter and aroma hops. It's delicious. The Flashover Red is written on the board. A Cascadian Dark Ale is in the works, as well as a seasonal pumpkin ale, Oktoberfest and a secret Thanksgiving release that will be on many beer enthusiasts' Santa list. 

Sobol, Stoltz and their 10 investors have a business plan that calls for slow, steady growth. Food can be brought in from surrounding businesses, which are listed on a hanging board. Strong beers are not part of the plan right now. In fact, a three-maximum pint limit has been instigated in the taproom. That's the firefighter in them.

In addition to the beers today, a local barbecue company will be cooking out front. Beer flights are available.

TOP RUNG BREWING COMPANY, 8343 Hogum Bay Lane NE, Suite B
Lacey, 360.239.3043


As mentioned above, Wingman Brewers in TAcoma celebrates its third anniversary with a party noon to midnight. It will premiere its Double IPA Pocket Aces in 22-ounce bottles and on draft, which is basically a doubled up version of its Ace IPA. There is a significant amount of malt backbone in the Pocket Aces, which leads to some residual sweetness. It weighs in at about 12 percent, but with a massive amount of citra and centennial hops, along with a few other varietals to balance it out. Budha Bear Bagels will help soak up the suds. Here is Wingman's starting tap lineup today: Ace IPA 7.1% ABV, P-51 Porter 8% ABV, Pocket Aces 12% ABV, Coconut P-51 8% ABV, Stratofortress 11.2% ABV, Gratzilla Smoked Bacon Wheat Ale 3.4% ABV, Operation Crossroads Old Ale 16.8% ABV, Chocolate, Coffee, Oatmeal Stout 7.8% ABV, AO Supporters Outlaw Ale 4.8% ABV, Pacific Gose 3.3% ABV, Wit 4.6% ABV, Big Baby Flat Top Imperial Stout 11.4% ABV, Chocolate Fortress 11.2% ABV, Mighty HighPA 6.8% ABV and a cider from Seattle Cider Company.

The historic 1908 Olympic Club in downtown Centralia hosts its annual Brewfest from 1-11 p.m. Since it's a McMenamins' operation, you can expect its Oregon-based brews on full display, as well as beer from guest brewers and importers, including local treats from Fish Brewing and Dick's brewing. While you sip, you can take in the Olympic Club's history of railway bootlegging, captured train robbers, secret call buttons, subterranean tunnels, rumored hauntings as well as tour the Olympic Club brewery, relax in the outdoor seating area, play a round or two of pool. The cost is $12 per 1o-sample punch card. The overnight rooms at the Olympic Club have been taken so plan accordingly.

The Hopscotch Spring Beer & Scotch Festival takes over Fremont Studios in Seattle with the biggest and best pop-up bar you may ever see with 50 microbrews, scotch, whiskey and wine tastings flowing through the aisles April 18-19. Hopscotch 2014 has an impressive lineup of both Washington and out-of-state microbreweries and distilleries. Well-known breweries, from Deschutes Brewery to Full Sail, Ninkasi to Snoqualmie, will serve up familiar brews and more. A few wines from the Proletariat Wine Company will also be available. If your tastes run a little harder, Scotch aficionados (or newbies wanting to learn a bit) can sample five Abelour vintages and six Northwest whiskeys. "We are bringing back our scotch workshops, which are hour-long Scotch 101 workshops led by a master of scotch and feature 10 different kinds of scotch from the Aberlour, Glenlevit, and Chivas families," said Maddie Murphy, sponsorship and marketing assistant for the festival. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit


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