Just north of the Google Kirkland campus, tucked in an industrial strip mall, are the sounds of laughter and clinking glass coming from an open door.
“Chainline Brewing Co.” reads the sign in simple text. Through the window sits a long row of vast tanks, brewhouses, and the warmth of community echoes through the stretch of hallway leading into the tap room.
Chainline is one of Kirkland’s first and most beloved award-winning breweries. It was voted Best Brewery/Tap House of Kirkland and started as many breweries do, out of some homebrewer’s garage.
Scott Holm, chief “hoperations” officer at Chainline, built his brewery from scratch, turning his hobby into a small business.
“Like many aspiring brewmasters, I was a homebrewer at first,” Holm said. “[My hobby] kept growing and growing and in my professional life I was hitting a point where I was wondering if it was something I wanted to do forever.”
Holm’s wife suggested he look into brewing as a career and after years of education, planning and first-hand experience at brewhouses, they opened their doors in 2015.
“We just went for it…it was a big learning curve,” he said. “There was a bit of anticipation, because [I] put [my] heart and soul into something for one and a half, going on two years… This coming April will be our four-year anniversary.”
Chainline has cemented its place in Kirkland with a large local following and letter of support from the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce.
Located along the Cross Kirkland Corridor Trail, Chainline ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a trail-side deck and expand their seating space. The campaign raised $17,656 from 105 individual donations before the business even opened.
“We were building a space and making a product for people to enjoy and there [was] this anticipation when [we] threw it out into the world and hoped people liked it,” Holm said. “After our big opening weekend, it was just this really great outpouring of support from the community and we haven’t looked back since.”
Chainline was popular before it even opened as Kirkland natives were thirsty for a local brewery. According to Holm, a children’s ballet studio raised concerns to the city about a brewery being located nearby.
Holm conceded that he understood why they were concerned, but his vision for the brewery was a family friendly space, akin to a small-town tavern pulled from history, as opposed to a 21-and-over adult-oriented business. Numerous locals agreed with him.
“We turned to social media and local media, even though we hadn’t opened yet,” Holm said. “In the end, both the city of Kirkland and the State Liqueur Control Board asked that we ask via social media for people to stop sending letters. They said they stopped counting at 250 and they aren’t going to read anymore. That was the first validation of my idea for something that the community wanted… I think they were really excited for a brewery.”
Chainline is open to all ages, pet-friendly and hosts a regular rotation of food trucks. They have stacks of board games for children and adults alike to play and a projector screen that’s often used to show sports games.
“We looked around at a lot of breweries in the area and asked what we like about these, what do won’t like about them?” Holm said. “We chose to take the open community route versus the more closed adult venue.”
As for the beer, Chainline won an award at the Great American Beer Festival the first year it opened. Holm has been working on his recipes since he was first brewing out of his garage and breaks from the Pacific Northwest’s ale-centric scene by putting more effort into lagers.
“We feel like we do that we do [lagers] better than just about anybody,” Holm said. “We’ve got a lot of things in the works, so stay tuned.”
Running a small business takes up much of Holm’s time nowadays and he often doesn’t get to spend any of it making beer. Despite that, he said, he gets all the joy he needs from the friends he’s made in the community.
Holm will often spend upwards of 40 minutes talking with friendly faces in the tap room as he’s on his way out the door.
“When we started out there was zero, there wasn’t a brewery in Kirkland. “Despite the fact that Seattle has a million breweries, Redmond had breweries along with everyone else, [but] Kirkland didn’t… The shared community here is the best part about feeling like we created something positive for Kirkland.”