Pike Alumni ​Celebrates 30 Years​

On Thursday, October 17, Pike Brewing will celebrate 30 years as a mainstay in the craft brewery world.

Founded in 1989 by pioneers Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, the award-winning facility is home to a gravity-flow steam-powered production brewery, in the heart of downtown Seattle’s Pike Place Market neighborhood.

With a lengthy story, Pike has seen numerous alumni go on to be successful parts of the craft beverage industry.

In August, Pike welcomed back some of those old friends to help brew the first batch of Pike Reunion IPA. Brewed in honor of Pike’s 30th anniversary, the IPA is a collaboration of the minds of the company’s brewers, past and present.

Both Fal Allen and Jason Parker helped in the celebration.

Allen —​ the Brewmaster for Anderson Valley Brewing — ​worked at Pike Place ​Brewery from late 1990 until 1999. He was hired as a brewer but quickly advanced to the head brewer position and oversaw expansion from a four-barrel brewery on Western Ave. to the new 30-barrel facility on First Ave.

​”They were a small brewery making interesting and high-quality beers in an era where few others were making anything like that,” Allen said. “It was a chance to take what I really enjoyed as a hobby and make it into a real career.”

Allen says Pike was one of the first craft breweries to make real cask ale on the west coast and with brewers Dick Cantwell and Kevin Forhan, they wrote an article about making cask beers. During that time, Allen also wrote a series of articles on lab practices for small brewers.

“The series contained ideas and methods that we had learned over the years trying to make betters at the Pike,” Allen said. “I was always proud that we were able (and encouraged by the Finkels) to share what we had learned about brewing with other brewers in our community.”

​Parker​ — who is now the co-founder and president of Copperworks Distilling — began working at what was called Pike Place Brewery in the summer of 1989. He had met Charles and Rose Ann Finkel a few months earlier, in the University of Washington bookstore while browsing the homebrewing book section and made an instant connection.

The next month ​Parker ​sat in a Merchant du Vin office with Charles Finkel, consultant Vince Cottone, and Liberty Malt Supply owner John Farias.

Dick Cantwell, Kevin Forhan and Charles Finkel chat on brew day for the Pike Brewing 30th Anniversary IPA.

​”​I had a typed resume with me, but my main resume was a selection of home-brewed beers I had made and bottled​,” he said. “We opened the bottles, drank the beer, and discussed our future together. They offered me the job on the spot, and I agreed to begin as soon the school semester was over.​”​

Once the Spring semester was over at college, ​Parker​ moved to Seattle and began preparing for the Liberty Malt Supply location for the brewery. Once equipment began to arrive, Cottone and ​Parker​ met regularly at the malt shop/brewery and at ​Cottone’s home.

​”​We piloted beers with malt and hops Vince had ordered from England, and Vince described all sorts of equipment, processes, and procedures that were part of a commercial operation, but that a homebrewer like me had never heard of​,” Parker recalls​​. “​Vince was one of very few people qualified to design and build a brewery at that time, and I felt very privileged to learn from him.

​”​I must have been a bit difficult to work with, since for the first couple of years, Vince referred to me as “the snot-nosed kid”. Over time, we continued to stay in touch, and I hired his services many times when building Pyramid Brewing Co, later in life.​”​

Even later, Parker helped start Copperworks Distilling and on every bottle, it states, ‘From Great Brewing Comes Great Spirits.’

“I believe that only the best craft-produced beer can make our spirits, so we are every bit as fastidious in the distillery as I was in the brewery at Pike,” he said. “That has worked well for both creating delicious products that are distinctive from the thousands of other products in the vodka, gin, and whiskey categories.”

Working at Pike gave Parker the knowledge that opening in a high-traffic tourist district will help tell the story to more people, with a broader reach, than what could be achieved in some industrial park where the rent was less expensive.

“Much of what I now do is modeled after what I’ve seen Charles do over the past 30 years,” Parker said. “He may not ever realize how much impact he’s had on the Craft Distilling industry, but I’m hoping to help spread his legacy across the new industry of spirits made from beer.”

Allen added that Charles and Rose Ann were great believers in creating interesting and distinctive beers that were made with the best possible ingredients.

“They went to great lengths to achieve this, including procuring ingredients from overseas when the ingredient from America was not what we were looking for — that lesson of uncompromising quality has stuck with me,” he said. “One always has to make — first and foremost — a great product, then you have to support that with good marketing and sales.​”

Photos courtesy Pike Brewing

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