Hoquiam residents won’t have to wait much longer to sample locally brewed beer downtown.
Rob Paylor and Patrick Durney, co-owners of Mill 109 Restaurant and Pub in Seabrook, decided a few years ago to try to expand on their success up there. “We’d always wanted to add a brewing element to (Mill 109) and brew our own stuff for use out there,” says Paylor.
They kicked the idea around for a few years and and decided to open a place where they could not only craft their own beer, but also serve it — maybe even with food. They started actively looking for a place about a year and a half ago, Paylor says.
When the 1920s-era structure kitty-corner from Hoquiam City Hall became available, they jumped at it.
The City Council designated 526 Eighth St. as surplus property last year after the Passport Café closed. The partners picked up the 4,000-square-foot building last fall for $72,000 — well below the value the county assessor’s office has set for it. Since then, they’ve pumped thousands more into building upgrades and repairs, and are looking to open the Hoquiam Brewing Co. in mid-July.
“We’ve scheduled two Hoquiam High School class reunions in August, so we’d better be ready by then,” Paylor laughs, adding that his dad’s 50-year class reunion is one of them.
During the renovation process, he says, they uncovered beamwork hidden behind a drop-ceiling and “cool cement” behind the finished walls. Those striking raw elements have been polished up and left exposed to help set the brewpub’s tone.
“I probably couldn’t have paid somebody to do as much work as we did to these walls,” says Paylor. “Up on the lift with a dust mask and breathing gear — it was not my favorite job.”
They did turn to local suppliers and contractors for most of their needs, including McHugh’s Furniture and Levee Lumber.
“Our beginning mantra was that we wanted to buy absolutely every nail in Hoquiam,” says Paylor. “We stretched (around Grays Harbor) a little bit here and there, but we’ve tried to use Hoquiam action as much as possible.”
They also brought renowned Nevada brewmaster Charlie Johnson on board in a consulting role to help them get started. Paylor says Johnson has been involved with brewpub startups in Mexico and China as well as the U.S.
Durney says they’ll be able to brew three types of beer at a time. “We’ll do smaller batches to start,” he says, then work their way up to full capacity. Each of their three fermenters can produce up to 20 kegs at a time.
With the summer tourist season kicking off this week, Paylor will be focusing mostly on business at Mill 109. “I won’t really vanish, but I’ll spend significantly more time at the beach for a couple of months,” he says.
Durney, who also runs his family’s insurance company in Hoquiam, will handle the startup operation and serve as head brewer.
“We’re gonna hit the IPA spectrum, a blond, a couple stouts … then just play around,” he grins.
In addition to sending beer up to the Seabrook restaurant, Paylor says, they intend to do some baking and food prep in Hoquiam “and shuttle things back and forth.”
The fermenting tanks and other large equipment were delivered last week after numerous delays. Now, with those massive pieces in place, the interior finishing work can begin in earnest.
They hope to start brewing as soon as everything is hooked up, and initially will sell their beers at the Seabrook restaurant.
“I would think we can be drinking Hoquiam beer mid-June, maybe early July,” says Paylor.
Once it opens, the Hoquiam brewpub also will be offering a limited selection of food.
“We’re going to start with maybe a half-dozen sandwiches, just real easy, and build as we go,” says Paylor. “I don’t want to come out the gate with 50 plates of complicated food and try to figure out how everything is going to go together all at one time.”
Their plan is to create a full menu after they get established — “but beer is first,” he emphasizes.
As a fire truck screams past (the station is right across the street), Paylor chuckles and says they’re thinking about creating some special promotions related to their location — like “when the fire trucks go out, it’s a buck off a beer or something.”
He adds that on the days they hold court at City Hall, they might call it Quart Tuesdays. “This could be their waiting room,” he jokes. “I’m happy to provide that for the city.”