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Meet the Brewer: Rooftop Brewing Company

Andy Bokanev on

Rooftop Brewing Company is located in North Queen Anne, between the Ballard and Fremont bridges along the Lake Washington Ship Canal. We recently sat down with founder Craig Christian over a pint (or two) to learn more about what’s on tap for this growing operation.

Seagulls squawk over the canal and the Olympic range provides a familiar backdrop view from the brewery’s namesake: the rooftop deck. Though it’s still early in the day, the long picnic tables will soon fill with sudsy glasses and smiling faces- kids and dogs included. On sunny days throughout the Seattle summer the deck and indoor taproom are full to standing room.

Though it’s “more of a hardy crew in the winter”, Craig has plans to double the size of the deck to meet demand, and will likely increase capacity to nearly 100. Complete with cornhole, a fire pit, and additional all-weather protection, he sees the space continuing to grow as a fun place for the neighborhood to hang out. With food trucks out front and space on the brewing floor - Craig sees Rooftop as a more than just a brewery and tasting room, but as a space for the community.

When they first opened the Nickerson Street space, the focus for Craig and the brewers was on supplying beer directly to their tasting room. More recently, wholesale account management has become Craig’s main, and though he expects he will find a sweet spot for demand in the future, there’s a long way to go before they reach that point. They’re currently brewing between 1500 and 1600 barrels in a year- double the output in the last year. As a production facility, growth is still essential to the health of the business.

“It took us a while to get into a groove where we’re not over producing one style and under producing another- this summer we got into a pretty good flow, but,” he laughs,

”You can’t run out of an IPA in this town.”

The tasting room itself is small- handwritten chalk signs frame 10 faucets across the bar from a handful of stools. A few cases of bottles are set up in the corner available for sale, and a popcorn machine sits in the opposite corner. T-shirts, growlers, and stickers are priced on the wall below the beer. It’s an honest space: Quality beer and a place to sit and enjoy it.

The size of the brewery lends itself to flexibility and experimentation. Craig gave us a quick rundown on what’s coming down the pipeline.

“A collaboration beer with Mollusk- our first true lager, available now on draught in Seattle. Fresh Hop season is coming up soon, Kyle the head brewer and I will get all our hops at about 5-6 in the morning, our assistant brewer will have the beer mashed in and ready, we get the hops in the morning, and by noon hopefully they’ll be in the brew kettle. We’re going to brew a 15 barrel of our pumpkin barrel, with real pumpkin, not pumpkin spice.”

In the pilot system there’s a Rainier cherry beer fermenting right now “Normally I would use a Belgian yeast, this time we used a straightforward Northwest ale yeast- honestly it’s a little bit of an experiment. There are a lot of cherries in that one.”

Past the tasting room down a narrow set of stairs, we met Kyle the head brewer and Kyle the assistant brewer. The third brewer (also Kyle) wasn’t in.

In a shared space with Zoka Coffee and Caffe Ladro Roasting, the Nickerson Street space is buzzing with activity. Two large batch roasters hum beneath stacks of green coffee just a few meters away from the towering fermentation tanks, racked wooden barrels, and bubbling, foaming buckets. The loading dock is crowded with pallets ready for shipment and the gigantic walk-in cooler is stocked with all the regulars as well as some secret barrels.

“We’re brewing across the spectrum- IPAs, a Blood Orange Wheat Beer, Braggat Ale on tap, and Nitro Creamsicle-  which Gateway Dry Hop Pale Ale infused with vanilla and orange.

“We want to build a space that people want to come to- food trucks out front- and community gathering events that happen here."

We socialize together, we have a couple of team building parties or BBQs or going out. Right now we’re doing that twice a year. We also do beer tastings on Fridays with the team. Sometimes were comparing one of our beers to another beer of the same style, sometimes we’re just tasting other people’s beers that maybe we want to try to brew. We try to keep things fun and light.

If you could sit down with anyone, alive or dead, over a pint of beer, who would it be?

“Maybe, like John Lennon? I’m a huge music fan, and he’s probably one of the most interesting guys to sit down over a pint, that I can think of, but I have a lot of musical heroes that I would put on there. I have had a pint with some of them, that’s one benefit to being in Seattle with a thriving music scene. We’ve had some members of the Mariners pop in here, a few people that I was pretty excited to have in here. We’re just happy that people like to come here and have a pint.”

Rooftop Brewing Company is located at 1220 W. Nickerson St, Seattle, WA and is open until 10pm Sunday to Thursday, and open until 12am Fridays and Saturdays.

We are happy to offer Rooftop beers at MiiR Flagship. Check out the current Tap List and enjoy.