Janet Spindler is the brewer at Spinnaker Bay Brewing, a little Hillman City brewery named after the nearby neighborhood where she lives with her partner, co-owner Elissa Pryor. Spinnaker Bay Brewing is the only women-owned, women-founded, and women-operated brewery in Seattle. Janet had dreamed of opening a brewery for 20 years before she finally collaborated with Elissa, an accountant by day, to make it happen. Housed in a former furniture store/secret massage parlor (!), the brewery provides tasty industrial-strength beer, is full of knockout gorgeous antique furnishings, and has a walk-in freezer named Christopher Walk-in.
Tell me about the history of beer-making in your family.
That picture on the wall is from a family reunion. My grandmother is sitting on the keg there. My great grandmother was a brewer. My uncles were brewers who made bathtub gin during Prohibition.
What's the most unusual beer you have on tap?
Most of mine are classic styles. Our seasonal blonde ale is only available in-house, not even to take out in growlers. It's made with gin-spent juniper berries. When I took a distilling class at Batch 206 Distillery, I asked for a bag of juniper berries they had used to make gin, and they said, "Well, you can have them, but not the bag." [Laughs] I said I could use my own bag.
What's your favorite vessel to drink beer from? And what's the oddest one you have used?
I enjoy drinking out of tulip glasses. There are different styles of glass for different beers. You can get the aromas and the full flavor of the beer that way. The oddest... a port bottle. There was a little port in it, and it tasted great.
How did you choose the rotating selection of food trucks that station themselves at Spinnaker Bay?
Many of them are folks who live in the neighborhood. The Grilled Cheese Experience guys live here. One of our first food trucks was Jemil's Big Easy. He was willing to come down here when we first opened. We've been told we have a New Orleans feel. His food has some spice and kick, and it goes really well with beer.
Where are your favorite places to eat?
Bitterroot in Ballard does amazing pulled pork and pork belly. Elissa and I venture up there occasionally, because that's where our sailboat is moored. We love brunch at Lottie's Lounge. Pizza at Pulcinella. It's owned by Vince Jr. of Vince's pizzeria fame. We love Loretta's. Those tavern burgers, man, they're addictive.
How about bars?
Tippe and Drague, Columbia City Ale House, Lottie's when we're in a cocktail mood.
What's the strangest drink request you've gotten?
Rum and Coke! I must qualify that by saying it was a blind person. We had a band here called Ask Sophie, and the lead singer is blind. She came with a whole entourage of blind friends, and they had fun that night. The whole place was rocking.
If you could book any band here, who would you choose?
We're happy with the ones we have. I'd say Lavender Lucy is our house band. We have some jazz guys most Saturdays. They play our antique piano. The acoustics in here are great—look at that ceiling, that's called car deck. We had that sandblasted.
Do you remember your first beer?
Oh, I'm too old to remember. It was probably Pabst, Carling Black Label, or Stroh's, because I grew up in Michigan. I remember my first good beer. It was [Yakima Brewing's] Bert Grant's Scottish Ale. That was the first thing I wanted to do as a home brewer—something like Bert Grant's. My Scottish export is my most decorated recipe. Won a bunch of home-brew competitions. It's on tap at Columbia City Ale House, Tippe and Drague, the Hummingbird Saloon, and Hopvine. It's very malty.
What do you know about the history of this building? I read it was originally a filling station.
Well, before we moved in, it was a furniture store called Lucky's, but we don't think they sold furniture, we think they sold lucky. There were a few rooms—see that space where the bathroom is? It had a sign that said "Number 8," and there were boxes of opened and unopened cigarettes inside.
Your bar, salvaged from a former Chicago speakeasy, still has a button that alerted patrons to police raids. Does the button do anything now?
Not right now, but I want to wire it up to do something fun.