In this edition of a “Day in the Life,” we meet Brewer Sean Mcdonald at Cole Street Brewery and look behind the scenes.
Throughout history, breweries have been an integral part of their communities. Cole Street Brewery was launched with the goal of making great beer and bringing people together.
Quality beer starts with?
Quality water. Sitting in the shadow of Mount Rainier Enumclaw has some of the best water in the state of Washington.
What do you like most about serving locals and tourists?
We love serving tourists because everyone has a different story to tell. Our locals love sharing our community stories. We set up Cole Street Brewery with this purpose in mind to be a Community Brewery were people gather to conversate.
Your atmosphere is relaxed and casual. On a nice day, it’s great to enjoy a pint outside with a view of Mount Rainier. You even welcome people with dogs. Do you have any stories about meeting extra cool dogs?
We have so many cool dog stories. At least 4 times a year we have this pair of Scottish dogs that come to the Enumclaw Expo Center to compete. One dog searches out mice in the hay while the other one poses as a “doll” or stuffed animal.
You do a great job offering seasonal ales and ciders. Is it complicated putting together new flavors throughout the year? How do you come up with so many recipes?
Actually, the real reason I do so many different beers is because I find it interesting and fun. Like a chef at a restaurant, I am always on the lookout for new “flavors” to try. I can be in a little farm stand or china town and think to myself “wow this could make a great beer!” Beer itself has such a huge family tree that just doing different styles of beer can keep the tap list ever changing too. While Cole Street has constructed over 1000 different beers there are still over 10,000 that we haven’t tried yet and every year that list expands. I always try to have a good mix of beers on tap at all times so that it doesn’t matter if you are a beer connoisseur or novice there will always be a beer on tap for everyone to enjoy. We have a baseline of regularly known beers brown, amber, porter, an IPA. On top of that, I always try to have One Imperial or strong beer, One Light beer like a blonde or Hefeweizen, One “Fruit” beer and one experimental.
What’s a day in the life of a brewer like?
I have two different days that I live a brew day and a non-brew day. On a brew day, I start early at about 2:00 AM finish brewing about 2:00 PM. It sounds like a long hard day but it’s not to bad waiting on water to boil or transfer from one tank to another. I have time to read New Brewer Articles and imagine new brews. On the Non-Brew Day Before Brew day, I grind and mix grains and malts together to make the grist for the brew day. Followed by washing the fermenter to be filled. On the Day After Brew day, I wash and then fill kegs with a brew that has been completed.
At the end of any of these days, I can be found in my tap room “sampling” the hard work and discussing it with our patrons. Every Wednesday at 2:00 PM we invite anyone that would like to participate to come in for a “bottle share”. The Craft industry has grown so much and with so many always changing craft brew flavors out there it is hard to decide and sometimes it’s hard to commit to a whole bottle of something you have never tried before. So, at Bottle Share everyone brings in something that they have never tried before and share it. That way everyone gets a brand-new experience then the next time they are at a bottle shop they can choose something that they know will be enjoyed. This happens every Wednesday from 2pm-3pm
What’s the hardest aspect of your job?
Time. Every beer has a set amount of time before it is ready so I constantly have to look forward in the future for what event, holiday, or the weather is coming to make sure the proper brew is ready for it. My average brew takes 2 weeks before it is finished but there is some brew like the doppelbock that takes 6 months!
What’s the most exciting aspect of your job?
Seeing someone with the questionable look trying a new brew and then commenting in amazement of how awesome it is!
When does your day start and end? What are the hours like?
My drinking hours are pretty constant you know what they say if you want to drink all day you have to start in the morning! Kidding aside since I started my brewery in 2014, I have not had to ever set an alarm clock. I simply wake up when I am ready to go brew! I don’t have to get up at 2:00 AM to start brewing. I choose to because I am always excited to do it! At the end of the brew day nothing tastes better than something handcrafted by yours truly and sharing it with friends and neighbors makes the taste so much sweeter.
How did you get into the job of being a brewer?
I spent several years working at a winery which was educational but not as much fun as brewing. To quote the godfather of the Double IPA Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing “it takes a lot of good beer to make great wine” I started home brewing in my spare time and just found it much more enjoyable. My mind was blown away and I was hooked at the first brewfest I volunteered to serve at absolutely every person there was having a blast! Most of the time dealing with the masses of people can be monotonous, you turn into a robot saying and doing the same thing over again. But when all your neighboring booths won’t let you stop laughing at silly goofball things every conversation has its own twist!
What do you wish more people knew about the work you do?
While I do it on a large scale, I do the same thing that anyone can do at home. Home Brewing is an amazing hobby that can be fun and inventive. The brew industry would still be plain and unexciting if it wasn’t for the people experimenting with what they think are great flavors! I highly encourage everyone to seek out a homebrew shop and gives it a try so that the landscape of beer can continue to grow. Cole Street Brewery hosts a homebrew competition 4 times a year. We have a spring, Summer, fall, and winter competition. We invite home brewers to show off their creations. The winner gets to come join me on a brew day where we brew their beer at my size batch then their beer will be on tap at my brewpub as well as a couple of the other local taprooms. Hopefully, this gives the little push needed for them to take that next step and start a brewery. I welcome another friend into the industry with open arms!
Do you have any stories to share about the chemistry of beer?
I have advice for home brewers – DON’T stack your cases of bottle home brew beer. In fact, invest in milk crates to put them in. I had a freshly bottled batch; every home brewer has that story about the caps popping off. Well, mine were in the garage stacked up and three bottles popped in the case on the bottom which made the whole stack fall over…. made a huge mess and out of 30 bottles of beer I only had 4 remaining.
Do you have any trails in the area that you like to recommend to people? Many of our visitors tell us they like to enjoy your beer after a nice hike. We wondered if you had any favorite spots you like to suggest.
Mt. Peak is a local favorite. The parking lot for it has been recently renovated. Also, a group of locals is working on rebuilding the Fire tower on top which will be a great Destination and place to take pictures from.
The Rails to Trails runs right behind the brewery. This is a great trail that is nearly complete and connects Commencement Bay in Tacoma to Renton!
When you meet a visitor and find out they are from out of town are there “must-see” spots you like to recommend?
In Enumclaw, we have several really great restaurants. My favorite is Griffin and Wells conveniently located on the corner of Griffin and Wells. I put this one on the top of my list because they have a seasonal menu that changes every 3 months and daily specials that you may not see again until the following year so there is always something new, unique and made with a whole lot of home town love!
We also have a handful of antique shops. C.C.’s Collectible is the biggest. Wander into there and get lost in amazing assortments of things from all over the world and years of history.
Thunder Dome Car Museum is a must stop for any car lover. Even just driving by and looking through their huge glass roll-up doors can be a fun trip.
Crystal Mountain Resort is only 20 minutes away. During the winter it is a ski resort. In the summer it has mountain biking, hiking, and disc golf. On the way up there is plenty of pull-offs to view the white river, waterfalls and Mount Rainier.
Visitors and locals are welcome at Cole Street, check out their First Wednesday of every month when they have local standup comedians perform live. Or the Last Thursday of every month for their Murder Mystery Night!
Address | 2551 Cole St R, Enumclaw, WA 98022
Phone | (253) 204-5570
Web | colestreetbrew.com
Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/colestreetbrew/