This is one in an occasional series of 7 Sips interviews, where we sit down for a pint and seven questions with someone active in the local craft beer community. Today we catch up with Zach Shaw, who began his brewing career in Northern California in the early 1990s, including co-ownership of Pacific Hop Exchange in Novato from 1992 through 1996. After moving to Spokane, he became a regular customer at Bennidito’s Pizza on the South Hill and teamed with owner Chris Bennett to launch the new Bennidito’s Brewpub, which opened on East Sprague last month.
Q: So how are things going so far? You’ve been making a lot of beer.
A: Much more than I thought we would. We started in the slow time of year, (but) everything’s been just very steady. Essentially we’ve done 100 barrels in a month and four days. I did not expect that at all, so thank you very much, Spokane! If we keep on this track we’ll be doing 1,200 barrels the first year. I would have been absolutely satisfied with 650 to 700 – even 500, I would have been fine with. Obviously we’ve got the two stores, so that’s a big benefit. I’m doing half-batches now, because we own 72 kegs, and when you’re getting yields of 17 to 20 kegs per (full) batch, to keep a few more handles on (of different styles) you’ve got to ration. So I do half-batches and spread everything around a little bit. We’re shopping for about 20 more kegs, if we get those in that will be good. I could use probably 30 more, 40 more, but you’ve got to do this out of cash flow. And it’s still going to be maybe October-December before I get another fermenter, which I desperately need. The backlog is the fermentation, and then you’ve got to wait for kegs to put it in.
Q: What’s your favorite? What are you most proud of that you’ve done here?
A: The one in my hand (Old Bill dry Irish stout). I can get this a little bit closer (to Beamish), I think, but it’s pretty good.
Q: You started brewing commercially back in the 1990s. A lot has obviously changed since then – what do you think are the biggest differences between then and now?
A: The biggest thing is the (long-term) hop contract nonsense. That’s a completely different world. They charge way too much for their product, and they’re gouging the market. They hold the brewing industry hostage. … When we started, everything was new (in terms of equipment). There was no used stuff, there wasn’t even any new stuff. Everything was being built, so everything was very expensive. And the permitting process – nobody knew what to do with these things. Banks had no clue what it was, they thought it was a restaurant. The failure rate of brewpubs for a very long time was 1 percent, so you really had to majorly screw up in a brewpub for it to fail, compared to a restaurant, they fail all the time. Banks didn’t quite get that concept, so getting money then was hard. Getting money now is a little easier, so that’s changed. (And) in a lot of ways, the market is a lot better, because people are far more educated now about the product. You have a much better consumer, they know what they’re looking at, and they enjoy it. You don’t have to filter as much, and I don’t filter. I think filtering strips out about 30 percent of your flavor profile. So if you’re going to filter, you have to build a bigger beer.
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.