Mother Fern Brewing opening in former Pacific Brewing space in downtown Tacoma. Here’s when
The Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. space that closed to the public two years ago in downtown Tacoma is about to get a new life as Mother Fern Brewing.
Mother Fern Brewing opens its doors at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 at 610 Pacific Ave.
The taproom and brewery will operate seven days a week with a lineup of eight beers (at least to start), a guest cider tap, wine-by-the-glass and a menu of gourmet macaroni and cheese made by the good folks at Tacoma’s Gourmet Niche.
The story behind the new Tacoma brewery is steeped deep in Tacoma beer culture. Longtime local brewers Bethany Carlsen and Greer Hubbard – a husband-wife brewing super duo – are the lead brewers and owners behind Mother Fern Brewing. They partnered with another Tacoma brewery owner – Greg Steed of Northwest Brewing and Pint + Pie – and have an interesting business model that will include collaboration projects (read more about that at the end of the article).
A DIFFERENT KIND OF BUSINESS MODEL
A lot of breweries open this way: Brewers work on a lineup of flagship brews that become the stalwarts always on tap. Brewers will throw some catchy names on those flagships and start building a following in the hopes of collecting repeat customers, but also because, well, eventually many breweries have an end game of distribution and having name recognition for flagship brews is helpful in distribution.
That’s not how Mother Fern Brewing will operate. At all.
Like a lot of things about Mother Fern, their brew process is much more organic.
“We don’t have any set flagships,” explained Carlsen of the beers she and Hubbard will produce. “We want to let the market do that for us. We’ll brew a variety of styles and showcase our depths of brewing knowledge and brew everything from light lagers to imperial stouts, and everything in between. As of now we don’t have any flagships.”
She added, “I think what people want is something new each time they come in. There’s a place for flagships, but in our taproom, people are going to want the new IPA they haven’t tried yet. We’ll keep things rotating as much as possible, but if things stick, we’ll come back to it and maybe make it a flagship.”
BEERS ON TAP AT MOTHER FERN
“Lagers and IPas will be our focus. We’ll have a full lineup of beer in a wide range,” said Carlsen.
On tap, at least to start, they plan for a dry-hopped pilsner. For that one, they used “Polaris, it’s a crazy German hop,” said Carlsen.
“We’ll have a standard kölsch that’s easy drinking. We’ll also have two West Coast IPAs and a hazy IPA,” she said.
One West Coast IPA will be hopped with Amarillo and Cascade hops. As Carlsen describes, “It’s pretty old school. Piney-citrus is a good way to describe that.”
The second West Coast IPA “is a little more modern,” said Carlsen. That one is hopped with Idaho 7 and Simcoe hops. “It’s quite fruity and a lot more tropical.”
And then there’s their hazy IPA. “We used Mosaic and Citra on that one. It’s hazy and low on the bitterness level.”
They’ll have a black lager that’s “a traditional German style lager. It’s black, and a little thinner than a porter, and an easier drinker than a porter. I describe it as a porter meets a lager. It’s much smoother and more balanced, and cleaner, than a porter,” said Carlsen.
Their citrus wheat ale is a standard American wheat ale with a punch of fruity citrus. “Lemon and orange peel went into that beer,” Carlsen said.
Their imperial stout will be “chocolatey, big and robust and has an 8.1 abv (alcohol by volume). It’s a big, fun dark beer. It’s great for this time of year as the weather is getting colder,” said Carlsen.
They’ll offer draft cider from a guest cidery, as well as wine-by-the-glass. Will they have guest beers on tap? “We plan to have some guest brews in here. It won’t happen right when we open. It’s our plan to have something sour and delicious from a brewery that does great sours and some big barrel-aged beer. Right now we can’t get to either of those styles, we want a well rounded tap list and menu, so we’ll have guest taps from time to time,” Carlsen said.
MAC AND CHEESE ON THE MENU: KID FRIENDLY SPOT
Here’s what else to know about the space. It’ll serve gourmet mac and cheese made by the good people of Tacoma’s Gourmet Niche, a collective kitchen used by numerous small food business owners, including Lumpia Love and the Art of Crunch. “We’ll have five varieties of macaroni and cheese,” said Carlsen. “That’ll be our main food offerings.”
The flavors are built to pair well with brew. “We’ll have caprese macaroni and cheese, artichoke and sundried tomatoes and barbecued chicken and a beef stroganoff style mac and cheese,” Carlsen described. In the future, they plan on expanding the menu.
Kids will be welcome in the taproom, which is a good thing because Carlsen and Hubbard have a two-year-old daughter whose name is Fern.
You guessed it. She’s one of the inspirations behind the brewery name.
Actual ferns in the taproom also play into that name.
“We have a lot of ferns and other plants. There are green accents against the wood that’s already there,” said Carlsen.
Added Hubbard, “We felt the taproom needed more warmth to it, which the plants will give. I’m into plants a bit and it fit naturally. We wanted to incorporate our daughter into the space, but also this idea of nurturing and mothering beer, we kept coming back to that. And mother fern is a type of fern and the nurturing aspect of the name itself appealed to us.”
“Our tagline is ‘beer nurtured,’” added Carlsen.
The layout of the taproom remains nearly unchanged from how it looked as Pacific Brewing. However, the seating has flipped. “We’ve changed the seating arrangement quite a bit. We added another TV. We added a comfy couch in here and some homier decoration and a lot of plants. So Greer is more into plants than I am. That’s Greer’s thing,” said Carlsen. Hubbard has been gardening much of his life, a habit he picked up from his mother.
It’s safe to say that Hubbard will be in charge of watering and tending the live plants. “Yes,” Carlsen said, laughing. Added Hubbard, dryly, “It’d be nice to get staff to help but I’m not sure I’ll trust them with the plants.”
BACKGROUND OF THE BREWERS
If you’ve lived in Tacoma for five or more years, chances are you’ve sipped a beer made by Carlsen or Hubbard.
Carlsen is no stranger to the Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. space. She brewed there from just after Pacific Brewing opened seven years ago until they closed, with a short hiatus at another local brewery. Before that, she first worked as an assistant brewer at the Ram Restaurant & Brewery in University Village. After three years, she moved to Tacoma, sometime around 2013, to work at the Puyallup Ram as their brewer. Since Pacific Brewing closed its doors, she also has worked at legendary beer den Peaks and Pints in Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood. She’s a native to Western Washington.
Hubbard is also a local. He was raised in Dash Point until he was 10, then moved to San Diego, and moved back here around 2000 when he was 20. He was a home brewer for 10 years before working with Greg Steed, their current business partner, at Northwest Brewing when it operated in Pacific, just north of Tacoma. Hubbard joined Tacoma’s Odd Otter as a brewer right after Odd Otter opened in 2014 and worked there right until the beginning of the pandemic.
GRABBING THE SPACE
Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. opened in 2014. The brewery was a nod to a historic Tacoma brewery of the same name that operated more than 100 years ago in the old brewery district near 25th and Jefferson. That brewery grew to become the second largest beer producer in Washington, until the state adopted Prohibition in 1916. When it opened its doors, it was part of a surge of new breweries to Tacoma that at the time included Tacoma Brewing Company, Dunagan Brewing and Odd Otter.
Two years ago, Pacific Brewing closed its taproom doors to the public. Carlsen and Hubbard thought it was a shame that the spot sat dormant. They didn’t have the funds to invest in starting up an independent brewery, but along came Steed with an idea to take over the Pacific Brewing space as a home for contract brewing and other beer ventures. The partnership was born.
Several contract brewing projects are in the works (I intend to tell you more about them as they debut) and Steed said one of the team’s goals is to collaborate with brewers across Tacoma and the greater area. “We’ve got relationships all over the brewing community. Between the three of us, we’ve got some exciting things planned. Local beer fans should expect to see a bunch of collaborations out of us,” said Steed.
WANT TO MEET THE BREWERS?
Carlsen and Hubbard have a neat event planned with Tacoma bottle shop and sandwich emporium, Peaks and Pints. They’ll be special guests at a brewers night from 6-9 p.m. Oct. 7. They’ll answer questions and talk about their brew. More info here.
MOTHER FERN BREWING
Where: 610 Pacific Ave., Tacoma
MORE BEER NEWS: WINGMAN BREWERS CLOSED (FOR NOW)
In case you missed it, Tacoma’s Wingman Brewers recently announced Aug. 27 that it would be closing its Tacoma taproom on Sept. 3. As the announcement noted, “this isn’t the end though.” I’ll keep you posted of any announcements that come from the brewery. Here’s the closure announcement:
DUNAGAN BREWING NOW OPEN IN GIG HARBOR
Downtown Tacoma’s Dunagan Brewing has moved across the Narrows. It opened last month in its new brewery home, which also holds a restaurant. Read more about Dunagan Irish Pub & Brewery here.